How Long Should You Take To Plan Your Wedding?

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Your partner has popped the big question.  You’ve called everyone you know to tell them the big news and posted a photo of your fantastic engagement ring on social media.  Now that the glow of excitement has begun to fade just a tad, it is sinking in that you need to plan a wedding.  

There are decisions to be made and arrangements to be secured.  

No idea where to begin?  We are here to help with this handy guide to planning your grand event.



  • Set a tentative date so you know what to aim for when making arrangements.
  • Determine your budget, even if just a ballpark figure so that you understand what you can afford for each component and plan accordingly.
  • Estimate the number of guests to determine what venue would be best for your wedding.


14 to 12 months out

  • Choose a venue.  This should be your first priority.  Popular venues can book up more than a year in advance.  Knowing what dates are available for your choice of venue will be key to helping nail down your wedding date so that you can make arrangements for the specific date selected.
  • Nail down the date.  Be sure to consider outside influences that could affect your choice.  Are you booking a hotel on the same weekend that One Direction is in town and staying there?  The last thing you need is crazed teens tarnishing your big day.  Does it clash with your Gran’s 100th birthday party in another town?  Don’t make people choose between you.


12 to 9 months out

  • Select your primary vendors.  Photographers, videographers, bands and deejays often only book one wedding per day.  You’ll want to lock them in before someone else does.
  • Begin the dress search.  Not only is this fun, but a necessity.  Ordering gowns and scheduling subsequent fittings can take a long time.  Not only should you find your dress as soon as possible, but go ahead and book the fittings to avoid stress.


8 to 6 Months Out

  • Book an officiant.  Whether you prefer a religious leader, a friend or family member, a justice of the piece or a secular celebrant, you’ll want a commitment that they are available when need.  Do ensure they are legally certified to conduct a ceremony in the location you have chosen.
  • Book a venue for the rehearsal.  You have a bit more flexibility here as many venues can accommodate multiple time slots on the same day and your rehearsal date is a bit flexible in most cases, but you’ll still want to lock it down early rather than risk it being booked up.
  • Line up the secondary vendors. Caterers, florists, cake bakers, make-up artists and hair stylists can usually accommodate more than one client on the same day, so you have a  bit more time to line them up.  However, you’ll still want to book them early to avoid conflicts.
  • Send save-the-dates out.  These will help your guests prepare for vacation time needed and make travel arrangements that may be necessary for them to attend in advance of the actual invitation.  Some of them may send you regrets, helping you better prepare seating arrangements and guest counts.  
  • Select and order bridesmaid dresses.  It is recommended that you allow about eight months for this, as shipping and tailoring can take several weeks.  This will give you time to address any mix-ups or any unexpected alterations – like that cousin who finds out she is pregnant after the fact and needs more room by the big day.


6 to 4 Months Out

  • Set the menu.  Arrange a final tasting with your caterer around the fourth or fifth month.
  • Consider the finer details. Structure your events so that you know what time the bridal party will arrive at the venue, the pacing of the ceremony and reception, and how pictures will be taken. Leave no stone unturned in making sure everything is timed perfectly.
  • Rent or order tuxes. Tuxes or suits for the groom and groomsmen should be rented or ordered about four months in advance.
  • Start planning the honeymoon. Book your mode of travel and accommodations. If you are going out of country, be sure your passports are up to date and you have any paperwork necessary to slide smoothly through the airport, immigration and customs.


3 to 2 Months Out

  • Decide on printed materials.  Consider printing or engraving on cake servers, favours, napkins, and the like.  You’ll want to coordinate programs, menus, place cards and guestbooks to match.  Will you order them or print them yourself?  Allow time for either.  Allow time to receive and mail invitations.
  • Have final meetings with your vendors.  You’ll want to ensure they are on track.


1 Month to 2 Weeks Out

  • Obtain a marriage license.  At the very least, research how long it takes to obtain and how long it is good for.  Procure it on the earliest date possible to avoid stress.
  • Schedule a final dress fitting.  Be sure it is done while wearing proper shoes.
  • Buy the wedding rings.  It can take several weeks for special orders, engraving or resizing.  
  • Take care of personal grooming.  Men should get their hair cut two weeks before. Women should cut and colour two weeks before as well – not the week before. This goes for tanning, eyebrow waxing and facials, too.  You don’t want any mishaps or reactions spoiling your big day.
  • Select a Go To Person.  Asking someone to be the point person for vendors is also a good idea if you do not have a wedding planner. This person can handle questions from vendors, and hold on to checks and tips for each.  Ideally, the Best Man should do this, but anyone trustworthy will do.


Week of the Wedding

  • Final touches.  Double check that everything is in place.  You don’t want surprises at the last minute.
  • Schedule a manicure, pedicure or massage.  You’ve worked hard to get it all put together.  It’s time to treat yourself a bit.
  • Break in your shoes.  You don’t want to hobble down the aisle on pinched toes.
  • Pack for your honeymoon. Make sure everything you need is all together.

Of course, this is just a suggested timeline.  It may have to be adjusted based on your particular needs.  You may not have a year to plan or you may have more to consider.  

Hopefully, it will at least give you a starting point from which you can make your own to do list for the time you have available.  

So, for those of you who have already tied the knot, how long did you take to plan your wedding?


By Amy Naves, Excalibur Press

NW Brides Edition 10