Wedding Checklist: The Ultimate Wedding Planning Guide

Wedding Checklist: The Ultimate Wedding Planning Guide

Whether you said yes or popped the question yourself, once that ring is on your finger, the countdown to the big day is ON!

With so many tasks to take care of, from booking the entertainment to deciding on your final list of guests, planning a wedding can seem overwhelming. But, giving yourself enough time to tackle tasks month by month with a wedding checklist makes everything less stressful and a whole lot more fun.

Let the Wedding Planning Begin...

Starting the planning as soon as possible also means you can devote more time to making every detail perfect, with less chance of having to settle for second best or rushing through important decisions.

Here we take you from 18 months before the main event right up to the day itself, guiding you through every consideration and choice, making it easier to tick off items as you go along. Ready to get started? Keep reading to discover the ultimate wedding planning checklist for your special day!


18 Months Before16 Months Before12 Months Before10 Months Before8 Months Before6 Months Before4 Months Before2 Months Before1 Month Before1 Week BeforeOn Your Wedding Day
choose your wedding venue

18 Months Before

Knowing how to plan weddings often involves a lot of learning as you go on, but starting planning early can help ensure you don't lose out on your dream venue or ideal date. While your wedding might seem far into the future, ticking off important items on your wedding planning checklist around 18 months before the big day can save you a lot of stress in the long run.

Determine Your Budget

Before you can make any plans, you need to know the budget you're working with. Unless you want to start married life off in debt, be honest about savings and possible parental contributions when doing your sums.

The good news is, tackling your wedding planning checklist early means that you'll have time to save up if your budget falls short of your expectations. But for now, coming up with an approximate total will serve as a good starting point for your major wedding plan decisions.

decide on your wedding budget

Make a Guest List

With your rough budget in place, you'll have a better idea of how many guests you can invite. Your list of guests will also depend on how much you're willing to spend per head and what wedding catering service you choose.

You'll also need to decide whether you'll allow plus ones or not, with 'no ring, no bring' rules becoming more common for intimate, modern-day weddings. Even so, it can be a minefield when deciding who to invite and who to leave off the list. Choices like this show why writing a guest list isn't the kind of task that you can rush.

The best tactic is for you and your partner to write down people you couldn't go through such a special day without. Until you send out your save the dates, your list can be a work in progress so feel free to alter it until then.

Set a Provisional Date and Venue

You might want to get married on the third Saturday in August but setting a wedding date is rarely a case of picking a day and watching everything fall into place. Many wedding venues are booked up far in advance so you need to be open to making a compromise between your ideal day and location. And, you'll also have to act fast.

Check out potential venues that suit the capacity and style you have in mind then book viewings at those with dates that appeal to you. Once you have a favourite you can set a provisional date, although don't put a deposit down just yet!

book ceremony venue

Check the Availability of Your Chosen Church or Registrar

Setting a wedding date and choosing a venue is all well and good. But you'll also need to check whether there's actually someone to marry you on your chosen day! The two possibilities are a civil ceremony with a registrar or getting married in a church.

For the first option, search 'book a registrar' online and the name of your local council to find the relevant page. Booking a registrar is a simple process, although some registry offices don't let you book more than a year in advance. If that's the case, secure the venue and then alter your wedding planning to do list to include booking the registrar at the 12-month mark.

For those of you who want a church wedding, you'll need to check that your chosen church is available when your venue is. Bear in mind, churches will often insist on certain requirements to allow you to get married there. These can include living in the parish or having to attend several services before the wedding.

Confirm Your Wedding Venue

With your church or registrar booked in, you can now go ahead and confirm your wedding venue. Putting down a deposit guarantees your place so you can breathe a sigh of relief when it's done. Although, if we've learnt anything from the last few years, it's that plans can change in an instant. With this in mind, taking out wedding insurance isn't a terrible idea to cover scenarios like your venue going bust or your dress getting damaged. Or indeed, an unforeseen global pandemic...

Appoint Your Wedding Party

After all the stress of how to plan weddings, book venues, and secure dates, it's time for something more fun! From the bridesmaids to the best man, the ushers to the flower girls, there are plenty of roles to fill. Our advice is to choose friends and family members who will consider it an honour and rise to the challenge.

decide on a wedding theme

16 Months Before

With your date locked in and your venue secured, you can start thinking about the touches that will make your wedding unique and meaningful to you. These might include a woodland theme, entertainment from a jazz and swing band, or a photographer who specialises in film. Remember, it's your big day so feel free to choose what you want rather than worrying about pleasing others.

Choose a Theme

Although there are plenty of popular wedding themes out there, including nautical, tropical, and The Great Gatsby, it's often best to choose a theme that represents you as a couple. You might even want to play on a key part of your couple history to make it more personal. This might be a school theme to represent where you met or a 90s theme as an ode to the decade you were both born.

Once you have your theme, start collecting ideas in the form of a mood board on Pinterest or Instagram. This will help show you how to plan weddings by bringing your theme to life within your music, food, and decorative selections.

hire wedding band music

Book a DJ or Wedding Band

No wedding is complete without music, whether that means a DJ spinning the latest tracks or a professional wedding band getting you all up and dancing to some classic tunes. Like popular wedding venues, DJs and musicians get booked up early so if you have a certain performer in mind, make sure to book them in as soon as possible.

As well as the evening entertainment, consider whether you want music to feature at some point in the ceremony. For example, you might want to walk down the aisle to the delicate sounds of a professional harpist or you could hire a flamenco guitarist to entertain your guests during the photography session.

Book a Photographer and Videographer

Skilled wedding photographers and videographers are in demand so book these well before the wedding date.

Many wedding photographers also include an engagement photo session in the price of their wedding package. This session will help you gain insight into your photographer's style. You'll also be able to discuss possible wedding day poses and captures you want. What's more, the beautiful set of engagement photos they'll produce for you will be perfect for using in social media announcements and wedding stationery.

wedding photographer

Book a Catering Service

If your chosen venue won't be doing your catering you'll have to book a separate wedding catering service too. For those of you who aren't sold on the idea of a formal sit-down meal, popular modern options include a hog roast, barbecues, separate food bars, or a selection of sharing platters.

Book a Florist

Once you know your venue and theme, booking a florist will ensure you don't lose out to other couples who want to book their services on the same day. At this stage, you won't need to know exactly what you want although it helps to start collecting ideas for when you and your florist visit the venue.

wedding dress shopping

12 Months Before

A year to go to your wedding date and the planning is already well underway. But, this stage is one of the most important as it's when you'll share your date with the world and finally get to go dress shopping!

Send Out Your Save the Dates

There's no point setting a wedding date without telling people when to clear their diaries. Since it's traditional to send out wedding invitations six months before the big day, save the dates can avoid calendar clashes by ensuring that your friends and family know well in advance when you're tying the knot. Remember though, only send your save the date cards, bookmarks, or fridge magnets to people you'll invite to the whole day, not evening guests.

Go Dress Shopping

Even if you've already tried on dresses or have a good idea of what you want, by this stage, it's time to start making decisions about your wedding dress. Heading dress shopping early allows you plenty of time for fittings and alterations.

As for the shopping trip itself, make sure that unsightly underwear isn't an issue by wearing seamless underwear in preparation. You should also go on a weekday when bridal shops are quieter and limit your shopping partners to your mum and/or your maid of honour. Many brides-to-be think that the more input the better but too many opinions can actually make the process harder.

Now is a good time to start thinking about your bridesmaids' dresses too. While it might sound extreme to go shopping for bridesmaids' dresses so far in advance, if you have a large group of women to consider, finding dresses everyone loves can be tricky at best! Although, it helps to have your own dress finalised before you go shopping with your girls to ensure that the styles complement each other.

Register Your Intention to Marry

Unless you're an expert on how to plan weddings, it's likely you had no idea about this very important wedding element. The truth is, you don't have to do register so far in advance. But since you can do it up to a year before, getting it out of the way means you get to tick another thing off your wedding planning checklist.

The process involves a meeting with your registrar where you'll register your intention to marry, pay for your certificate, and collect your wedding ceremony details form.

wedding flowers

10 Months Before

With less than a year to go to the big day, this is the perfect stage to review your progress and make sure all of the earlier items on the checklist are done and dusted. If so, you can proceed with some of the finer details, like choosing the floral arrangements and finding someone to make your dream wedding cake!

Book Your Bridal Suite

You'll need somewhere at or near your chosen venue to get ready so booking a bridal suite ahead of time is essential. At the same time, reserve a block of rooms in the same hotel for your close family and friends who'll need somewhere to stay the night of the wedding.

Find a Cake Maker

Cake makers work on more than one wedding at a time so it's fine to leave this until around 10 months before the wedding. When discussing your preferences, consider your theme and whether a certain type or flavour cake might be most suitable. You should also collect images of cakes you like and send them to your cake maker before you meet in person and finalise the design.

wedding cake

Plan the Floral Arrangements

This is a good stage to meet up with your florist and head to the venue. Showing the florist the space they have to work with as well as the kinds of arrangements you want can help make this process a lot easier. Even if you have specific ideas, the florist's expert eye will see ways to elevate your venue with floral arrangements that you might not have considered.

Decide on the Ceremony Details

Although you have until six weeks before the wedding to return this form, it's helpful to tick this off your wedding planning checklist as soon as you're sure about your ceremony details. Some of the decisions you'll have to consider include the music you'll walk down the aisle to, the vows you want, and who'll give you away.

book wedding car

Eight Months Before

Around the middle stage of the wedding planning process is when you start finetuning details in preparation for sending the invitations and getting your venue ready for the big day. But, it's not all stress as this is the perfect time to book your honeymoon too!

Start Ordering Decorative Items

From fairy lights to balloons, centrepieces to wedding signs, these decorative details are what make your wedding come to life. As such, it's important to start scouring the internet for options within your budget as soon as possible.

You might also decide to DIY some decorative wedding items, such as favours, table decorations, or menus. If so, this is a good time to order all the crafting materials you'll need.

Make a Wedding Gift List

For those of you set on having a wedding gift list, this needs to be ready before you send your invitations out. Wedding gift lists make choosing presents a lot easier for guests and ensures you get the things you really want. Although, these days, many couples prefer to set up a honeymoon fund or ask for money instead of presents so don't feel you have to go down the wedding gift list route.

wedding gift list

Organise Your Transport

If your ceremony and reception are in different locations, you'll need to arrange transport to take your guests from one venue to the other. This is also a good time to book transport for you and any members of the wedding party to get to the wedding venue if any of you are staying elsewhere the night before.

Choose Your Wedding Stationery and Invitations

These days it's a lot easier to see what your invites will look like before they arrive thanks to the wonders of the internet. That said, most companies will send a sample of your invite so you can double-check the wording and design before you put in a mass order.

Remember, your wedding stationery also includes items like place cards, menus, and orders of service. Although, it can be better to order these later since your menu and guest list are still subject to change.

Book Your Honeymoon

Whether you plan to flit off straight after the last dance or a few days after the wedding buzz has died down, planning your honeymoon is something fun for you and your partner to do before you get too busy with yet more wedding prep. Also, if you're planning on an exotic honeymoon, booking early ensures you have time to get any vaccinations you might need.

order wedding invitations

Six Months Before

After a year of making decisions and reservations, you're practically an expert on how to plan weddings. This is just as well, since the six-month mark is when you'll need to start ticking off big wedding admin details, such as sending invitations and booking your hair and makeup artists.

Send Your Wedding Invitations

Wedding invitations are more of a traditional formality since most of your guests will already know they're invited by now. That said, your wedding invitations should also provide important information for guests, such as nearby accommodation recommendations and the dress code. The RSVPs you send along with them should also ask them to include any dietary restrictions along with their response. It's also a fun idea to ask for a song request for the DJ to play at the reception too!

wedding rings

Buy Your Wedding Rings

Buying your wedding rings isn't a decision you should take lightly since you'll both be wearing them every day forever. As such, take your time to look at possible options and find a wedding band that complements your engagement ring (if you have one). Do bear in mind though, if you plan to design bespoke wedding rings, you might need to start the process earlier.

Book Hair and Makeup Artists

Unless you plan on doing your hair and makeup yourself, start searching for local wedding hairstylists and makeup artists around six months before the big day. This gives you time to choose a few whose work you like and book trials with them.

When you head to the trials, it's a good idea to go armed with inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram so they have a visual idea of what you want. Then, when you find your favourites, book them in for your big day!

Buy Bridal Accessories

With so much focus on your wedding dress, it can be easy to forget that you'll need shoes and other accessories for the big day. For this fun wedding checklist item, consider anything you might need to ensure you look even more fabulous. These might include bridal lingerie, hair accessories, and possibly a wrap or shawl for autumn and winter weddings.

choose groomswear

Four Months Before

Things are starting to get very real with only four months to go! Luckily, this stage is full of fun and tasty details to help take your mind off the stress of finalising no end of small but key decisions!

Order Your Cake

Unless you've already done so, make sure to finalise the cake design and order it around the four-month mark. This is also when you'll confirm when you'll pay and whether you'll have to pick it up or not.

Have Your Final Menu Tasting

Your venue will invite you to a menu tasting session when you book, but it's not usually until around four months before the big day. If you're hiring an outside wedding catering service, arrange a tasting around the same time.

Some tasting sessions are private while others will involve other couples. Either way, trying as many options as possible will make it a lot easier to finalise your wedding food selections.

wedding menu tasting

Decide on the Wedding Day Timings

With the countdown to the big day gaining speed now, it's a good stage to start thinking about the timings of your wedding day. These include when you'll need to start getting ready, how long you'll devote to photos, what time to serve the food, and when you'll cut the cake. Getting a handle on the exact schedule will make it easier to inform your suppliers and finalise your orders of service.

Buy or Rent Groomswear

If the groom and his groomsmen are buying their wedding attire, they can get it at any time before the big day. But, you might want to insist on them heading to the shops at least four months before to allow enough time for alterations. Hiring groomswear is a different story, however, as most suppliers won't let you rent out suits and the like any further in advance than three months before.

hen party

Two Months Before

Thanks to your intricate wedding planning checklist and excellent organisation skills, most of the details might already be taken care of. If not, the good news is that this stage doesn't include anything very time-consuming. And, you can look forward to your approaching hen do too!

Follow Up on RSVPs

You'll need your final list of guests soon to make seating arrangements so the two-month mark is a good time to chase up any RSVPs that you're still waiting for.

Attend Your First Dress Fitting

This is when you'll get to try your chosen wedding dress on properly to check the fit. As well as seeing if the seamstress needs to make any alterations to the size, you can also ask her to make more major alterations such as adding sleeves or straps if necessary.

Enjoy Your Hen and Stag Parties

After making it this far through your wedding planning checklist, you definitely deserve to let your hair down. Luckily, the maid of honour and best man will be responsible for organising everything so you won't need to do anything except turn up and have fun!

wedding seating plan

One Month Before

With only a month to go, this can be a stressful stage as you'll need to finalise important details like the seating plan and dress.

Make a List of Song Choices

Whether you've hired a band, DJ, or both, this is a good time to let them know your choice of first dance, last dance, and any other songs you want them to include. Make sure to check the lyrics first as many songs aren't as romantic as they seem.

Have Your Final Dress Fitting

This final fitting should confirm that your wedding dress fits like a glove and is exactly the style you want. If not, there's still time for the seamstress to make slight alterations to the size so speak up if you're not happy yet.

Finalise Your Seating Plan

With all your RSVPs returned and your list of guest finalised, you can now write and order your seating plan. Once you have every detail in place, give a copy to your wedding catering service along with details of any dietary requirements around two weeks before the big day.

choose your wedding venue

One Week Before

Everything should be done by now so this is your chance to relax. Trust us, after spending a lot of your free time thinking about how to plan weddings for the past year and a half, you'll need a week off in the run-up to the big day!

That said, it's never a bad idea to go through your wedding planning checklist one last time to make sure there's nothing that you've forgotten. This could include briefing your wedding party on their roles or putting together a bridal emergency kit. You might also want to devote this time to any last-minute beauty details like painting your nails or dying your hair.

married couple

On Your Wedding Day

Finally, you'll get to enjoy the hard work you've put in over the last 18 months to make all this happen! But, it'll pass by in a flash so make sure to savour as much of every moment as you can.

Be Ready an Hour Before

One thing many couples don't know is that they'll need to meet their registrar right before the ceremony so they can check that you're who you say you are. Make sure to factor this into your beauty preparations and book your hair and makeup in a little earlier if necessary.

Aiming to be ready an hour before means that even if arrive at the venue a little later than this, you'll still have time for makeup touch-ups and some candid pre-wedding shots.

Keep Your Certificate Safe

The registrar will hand you your wedding certificate at the ceremony so make sure to appoint someone to keep this safe. A good idea is to have your maid of honour take it up to your room if you're staying at the hotel. Otherwise, leaving it with someone more responsible is wise.

Hand Out Your Wedding Party Gifts

Although you'll be receiving gifts today, it's nice to give something back to the people who've helped you make this wedding happen. If you're giving your bridesmaids an item of jewellery to mark the occasion or something else to wear, hand your gifts out while you're all getting ready. Otherwise, acknowledging each person's involvement and contribution as you hand out gifts is the perfect way to show your appreciation.

wedding planning checklist

The Ultimate Wedding Checklist

As this long and detailed wedding checklist shows, there's no end of decisions and considerations to make when planning a wedding.

Luckily, our music hiring service makes organising the music for your big day a lot less stressful. With every style, instrument, band, and budget taken into consideration, you can be sure that you and your wedding guests will have a great time, even if you did forget the favours or ordered the wrong menu font!

For more information on choosing the perfect music for your wedding, feel free to contact us today!