Whether you’ve just got engaged, or you’ve just started planning your dream day, this 12 month wedding planning checklist is a great place to start. As you work through it, please keep in mind that it’s just a guide – if you’re having a short engagement, you can absolutely plan your entire wedding in 1-3 months, or you can take it slow and have a long engagement. You’re on your own unique wedding-planning journey, and it should be at your pace.
As with all my wedding planning checklists, its contents are just a guide too – there’s almost nothing you absolutely ‘must’ do for your wedding (finding a celebrant and getting your marriage licence are the exceptions).
All the wedding planning checklists and articles on She Said Yes are designed around the time-frames set out in the little white book wedding organiser and diary. When I was planning our wedding last year, I found it easiest to stay organised and on-track with countdown checklists in my diary, hence the little white book is both a planner and organiser, and a 12 month countdown diary. The wedding planning checklists are integrated into the diary on a day-to-day basis, so you can organise your wedding while getting on with your life.
Your First Wedding Planning Tasks
This 12 month wedding planning checklist is ready for you begins with choosing your wedding venue. Before you do that, you will have to start your wedding budget (at least an estimate) and determine your guest list. If you haven’t begun these, you may wish to read “Wedding Planning First Steps” which deals with each in more depth, before coming back to this.
Determine Your Guest List: You can’t book your wedding venue without a guest list estimate, though your wedding budget may be a relevant to determine how many guests you’ll be able to invite to your wedding.
12 months out from your wedding, you should be talking about and writing out your guest list to working out what size/style and cost of wedding venue will suit.
Book your Wedding Venue: You can’t organise very much else without a wedding date set and venue booked. Many popular wedding venues are booked around 12 months out from your wedding, so at this stage, you might like to visit the ones you’ve taken a liking to. Of course, at 12 months out, you’ll be able to see the wedding venue at the same time of year as it will be for your nuptials. Consider the season that will suit you both/your families and friends (i.e. if they are travelling), how long it may take you to save for the wedding, and have a few preferred dates in mind to discuss with potential venues.
Prioritise the remainder of your wedding budget: Booking your wedding venue is usually the most expensive outlay of your wedding budget, and following that, you need to work out how to allocate the remainder. Unless you have an unlimited budget, I strongly suggest you look at prioritising your wedding budget rather than spending money on every element that a wedding could, should, or ‘must’ have – you know, according to the wedding industry…
I promise that you do not need to tick every possible wedding planning box as though it is a requirement. In fact, I suggest that if you choose and apportion your wedding budget carefully, and organise (and spend money on) only those elements which are really important to you. Spend more on those, and those features will really shine, making your day unique and personal.
Phew – Take a Break!
Booking your wedding venue and working out your wedding budget and guest list are huge accomplishments. I understand, between family and financial pressures and expectations, getting your budget, guest list and wedding venue to work together can be a massive task. From here, wedding planning is much, much easier, especially if you still have 12 months to go.
Don’t be in a rush to plan it all, and please try to enjoy it. Perhaps you’ve already celebrated with your friends, but you may wish to organise an engagement party with both sets of your families and friends to celebrate. It’s up to you whether you invite only wedding guests, or have a larger engagement party, and explain to guests that you’re having a smaller wedding. If you’ve started your little white book, I hope you’re making notes along the way, it’s going to be a timeless keepsake of your engagement and will be wonderful to look back on in years to come.
Choose your wedding photographers/photography style
After wedding venues, wedding photographers are often the next wedding vendor to be booked. In the very visual (and socially connected) world we live in, there can be a lot of pressure to have the most out-of-this-world wedding photos, but what is really the most important is that you have something to look back on to remember, and cherish your wedding day. That doesn’t necessarily mean the most jaw-dropping (or jaw-droppingly expensive) wedding photos, in fact many couples still choose not to hire professional wedding photographers. You probably already know whether you will or won’t, but you don’t need to feel pressured either way.
How to choose your wedding photographers? Because photography is by definition a visual subject, this is one of the easiest wedding vendors to choose, just by browsing online, but I also suggest meeting with your photographers. Beside your new spouse, you are likely to spend the most one-on-one time with the photographer, so you need to feel comfortable with them.
Attend Wedding Shows
Wedding fairs are spread throughout the year, but with 12 months to go ’til your wedding, you might like to start visiting them to get inspiration. My favourite show to attend as a vendor at was Hitch’d Wedding Fair, where guests really had enough time with vendors and ask lots of questions.
As a bride, I attended every one in Auckland, and while NZ Bride & Groom Show was very comprehensive, I personally found it overwhelming. Whatever you do, begin with how to get the most out of wedding shows.
Bridal Attire: Most brides don’t need to be encouraged to go wedding dress shopping, but incase you’re not one of those, do be aware that it may be a longer process than you think – don’t be afraid so start early.
Choose your celebrant: Celebrants will be take bookings 6-12 months in advance, so you may wish to start meeting them at wedding shows and thinking about personalising your ceremony.
Bridal Party: If you’re choosing to have a bridal party for your wedding, now’s the time to talk to them about expectations and responsibilities. You may wish to set aside the weekend before the wedding for a bridal shower or hens party (which hopefully they may organise). Based on my experience, I wouldn’t organise your bridal party’s attire until you’ve finalised your own.
Diary: Of course, I would say this… but I truly mean it. It’s so nice to keep a diary of the whole process – there are so many exciting experiences during your engagement, but it can go by in a bit of a blur too – so keep a journal as a keepsake. The little white book is the perfect one (of course, I would say this too, but thankfully so does everyone else).
These are really the only things you need to organise 12 months before your wedding, so you really can relax now for a while.
If you do wish to plan ahead, you may also like to:
- choose your catering
- design your stationery and send save the dates
- reserve rentals (i.e. hire a marquee if necessary)
- book a DJ or band
- select a gifting option (registry, honeymoon fund, etc)
- consider your wedding flowers