Sixteen to Nine Months Before
Start a wedding folder or binder. Tear out pages that inspire you from bridal, lifestyle, fashion, design, and food magazines.
Work out your budget.
Determine your wedding party.
Settle on a head count.
Hire a planner, if desired.
Book your date and venues
Book your officiant.
Research photographers, bands, florists, and caterers.
Put the names of vendors and their contact information in a master contact list.
Throw an engagement party, if you like. Attendees will expect invitations to the wedding, so choose them accordingly.
Eight Months Before
Book the photographer and the videographer.
Book the entertainment.
Start meeting caterers, if your location doesn’t offer its own. Hire a caterer this month.
Purchase a dress. Custom gowns can take months to make, and even if you’re buying off the rack, you’ll typically need three fittings.
Book a block of hotel rooms for out-of-town guests. Pick three hotels at different price points close to the reception venue.
Register. Sign up at a minimum of three retailers.
Set up a wedding website.
Seven to Six Months Before
Select and purchase invitations, and hire a calligrapher, if desired.
Start planning a honeymoon. Going abroad? Make sure your passports are up-to-date, and schedule doctors’ appointments for any needed shots.
Shop for the bridesmaids’ dresses. Allow at least six months for the gowns to be ordered and sized.
Meet with the officiant. If one person is converting to a newreligion, schedule the requisite counseling.
Send save-the-date cards, if desired.
Reserve structural and electrical necessities. Book portable toilets for outdoor events, extra chairs if you need them, lighting components, and so on.
Book a florist. Florists can serve multiple clients on one day, so you needn’t nail them down as early as other vendors. Plus, waiting longer means you’ll have a firmer grasp of how flowers fit into your vision.
Start composing a day-of timeline. Draw up a schedule of the event and slot in each component (the cake cutting, the first dance).
Five to Four Months Before
Book the rehearsal and rehearsal-dinner venues. If you’re planning to host a day-after brunch for guests, book that place as well.
Check on the wedding invitations. Ask the stationer for samples.
Select and order the cake.
Send your guest list to the host of your shower. Since there aren’t umpteen things to do during these months, now is a great time to get “showered.”
Purchase shoes and start dress fittings.
Try out hairdressers and makeup artists.
Choose songs. Keep a running list of songs you do—and do not—want played.
Three Months Before
Finalize the menu and the flowers.
Order favors, if desired.
Make a list of the people who are giving toasts. Aside from the standard people, is there any other loved one whom you would like to speak? If anyone fits the bill, ask him now so he can plan what to say.
Finalize the readings.
Purchase your undergarments and have your second fitting. Always save the fabric that’s cut off your dress; you can use it to wrap flowers and for other decorative details.
Finalize the order of the ceremony and the reception.
Print menu cards, if you like, and programs.
Purchase the rings so you’ll have time for resizing and engraving.
Send your event schedule to the vendors. Giving them a first draft now allows ample time for tweaks and feedback.
Two Months Before
Meet with the photographer to discuss shots and locations. Complete a walk-through of the locations and point out spots that appeal to you for photos.
Sit down with the band or the deejay and review the playlist. Come prepared with your wish list, and ask the band (gently) to learn any songs not in their repertoire.
Send the invitations. The rule of thumb: Mail invitations six to eight weeks before the ceremony,...