Wedding Countdown

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12 months before

  • Envision your wedding and draw up a budget.
  • Assemble your "planning team." Consider hiring a wedding consultant.
  • Pick a wedding date and time. Select several options, then check with your venues, officiant and important guests before finalizing.
  • Start planning the guest list.
  • Look for and book ceremony sites and reception sites.
  • Ask friends and relatives to be in the wedding party.
  • Optional: Have an engagement party. You may want to register beforehand for gifts.

8–10 months before

  • Bride: Think about, shop for and order your gown.
  • Envision reception food.
  • Decide what type of entertainment you want. A pianist for the cocktail hour, strolling violinists, a DJ or band?
  • Think about your floral décor.
  • Research and book your wedding professionals. Interview vendors: photographer, videographer, reception band or DJ, and florist.
  • Research a wedding insurance policy to protect your deposits.
  • Research and reserve accommodations for out-of-town guests.
  • Register for gifts.
  • Contact rental companies if you need to rent anything for the ceremony or reception, such as chairs, tables and a tent.

6–8 months before

  • Book ceremony musicians.
  • Order bridesmaid dresses.
  • Start planning honeymoon.
  • Send save-the-date cards. This is a particularly good idea if you're marrying during a tourist or holiday season or having a destination wedding.

4–6 months before

  • Attend prewedding counseling, if required.
  • Shop for and order invitations and wedding rings.
  • Shop for formalwear.
  • Renew or get passports, if necessary.
  • Envision your wedding cake and research, interview and book a cake designer.

3 months before

  • Order wedding cake.
  • Hire a calligrapher, if you want your invitations professionally addressed.
  • Attend your shower. (It may be earlier, depending on when your hosts decide to have it.)
  • Groom: Rent the men's formalwear.
  • Hire wedding day transport: limousines, other cars. Look into transportation sooner if you're considering renting streetcars or over-the-top travel.

2 months before

  • Mail your invitations.
  • Write your vows.
  • Purchase gifts for parents, attendants and each other.
  • Book your stylist and try out wedding day hairstyles.
  • Book a makeup artist and go for a trial run.

1 month before

  • Apply for a marriage license. Check with the local bureau in the town where you'll wed.
  • Bride: Have final gown fitting. Bring your maid of honor along to learn how to bustle your dress. Have the dress pressed and bring it home.
  • Call all bridesmaids. Make sure they have their gowns ready for the wedding.
  • Make last-minute adjustments with vendors.
  • Create a wedding program to hand out to guests.
  • Order and plan in-room welcome baskets for out-of-town guests.

2 weeks before

  • Review final RSVP list and call any guests who have not yet sent a response.
  • Deliver must-have shot lists to your photographer and videographer. Include who should be in formal portraits and determine when portraits will be taken.
  • Deliver final song list to your DJ or bandleader. Include special song requests and songs you don't want played.
  • Bride: Get your last prewedding haircut and color.

1 week before

  • Give reception site/caterer final guest head count. Include vendors, such as the photographer or band members, who will expect a meal. Ask how many extra plates the caterer will prepare.
  • Supply location manager with a list of vendor requests such as a table for DJ or setup space needed for a florist.
  • Plan reception seating chart.
  • Print place and table cards, or finalize list with the calligrapher you've hired.
  • Call all wedding vendors and confirm arrangements.
  • Give ceremony and reception site managers a schedule of vendor delivery and setup times, plus contact numbers.
  • Groom: Get your hair trimmed.
  • Attend bachelor/ette parties.

2–3 days before

  • Bride: If you need to, have your gown pressed or steamed.
  • Groom: Go for final fitting and pick up your formalwear.
  • Groom: Ask the best man to make sure all groomsmen attend fittings and pick up their outfits.
  • Determine wedding party positions during the ceremony and the order of the party in the processional and recessional.
  • Hand off place cards, table cards, menus, disposable cameras, favors and any other items for setting the tables to the caterer and/or reception site manager.
  • Reconfirm final details with all vendors. Discuss any necessary last-minute substitutions.
  • Call the limousine or car rental company for pickup times and locations.
  • Arrange for guests without cars to be picked up from the airport or train station. Ask friends, attendants or relatives to help.
  • Deliver welcome baskets to the hotel concierge; include names and delivery instructions.

Day before

  • Provide all wedding professionals with an emergency phone number to call on the day of the wedding.
  • Write checks and/or talk to wedding hosts (usually your parents, if not you) about any final balances to be paid at the end of the reception.

Night before

  • Rehearse ceremony. Meet with wedding party, ceremony readers, immediate family and your officiant at the ceremony site to rehearse and iron out the details.
  • Bring unity candle, aisle runner, yarmulkes or other ceremony accessories to the site.
  • Give your marriage license to your officiant.
  • Attend rehearsal dinner.
  • Present attendants with gifts at the rehearsal dinner. You'll want to do this especially if the gifts are accessories to be worn during the wedding.

Day of

  • Present parents and each other with gifts.
  • Give wedding bands to the best man and maid of honor to hold during the ceremony.
  • Give best man the officiant's fee envelope, to be handed off after the ceremony.
  • Introduce your reception site manager to your consultant or maid of honor for questions or problems during the reception.
  • Assign a family member or attendant to be the photographer's contact so he/she knows who's who.

Postwedding

  • Prearrange for someone to return any rentals.
  • Preplan for attendants to take the bride's gown for cleaning and return the groom's tux to the rental shop.
  • Write and send thank-you notes to gift-bearing guests and vendors who were especially helpful.