Now that a venue has been chosen and a date has been set, the real planning begins! With so many details to think of, how do you know when you need to get things booked, fitted, ordered, and tasted?
There are plenty of suggested timelines online already that will help to get you organized. A quick search will give you plenty to choose from, and you can tailor those suggestions to your own timeline, while eliminating things that you are not choosing to do for your own wedding.
Instead of contributing another planning timeline to those already out there, here are some of the things I’ve found to be helpful in creating my own personal timeline:
Venue (12+ months)
Popular venues book up quickly, so the sooner you can choose a space the better. Most venues we looked at still had plenty of dates available at a year and half out, but there were a lot of temporary holds already placed by other couples. Looking for venues within a year or more of your dream date will give you the most choices. You may have to compromise if you start any less than 12 months out. You may also want to consider scheduling your wedding day for a week day; these days are less popular and your venue may even offer a lower fee for these days.
Caterer (10-12 months)
Caterers can book up quickly also and should probably be the first thing you look at after the venue is booked. Most catering companies limit the number of events they do per day, and they also do a multitude of other types of events. You are not just competing with other weddings for a date, you are competing with private parties, rehearsal dinners, corporate events, and so on.
The Dress and Bridal Party Attire
Bride (9-12 months)
I was advised by my bridal shop that it usually takes 3-5 months for ordering a wedding dress, and alterations begin 8-12 weeks out from your wedding date. This may vary between designers, but in general starting your search 9-12 months prior to your date is a good idea.
Setting a Timeline
Bridesmaids (6-9 months)
You have a little more time when it comes to bridesmaid’s dresses. I was advised that bridesmaids’ dresses take about 3-4 months to arrive. Alterations will most likely not be as intricate as any that have to be done for the bride’s dress, but you’ll want to be sure that all of your bridesmaids have enough time if they need it.
Groom/Groomsmen (3-6 months)
Once ordered, tuxedos typically arrive the week of the wedding. You’ll still want to give yourself some time to make your style decisions, get all of your groomsmen’s measurements in, and allow for any last minute fixes. Be sure to check with your bridal shop for their specific ordering and alteration timelines.
Photographer (9-12 months)
I’ve heard from various photographers that couples book with them at different stages of planning, so there’s no definite timeline on booking. However, photographers tend to book up quickly, especially on popular dates, and may only do a limited number of weddings per year.
DJ/Band (9-12 months)
If you’re choosing to have a DJ, you’ll want to make sure that he or she is a good fit with your style, personality, and the flow that you want for your event. You are really hiring the person just as much as you are hiring the service. If you’re going with a band, keep in mind that good talent books faster than not-so-good talent. It’s also a good idea to give yourself time to see your band play live at a show or private event (if allowed) to check them out in person.
You will want to book the bigger vendors and the things that are most important to you as soon as possible to make sure that you get exactly what you want. If you’re not willing to compromise with a second or third choice, book now. Event planners do this for a living! They have the experience and connections to know when things need to be done and followed up on. All of the advice I’ve received from recent brides has been in praise of having a planner, at least for day-of coordination to make the day go smoothly. If you’re looking for a place to get started, take a look at the vendors that we recommend.