If you have a shorter planning period then you will need to be flexible on venues, suppliers and dates: “It may be that you can’t have a weekend wedding and will need to book for a Thursday or Friday,” says Darko.
If there’s a venue you have your heart set on, or need a Saturday date, you may have to plan further in advance.
The ultimate wedding planning timeline and checklist
To efficiently plan over a 12-month period, it’s best to spread the to-do list out over the year.
As a disclaimer, remember that, as Darko says, “the priorities for your wedding depend on you as a couple – if a band or entertainment is very important to you, then that’s going to be shifted higher up the list.”
Here’s a month-by-month guide to get you started:
The first factor to consider is both the most important and the least romantic: budget. Without a clear figure in mind – and a breakdown of how much you’re willing to spend on each aspect of your wedding – it’s easy to get overwhelmed when costs start to stack up.
If you’ve decided to work with a wedding planner, set a realistic budget with them. If you’re planning solo, then create a spreadsheet with the breakdown of how your budget is allocated.
Opt for a collaborative Pinterest board – an essential tool for wedding planning. Darko says it helps the couple pinpoint the theme, style and decorations they want to go for. Sans planner, you can get stuck in to creating a digital moodboard too – it will help you to clarify stylistic decisions for later down the line.
With your budget in mind, it’s time to go venue hunting. “In the journey of wedding planning, booking a venue is the first thing couples do,” says Darko. ‘There will be some back and forth with a shortlist of venues, but once you’ve got a date set, you can book and start looking at other vendors.”
Timing is an especially important consideration for couples getting married in 2021 and 2022 as there’s an inevitable backlog of weddings, which means many venues and dates are already booked up.
Whilst booking your venue, confirm the date with your registrar, religious leader (vicar, priest or pastor) or celebrant who will be conducting the ceremony.
Start to book other suppliers for your big day – the photographer and videographer, any external decorators, the florist and, if this isn’t included with your venue, a catering company.
“I would advise couples to sort the bigger ticket items first, like the photographer and food,” says Darko. Suppliers who are less likely to be fully booked in advance, like a florist, can wait until later on.
“Work out your list of priorities for the day and go through in that order,” advises Darko.
What you need to get sorted in this period will depend on the style and scale of your wedding, but a standard list would be as follows:
- Wedding photographer (and videographer)
- Catering (if not included in venue package)
- External decorations or prop hire
- Wedding cake
- Makeup artist and/or hair stylist
It’s time to say yes to the dress! Darko advises her brides to find their dress at least six months before the ceremony to allow time for any alterations. However, if you’re buying ‘off the peg’ – ie. ready to wear from a bridal shop – you could get away with doing this closer to the time.
Follow a similar time frame for the groom and groomsmen’s suits. If you’re buying them new, they may also need alterations, and if you’re planning to hire, it’s best to sort well in advance. Wedding rings fall under month six too.
Save the dates and invitations
Aim to get your save the dates out around six months before the wedding to give your guests plenty of notice. Follow this up with formal invitations up to two months ahead of the big day.
Wedding day logistics
With all the key elements of your day locked in, it’s time to start thinking about a play-by-play plan for the day. This will allow you to iron out any issues well ahead of time.
You’ll want to cross these off the list:
- Hair and makeup
- Vendors arrival on the day
- Guests arrival
When you receive your RSVPs, it’s time to work out your table plan. Take time over this, for obvious reasons – you don’t want to end up sitting your loudest friend next to your elderly aunt.
Brides and grooms sometimes find table planning a nerve wracking part of the process. Darko’s golden rule is to match the table plan to the vibe of the wedding: a seated three-course wedding breakfast will require a formal seating plan with place cards, but if you opt for a less formal meal then you may be able to forgo a seating plan altogether and let your guests choose their table (although bear in mind this may mean it takes longer to get everybody seated).
Last minute preparations
The month before the wedding is the time to double check that your suppliers know where they need to be and when, designate a main point of contact for the day and sort out last-minute details such as wedding favours, gifts for the bridal party and printing programmes.
Wedding rehearsal (optional)
Some of Darko’s couples opt to have a wedding rehearsal a few days before the main event.
“It’s not needed in most registry contexts, but it can be useful if you’re having a traditional church ceremony to show the bridal party which order to walk in,” she says.
The big day
When your big day finally arrives, your job is to get dressed, turn up on time and oh – get married. Make sure you take a moment to sit back, relax, have a glass of something nice and appreciate the results of your hard work.