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The Ultimate Wedding Checklist - What To Start Planning 12 Months Out
There’s nothing like the excitement of getting engaged, but that doesn’t mean it’s stress-free. Before you can start your lives together, you’ve got a lot of planning to do!
Knowing where to start and making sure everything falls into place can be extremely difficult. It’s important to get organized, which is where our ultimate wedding checklist comes in!
From the venue to the dress, invitations, decorations, and more, this wedding checklist will help you get every detail of your big day organized so each moment goes off without a hitch.
Along the way you’ll find printable checklists that can be assembled into a checklist notebook, so you can stay on track as you plan pre-wedding gatherings, the big day itself, and beyond, as well as unique considerations, like wedding scents, tips for the budget bride, and more that you won’t find anywhere else.
Our checklist starts at the 12 month mark, but weddings can be planned in both longer and shorter amounts of time. If you have a longer engagement, spend more time on the 12 month checklist. If your engagement is shorter, condense the schedule. For example, if you’re engaged for seven months, try and complete months 12 to seven within the first month or two. Then, you’ll be able to stay right on schedule for the remaining months.
No matter how long your engagement, this wedding checklist planner will make sure nothing gets left behind or forgotten. Let’s get started!
12 Month Wedding Checklist - Download the Checklist here.
Narrow down your priorities to two or three things
Pick your bridal party
- How will you ask? (gift, letter, etc.)
- Who will be in charge of planning?
Pick a date(s)
Start researching vendors:
- Wedding Coordinator
Start dreaming about your honeymoonConsider wedding insurance and ring insurance
THE ULTIMATE WEDDING CHECKLIST - 12 Months Out
There’s a lot to do in the coming months, but at the 12 month mark, it’s all about enjoying your newly engaged status! This is the perfect time to slow down, dream about the details of your wedding, and share your love with friends and family.
Daydream About Your Big Day
The very first tip on our wedding checklist is to daydream! It’s true that planning a wedding is stressful, but above all else, it should be fun, and it should bring you and your soon-to-be spouse closer together.
Let your thoughts go wild, but slow down enough to make some important observations about your dreams. For example, if you spend hours imagining yourself walking down the aisle and spinning on the dance floor in a gorgeous couture dress, you may want to start your dress search right away. If instead you spend a lot of time envisioning walking into a grand reception hall full candles and DIY decorations, you may want to put off searching for your dress for a month or two and instead focus on gathering DIY supplies.
Feeling a bit stuck? Start by considering the style and feel of your big day. A few styles to consider include:
- Rock and Roll
Make sure you get your partner in on the daydreaming too! Talk about how they envision your big day, and make sure you start talking about what’s important to both of you. A few questions to ask each other include:
- Why do you want to get married?
- Do you want to feel relaxed or energized on our wedding day?
- Is tradition important to you?
- What is the most important element to you?
After spending some time talking with your partner and daydreaming together about your big day, you’ll want to zero in on a shared vision that includes:
- Size: Whether you want a small, medium, or large gathering
- Setting: Whether you want your wedding indoors, outdoors, or both
- Season: Decide whether spring, summer, winter, or fall is right for you
- Venue: Decide on the types of venues you like the best
- Make important observations about your dreams to narrow in on the aspects of your wedding that are most important to you.
- Make sure you and your partner get on the same page about how you want your wedding to look and feel.
- Decide on wedding size, setting, season, and type of venue. These decisions can help guide you in making decisions about wedding themes, décor, and colors.
Focus on Theme Over Color
One of the first things many couples do is get carried away with color. It makes sense, as it’s one of the quickest and easiest things to focus on, but unless you want the takeaway of your big day to be color, you should focus on the theme first.
For example, if you want your wedding to have a Parisian feel, you may find that purple wedding decorations with sprigs of lavender are perfect for your big day, while a garden party may cause you to daydream in green and pink hues. Let your theme and how you want your wedding to feel guide you to a color scheme instead of letting colors rule the day. Your wedding will feel more immersive and dynamic. In contrast, weddings where color is the first consideration tend to fall flat.
- Focus on your theme first and color inspiration will follow.
Half the fun of getting engaged is telling your friends and family about your upcoming nuptials! It’s fun to daydream with your loved ones about your big day, but you do have a few important jobs to do as you’re spreading the news.
The biggest job is to ask bridesmaids and groomsmen to be in your wedding. Chances are, you both already know exactly who you want to ask. Decide if it’s important that you each ask the same number of people, or if it’s okay if the bridal party is a little lopsided. Talk about if it’s important that roles are gender specific, or if it’s okay if the bride has a man of honor or the groom has a best woman.
You should also talk about anyone that you absolutely don’t want in your bridal party, like your fiancé’s college drinking buddy. Once you’ve made your picks, ask those people in person, by sending them a letter in the mail, or having them open a gift.
While you’re at it, make sure you ask others to fill important positions during your wedding day. For example, you’ll want to ask:
- Flower girl(s)
- Ring bearer(s)
You should also think about your engagement party, if you want to have one. Some couples have a party as soon as they are engaged, while others throw it closer to the big day. It’s up to you, but you will want to decide who will be throwing your engagement party. Traditionally, it is organized by the bride’s family, but don’t shy away from letting the groom’s family or a friend get involved. In today’s modern world, you’re also more than welcome to plan your own engagement party!
- Decide who you want to have in your bridal party, and decide if there’s anyone you absolutely don’t want in your bridal party.
- Find a creative or meaningful way to ask your bridesmaids and groomsmen to join you on your big day.
- Don’t forget to ask important people to be flower girls, ring bearers, readers, ushers, and attendants.
- Start planning your engagement party, or have someone else plan it for you.
Pick a Date
You have a lot of important decisions to make when you plan your wedding, but few of them are as important as your wedding date. The food, dress, and decorations may fade in your memory over time, but you and your spouse will continue to celebrate the exact date of your wedding your entire lives. Choose wisely!
Some ideas to consider when choosing a wedding date include having your wedding on:
- Your birthday or your spouse’s birthday
- Your dating anniversary
- The date you were engaged
- A favorite holiday
- Parents’ or grandparents’ wedding anniversary
Make sure your date doesn’t cause a stir. For example, if you have a dramatic sibling, you definitely shouldn’t have your wedding on their birthday or another day that is important to them. In addition, you may want to avoid football season if you don’t want to potentially lose your spouse to an important game in the future, or the holiday season, if the idea of celebrating your anniversary, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all at the same time seems overwhelming to you.
It’s also a good idea to choose two or three dates that you are considering, as it will make choosing a venue and working with vendors easier. For example, if you have your heart set on booking a local mansion for your wedding, you may find that they aren’t available for your first choice, but they have availability for your second choice.
- Choose a meaningful date or a time of year that you will want to celebrate every year for the rest of your life.
- Avoid choosing a date that will offend or upset friends or family members.
- Choose two or three dates so you have some flexibility when you’re ready to book a venue and other vendors.
Start Researching Your Venue and Vendors
It’s never too early to start researching vendors. Many vendors book up really fast, especially during the spring and fall when weddings are popular. Other events, like holidays, can also throw a wrench in your plans. The sooner you start reaching out to vendors, the better.
Vendors you will want to start contacting include:
- Venues: Schedule tours for ceremony and reception spaces, and ask questions. You’ll want to know things like how late you can party, when you can start setting up, and if they only work with certain caterers.
- Catering: Ask for a menu and schedule tastings for different items. Consider bringing along your spouse or a member of your bridal party for help deciding.
- Cake: Narrow down your options and request a tasting with a few different bakers in town. Although beauty is important in a wedding cake, always remember that taste comes first!
- Photographer: Browse online portfolios and request quotes from two or three photographers. The sooner you can lock down your photographer, the sooner you can take engagement photos.
- DJ: Most couples either love or hate their DJ, so it pays to ask for recommendations from friends and family. An easy-going, friendly attitude is just as important as the songs they play.
- Musicians: During the height of wedding season, pianists, harpists, and quartets can be hard to come by. Decide if this is something you want and reach out to local musicians as soon as you can.
- Wedding Coordinator: Whether you want help from the very beginning or you only need help the day-of, start reaching out to coordinators to get pricing and ask about their services.
- Flowers: Go into appointments with florists with an open mind. Certain flowers may be more affordable during certain times of the year, and they may be able to make other recommendations to keep costs low.
- Officiant: If you have a pastor or someone else specific in mind, ask them as soon as you can. It’s especially important if you have a friend or family member that you want to be ordained for your ceremony.
- Hair and Makeup: Choose someone you trust and are comfortable with when it comes to hair and makeup, and make sure you request a trial run for the big day.
Just because a vendor is on the list doesn’t mean you have to hire them for your wedding. For example, you may have an aunt who loves to bake and wants to contribute to your wedding, or you may decide to DIY floral arrangements in lieu of hiring a florist.
In addition, you’ll want to follow the directions of each of your vendors as you lock them down in the coming months. Schedule tastings, photos, flower arrangements, and deliver playlists according to each of your vendors’ requests.
- You don’t have to hire every vendor. Choose vendors that you want to use and skip the rest.
- Schedule important dates with your vendors and stick to them to make sure everything is done according to their timeline for providing service.
Dream of Your Honeymoon
You should spend time dreaming about your wedding, but you should spend time dreaming about your honeymoon too! No need to book it just yet, but it helps to know if you want to schedule a grand vacation in Italy or if you’re willing to hop a town over and spend the week in a bed and breakfast. It also enables you to decide if a destination wedding is a better choice for you, as it enables you to celebrate your wedding and have your honeymoon all at the same time.
Perhaps the most important reason to start thinking about your honeymoon is to make sure you add it to your budget. An extravagant vacation is going to cost more than a weekend getaway, so you’ll want to make sure you keep it in mind as you’re budgeting for the other aspects of your wedding.
- Consider what kind of honeymoon you want, and if you want a destination wedding.
- Keep your honeymoon in mind as you’re beginning the process of budgeting for your wedding.
Consider Wedding Insurance and Ring Insurance
It is by no means a necessity, but it is important to think carefully about wedding insurance. You never know when disaster might strike and you’ll have to postpone your wedding. Whether it’s an accident or a pandemic, it may be well-worth the money to pay for wedding insurance. That’s especially the case if you’re planning an expensive wedding. You don’t want to be out tens of thousands of dollars because the unforeseeable happens.
It’s also a good idea to think about insurance for your ring. If your spouse-to-be spent thousands of dollars on your ring, you will want to make sure it is protected. Insurance can help you pay to replace it, if it gets lost, and it can help you cover lost or loose stones.
- Consider wedding insurance so you aren’t out the money if have to cancel your wedding for any reason.
- Think about insurance for your ring to protect against lost or loose stones, or losing your ring altogether.