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A Comprehensive Wedding Checklist for Planning a Wedding

Updated on September 25, 2011

So you are planning to get Married !!!

There comes a time,

When we hear a certain call,

For the two of us

To come together as one.

Get Married and live together

For better or for worse,

Till death do us apart.....

Well, after all the partying, dating, living on the wild side, relishing your independence and making a mark for yourself in the world, you suddenly realise that it all means nothing or doesn't feel that good as it should feel. You want to share your successes with someone who cares for you and want to share your happiness. That someone special makes you feel complete, ...So you decide to get married!!! Great!!! But. there is a catch..the Wedding Ceremony!!! Its something that most couples dream of almost all their lives and want it to be the most special day of their married life. Family , friends and co-workers all come together to share your happiness. You want them to enjoy your wedding, have a blast and at the same time, dont want to burn a hole in your pocket. There is no point in starting your married life with a large debt, that the two of you have to pay for the next 3 to 4 years of your life!!!! However, if you can afford it, a wedding planner will do almost everything for you (other than get married!!!) and in the process let you also enjoy the wedding. However, like there are two sides of a coin, a cheap wedding planner may actually work out more expensive and spoil your wedding. So what is one to do? Planning such an activity is stressful and coordination is a killer. One can barely control one's own life or actions leave alone controlling the actions of 10 different persons doing different things for your wedding. So what is the way to go about this process and ensure that your wedding day is actually the most special day of your life(and also for your family and friends). I shall give a the most comprehensive checklist to plan your wedding (without too much mumbo jumbo) so that you know what to check for.

The Overall Picture

A wedding can be broken down into the following events:-

1. The Proposal. (where, how, when, ring selection).

2. The Wedding date.

3. Finances.

4. The venue.

5. The Guest List and Invitations

6. Events during the wedding, or the wedding theme.

7. Travel and lodging arrangements for Outstation Guests.

8. Wedding Wardrobe/Trousseau (for self, family).

9. Catering arrangements for outstation guest/during the various wedding events.

10. Gift Management (for gifts received and gifts to be given to the would-be spouses family).

11. The Wedding Day.

12. Photography and Videography

13. The day after (Wrapping up).

The Proposal

You have made up your mind that this is the right girl/guy with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. So now you start stressing about how and when to propose or pop the question. A girl almost always knows when a guy is ready to propose (not so obvious vice- versa). Guys really agonise over how to make their proposal unique. I personally prefer a direct approach over a romantic dinner. There are a million ideas out there to suit every style (Just type "How to propose" in the Google search box and you shall be suitably enlightened). However, some tips:-

a. Dont dither for months before proposing. Just do it, the day you feel its right.

b. There can never be a perfect moment. For a girl who is ready, any moment is the perfect moment for a proposal.

c. The choice of a ring does matter to women (Though they may be understanding about a cheap ring, but try to give the best you can).

d. After the proposal, decide on the wedding date ASAP. V.IMP.

The Wedding Date

Its never a good idea to get married (once you have proposed) a couple of years later. Too many things change, once the proposal has been accepted. You need to take it to the logical conclusion. The wedding date should be set between 4 to 6 months (ideally) or lesser after the proposal. If you were ready to get married on 1st Jan 2011 , then why delay it till Jan 2012.!!!! So:-

a. Set the marriage date no later than 6 months after the proposal (or else propose accordingly :-) ).

b. Decide on a mutually acceptable wedding date, preferably in consultation with both sets of parents. It really helps to get parents involved. They just love it!!!


This is the most important part of the wedding!!!! The amount of money that you are ready to commit for getting married should depend on:-

a. Your current salary (and your would be spouse's).

b. Your savings (and your would be spouse's).

c. Your Parents contributions (if any).

Remember, at the risk of sounding unromantic, NEVER EVER overspend on your wedding. Remember that you have to live the rest of your life with either ruing the decision to overspend or being thankful. I know, every girl has a dream wedding planned, but its good to be a realist and scale down your expectations to ensure that you dont spend the first years of your marriage trying to pay off the wedding debts. So always:-

a. Spend within what you can spare (A good estimate is that after the wedding expenses, you should have atleast three months salary in the bank or in savings).

b. Never ever borrow to keep up with the Jones'es. A grand wedding is of no use if your Marriage buckles under financial strain.

c. The two of you should be very clear on where you both are going to live after the wedding (its financial repercussions). Selection of a place should take into account how much time you shall get together. No point taking up a three room house in the suburbs on a mortgage if it involves a long commute, which would then reduce the time available for the two of you). Stay in the same apartment/house and think of moving when you plan kids or have enough money to take a house without a huge mortgage. This shall not only reduce fights but also save money in the long run which could be very beneficial for your marriage.

d. Work out clearly how much the two of you want to commit on the wedding and setup an wedding escrow account and make payments only from there. This shall keep expenses in check and both of you shall know where the money is going.

Finally, If you have money to burn..then the sky's the limit. Go overboard, get the best wedding planner, spread the festivities over a month and indulge your guest's with the best food and wine possible. But..but..if you are a middle class couple..stick to the basics, don't overspend and monitor expenses very carefully and plan everything to the last detail..It shall pay off.

The Venue

Location is everything..!!!!! This holds true for businesses as well as wedding's. If you want an exotic wedding in the Bahamas, go ahead, but remember, you shall have to pay for all your loved ones to get there. If you are rich, it may not be a problem but if you are a middle class, hardworking fellow/lady..then the only people at your exotic wedding locale may be the priest and some kindred tourists. Hardly makes for a special wedding. (I know some couples prefer privacy but remember, the joy you shall see on your parents faces shall make the day even more worth the while). So remember:-

a. Choose a convenient location which guest from both sides can attend without too much fuss. Logistics are also easier to plan.

b. The location must be big enough for the number of guests that you are planning. There should be enough seating arrangement at the venue.

c. Check the time of year. No point in going for a garden wedding in November when people shall be freezing (that includes you too.>!!!). Similarly, a closed small area in peak summer without AC may be torture for you and your guests.(Believe me..I have been to some exotic weddings where just because the theme demanded a small room, we almost choked on Carbon monoxide. We were all waiting for it to get over and run away).

d. Popular venues are booked months in advance. However, if you dont get it within a reasonable time frame (remember six months), then either advance the wedding or change the venue if the wait exceeds a month over six.

e. Try to ensure that the location does not hurt the sentiments of some of your guests...

d. The cost of the Venue should not stretch your budget. If it does, then look at alternatives (but no debt !!!!).

The Guest List and Invitations

This is the most stressful part of the entire wedding planning process. Over the years you have built up a formidable number of contacts (at work, family, friends etc) and would all of them to attend the wedding. Remember if you have 200 friends, and your would-be has another 300, you are looking at about 500 guests (counting couples as two and those with children as 3/4/5/... as the situation demands). If you have the moolan, go ahead, other wise start pruning the list. Fast. The following steps shall help you to get a reasonable guest list:-

a. Write down the name of everyone you know.

b. Classify their relationship with you - Family, friends Co-workers, Boss, Clients etc).

c. Make three groups: Vital, Essential, Desirable. For eg. Family is more often than not in the Vital Category. Friends can come in on all three lists. Co-workers generally come in the desirable list along with clients) .

d. Depending on your budget, cost of location, and catering and whether they would require boarding and lodging, write down the liability of each guest (food, food and boarding, Food, Boarding and travel..etc) and then decide on the final list.

e. It is not necessary to call everyone for all functions during your wedding. If your wedding has only a reception and the ceremony, both on the same day, then maybe you can call the same set of people. However, if your wedding is going to last over a few days (like most Indian Weddings are), then you can make a list of people who can be invited for which event. (This shall help you to prune your guest list and keep costs under control and still pacify everyone you know).


e. The invitation card should be elegant and simple without being too ostentatious. However, if you want to flaunt your moolah, then sky's the limit. One wedding card I received had a gold coin, a basket of dry fruits and an electronic photo frame with pictures on a slide show inviting me for the wedding. The entire card had cost about $350-$400 per card and there were atleast a 1000 people at the wedding !!!!! I wouldnt fret too much over the card as those who are going to come shall come even if its a handwritten invite. However, do select the card well in advance i.e. Once the guest list is finalised.

f. Select a good and reliable courier service to distribute the cards. Cards to close family members should be given in person to keep the personal touch.

g. The cards should be dispatched well in advance i.e. atleast a month before the event. However, you can warn your friends that they should keep the wedding day free when you have decided on it, so that they can plan accordingly. The card can be given subsequently.

h. Do ensure that there is a RSVP on the card, to enable invitees to confirm their participation well in advance. A phone number or email (or even using a Google Docs Form ) shall help you to estimate the final number of guests on the final day for every event.

Wedding Themes

Now a days, the trend is Thematic Weddings. A fall wedding look in Summer, or a Beach look in Alaska, or a glacier look in Arizona in winter....or even better, getting married while Scuba diving, or in an Airplane, skydiving...the list is endless... Many weddings are split over a week or maybe a month and some lasting just over a day. Therefore, depending on the number of events or the theme, do;-

a. Send the entire itinerary of the wedding in the Invitation Card.

b. Preferably, there should be separate cards for every event,.This shall allow you to call a larger subset of people over the events with some of them being mutually exclusive. For eg, Close family (Vital category) may be invited for all events, whereas co-workers may get invited only to the reception and so on.

c. Decide on a theme which fits into your budget. Weddings are a time when a "What the hell" attitude dominates. Keep that in check or else you may regret.

d. Try not to extend the events to more than two days. Fatigue factor seeps into the guests too and they shall start wishing that the wedding should end AQAP.

e. Depending on the theme, have a visual walk through to get a feel of how the guest would enter, where they would sit, how they would be served etc etc..this shall help you in laying out the chairs, the food etc in an efficient manner to ensure a smooth flow of guests.

f. Decide on the various events that you would like to have as a part of the wedding celebrations. Enlist the help of your close friends to ensure that the events are conducted smoothly. Brief them in detail. Make a check off list for them and try to follow it as much as possible. Remember Any Plan is better than no Plan.!!!!

Travel and Lodging Arrangements for Guests

Handling Outstation guests is always a problem. Again, depending on your budget, you may want to make arrangements (all paid for ) for your guest's or tie up with some hotel's/Motel's, giving them an approximate number of expected guest, and work out a discount on the tariff's. This shall enable the guest to go directly to the recommended hotel (save them time and money).

If budget is not a constraint, then depending on the RSVP's, book the hotel room's, align a chaffeur to pick them up and take them around the city and the works.

Another idea that works well is for the entire family and outstation guests to check into a hotel i.e. Book a complete floor (about 15-20 rooms), book the Hotel's party hall and event manager and ask them to setup everything. In this case, there is no hassle as most hotels have a pick up drop facility, food and drinks (not a problem) and the best part, for such bulk bookings they offer a huge discount.

In case you are putting up guests at your place, then you have to plan for their meals, morning and evening bed tea, snacks etc. Quite an effort!!!!

Wedding Trousseau

Every bride wants to look her best on her wedding day and so does the groom. There is a lot of shopping and planning that goes into selecting the wedding trousseau. Men have it easy..a tuxedo, suit, or dinner jacket pretty much covers everything. On the other The women have a big task on their hands. Right from the wedding dress, to the various outfits, shoes and hats for the various events takes a lot of time. Thats why, its important to decide on the Wedding theme and the associated events so that selecting the trousseau becomes slightly easier. So basically:-

1. Select your wedding dress the first and dresses for the bridesmaids.

2. Guys, you have it easy, so keep a Tux ready, couple of suits, some linen shirts and trousers, a couple of party shirts and some snappy shoes to go along with each of them.

3. Take a friend along to select your clothes and who is brutally honest with you when you love something that you feel looks good but she doesnot humour you and tells you otherwise.

4. Go to specialised shops /malls (yeah, there are wedding malls and one stop wedding shops which have everything on offer).


Catering makes the difference between a so-so wedding and a Great one. So :-

a. Work out the various events and the guest list along with their dietary preferences.

b. The menu should be different for all the events. Take special care for any special needs of guest i.e Vegetarian, Non- Vegetarian, Vegan and health food (if anyone still wants to have it).

c. For the events leading up to the wedding, work out the menu as per the theme.

d. For guest staying at your place, make adequate arrangements for their Tea/Coffee, Breakfast, Lunch/Dinner and snacks. Remember, the way to win your Guest's appreciation is through their stomach :)

e. Basically, a detailed menu, along with the number of guests for every day of the wedding needs to be prepared, a caterer to be hired along with adequate cutlery to ensure that everyone gets stuffed.

f. For guests at home, use disposables as far as possible or it may get difficult to keep all the cutlery clean.

g. Ensure that food is laid out in such a way that:-

1. There is no crowding/long lines at tables(if its a buffet), else ensure that there are adequate waiters to serve all the tables.

2. There are enough counters for all types of meals (Veg/Non-Veg/Vegan). It just goes to show that you care for your guests.

3. Arrangements for water and drinks is made spearately.

4. Disposal bins for used cutlery are clearly marked and are cleared regularly.

5. Food is replenished on buffet tables at regular intervals and there is a "manager" who is continuously monitoring these events.

Ensure that you have tasted all the dishes before they are served to the guest. This is one overlooked area and leads to considerable heartburns later.

One very important aspect is the costing for the catering. Many event managers cost is per plate. i.e. The cost of catering is variable (subject to a minimum), and depending on the number of people actually eating, the costing would vary.

The second method is the Fixed cost method, where in you give an order for say 150 people. THe catere shall prepare food accordingly with a 10% (e.g.) buffer. Now if only 80 people turn up or even 200 hundred turn up, the cost shall not vary. You need to choose accordingly.

Gift Management

Giving and receiving gifts at weddings are a norm across all cultures. In western cultures, the gifts given by family and friends are generally displayed for everyone to see where as in eastern cultures, the gifts are given during the ceremony and not opened till the wedding is over.

Nowadays, the trend, atleast in cities is to give hard cash to the couple to enable them to pick up stuff of their choice. Cash is convenient and easy to account for. Many couples explicitly mention that gifts shall not be accepted and stick to it. Nowadays there are websites where the guests can give their cash gifts, so there is no headache of managing gifts on the wedding day. Sites like Wedding Channel allow the couple to register and then plan their entire wedding.

Many couples also register with departmental stores so that guests can give gifts to them from the store of their choice. Therefore, as you can see, there are many options available to manage gifts. It may be a good idea to give a return gift to all guest so that they go back with fond memories of your wedding.

The Wedding Day

Now that everything is in place, you are ready to get married :-). The best thing to do is to make a minute by Minute list of events and the various participants in them to ensure there are no hiccups on the final day. A program like this should be made to ensure precision:-

a. 0700 hrs - Wake up Bride/Bridegroom and all Guests

b. 0730 hrs - Breakfast

c. 0830 hrs - Everyone gets ready for the wedding

d. 0830 hrs - get confirmation venue is ready and things in place. Confirm availability of transportation and caterers at the location.Confirm with priest and decorator.

e. 0945 hrs - Guest start moving to venue

f. 1030 hrs - Bride starts move to the venue.

g. 1045 hrs - Guests seated at Venue

h. 1050 hrs - Bridegroom arrives

i. 1100 hrs - Bride arrives . Wedding commences.

This is just a sample program. Something similar should be made for every event along with the persons involved with respect to time. Things may not move as per the exact schedule but atleast you know what comes next and how to do it.

After the Wedding

After the wedding comes the honeymoon (but obvious). However, always remember to thank the guests by sending them a card for their attendance, blessings and gifts. Remember to payoff the Wedding planner, florist, caterer and dressmaker. Remember to thank your friends who helped you to organise various events and it may be a good idea to give them a small party.


At the end of the wedding, if the planning has been done thoroughly, the event shall always be a success and your guests would have definitely enjoyed the experience. The bride and Bridegroom may or may not have enjoyed the entire process, but there is a definite thrill to getting married. Its a milestone in one's life and it certainly changes things. If you have been able to plan your wedding to perfection, dont worry, it shall definitely work out and make all the effort seem worth the while.


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