Personalizing your wedding ceremony is a great way to kick off your wedding on a unique note. Go beyond writing your own vows, and design a wedding ceremony that’s all your own.
- Consult your ceremony officiant to see when it would be appropriate to include friends and family in the ceremony. For example, if you ask the officiant to tell a story about you and your fiancé, make sure to include the names of friends or family members who may have been there for the aforementioned event.
- Work with your wedding officiant to find ideal time slots in the ceremony for your friends to read poems, prayers, or sing songs.
- Pick an officiant that you know on a personal level. More and more friends and family members are choosing to officiate their loved ones' weddings.
- If you have children, include them in the ceremony from beginning to end.
- Last but not least, write your own personal vows. This is a common, but deeply personal practice that allows you to bring your own words to what can be an otherwise impersonal ceremony. Add spontaneity to your ceremony and surprise your soon-to-be spouse with an old love letter, song, or poem written by you for them.
Take your time when designing your ceremony, and add in your own special touches wherever you see fit.
When it comes to wedding planning advice, the most important thing to do is to get organized. If you are not an organized person by nature, there are plenty of tools—such as a timeline and wedding planning list—that you can use. Here are a few things to think about when starting out in the process:
- Before you begin your wedding planning list, decide on your budget. To make sure you have an accurate idea of what a wedding costs, begin asking people who have recently gotten married how much they spent on a deejay, photographer, etc. You must also take into consideration your wedding location. A wedding in Indiana, for example, is likely going to cost less than a wedding in New York City.
- Decide whether or not you are going to hire a wedding planner. If so, do so before you begin looking at venues and vendors, as her expertise may come into play.
- Begin looking at venues. Remember that all-inclusive venues are typically cheaper overall. Other venues simply rent you their space for five hours; you must do everything else, perhaps even sweep the floors before the wedding.
- Once you have a date and venue set, then you can start plotting out your timeline and checklists. Many online resources break down these lists by month, so whether you are having a five-month engagement or 16-month engagement, you can stay on track.
Planning for your wedding can be overwhelming. You may find, however, that breaking the job into smaller chunks will help alleviate stress and keep you organized along the way. Here are some tips on when to start planning various aspects of your wedding.
Wedding Planning Timeline: One year to nine months before:
- Book your date and your venue.
- Figure out your budget, what you are going to spend and how much your family members are going to spend.
- Decide who is going to be in your wedding party.
- Decide on a head count, and start putting together a database of contact information.
- Have an engagement party, but make sure that each person is also invited to the wedding
- If you are going to book a planner, do so now, as she will help with booking the other vendors.
- Book an officiant.
Wedding Planning Timeline: Eight to seven months before:
- Register at a minimum of two retailers.
- Book the photographer and videographer.
- Purchase your dress.
- Book a block of hotel rooms for out-of-town guests.
- Start meeting caterers, DJ’s, and potentially other entertainment (such as bands).
Wedding Planning Timeline: Six months before:
- Shop for the bridesmaids’ dresses. Allow at least 5 months to get dresses ordered and sized.
- Meet with your officiant and plan out the ceremony.
- Make sure that you have all official documents for the ceremony, including wedding license.
- Book your florist.
- Choose your invitations.
- Send out save-the-date cards.
- Reserve other reception necessities that depend on the venue and the weather season, such as heaters (if it’s cold), outdoor toilets, lighting, or extra chairs.
- Start planning your honeymoon.
Wedding Planning Timeline: Five to Four months before:
- Go cake tasting and choose your cake.
- Begin your dress fittings.
- Choose your shoes.
- Choose accessories for your bridesmaids, including shoes and jewelry.
- Begin putting together your song list (which songs to be played during dinner, which songs you do not want played, which song you want for your first dance).
- Research hair and makeup artists, and potentially do some trial runs.
- Decide on a date for your bridal shower and send your hostess a list of guests and their contact information.
- Set the date (and book a restaurant/venue) for your rehearsal dinner.
Wedding Planning Timeline: Three months before:
- Order wedding favors.
- Decide who is going to give the toast.
- Choose your caterer and finalize the menu.
- Choose your florist and finalize the flowers.
- Print menu cards and programs.
- Have a second dress fitting.
- Purchase wedding favors.
- Decide on your wedding readings and/or write your wedding vows.
Wedding Planning Timeline: Two months before:
- Meet with your DJ and go over your wedding playlist.
- If you hired a band, meet with them to go over which songs are to be played (and when).
- Send your invitations. Set your RSVP at about 3 weeks to a month from the time you send your invitation.
- Have a bachelorette party.
- Meet with your photographer to go over what types of shots you want, as well as locations that you like for photos.
Wedding Planning Timeline: One month before:
- Get your marriage license.
- Mail rehearsal dinner invitations or call guests to let them know the date.
- Confirm times and schedules with all vendors.
- Have your last dress fitting.
- Draw out your seating arrangement.
- Send out final payments, if possible.
- Purchase gifts for your bridal party.
- Have your hair colored and cut. (If you are purchasing hair pieces, now is a good time to get them to match your hair color).
Wedding Planning Timeline: The Week Of:
- Again, confirm arrival times with all vendors.
- Set aside final checks to be given to the vendors.
- Pack for your honeymoon.
- Send your final guest list to the caterer.
- Have a manicure and pedicure (one to two days before, if possible).
- Break in your shoes.
- Delegate small tasks, such as bustling the dress, handing out tips to the waiters, etc.
- Book a spa treatment to help you relax!
Your wedding might seem like a tangled web of complicated to-dos at first glance, which is why a simple wedding planning list is a fantastic tool to keep near and dear. Glance at this wedding planning timeline every so often to make sure you’re on track and haven’t skipped over anything. Trust me, once you have a wedding planning guide right in front of you, holding your hand, you won’t feel so overwhelmed through this exciting yet nerve wracking process.
- Create a wedding binder: First things first is to have a home for all things wedding. This way you’re not searching high and low for that wedding coordinator's business card.
- Build your budget: Figure out how much you have to spend right out of the gate, before you spend too much.
- Choose your wedding party: This is imperative to decide early on so that you can make sure your wedding party can make the date.
- Begin the guest list: Since this could be a lengthy process you should start deciding who’s invited as soon as you can.
- Wedding planner or not? At this point you need to decide if you even want to hire a wedding planner, and if so who?
- Make reservation at your wedding venue: Since venues book up quickly make sure you snag the date you want at the venue of your dreams before someone else does.
- Schedule your wedding officiant: Whether you choose to have a friend, family member, or priest marry you, make sure you schedule them in on your wedding date.
- Host an engagement party: Spread the good news!
- Hire a wedding photographer (and videographer): Just because this is next on the list doesn’t mean you should rush finding the perfect photographer who will capture your big day in the style you want.
- Hire the entertainment: Ask friends for referrals; listen to demos online to find the perfect wedding band or dj.
- Caterer meet and greet: Unless you’re getting married at a hotel or a venue that provides you with catering, make sure to meet your caterer.
- Send out save the dates!
- Buy your dream wedding gown.
- Sign up for your wedding registry: It’s customary to sign at least three retail stores.
- Bring your wedding to the web: Create a wedding website.
- Book your honeymoon.
- Decide on bridesmaid’s dresses.
- Hire a florist.
- Hire a limo.
- Choose a wedding cake: The yummiest out of all of your to do’s.
- Schedule dress fittings.
- Find and book the hair and makeup artist of your dreams.
- Give your playlist to the dj or band.
- Menu cards: Make sure to print out the menus for the reception if your venue is not taking care of it.
- The rings! Make a fun day or two out of finding the perfect wedding bands.
- Attain your marriage license.
- Solidify the reception seating chart.
- Pick up your wedding gown from the alterations shop.
- Communicate your final guest count to your caterer.
Phew! You made it!