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How to Plan a Wedding: A Bride's Checklist

Updated on March 7, 2013

Many brides are opting to plan their own weddings rather than pay a high-priced professional to plan the wedding for them. While planning your own wedding can seem intimidating it's really as not as difficult as it's made out to be. Here's what you need to know to plan your own picture perfect wedding...

Pick a Date!

Okay, you've officially said YES! How exciting! Now, it's time to start the planning. First you have to consider how big you want your wedding celebration to be. This will help guide you as far as picking a date. If you want to have a big eventful wedding, give yourself more time to plan. If you would rather have a small intimate wedding, you won't need quite as much time to plan. The best thing you can do is give yourself at least a year to plan. If you are in a hurry, try to at least give yourself six months. There's lots to do, after all!

*Also take into account your budget. Giving yourself more time to plan will also allow you more time to come up with the funds you need to pay for the wedding. You might even consider starting to save for the wedding expenses as soon as you get engaged.

Figure out your budget-

How much can you afford to spend on your wedding? Before you can start any of the planning, you need to sit down with your groom and decide on a budget. Are you willing to take out a loan to pay for the wedding? Will you be getting help from family? These are all things to consider when working out a proper budget.

Get organized-

Organization is a vital when planning your own wedding. When I planned my wedding, I had a special planner that I wrote down important dates in. I also had a wedding "journal" that I used to write down little notes or things that I needed to remember. I still have both my planner and my journal, and they make wonderful keepsakes!

Pick out the rings-

Okay, you have your engagement ring, but don't forget that the groom still needs a ring too! Also, you will need a wedding band to go with your engagement ring. Get this out of the way early so that you can focus on other things.

Make your guest list-

Start putting together your guest list as early as possible. Chances are you will keep thinking of people to add to the list as you continue with the next steps of planning, so starting early will help you avoid last-minute additions. It will also give you time to gather any necessary addresses, because I'm sure there will be some addresses that you don't have on hand. Start contacting people that you need addresses from and add the addresses to your wedding planning notebook so you have them on hand when you start making out the invitations.

Make sure you talk to your groom-to-be about who he wants to invite. You might also want to resort to asking your future mother-in-law to be sure that everyone who needs to be invited on the groom's side is invited! When I planned my wedding my husband had no idea who he should invite from his side of the family, so I got help from my sister-in-law. She even provided me with a list of addresses, how sweet of her!

Pick the bridal party-

The bridal party is an essential part of the wedding, and the sooner you pick them the more help you will get during the planning process, especially from the Maid of Honor.

Start shopping for "the dress"-

It's never too early to start looking for the perfect wedding dress. Trust me, you will try on many, many dresses before finding "the dress." After picking out your bridal party enlist them for help in the wedding dress shopping. You will need the feedback! Also, consider inviting your mother and the groom's mother on any wedding dress shopping adventures!

*Don't forget the shoes and veil, and any other accessories you want!

You should also consider starting to look for the perfect bridesmaids dresses. While you're in the bridal shops shopping for the wedding gown, take a little time to browse bridesmaids dresses too. Make sure the bridesmaids have their dresses sooner rather than later so that there is time for alterations!

Pick a venue-

Picking the venue is another super important part of planning the wedding. Chances are you are going to have to do a little research and make some contacts before deciding on a venue. You will also need to consider costs, how much room you need, etc. Be sure that you pick a venue that will fit all of your guests!

If you are planning to have the reception and ceremony in two different places, be sure that you look into both venues. Most venues require a deposit as well, so be prepared to put some money down on your venue so that they hold it for your special day.

Meet with an officiant-

Don't forget to contact the person who will be marrying you and your future hubby. This could be a local pastor, justice of the peace, etc. Sometimes you are required to attend a few counseling sessions with the officiant prior to the wedding. Also, the officiant will help guide you in gathering all the necessary documents for the wedding (wedding license, etc.)

Book your entertainment-

Think about what you want for entertainment at your reception. Do you want a live band? A DJ? Once you figure that out start contacting people to compare prices to get the best deals. You will most likely need to put down a deposit to save your date.

Decide on food-

After picking the venue you should start thinking about what you're going to do about food. Are you going to have a cocktail hour? A full meal? A buffet? There are many options to decide on. Some venues provide catering, so be sure to find out about that option when booking the venue. If they don't provide catering, contact local caterers and do some research before choosing a caterer. Also take into account your budget and what you can afford. Most caterers will provide you with a price per person...for example at my wedding I paid $12.00 per person to have it catered. Also ask the caterer if they provide linens, plates, glassware, etc. If they don't provide these things, look into renting them elsewhere.

Find a photographer-

Be sure that you spend time researching wedding photographers. Not only do you want to be sure that you are getting a good price, but you also want to be sure that the photographer will live up to your expectations. Your wedding pictures will be the primary source of memories for your wedding, so be picky when choosing your photographer. Ask to see samples of some wedding photography that they have done. Also, ask about engagement photo discounts. Many photographers will give you a discount if you book engagement photos and wedding photography with them.

Get registered-

Don't forget to create a gift registry! This will help give your guests an idea of what to get you for your wedding. It will also help increase the chances that you will get gifts that you need and/or want rather than random gifts that you don't know what to do with. Here are a few things that people usually include on wedding registries...

  • Dinnerware
  • Pots and pans
  • Bedding
  • Cooking accessories
  • Towels
  • Digital cameras or camcorders
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Gift cards

Make sure that you include a good price variety when picking your registry gifts. Not all guests can afford extravagant gifts, so be sure to keep that in mind.

Order the invitations-

Once you pick the date and venue, decide on what time the wedding will take place. Once you have all of this information you can order your save the dates and invitations. Make sure you are positive on all the facts, because once you order your invitations it's going to be hard to change the details of the event.

Save the dates should be sent out about six months prior to the wedding. Actual wedding invitations should be sent 6-8 weeks prior to the wedding date. The RSVP date should be 2-3 weeks before the wedding date so that you can get a final head count. If you're handwriting the envelopes enlist the help of the bridal party, that's what they are there for!

*Include an insert with the details of where you are registered so guests know where to shop for gifts.

Meet with the florist-

Now is the time to meet with a florist. Decide what type of bouquet you want and what bouquets the bridesmaids will have. The florist will help point you in the right direction as far as what other extras you may want. If you want to have flower centerpieces or accents at the ceremony or reception, the florist will also help you with that. Don't be afraid to tell the florist exactly what you want. You will most likely need to put down a deposit with the florist as well.

Pick & order the cake-

It's a good time to get the cake picked out and ordered. First decide what bakery you want to make your wedding cake, and then contact them to set up a time to meet and discuss the details. You can also try cake samples to get an idea of what type of cake you'd like. Take in some pictures or ideas of what you're looking for to give the baker a solid idea of what your expectations are for your wedding cake.

You will also want to pick out your cake topper. There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to cake toppers!

Get the groom & groomsmen fitted-

One little detail that I almost forgot was to send my groom and his groomsmen to get their tuxes. Try to do this at least 4 months in advance so that there is time to get fitted and get the tuxes ordered in. You will also need to consider what color vests you want your groom and groomsmen to wear. Typically the grooms vest matches the color of the brides's dress (white or ivory) and the groomsmen vests match the color of the bridesmaids dresses.

Schedule hair & makeup-

Most brides know where they want their hair done for their big day. Contact the salon as far in advance as possible to book the salon for your big day. Decide if your bridesmaids will be getting their hair done at the salon as well. Also, ask if you can have a consultation prior to the wedding so that you can have a trial run of what your hair will look like the day of the wedding. Not all salons offer this, so be sure to ask!

Choose your music-

Pick out what music will be played at your wedding. You will need songs for the following...

  • First dance as husband & wife
  • Father-daughter dance
  • Mother-son dance
  • Garter toss
  • Bouquet toss
  • Bridal party entrance

Make a list of songs you want played during your reception, and any that you don't want played! Give the list to your DJ or band.

Order your favors-

Order your wedding favors once you have a good idea of how many people will be attending your reception. Try these helpful websites for affordable favors that you can buy in bulk...

FavorFavor

My Wedding Favors

Wrap With Us

You will also want to decide what gifts you want to get for your bridal party. Some ideas include personalized wine glasses or mugs, flasks, picture frames, photo albums and so on.

Remember to breathe!

Through all this crazy wedding planning, don't forget to take time for yourself! Don't overstress and accept help from others. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you are feeling overwhelmed. Utilize your bridal party and Maid of Honor for extra support if you need it. The Maid of Honor should take on the responsibility of organizing the bridal shower and bachelorette party, while the Best Man will organize the bachelor party.

Even though the process seems long and time consuming, you will be surprised at how fast the time flies. Before you know it you'll be saying "I do" and wondering why there was so much fuss for this one day, which is over in the blink of an eye. Treasure the little moments and remember to take lots of pictures, even during the planning process. Take a camera with you everywhere, especially dress shopping! After the wedding you're going to want to put together a scrap book with all of the crazy wedding planning memories. Good luck and I hope that this checklist helps alleviate some of the stress! Remember, just breathe!

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    • DIYmommy profile image

      Julie 4 years ago

      Though I've been married for almost 3 years now, my youngest sister's wedding is right around the corner. She could definitely benefit from this hub! Great job with it! The picture of that white tent is amazing.

    • profile image

      apimentel33 4 years ago

      I was just a bridesmaid in a wedding, and.....wow. There is definitely so much to do. I think anyone planning a wedding could use all the help they could get, and this hub would definitely help!

    • alisharenee profile image
      Author

      alisharenee 4 years ago from Myrtle Beach SC

      @DIYmommy- Glad you like the article! I planned my own wedding in 2010 and it was definitely a learning experience! I was constantly researching wedding planning tips online...and I'm happy to be able to share the advice! I really wanted to rent an outdoor tent like the one in the picture for my reception but we ended up having it indoors instead.

      @apimentel33- Thank you for the kind words! I'm hoping that it can make the whole wedding planning process a little easier for anyone who happens to come across the article.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      So many things to do! I am happy I don't have to plan any wedding!

      Great hub for someone thinking of getting married!

    • alisharenee profile image
      Author

      alisharenee 4 years ago from Myrtle Beach SC

      @kidscrafts- I had to plan my own wedding and we paid for the entire event ourselves as well. Our families weren't in a position to help with financing the wedding, so we were on a tight budget. Overall I would have to say that it was the wedding of my dreams and even though we were on a tight budget the day was pretty perfect! All the planning that I had to do on my own was definitely worth it!

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I am sure that you gained a lot of experience with all the planning. My mother planned all our wedding and it was no fun because we were allowed to invite only 5 friends for the reception before the wedding and out of the 5 friends 3 were allowed for the dinner. All the rest of the guests were both our close families and then friends of my parents. If I had to do it all over again, I would have eloped and then organize a party with friends. The best thing is ...I am still happily married :-)

    • alisharenee profile image
      Author

      alisharenee 4 years ago from Myrtle Beach SC

      @kidscrafts- I think I would have gone crazy if someone else had planned my wedding! The important thing is that you are still happily married, so that's all that matters! :-)

    • deepudas profile image

      deepudas 4 years ago from India

      he he really nice article especially photographer

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