Your Complete, Chronological Wedding Planning Checklist

Find out what needs to be done when planning your wedding with our month-by-month guide.
by The Knot

If you're just engaged, starting to envision your wedding and wondering about all the things you'll need to do—and when—then you're in the right place. 

Of course, there's no prescribed or exact timeline because everyone's engagements are different lengths—and you can successfully plan a wedding in as little as a few months if that's what you want to do. But we're here to give you a little snapshot of all your wedding to-dos to steer you in the right direction (especially if your engagement length fits the bill as "average," which is a little over a year). 

(Pro tip: For an interactive version of what to do when—from defining your aesthetic to mapping out your day-of timeline—go to The Knot All-In-One Wedding Planner App. Start by taking our fun Style Quiz and we'll pull together a custom wedding vision and vendors to match, just for you.)

First, think "big picture."

(Hint: You're more than a year out, or just beginning the wedding planning process.)

Start by envisioning your wedding and determining your style. Next, draw up a budget.

Assemble your "planning team"—this may include hiring a wedding planner.

Once you pick your ideal wedding date and time (and select several options, just in case), check with your favorite venues, officiant and important guests (like family members) before finalizing. 

Once you have some venue options and your date down, you can start planning the guest list. Start officially booking your ceremony site and reception site.

Next, choose your wedding party—ask friends and relatives to be part of your day. 

This is totally optional, but now's the time to have an engagement party. We recommend registering beforehand for gifts.

Next, get a little more granular. 

(Hint: You're about 8 to 10 months out.)

If you're planning on wearing a wedding gown, start shopping so you have lots of time for alterations. 

Start envisioning what type of food you want at your reception. 

Decide what type of entertainment you want. A pianist for the cocktail hour, strolling violinists, a DJ or band? Your options are endless. 

Speaking of which, now's the time to really start researching, interviewing and booking your vendors: photographer, videographer, reception entertainment and florist. (Yes, it's time to start thinking about floral décor.)

Research a wedding insurance policy to protect your deposits.

Research and reserve hotel rooms for out-of-town guests.

Register for gifts.

Make a wedding website.

Contact rental companies if you need to rent anything for the ceremony or reception, such as chairs, tables and a tent.

Send save-the-date cards. Heck, send them even earlier (around 10 to 12 months out) if you're marrying during a tourist or holiday season or having a destination wedding.

You've hit the halfway mark. 

(Hint: You're about 6 to 8 months out.)

Now for some fun aspects of wedding planning: booking your ceremony musicians, ordering—or telling your wedding party to order—wedding party attire, and starting to plan that honeymoon, if you're aiming to jet off right after your wedding. 

Getting closer! 

(Hint: You're about 4 to 6 months out.)

Attend prewedding counseling, if required.

Shop for and order invitations and wedding rings.

Shop for formalwear, if necessary. 

Renew or get passports, if necessary.

Envision your wedding cake and research, interview and book a cake baker.

Only a few months to go!

(Hint: You're about 3 months out.)

Once you've found your cake baker, it's time to officially order your wedding cake. 

If you want your invitations professionally addressed, hire a calligrapher. 

Attend your shower! (It may be earlier, depending on when your hosts decide to have it.)

Rent the formalwear, if necessary. 

Hire wedding day transport (like limousines or party buses). Look into transportation sooner if you're considering renting streetcars or over-the-top travel.

It's right around the corner. 

(Hint: You're about 2 months about.)

Mail your invitations.

If you're writing your own vows, get started. 

Purchase gifts for parents, attendants and each other.

Book your hairstylist and makeup artist and go for a trial run with both. 

You have one month to go!

(Hint: You guessed it, you're one month out.)

Apply for a marriage license—check with the local bureau in the town where you'll wed.

If you're wearing a wedding dress, have your final fitting. Bring your maid of honor (or other wedding party members) along to learn how to bustle your dress. Have the dress pressed and bring it home.

Speaking of wedding party members, call them to make sure they have their outfits ready for the wedding.

Make last-minute adjustments with vendors, if necessary. 

Create a wedding program to hand out to guests at your ceremony. 

Order and plan in-room welcome baskets for out-of-town guests.

It's the final stretch. 

(Hint: You're about 2 weeks out.)

Review final RSVP list and call any guests who have not yet sent a response.

Deliver must-have shot lists to your photographer and videographer. (Pro tip: Include who should be in formal portraits and determine when portraits will be taken.)

Deliver your final song list to your DJ or bandleader, and make sure to include special song requests and songs you don't want played.

Get your last prewedding haircut and color, if necessary. 

Ah, you're counting down the days!

(Hint: You're one week out.)

Give your reception site and/or caterer your final guest head count. (Include vendors, such as the photographer or band members, who will expect a meal!) Ask how many extra plates the caterer will prepare.

Supply the location manager with a list of vendor requests such as a table for DJ or setup space needed for a florist.

Plan the reception seating chart, and print place and table cards (or finalize the list with the calligrapher you've hired). 

Call all wedding vendors and confirm arrangements—give the ceremony and reception site managers a schedule of vendor delivery and setup times, plus contact numbers.

Get your hair trimmed, if necessary. 

Attend your bach parties if you haven't yet. 

It's the final countdown. 

(Hint: You're 2 to 3 days out.)

Depending on what you're wearing, have your gown pressed or steamed, or go for a final fitting for your formalwear. 

If necessary, make sure all groomsmen attend fittings and pick up their outfits.

Determine wedding party positions during the ceremony and the order of the party in the processional and recessional.

Hand off place cards, table cards, menus, favors and any other items for setting the tables to the caterer and/or reception site manager.

Reconfirm final details with all vendors. Discuss any necessary last-minute substitutions.

Call the limousine or car rental company for pickup times and locations, and arrange for guests without cars to be picked up from the airport or train station. Ask friends, attendants or relatives to help.

Deliver welcome baskets to the hotel concierge; include names and delivery instructions.

It's tomorrow!

Provide all wedding professionals with an emergency phone number to call on the day of the wedding.

Write checks and/or talk to wedding hosts (usually your parents, if not you) about any final balances to be paid at the end of the reception.

Rehearse ceremony. Meet with wedding party, ceremony readers, immediate family and your officiant at the ceremony site to rehearse and iron out the details.

Bring unity candle, aisle runner, yarmulkes or other ceremony accessories to the site.

Give your marriage license to your officiant.

Attend your rehearsal dinner.

Present attendants with gifts at the rehearsal dinner. You'll want to do this especially if the gifts are accessories to be worn during the wedding.

And finally, it's your wedding day...

Present parents and each other with gifts.

Give wedding bands to the best man and maid of honor, if applicable, to hold during the ceremony.

Give the best man the officiant's fee envelope (to be handed off after the ceremony).

Introduce your reception site manager to your consultant or maid of honor for questions or problems during the reception.

Assign a family member or attendant to be the photographer's contact so they know who's who.

You're married! Here's what you should do postwedding

Prearrange for someone to return any rentals.

If you're jetting off to your honeymoon, prepare for attendants to either take the gown for cleaning, return the tux to the rental shop or both, if necessary. 

Of course, write and send thank-you notes to gift-bearing guests and vendors who were especially helpful.

If you're changing your name, do so with HitchSwitch.

For next wedding planning steps, create a free, personalized wedding website to keep your guests informed (and excited!) about your plans, and a time-saving Guest List Manager to organize your attendees. Even better? You can sync your Guest List Manager and wedding website to update everything at once.  

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, some of which may be sponsored by paying vendors.

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