Having worked in the wedding industry for the past few years, I find it relatively easy to plan a wedding. Over the years I’ve gotten used to knowing my way around a ‘typical’ UK wedding, which means I’m finding it so strange now planning my own wedding abroad and being a little out of my depth.
Being a part of wedding planning pages on Facebook, I regularly see other brides to be asking for advice on when they should be sending out invites, when is the latest they should be ordering a wedding dress, and if it’s too early for them to be booking their suppliers (as a general rule of thumb, it’s never too early).
As it seems to be something which many people are unsure of, I thought I’d put together a rough planning timeline. This is by no means something you should feel you need to stick to, but hopefully it’ll provide some reassurance for other brides to be.
18 – 12 Months Prior
You’ve got the ring, congratulations! First thing’s first, enjoy being engaged, although it may feel like it’s still ages away until the big day, the planning stages actually do fly by when you look back on it. Crack open the champers and take lots of ring selfies (ringies? relfies?).
The biggest questions will be what date will you get married on, and how much are you looking to spend? These two tend to go hand in hand as for many people, you’ll need to start saving, and this may have an impact on the date you choose, or if you have a specific date in mind, and it’s sooner rather than later, your budget may need to reflect this.
Also consider whether you will be getting married in a church, or having a civil ceremony in a registry office or at a venue with a registrar
12 months Prior
Who do you see there with you when you say your vows? Have a think about your bridal party, who you want to ask to be a part of it at this stage. Some people decide to ask their bridesmaids and best man with a special gift or in a special way. It’s entirely up to you.
One thing to bear in mind, especially if you’re planning on a long engagement, is that friendships can change over time, even the relationship with your family can be different over time, so don’t rush into asking anyone to be in your bridal party. It’s easier to ask a wedding guest to be a bridesmaid then demoting a bridesmaid back to a wedding guest…
9-12 Months Prior
By this point it’s a good idea to have researched and found the big things – venue and photographer. As a general rule, venues tend to get booked up fairly far in advance for summer weddings, especially on a Saturday, although Fridays and Sundays are now becoming more popular as well.
If you have your heart set on a venue, go in and have a look around, make an appointment with the wedding coordinator and get your date secured as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
Most venues will require a deposit, usually around £500-£1000, to have your date confirmed, with the final balance being due around a month to 8 weeks prior to the big day itself.
Photographers also tend to get booked up fairly far in advance so it’s a good idea to have a research and find one you love as soon as possible.
Once you’ve started booking things, make sure you also take out wedding insurance. This is so important, and something a lot of couples simply don’t think of doing. You can get cover from as little as around £20 and it’s so worth it for peace of mind
9 months Prior
By this stage you should start thinking about your wedding dress. If you are going to be having a dress ordered in, this can take up to 9 months, so don’t leave it too late. However, you can also buy off the rack, which means you have more flexibility in when you buy your dress, and this option can also save you money as well.
If you plan to honeymoon straight after your wedding, you should start looking into booking this as well, and remember that if your passport will still have your maiden name on it, this is the name you will need to book with!
6-9 Months Prior
One of the main issues I’ve seen couples have when planning their wedding is that they worry about booking suppliers too early. Generally speaking I would say the earlier the better, at least for all the ‘main’ suppliers such as hair and makeup artists, caterers, the cake and DJs/bands. Hair & makeup artists especially tend to get booked up fairly far in advance and again, if you are having your day during peak wedding season, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
The only time I would suggest waiting until nearer the time to book would be if you aren’t sure if you can afford an ‘added extra’ such as a photo booth, chocolate fountain or caricaturist, as you may find you have enough budget leftover, and be able to get yourself a last minute bargain.
3-6 Months Prior
By now you should have your guest list in place and your invites should go out. If you send them too early, you may end up regretting your choices, if you fall out with anyone you’ve invited, and if you leave it too late, people may already have plans or not be able to get the time off work (especially important to consider if you’ve opted for a weekday wedding).
Factor in enough time for your RSVPs to come back before your final details meeting with your venue, which is generally around 6-8 weeks prior to your wedding, although some venues leave it until a month prior. At this stage you will likely need final numbers and menu choices, so make sure you’ve pinned your guests down to a deadline from the start to avoid added stress nearer the time.
Make sure your wording on your invites makes it clear whether plus ones and/or children are included, again to avoid any awkward conversations later on down the line, or the possibility of more people turning up than you anticipated on the day
3 months Prior
By this point it’s a good idea to pick out your bridal party’s outfits including bridesmaids, flower girls, best men and page boys. If you’re hiring suits, you will need to arrange times for fittings with the supplier for each of the men, and if you are ordering dresses from a bridal shop, be aware of delivery times, much like with your wedding dress.
Try not to get overexcited and buy the younger children their outfits too soon as they may have a growth spurt. Shoes especially will need to be ordered as close to the wedding as possible, although be wary of certain styles going out of stock e.g. sandals won’t be as readily available in autumn as they are in summer
2 Months Prior
A hair and makeup trial helps you to ensure you know what you want for your big day, and that you’re confident with your chosen stylist. Although not a necessity, some brides also like to book a trial for bridesmaids in addition to their own.
At this stage it’s a good idea to book up beauty appointments for the week approaching the wedding and shopping for those final bits such as bridal underwear, veil, garter and your accessories.
6-8 Weeks Prior
Your wedding dress fittings should be booked for around this point. Sometimes you will need more than one fitting booked in, so factor this in and discuss with your bridal store in advance. Bear in mind that you shouldn’t book final fittings too far away from your wedding date in case of last minute weight loss or gain.
At this point you should be prepared to pay final balances not only for your venue but also for most suppliers.
1 Month Prior
To avoid last minute stress, ensure all supplier details, booking confirmations, receipts and other information is stored in one place and delegate this to somebody close to you, if not for the lead up, then at least for the day itself.
At this stage you’ll have most likely finalised the details with your suppliers and venue and be tying up any loose ends. You will also be able to finalise your seating plan, try not to stress too much, people will only be sat in their places for the meal, when they’ll be eating anyway.
If you’re marrying in the church, you’ll have your banns read and you’ll need to have finalised your readings and hymns. Ensure that those doing speeches are preparing them, and that anyone who has a part in the big day knows what they are doing.
1 Week Prior
Try not to stress out by weather app watching, although we all do it, you can’t change the weather so don’t torture yourself, forecasts are often wrong and even if it does rain, on the day nothing will matter. If you are worried, double check the contingency plan with suppliers so you know what to expect.
If you are going away straight after the wedding make sure you’re packed and have your money changed up in advance.
Beauty treatments including hair, waxing and tan if you’re opting for it will be this week (avoid having your nails done until the day before to avoid any breakages) so try and relax and enjoy your final days as a Miss!
1 Day Prior
Some venues will allow you to store your things for the wedding there in advance. This will largely depend on how many weddings they have beforehand.
Although you may want to set up things yourself, this isn’t always feasible, especially if there is a wedding the day before yours. Put your faith in your coordinator, or if you’re concerned, you could always rope a friend or relative into the task.
Whatever you do, don’t underestimate how long it will take to set the venue up and try to attempt it yourself. The morning of your wedding should be spent being pampered with a glass of bubbles, not up to your ears in bunting, and please, please reconsider opting for the DIY chair cover package, 99% of venues won’t agree to do this for you and it takes a long time and a lot of effort to put them on, trust me! Have your nails done and put your feet up!
12 Hours Prior
Get some rest, relax and try and sleep! The day will go by so fast and you want to be able to remember it and enjoy every second.