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When Should You Start Planning a Wedding?

I’ve been writing about weddings long enough to know that planning a wedding takes some time and a lot of people aren’t sure when to start planning.

So how soon should you start planning your wedding? Twelve months before the wedding day is when you should start planning your wedding. However, if you plan to have a short engagement, arrangements can be made much quicker. The average engagement is about 13-months long, which gives just the right amount of time to plan the wedding.

The first thing you and your fiance need to do is decide if you want a long engagement or a short engagement. There are pros and cons to both and completely depends on the couple. The length of your engagement determines how much time you’ll have to plan.

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Short Engagements – 8 months or less


  1. Get married sooner than later

  2. Less time to stress and obsess over small details

  3. Sick relatives will have a better chance of being at the wedding


  1. The vendors you want might already be booked

  2. Might not have enough time to do all the projects you want

  3. Out of town guests might not be able to come due to shorter notice

Long Engagements – Over 12 months


  1. Time to save more money

  2. More likely to get the venue and vendors you want

  3. More time for DIY projects


  1. Too much time to make decisions and change your mind

  2. Could take on too many projects

  3. Your family and friends could make you crazy

For the purposes of this post, let’s assume you got engaged on Christmas Day and you’ve decided to have a 9-month engagement, so you’ll be getting married the following September. Here is your wedding planning timeline.

Immediately Following the Engagement

The average engagement is around 13-month long so a 9-month engagement is considered rather short.

You should be sure to spend a few weeks celebrating your engagement. This is a joyous time and should be enjoyed. However, after a few weeks, it’s time to get working on the wedding planning so that you can have a beautiful wedding in 9-months.

Make sure to get yourself a good wedding planner book to keep track of all your important information and make sure that you’re not missing any steps along the way. Check out my favorite wedding planner book.

Decide on a budget for the wedding. Determine how extravagant you want the wedding to be. You’ll also want to have some real conversations with your family to determine who is going to pay for what. These may be hard conversations, but it’s best to do it up front than waiting to see who offers to pay. Getting your finances in order ahead of time will make things less stressful later on.

Who is going to help you plan? If you’re already certain who you maid of honor is going to be, ask her for help. Also determine if you want your mom and future mother-in-law to help with the planning process. The more people the better. You may also want to consider hiring a wedding planner if it’s in the budget.

9 to 6 months to go

Nail down your guest list. You and your fiance should sit down and start making a list of who you want to invite to your wedding. You need to have an idea of how big the venue should be.

Start looking at wedding venues and choose one that is available on or around your ideal wedding date. Since we’re “planning” a late summer, early fall wedding, make sure to look at pictures of the venue from that time of year. This will help you see what the place looks like in season. Check out my list of 15 Things To Do Before Booking a Wedding Venue.

Come to an agreement on your wedding colors. It might be easier to make this decision at the time of booking your venue. Bring color swatches of your ideal wedding colors so that you can see what they will look like in the venue. Once this is decided, you’ll be able to move forward with dresses, decor, the cake, etc.

Ask your closest friends and family to be in your wedding party. Don’t rush this, you have plenty of time to make a decision and it should be done with much thought and surety. Don’t ask anyone out of obligation or that you don’t expect to be there for you. Here are 18 tips for choosing your wedding party.

Get your group together for some dress shopping and place orders. Start with visiting a few bridal shops and looking for wedding dresses and bridesmaids dresses. Don’t leave out the small local wedding boutiques. They’ll often have some great options for cheaper prices. To cut down on costs you can also look online. AdasBridal is a great option for finding wedding dresses online. You can even send them your custom measurements or order a size larger than you normally wear and have it altered locally. There are also a lot of cheaper options for bridesmaids dresses. Check out our recommended resources for wedding party attire.

Hire your vendors. You’ll need to hire a variety of people to make your wedding day memorable. Make sure to use your wedding planner book to keep track of appointments and contacts.

Here is a list of vendors you need to book:

  1. photographer

  2. videographer

  3. band/DJ

  4. officiant

  5. caterer

  6. florist

  7. rental company for tents, tables, chairs, etc

Register for gifts. This can be a lot of fun, whether you go to the store and make your registry or do it online. Be sure to include your fiance and your moms so that they can help you think of things you’ll need for your new home.

Set up your wedding website. This is a fun way to share all the information about your wedding that won’t necessarily fit on a wedding invitation. Here is a list of 20 things to include on your wedding website. You’ll still want to send paper invitations in the mail, but the wedding website adds a modern new twist.

6 to 4 months to go

Decided on your menu for the reception. Your caterer can help you determine meal options. Choose something the matches the theme and feel of your wedding. Hamburgers and hot dogs would go great with a rustic wedding, whereas chicken and steak would be better with a more traditional wedding.

Rent or buy suits and tuxes for the guys. Now that you have your wedding colors, bridesmaids dresses, and venue determined, you can have a good idea of what you want your guys to look like. There are some great places to get tuxedos and suits for the guys. You only need about 4 months in advance.

Set up your cake tasting and hire a baker. You’ll want to interview and do cake tastings with a few different local bakers. Schedule your cake tasting and choose a style that you would like. For help choosing a cake flavor, check out our Complete Guide to Wedding Cake Flavors.

Write down all your wedding day details. Plan out the order of events for your wedding day. When the bride and bridesmaids should arrive. What time everyone is getting hair and makeup done. When will wedding pictures take place. Will you have a “first look” moment before the wedding? You get the idea.

Start planning your honeymoon. If you plan on taking off right after your wedding. Start booking your flight, hotel, and any activities you plan on doing.

4 to 2 months to go

Have your dress fitting. Be sure to have all of your accessories; shoes, underwear, veil, etc. This way you’ll be able to see exactly how the dress will fit with everything on. If for some reason your dress is too small, don’t worry. There are options for letting out the dress too.

Plan wedding day transportation. Whether you’re hiring a limo or party bus or asking someone to drive you, figure out who will be helping with getting the wedding party from the ceremony to the reception. You may need to do this further in advance if you wast specialized transportation such as a horse-drawn carriage or helicopter.

Get your marriage license. Be sure to call your county courthouse to find out how much it costs and how far in advance you need to have it. Rates and wait times vary by state and county. Some counties offer a discount if you go to premarital counseling. You’ll want to do that now.

Buy the wedding rings. There are a lot of different styles and options for men’s and women’s wedding rings. Have an idea of what you’re looking for before heading to the jeweler. You can even find some really great deals and clearance options online.

Renew or order passports. If you are planning on leaving the country for your honeymoon, be sure to have up to date passports. You can usually get them at your local DMV. There would be nothing worse that missing your honeymoon because of the stupid passport!

Design and order all printed materials. This includes invitations, programs, place settings, banners, artwork, etc. You can work with your own local printer or hire a place like to create your materials.

Send out all wedding invitations. Invitations should be sent about 2 months prior to the wedding date. Make sure to include your RSVP information, wedding website, date/time/location information, etc. And don’t forget to include your engagement photo. People love seeing pictures of the happy couple!

Have the bridal shower. Now is the time for your bridal party to host your bridal shower. You don’t need to do anything except share your ideas and show up. You have enough on your plate to plan, let your girls do this part for you.

1 month to go

Personal priming and grooming. The final weeks before the wedding should be reserved for personal grooming. Hair cuts for the guys. Color and cuts for the girls. Waxing, tanning, everything. Talk to your salon about your wedding day hair and make-up and get an idea of what you’d like.

Answer last minute questions from vendors. Make sure everything is on track and lined up. Be sure to answer any last minute questions or concerns that vendors may have.

Work on writing your vows. Now that the planning is all done, you can sit down and really focus on the day and your future spouse. If you plan on writing your own vows, here are a few tips that might help.

Purchase gifts. You will want to get a gift for your parents, wedding party, and your future spouse. For you fiance, you may also want to write and letter that will accompany the gift and be given the morning of the wedding. Each gift should be something thoughtful and meaningful for the intended person to let them know how thankful and grateful you are for their help and support.

Have your final wedding dress fitting. You may have changed a little since your last fitting so do this as close to the wedding date as possible. Bring your maid of honor and/or bridesmaids along so that they can learn how the bustle works. Also, be sure that you are comfortable with the way everything fits and that you can move freely. (Don’t be alarmed if it’s a little tight, the dress will stretch out the longer you wear it and you won’t even notice it.) Have the dress pressed and bring it home for the big day!

Review your RSVP list and contact any guests who have not responded to find out if their are coming or not. You don’t want any surprises and end up running out of space or food.

Give your must-have list to your photographer. Prepare and send a list of photos that you must have to your photographer. This includes family, wedding party, and bride/groom pictures. Also, don’t forget reception pictures and send of pictures.

1 week to go

Schedule the fun stuff. Get your girls together and get your manicures, pedicures and massages done.

Check in with vendors one last time. Make sure everything is still going as planned so there won’t be any surprises on your wedding day.

Wear your shoes around the house as much as possible to wear them in a little. There would be nothing worse than blisters and foot pain on your wedding day because of the shoes. Although, it might be a good idea to bring different shoes for the reception so you can be comfortable.

Attend your bachelorette party. Enjoy a fun night with your favorite ladies before the wedding. Think of it as a celebration that all the planning is over and the fun is about to begin!

Make sure everyone has their attire. Make sure that your bridesmaids and groomsmen have everything they need (dresses, shoes, ties, jackets, etc). Don’t forget the parents of the bride and groom as well. You may want the dads to match the groomsmen. Pick up any last minuted things if needed.

1 day to go

It’s rehearsal time! Get your family, wedding party, and officiant to the ceremony venue to practice the processional and recessional. Go through the entire ceremony with music to plan out how everyone should walk in, where they should stand, what are their cues, etc. Be sure to give your officiant the marriage liscence.

Bring any decor items you need. Aisle runner, unity candle, flowers, and other decor items should be brought to your ceremony venue (if they allow it the day before) and placed where you would like them.

Attend your rehearsal dinner. This is one last dinner for the family and wedding party to celebrate your upcoming marriage. Use this time to present your wedding party with the gifts you purchased for them.

Day of the Wedding

Give your parents their gifts. The bride should give her parents their gifts and the groom should give his parents their gifts. Use this time to show your appreciation for everything they’ve done for you throughout the years and for their support.

Give your soon-to-be spouse their gift. If you’re not going to see each other until the ceremony, have one of your bridesmaids and groomsmen in charge of getting the gifts to each other. Do this as each is preparing for the day. Coordinate with your photographer so they can be sure to get pictures of the special momen.

Hand over the rings. The maid of honor should hold the groom’s ring and the best man should hold the bride’s ring. Make sure they are given to the appropriate person prior to the wedding. Also, make sure that the best man has the check to pay the officiant after the ceremony.

Make introductions. Introduce your reception site manager to your day-of coordinator or maid of honor as the point of contact for any questions or concerns. You’ll also want to appoint someone to be a contact for the photographer so that he/she can ask about who certain people are to get the right pictures.

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Hi, I’m Kristin. While I haven’t found my Prince Charming yet, I’ve been dreaming of getting married for a long long time. I started this site as a place to record all the things I’ve found and researched in preparation for my own wedding someday. I can’t wait to share it all with you!

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