Congratulations! You’ve just got engaged to your partner and you’re eager to get going. So, do you know where to start wedding planning? As dreamy as engagement is, it won’t be long until reality kicks in and your feet hit the ground. But don’t worry, wedding planning doesn’t have to be overwhelming, in fact, it can be really fun!
On average couples in the UK spend between seven and twelve months planning their weddings, so to help you in the planning process, we have put some time guidelines down based on engagement. Of course, wedding planning has been a little topsy-turvy this year with added restrictions and limitations. Don’t worry, this guide just gives you a basic outline of what needs to be arranged and in which order. Weddings can be planned in weeks if you are stuck for time.
Below is our all-inclusive guide on how to plan for what is essentially the greatest party of your life. If you’re looking for the perfect wedding planning timeline, look no further, ‘cause this one comes straight from the party experts!
- 12+ Months: Budget | Essentials | Dates | Venue | Guestlist | Inspiration | Save the Date
- 9+ Months: Dress & Suits | Wedding Party | Suppliers & Vendors
- 6+ Months: Cake | Honeymoon | Invites | Registering for Gifts | Decor | Wedding Party Outfits
- 3+ Months: Wedding Bands | Shoes & Make up | Vows | Wedding Favours
- 1+ Month: Marriage License | Seating Plan | Stag & Hen Party
Laying down the budget is the most important thing to do first when planning your wedding, as this will allow you to think realistically about your big day. You may dream of get married in a castle in Italy with 500 of your friends and family (who doesn’t!), but first, you need to be realistic. Also, if Mum, Dad or Aunty Pat might be able to give you a little contribution to your wedding, it might be best to know now.
Sticking to your budget can be difficult, so to keep the costs down, research prices in advance and outline how much you want to spend on certain things.
Take some time to think about what your ‘must-haves’ are, and which things are optional. This will give you an idea about what you are most likely to spend money on, and the options that you could leave out if you had to. For example, you will probably need to book a photographer, but you might not need those super expensive flowers you’ve seen in a bridal magazine.
When do you want to have your wedding? Do you have a preferred season or month? Whenever your preference, try to be as flexible with your dates as possible. A lot of venues and suppliers get booked up months, if not years, in advance, so give yourself enough time and enough flexibility to get what you are looking for.
Top Tip: Try and choose a few dates to work with, that way you are more likely to get the venue of your dreams.
There are now so many options to choose from, especially with smaller guest lists this year. Your wedding doesn’t have to be held in your local church, the world is your oyster. Smaller weddings are forecast to stay popular for a long time because they are more intimate, more cost effective and more personal.
Perhaps you have a guest list chock-full of friends and family that you want to invite. Of course, that’s great too! Your big celebration can be held anywhere, but just make sure you find a venue to fit the number of friends and family you are working with (and leave a little leeway too in case of any changes to venue restrictions).
This is also the time to consider whether you will be having separate venues for the wedding ceremony and reception, or whether you will stay in one place for the whole day. The sooner you book your venue, the sooner you can confirm the wedding date and get the ball rolling with caterers, bands and other services that you might be interested in.
Top Tip: Make sure to visit the venue where possible and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The venue managers are there to help, and they want you to have a perfect day too!
Hand in hand at the forefront of your wedding planning with venue hunting should come your guestlist. As we’ve mentioned, your guest numbers will definitely have an impact on the various venues you begin to look at, or in the reverse sense, your dream venue might influence your guestlist. Don’t forget to think about whether the same guests will come to both the ceremony and the reception, or whether you will have different faces at each.
Top Tip: This doesn’t have to be defined and confirmed immediately, but it is good to leave yourself some room for movement.
Whether you scour Pinterest, pop to a wedding fair or read countless wedding magazines, it’s good to get inspiration for the theme and colour scheme of your wedding. Current trends include contemporary bright colours and modern designs. Perhaps even something alternative like celebrating your favourite book or film. Which colours do you prefer? Traditional or more casual? There are lots to choose from, and these decisions will affect your decorations, the suppliers you choose and even the dress and suit options.
Top Tip: Make a mood board, Pinterest account or a scrapbook dedicated to your wedding theme, that way you can have all of your ideas in one place.
Save the Date
Once you have your wedding date, the next thing to do is to send out save the date cards, so all of the people that you need at your wedding don’t suddenly make plans on your big day. This is just a reminder to your family and friends of your wedding date and is not considered a formal invitation. If your date changes for whatever reason, don’t panic! Just send out a rearranged date card out to keep guests updated.
Dress & Suits
Whether you’ll be in a dress and veil, or suit and tie, you need to start thinking about your outfit early on. Shop around and don’t be afraid to ask questions! This should come early on enough in your wedding planning to allow for any alterations that need to be completed.
If you want to choose a dress with a train, think about how you will dance in it. Do you want the train to be removable or would you rather bustle it? What sort of shoes are you going to be wearing? Do you want to change into something else for the reception? Is there specific underwear you will be wearing on the day?
If you’re looking at wearing a suit, consider if you want a two or three-piece suit. Will your waistcoat be single or double-breasted? What will the groomsmen be wearing? Also, think about your colour scheme working with to make sure you don’t choose something that will clash with any themes!
Top Tip: Your dress or suit might be altered to fit you, but make sure you find something that is comfortable enough for you to wear as you might keep it on the whole day, not just for the ceremony.
Whether you are having 2 or 20 bridesmaids and groomsmen, this should be established relatively early as everyone will want to know who is in the wedding party as soon as you start planning. Also consider if you’re having ushers, flower girls, a toastmaster or a ring bearer?
Try not to be pushed into adding additional family and friends that you don’t want to be in your wedding party – it’s your big day, and sometimes you have to be a little selfish.
This will help you budget for your suits and bridesmaids dresses if you are helping to pay for them and will also help further the seating plan, outfit shopping and the stag and hen parties.
Suppliers & Vendors
Okay, this is a big one, so let’s split it up! First, you need to think about the sort of vendors and suppliers you are looking for. Does your venue supply catering and wedding bar or do you need to organise this? Do you want a wedding band or a DJ? Would you like any extras, like a photo booth, caricaturist or popcorn cart?
Flowers are often one of the main way to decorate your wedding venue. From bouquets to the groomsmen’s buttonholes and the table flowers, you need to consider your chosen colour scheme and the types of flowers you wish to include.
For example, many couples avoid sunflowers for a winter wonderland wedding, and instead stick to light blues and lilac colours. If you are on a budget, consider using flowers that are in season or even fake flowers. Talk to florists about your ideas and they will be able to help.
Music is another big one. Do you want to have a DJ to play all of your favourites and keep the party going all night long? Or would you rather have a live band perform a personalised setlist for you and your guests? Alternatively, you may want a harpist to play as the bride walks down the aisle or a singing guitarist to strum for the first dance as a married couple.
Whatever you are looking for, make sure to read some reviews, listen to audio examples and watch some video footage before booking anything. If possible, you could even go to hear them perform if they have a public concert near you.
Top tip: If you have requests that you want a musician to play, to avoid disappointment, check they are able to learn new material if they need to before the wedding day.
If you are thinking of alternative entertainment, a magician, caricaturist or even an impersonator for your big day, you should start researching some prices and looking at some options now. It’s never been easier – just visit Poptop to find services in your area.
It goes without saying that this is another huge decision. Your guests attending the full day will be expecting to get some grub after the ceremony. Sometimes, your venue will have their own catering, but if not, you will need to look into external catering options. There is a multitude of different options, from finger buffets to five-course-dinners, and there is always something that will fit into your budget.
Food vans are now also very popular at weddings and evening receptions, as they can often be easier, give different options and they don’t need as much space or clean up. Pizza, fish and chips, French crepes and Spanish paella are all popular options. You could also look at having something a little extra too, such as a candy cart or a chocolate fountain.
Top Tip: Make sure to book a tasting before you confirm anything, as you want to make sure everything will taste great on the day. As well as this, ensure that any caterers you choose are able to accommodate the dietary requirements of your guests.
For many couples, a photographer is essential to the wedding day. From getting ready in the morning to dancing the night away, you’ll want to remember every second. Is it top of your wedding planning list too?
Videographers have grown in popularity immensely, so if you are looking to livestream your ceremony for absent guests or to create a gorgeous wedding video, this is certainly something to consider. Photography needs to be high in your budget list and organised as early as possible to avoid disappointment. It is also vital that you look around and choose a photographer who produces photos in a style that you like. Make sure you also ask to see a full days work from a wedding, to make sure they are not just showing you their highlights in their portfolio.
Another option is to hire a photo booth for the day, this will not only keep your guests entertained, but you can often get a copy of all the photographs taken so that you and your guests get a memento of the day.
Do you want a Hummer limo to take you and your bridal party to the venue? Or for the best man to arrive in a vintage 1920s Ford T model? You should consider hiring a car to do so. Shop around because prices can vary a lot depending on what sort of car you are looking for and journey times.
If you’re considering having a wedding cake or a wedding cake alternative, this is the time to shop around and do some tastings. There are a lot of things to think about for your wedding cake, from the decorative icing to the flavour of the sponge itself. You might not even want a traditional tiered cake, a lot of people are opting for cheesecakes, wedding cupcakes or even macaroons this wedding season.
Yes, your wedding might be the main focus at the moment, but don’t forget about what comes afterwards! Whether your ideal honeymoon is driving up to the Highlands and staying in a stately home, climbing Machu Picchu or jetting off to sunny Spain, now’s the time to plan for it.
You may need to book the relevant days off work, check your passport validity and get any necessary jabs. Look into this so there isn’t a mad rush added to the pressure of the wedding. Current travel restrictions may delay honeymoons, so some couples are planning local ‘minimoon’ staycations and saving their pennies to have a proper honeymoon when travel returns back to normal.
Top Tip: If you are planning on taking your partners name, make sure you book the holiday in your family name (so that it matches your passport) and then update your travel documents with your new name when you get back.
Usually, wedding invitations are sent around 3-6 months before the big day, so people have time to plan and ensure that your guests can make it. If you are having your invites printed for you, or even handcrafting your invites yourself, it’s probably a good idea to do it a little earlier so you can make sure they are all correct before sending them out. These invites solidify your guest list, so if you are allowing your guests to bring plus ones or children, ensure that you have enough space for them.
Make sure that your invites mention the need to RSVP by a certain date, to ensure that you can confirm your numbers for caterers and other suppliers. If some of your guests don’t RSVP by this time, check-in with them to confirm whether they are coming, as their card may have got lost in the post.
This might also be a good time to think about what sort of place setting cards or order of service cards if you are having at your wedding. But these can be made later, once all of your guests have confirmed their attendance.
Get some inspiration and check out our best articles:
- Wedding Invite Ideas: Be Inspired!
- 17 Tips for Making DIY Wedding Invitations
- Wedding Invitation Wording: Know Your Choices
Registering for Gifts
Some people might opt to ask for money or charity donations as gifts for their wedding day. But there will always be someone who brings a gift. It is good to have a wedding registry for those family and friends that want to get you something practical. Make sure that you speak to your partner about their wants and needs.
You might want to stick to wedding classics like fancy bedding and a nice cutlery set (and you might need these too!), but don’t be afraid to add your favourite bottle of champagne or that quirky piece of art you want to buy!
It’s that time in your wedding planning to think about your wedding decorations! If you are having decorations other than flowers, this is the time to buy, order or create your centrepieces, your wall drapings or your lighting. The venue might be able to help you out with a lot of these things, but if not, there are so many wedding decoration ideas.
If you are having a vintage wedding, looking for trinkets in charity and antique shops is a winner. If you are thinking about a rustic wedding, how about muslin and fairy light-filled bottles? A lot of things can even be done DIY if you are on a budget, want to recycle old items or if you’re just feeling crafty.
Wedding Party Outfits
By this point, you should have already chosen your bridesmaids and groomsmen, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to them once you get started with a suit and dress shopping. Your themes are already in place, so you can think about what colours and styles you want your wedding party to wear. A lot of people try to match the neckwear colour of the groomsmen to the shade of the bridesmaid dresses to tie the whole wedding party together.
As for the suits, many people are opting for an alternative waistcoat style for the groom or a different coloured check to ensure that he stands out and doesn’t blend into a sea of suits.
It is important to bear in mind that people are all different shapes and sizes, so something that might look good on one person, might not look good on others, so book appointments so that all of your friends can try lots of styles on and find the best fit for them. The sooner that you get this done, the sooner you will get your outfits.
Top Tip: Take into account that suits and dresses often need to be ordered in and altered, so leave enough time for final fittings and last minute alterations if needs be.
By this, we mean rings, not musicians! If you are having them, this is the time to look into getting your rings sorted. You will need to get them sized as well so that they fit comfortably on your hand, but you can do this closer to the wedding date.
You may not be high up on your ‘to do’ list, but you shouldn’t leave it until the last minute. If you want your groomsmen to all have similar shoes or your bridesmaids to be in matching heels, you will need to let them know in advance so that they can be ordered. Your wedding party, including the all-important Bride and Groom, will also need their shoes for their suit and dress alterations. Make sure you have time to wear them in too!
Hair & Makeup
If you want to get your hair and makeup professionally done before the wedding ceremony, have some trial runs and get this booked in well before the day. There is lots of inspiration online, and you can bring these with you to show the stylists. Make sure that you go for something that you really like, and don’t be pushed into styles or colours that you would never wear.
Top Tip: If you are thinking of having fresh flowers in your hair, collaborate with your florist to see what they can do for you.
Don’t forget this part in your wedding planning! You and your partner might have decided to write your own vows and this is something that shouldn’t be rushed. These promises to each other should outline the reasons why you fell in love with your other half and the things you hope to achieve in the future together. They don’t have to be long or full of soppy love song quotes, just make sure that they come from the heart and aren’t too crude that they will make your granny cringe!
A lot of people nowadays choose not to have wedding favours or choose to go DIY and make small ones themselves, regardless you will need to start thinking about them now. Whether you are looking into buying or making your wedding favours, don’t leave them to the last minute. Instead of or as well as wedding favours, some couples are opting for wedding welcome bags, most will contain snacks and a small beverage as well as a small keepsake – oh, and maybe add some paracetamol for those post-wedding hangovers.
You can also make little goody bags for the kids attending your wedding with colouring books or small toys to keep them occupied. Lauren Conrad has some great thoughts on wedding bags!
Usually, around this time you will get your final dress and suit alterations so that they are all ready for your big day. Altering a wedding dress tends to take a little longer than altering a suit, and you will need to make sure that you have the shoes you will be wearing on the day so that the seamstress or tailor can alter the length of your trousers or dress to suit the shoe you will wear. If you decide to wear some fancy lingerie or a specific type of bra, make sure you bring your underwear with you so they can alter the bodice of your dress to ensure you aren’t airing your wedding lingerie in public – save that for your partner and your wedding night!
Finalise Your Menu
So your band is booked and your caterer is sorted – that’s great! The next step is to finalise your menu options and confirm whether any of your guests have dietary requirements that the caterers would need to accommodate. Once you have received all of your RSVPs from your guests, you can finally confirm the numbers for the suppliers and the venues.
Choosing Wedding Songs
If there are any specific songs that you would like your band to play they should have been discussed already so that they will have plenty of time to learn any extra songs that they need to. Therefore you can then finalise your setlist with them or any DJs.
Stag & Hen Parties
This is the fun part! You might not have any idea about your Stag or Hen party, or you might have given your mates some ideas about what you want to do. Whatever it is, have a great time and enjoy your last night of “freedom”. If you are planning on getting tipsy, don’t plan your stag or hen do just before the wedding, you don’t want to be feeling rough on the day!
Obtaining your marriage license can often get forgotten under all of the flower petals and invitations. But this is important as it can take a little longer than you think. In England, Wales and Scotland, you must give a minimum of 29 days notice before you get married, but this is 28 days in Northern Ireland.
Top Tip: Try and get this organised early on so that you don’t feel concerned about this last minute.
Once you have received all of your RSVPs, you can create your final seating plan and make sure that you have menu options for everyone and any dietary requirements that need to be catered for.
The seating chart should be made to stand at the entrance of the dining hall so that your guests can find their places easily – and you’ll want this to fit with the aesthetic of your decorations. You should also use this time to consider the wedding favours and also have all of your place cards finished and ready to go once this has been confirmed.
A month before the wedding, you should be starting to finalise everything with your suppliers, have your final dress and suit fittings if you haven’t already, and have found all of your accessories to wear on the wedding day. You’re ties, pocket squares, veil and shoes should all be ready to go and your bridal party should be receiving their outfits within this time too. If you are also wishing to gift your bridal party with small tokens of appreciation, this is the time to buy those presents.
You should also give your suppliers all the details they will need for the day, the run through of the timings, any addresses they might need and any alternative contact numbers that they can reach you or your party with.
Top Tip: You might also want to pass over the number of the venue manager just in case!
Are you are planning on getting a trim, painting your nails, getting a last-minute tan or any other treatments to get you looking fabulous on your wedding day? Hopefully, they should already be booked in, so now is the time to get those done.
You might be jetting off on your honeymoon soon after the wedding, so make sure that you have packed and gotten your foreign currency if necessary. Confirm all of your flight or travel times and your hotel details, check you have your passports and all your travel documents.
If you have booked your wedding rehearsal, this usually happens just before the wedding day. So look forward to it, and solidify any questions you might have with the service or the venue.
Also, we’ve prepared a printable wedding planning checklist. This is an expert, comprehensive wedding checklist for brides to help with the crucial stages of their wedding planning. Download a wedding planning checklist for free.
And the last one: try and relax the day before and get a good night’s sleep. Remember…
The wedding planning is complete! You’re getting married! It’s a really exciting time and sometimes it can be a little stressful too. Whether nerves have got you feeling anxious or you’re feeling super relaxed, remember that the big day isn’t an end to the wedding planning and celebration! But rather, it is the start of the even bigger adventure that you are embarking on – your married life together!
Wedding Planning Handy Tips
- Engagement photoshoot. If you want to announce the engagement to your friends and family with some photos, or just practice in front of the camera for the big day, you can book an engagement photoshoot with the photographer you have chosen for the wedding. This will show you how the photos will be edited and will give the photographer some more ideas about the styles you want for the big day!
- Wedding insurance. It can be a lifesaver when things go a little sideways! Whether you need to postpone due to illness or even extreme weather conditions, insurance will protect you from the unexpected, so it is best to have it! Check out comparison sites and shop around for the best deals. Oh, and make sure it has everything you need including because there are lots of extras you can add on!
- Emergency kit. Emergency wedding kit is a newlyweds staple. It can contain everything, from lipstick and a compact mirror to tissues if you’re going to get a little teary! Ask your maid of honour or your best man to carry it for you on the day.
- Wedding fairs. It can be a great idea if you are hunting for a venue or looking for some more inspiration. Even if you don’t find anything you really like, often vendors know vendors and they might be able to put you in contact with the suppliers of your dreams. You will get loads of goodies and free samples, so why not go and sip some champagne, celebrate your engagement and enjoy yourselves!
- “Kid zone”. Are any children attending your wedding or reception? If so, you might want to think about having a ‘kid zone’ with a toy box, some colouring books or maybe even a film for them to watch and stay out of trouble.
- Top 10 bridal regrets. Keep in mind:
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