How To Plan A Wedding Step By Step
Where do you start when planning a wedding? Although each bride’s approach to their wedding will be different, working your way through a simple wedding checklist can help you stay on task and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. There are some aspects of wedding planning that are best to organise well in advance, while other elements can be left to the last minute. Our wedding planning guide walks you through how to plan a wedding step by step to keep you on track for the wedding of your dreams.
How to start planning a wedding?
16-9 months before
Step 1 – Decide on a budget
The first step of any wedding planning process is deciding how much money you want to allocate to your big day. Weddings can be as expensive or affordable as you desire, but deciding on your wedding budget should be the first thing to tick off your list because it affects every other factor of planning your wedding – your venue, catering, entertainment, honeymoon etc.
Discussing and setting a realistic budget with your partner helps you avoid a lot of financial worries later down the line and can help to work out how much money to allocate to each aspect of your wedding. For example, if you want the entertainment and general atmosphere to be the most important aspect of your wedding, then allocate more money to your venue choice, decorations and band or DJ than to your hen do or honeymoon. Make sure you keep track of your spending to ensure you’re sticking within your budget along the way!
Step 2 – Set a timeframe
The next step in our wedding planning checklist is to narrow down the dates for your special day. This will help you work out when to complete each task as you can work backwards. You don’t need to decide on the exact day until you book your venue, but choosing a few potential dates can help you create a rough timeline of when you need to tick certain tasks off your bridal checklist. Think about the season you’d like your wedding to take place in and whether any holidays, school terms or work schedules would affect your decision to choose a certain time of year. Then work backwards.
According to one study, the average length of an engagement is just under 15 months, although some couples can be engaged for a much shorter length of time, while others can be engaged for decades! Take this into consideration when choosing dates for the next year or even in two, three (or even ten) years time to give yourself plenty of time to organise everything.
Set 3 – Start your guestlist
Although a few guest changes later on will not matter, you will need to know your rough guest number before it comes to deciding on your venue as this will affect the size of venue you go for and how much you can allocate out of your total budget to spend on things like food per person.
This is also the time when you and your betrothed should be choosing your bridal party and groomsmen. Pick your cheerleaders and wedding party carefully as they will be the people who will help you prepare for your wedding and stand by your side on your big day (and celebrate with you afterwards). The number of your bridal party and groomsmen will also affect other decisions, such as your choice of bridesmaid dresses and groomsmen suits, as well their bouquets and boutonnieres (groomsmen flowers).
Step 4 – Get on Pinterest
The most enjoyable part of planning a wedding is exploring all the different ideas out there and starting to form a vision in your head of what you want your wedding to look like. This will come in handy when you start to look at venues, wedding dresses, and begin talking to florists, photographers and entertainers later on.
Pinterest is great for this, as you can collect images of bouquets, wedding venues, bridal gown styles, whatever you like! You can have dedicated boards for different elements of your wedding, from your bridal look to the types of wedding photos you want. You can also start creating a digital collage that incorporates different images of flowers, decorations and venues to work out what types of wedding themes you like. Do you want a classic or rustic wedding? Rural or cosmopolitan? Wacky or elegant? The options are endless!
Step 5 – Start looking at venues
When it comes round to choosing your wedding venue, ideally you and your partner will already have discussed a few ideas. If you want a fairytale wedding in a romantic castle but your partner wants a modern city celebration, you’re going to have to compromise. It’s also worth deciding if you want both your ceremony and reception at the same location, or to have two separate venues. It’s normal for couples to book their wedding venue 12-18 months before their wedding, so give yourself plenty of time before this to discuss these ideas with your partner and look round your different venue options. If you have a quick turn around for planning a wedding, don’t worry! There are often last-minute venue bookings which you can take advantage of.
Viewing venues can be time-consuming so only look around venues which are in your budget, can fit in all of your guests and meet your personal criteria. Compare different venues on their location, capacity, availability and rates, and look into any restrictions they may have. For instance, some venues may enforce an end time which all guests need to leave by, and may or may not offer parking, catering and included extras (chairs, tables, linens etc.).
Step 6 – Get decorative
Once you’ve booked your venue, it’s time to start planning how you will create your perfect wedding. A lot more goes into a wedding than choosing a venue. Decorations, furniture and entertainment are all elements which play a part in the atmosphere of a wedding. This is the time in your wedding planning process to start bringing your wedding theme to life (if you’ve chosen to have a specific theme). From wedding flowers to table decorations like candles and place names, to tipis and fabric drapes, there are endless ways to set the tone of the day through carefully chosen elements and personal touches. This is the time to be researching into photographers, bands, florists and caters. Ask around to see who your married friends would recommend, read online reviews and review their portfolios or testimonials.
Step 7 – Transport
On your wedding day, it’s understandable to want to arrive in style. Your wedding transport will be in your wedding photos, so it’s a good idea to make sure that it matches your overall theme. Think about the style or colour of the vehicle you’ll want to go for – a vintage or classic car is great for an elegant wedding and even rustic affairs, while if you’re going for a more romantic theme a fairytale horse drawn carriage might be the answer. If you’ve got a festival or retro-themed wedding, why not consider a colourful campervan? Whatever you do, don’t forget about the rest of your bridal party! It’s important to work out how your bridesmaids, the groom and his groomsmen will also arrive at the wedding.
If you’re having separate venues for your wedding ceremony and reception, you might also want to arrange transport for your guests from one location to the next. This will also have an effect on the timing of your day, as you’ll need to consider how long it takes to get to either venue. To kick off the second half of your wedding, you’ll want your guests arriving at your reception venue around the same time. For small, intimate weddings providing transport for your guests may not be needed, but for long guests lists it could be a good idea to arrange a wedding day shuttle service. Minibuses, coaches and even quirkier ideas such as vintage double-deckers are a great way to transport all your guests from one venue to another quickly and efficiently.
8 months before
Step 8 – Save-the-date
You’ve chosen your bridesmaids, booked the venue and are beginning to bring together the different elements of your wedding. The next step is to tell your guests when you’re getting married! Although you don’t need to send out your wedding invitations until much closer to your wedding day, it’s a good idea to send out save-the-date cards around 6 to 8 months before you tie the knot. This is especially true if you have guests coming from different parts of the country or even abroad, or if you are having a destination wedding which will require guests to arrange flights and accommodation.
Step 9 – Start wedding dress shopping
Choosing your wedding dress is one of the most exciting and personal parts of wedding planning so it’s important to give plenty of time to find your perfect gown. We advise our brides to aim to choose their dress at least 6-8 months before the wedding, although it’s not unusual for brides to pick their wedding dress a year in advance. You are also likely to have 1-3 appointments trying on different bridal gowns before you choose your dress and begin the fitting process, so factor in these initial appointments into your timeline when you start to look at different wedding dress designers. Read our blog on how to choose your wedding dress for more information on dress appointments and fittings.
Once you have chosen your own wedding dress, it’s time to consider the attire of your partner, bridesmaids and groomsmen. For couples with smaller budgets, you can ask your bridal party and groomsmen to buy their own or help to contribute to the purchase of their outfit, but this may mean that they want some input in the style of their attire!
6 months before
Step 10 – Plan the honeymoon
Whether you’re planning a global adventure or local getaway, your honeymoon is your time to celebrate the start of your married life with your partner. A lot of wedding planning revolves around your guests, so organising your honeymoon should be something just for you and your betrothed to enjoy together. Think about where you would like to go, what activities you want to cross off your bucketlist, and for how long. Once you’ve got an idea of what you want your honeymoon to be like, you can start investigating different flight options, hotels and deals to fit around your budget.
Step 11 – Ordering the cake
Like any element of your wedding, your wedding cake shouldn’t be left to the last minute. Whether you’re after a rustic naked cake or an indulgent chocolate creation, you’ll want to order your wedding cake at 4 months before your wedding, if not longer. This gives your chosen confectioner plenty of time to schedule in the creation of a beautiful wedding cake, as well as decorating and delivering it to the event. Make sure you know the style and flavour of cake you want, how many tiers you would like and any specific decorations to adorn it to make sure it fits in with your overall wedding theme.
Step 12 – Purchase your rings
Your wedding rings are perhaps the most important items to tick of your wedding planning checklist. After your wedding day, you’ll be wearing them come rain or shine, so it’s important to spend some time choosing the right ones for you and your other half. You should ideally start looking around for your wedding rings around two to three months before you tie the knot, but you can start your search a lot earlier. This gives you enough time for resizing and engraving, as well as looking at different styles. If you are window shopping online, make sure to go in and view the rings up close before making the purchase.
1-2 months before
Step 13 – Sending out the invites
At least 6-8 weeks before your wedding you should send out the invites to your guests. This gives them plenty of time to arrange travel and accommodation arrangements and organise time away from the office (if you have family and friends coming from further afield, it might be worth sending your invites out earlier). Set your RSVPs for around two to three weeks before the big day to give you enough time to see what your final guest list will look list, organise table arrangements and to give a final headcount to your catering service.
Step 14 – Plan your stag and hen dos
Many couples might decide to designate the organisation of their hen and stag dos to their Maid of Honour or Best Man. If this is you, skip this step as it’s all being taken care of! If you’re planning your pre-wedding party yourself, decide on a date around 4-6 week in advance as this gives the guests time to arrange holiday away from office and transport. Your hen party can be whatever you want it to be – you can make an entire night, weekend or week of it, treating your bridesmaids and friends to a spa weekend away, glamping, a cocktail masterclass, wellbeing getaway or even an action-packed activity. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you sort out the activities, accommodation and transport in good time so that the whole time runs smoothly.
Step 14 – The finishing touches
With everything done and dusted, the final steps of your wedding planning checklist should revolve around finalising details and arranging any last-minute decorative elements for your big day. In the last month before your wedding, you’ll need to update your vendors with your final event schedule, and if they are doing the catering, finalise the menu, guest list and table arrangements.
If you have arranged for a professional hair and makeup artist for your wedding, you might also want to do a hair and makeup trial in the weeks before you say ‘I do’. You’ll normally have scheduled in picking up your wedding dress in the last two weeks so factor this into any events you have planned in that time. It’s also a good idea to begin breaking in your wedding shoes in the last month to ensure that they will be comfortable on your wedding day!
The week of your wedding
With everything organised, you can spend the week leading up to your wedding enjoying some quality time with your partner. Planning a wedding should be a rewarding and exciting process, but it does take a fair amount of organisation! Enjoy some much deserved downtime in the lead up to your special day by spending time with your other half, as well as treating yourself to some well-deserved ‘me’ time.
Every wedding should be individual and personal to each bride. This is something we strongly believe here at Andrea Hawkes. We strive to give each of our brides a personal, thoughtful and attentive service, making the process of finding their perfect wedding dress as calming and enjoyable as possible.
From wedding dress ideas & inspiration to how-to guides and expert know-how. You'll find everything you need in the run up to your big day and beyond on our bridal blog!