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Planning + Advice

The Ultimate Guide to Planning the Perfect Wedding

You’ve just got engaged and probably have a million ideas and to-do lists swirling around in your head! First of all, congrats! Now, relax and let us be your virtual wedding planner with this detailed guide to planning the perfect wedding, from start to finish.

Get Organized

It’s much easier to get all of your ideas out on paper, rather than having them floating around in your head. Grab a binder and some paper, and start saving those fresh ideas. Here are a few lists that you will want to start with:

  1. Potential wedding dates
  2. Your budget (including family contributions)
  3. Wedding party
  4. Guest List

Choose the date

What is a wedding without a venue? Make sure that your preferred venue is available on your chosen wedding date. You will also need to reserve a block of hotel rooms for your guests who are traveling afar.

Who to Hire

While every wedding is different, and there are certainly some vendors that you can forego, these are the services that you will probably want to hire if your budget allows for it. Be sure to research several vendors and compare them to one another, before signing any contracts.

  1. Wedding planner
  2. Officiant
  3. Venues (inludes rehearsal, ceremony, and reception)
  4. Photographer
  5. Videographer
  6. DJ/Band
  7. Florist
  8. Hair + Makeup: Test out a few looks and different experts to see which one you like best.
  9. Caterer
  10. Cake Maker

Other recommended services:

  • Transportation (bus, limo, trolley)
  • Portable toilets
  • Rentals (tables, chairs, lighting)

Bridal Shower

Now the fun really begins! An engagement party is the perfect excuse to get that kitchenaid that you’ve always wanted, or to just hang out with your best girls! Check out these real engagement parties for inspiration!

Order the dress

Expect at least 6 months for bridesmaids dresses to be ordered and altered if necessary. Schedule a fitting for when the dress arrives and bring your bridal shoes with so that they can be accounted for when determining the length of your gown. Purchase undergarments and accessories such as jewelry, shoes, and a veil.

Create a gift registry

In exchange for throwing a fabulous party, your guests are going to want to bring you a gift. Sign up at a minimum of three retailers to give your guests several options to purchase from.

For those looking for cash, an alternative to a gift registry is a honeymoon fund. A honeymoon fund is a less-tacky way of asking for cash, and guests can safely contribute toward your honeymoon through an online service such as Honey Fund.

Launch a wedding blog

Once you set a date, people are going to have a lot of questions. A personalized wedding blog is a great way to store pertinent information about your wedding, such as travel information and accomodations.

Prepare Invitations

Invitations can be very time-consuming to make yourself, and hiring a calligrapher is an excellent way to still achieve that timeless, handmade look while focusing on other priorities. Be sure to send out save-the-date cards 6 months before the wedding so guests have plenty of time to make adjustments to their calendars. Invitations should be sent out 6-8 weeks before the wedding, and RSVPs should be made no later than 2 weeks before the wedding.

Prepare Documents

Meet with your officiant to discuss official ceremony plans and to confirm that you have all the necessary documents such as a marriage certificate and an updated passport for your honeymoon if necessary. It can take up to one week to get a marriage license, and if you’re changing your last name, be sure to order extra copies.

Compose a timeline

A wedding-day timeline can help you stick to a schedule when there are a lot of important events to get through. Make extra copies for your wedding planner, photographer, and bridal party, as they will be spending a majority of the day with you. For a complete timeline of wedding events, click here.

Rehearsal Dinner

Plan the menu ahead of time and budget accordingly. If you’re hosting brunch the next day, make sure that is included in your budget as well. Finalize the order of the ceremony lineup as well as the reception and grand march during the rehearsal.

Order the cake

Before committing to a baker, order samples from several local bakeries. Some bakers require a long lead time.

Make a playlist

Before hiring a band or DJ, make sure they will play the songs you request. The last thing you want is to find out that the DJ doesn’t have your chosen song for the first dance. You will also need to find dinner music and dance music. If there are songs that you don’t want played, be sure to add that to the do-not-play list.


Make a list and check it twice. If somebody didn’t RSVP that you expected to attend, give them a courtesy call.

Order Favors

Favors don’t have to be overly expensive and cookies, or popcorn is more than sufficient in many cases. Check out these super delicious wedding favors or these fun wedding favors for kids.

Purchase the rings

Allow yourself 3-4 months to purchase the rings as you will need the extra time in case they need to be resized.

Bridesmaids gifts

Show your appreciation for your bridesmaids with thoughtful gifts and hand them out at the bachelorette party or the rehearsal if you’re skipping the party.

Finalize the menu

Since your menu is affected by season, verify your options with your caterer. Plan to print out a menu for each of your guests as well. Now that you have a final guest count, feel free to stock the bar too.

Bachelorette Party

The maid of honor is generally in charge of arranging a bachelorette party, but if she hasn’t brought it up, casually mention something to your bridesmaids for scheduling purposes, of course.

Send final payments

The last thing you want to do is pay vendors on the day of your wedding, when you should be enjoying yourself. Get these payments taken care of no later than 2 weeks before the wedding.A

Write your vows

A few weeks before the wedding, put aside some time to write your vows. These should come from your heart, so don’t go copying and pasting something you saw on the internet.

Last Minute Appointments:

If you’ve been following this list, then the week before your wedding should be fairly relaxing, with only minor things to check up on:

  1. Pick up your dress.
  2. Hair and Makeup
  3. Pamper yourself with a spa day!

Jessica Artus

Wife, mother, wedding photographer, blogger of beautiful weddings, styled editorials, DIY tutorials, wedding inspiration, planning and advice.

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