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The definitive, super-complete, and only wedding planning guide you’ll ever need.
From the team at Ceremony, the world’s most beloved wedding app.
About this guide:
You're engaged! Now, get the party started with Ceremony's expert planning guide. Pulling off a successful wedding is all about timing, so stay organized and act early with our monthly planning advice. Whether you've got a full year or less, this guide will help you check the right boxes at the right time so that you can create the wedding of your dreams, avoiding unnecessary stress and headaches.
Ready to make your big day a reality? Let's do this!
12 months to go:
Hire a wedding planner.
For most engaged couples, the wedding budget is the most stressful part of the planning process. But it doesn’t have to be. Experiencing your wedding day on a budget just takes a bit of extra planning, and a laser-focus on your priorities. Opt for digital RSVPs instead of printed cards, create a wedding day program on a chalkboard instead of printed programs and hire a music student to play you down the aisle. Splurge on one or two things that make your ceremony special to you, and save on everything else. You’ll be surprised how the dollars add up.
12 months to go
Throw an engagement party.
It’s time to take a break from the wedding planning chaos and throw your first party as an engaged couple. Engagement parties range from an evening of wedding-themed games and activities with friends to formal events that rival some wedding receptions. Whatever you choose, it’s important to plan the party with your fiancé, and not stress out. This is a great trial run for planning the main event as a couple.
Set your honeymoon budget.
A common oversight in wedding planning is not setting a honeymoon budget up front. Too many couples spend months stretching their wedding budget, only to realize that there’s little left for the honeymoon. Whatever your honeymoon budget is, set that money aside and don’t touch it! After months of planning and throwing the biggest event of lives, you’re going to need a restful break!
Hire an engagement photographer.
Not everyone couple takes engagement photos. But we think they’re the ideal way to express your love. Unlike formal wedding photos, there’s very little pressure and tradition wrapped up in engagement photos. Get creative with the setting and photography style to tell the story behind the newly-engaged couple. As time passes, you’ll cherish this visual record of your early love.
Discuss your ideal wedding.
You’re envisioning an intimate, rustic wedding. Her sights are set on a black tie soiree with extended families. It happens more than you think. Before tackling budgets and guest lists, take time to daydream about your ideal wedding together. Create a scrapbook or Pinterest board and start building the perfect wedding of your collective dreams. Be respectful of each others’ ideas and open to compromise. These are cornerstones of countless blissful years to come.
Tour reception venues.
It may seem premature, but most venues have surprisingly long waiting lists. The sooner you start visiting potential venues, the more likely you are to find one that you love, and can afford. While touring venues, be sure to keep your guest list and wedding decor in mind. It takes some creative vision to walk through an empty venue and picture your guests and decor. If you’re planning to be married in a place of worship, it’s a good idea to look at their availability before booking a venue for the reception.
11 months to go:
Hire a wedding planner.
One of the first big decisions newly-engaged couples make is whether or not to hire a wedding planner. If you both work full time jobs, don’t have a mother or friend who’s willing to jump in and help and aren't confident that you can pull off an event of this size, a wedding planner might be the right choice. Beyond experience and a rolodex of vendors, your wedding planner should understand your personalities, vision and budget. After all, you’re going to put quite a bit of trust (and money) in their hands. And for those not ready for a full commitment, consider hiring a planner for the day or week of your wedding—just enough to get you across the finish line in one piece.
Read more: 10 Things to Consider When Hiring a Wedding Planner
11 Months to go
Narrow down your guest list.
When creating your guest list, be prepared to keep a level head and stay calm. Everyone from parents to friends to coworkers will have suggestions. Sit down with a coffee, tea or martini and take a deep breath. At the end of the day, this is your wedding, and you need to make the final decision. Will you allow kids or not? Will you ask for plus ones for single guests? It’s up to you. Without a limitless budget, someone will always be left off the guest list. That’s okay. If it comes up, be prepared with a kind, empathetic reason why they weren’t included. Most of the time, they’ll understand.
Set a date and book your venue.
It’s time to set your wedding date and book a venue. Since every other decision revolves around this one, the rest of your planning is about to become much easier. Before committing to the venue, be crystal clear on what the rental includes, when you’ll have access to the venue on your wedding day and how they handle the deposit and final payment.
To do: Add your wedding date to your Ceremony schedule!
Choose your bridal party.
For some brides, this is the toughest decision they’ll make, for others it’s a no brainer. There’s no set criteria for choosing a bridal party, just be sure these are the people you want to be by your side before, during and after your wedding. These are the people who’ll help with—and keep you sane through—the entire process, so choose wisely. Be aware that each addition to the bridal party comes with a cost—flowers, clothing, transportation, etc. While cost shouldn’t be the main driver, be careful not to blow your budget.
10 months to go:
Create your wedding registry.
Now for the fun part: window shopping for wedding gifts. Before cozying up with your finacé and building an online registry, consider a few guideposts. Decide what you need, and what you want. Register at a few places to give your guests options. Don’t be afraid to add to your registry as you get closer to your wedding. Don’t need much in the way of gifts? Consider a wedding crowdfunding campaign to pay for your honeymoon or a down payment on a house. Whatever you choose, be sure to add at least one unnecessary, just-for-fun thing for each of you.
10 Months to go
Schedule bachelor and bachelorette parties.
A wild night with your besties, or dinner and drinks at your local restaurant? Today’s bachelor and bachelorette parties seem to rival the wedding itself. Whatever you choose, be sure to plan early and think about budget. If you’re asking your wedding party to travel for the wedding, you might consider keeping your pre-wedding activities closer to home. And if your struggling for unique ideas, consider glamping (yep, glam camping), a kitschy session of glamor shots, or a good old fashion sleepover.
To do: Add your bachelor / bachelorette parties to your Ceremony schedule!
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