Whether you’ve just got engaged, or you’ve just started planning your dream day, a 12 month wedding planning checklist is a great place to begin. You’ll see not only what to tick off now, but what’s to come over the next 12 months in the lead up to your wedding, which will prepare you well for the year ahead. 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 just a few months, or you can take it slow and have a long engagement. You are on your own unique wedding-planning journey, and it should be at your pace.
I hope you find this article useful – take a look at little white book wedding planner for all your wedding planning needs too.
As with all the wedding planning advice you’ll find here, this 12 month wedding planning checklist is just a guide. I encourage you to celebrate your day in a way that is meaningful to you, and include only those traditions and wedding customs which feel natural and personal. 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 here 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 wedding 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.
See more detail below, and via links but here’s a summary of some of the checklists in the little white book:
12 months before the wedding:
– Discuss with your fiance what ideas they have about the big day and estimate your wedding budget. See wedding budget guide, templates and samples.
– Draft up a guest list – this may be contingent on your budget and will impact your choice of venue.
– Work out when you want to get married – do you want a winter wedding, or will you be competing with many other couples for a coveted Saturday in summer? If so, and especially if there’s a particular date you must have, you will probably need to book a venue very soon. Even if you are flexible with dates, begin finding a wedding venue now and book as soon as you can.
– Talk to each of your parents about whether they wish to contribute to your wedding budget.
– If you’ve decided to hire a wedding planner, interview and select yours (and don’t forget to start your little white book!
11 months before the wedding:
– Choose your bridal party!
– Plan an Engagement Party if you wish to have one (your new bridesmaids might just help you!)
– Start talking to other wedding vendors and professionals, especially a photographer and/or videographer, followed by wedding florist, stationery. You don’t need to be in a rush to book all immediately. See the wedding planning pack for questions to ask.
– Begin your Something Blue bridal box subscription
10 months before the wedding:
– YAY – meet with caterers and wedding cake bakers
– Book your wedding photographer.
– Book a celebrant and start to think about how to personalise your ceremony.
– Begin visiting bridal boutiques to order your wedding dress – it can be a long process. You may also wish to decide on a dress code for your wedding.
– Think about choosing the style of music for your wedding, and begin compiling lists of your favourite songs to play
– Send out save-the-dates if you can (especially if people will be traveling to you).
– Brainstorm the style of your wedding (Hello pinterest!). If you need to hire items for this purpose, keep an eye out for those you like the look of.
8 months before the wedding:
– Start a gift registry or other wedding registry.
– Hopefully now you’ll feel confident booking some of the vendors you have started talking to earlier: any hireage, floristry, musicians, catering, stationery designers etc.
– If out-of-town guests require accommodation, you may wish to reserve in advance.
– Book any day-of transportation for yourself and your guests.
6 months before the wedding:
– Take your bridal party out shopping, it’s time to choose bridal party attire.
– Send your save-the dates if you didn’t earlier.
– Order the groom to go shopping for his attire and the groomsmen’s suits too.
– Begin planning your honeymoon if you want to leave right away.
– Organise your hair and make-up artists
4 months before the wedding:
– Purchase your wedding bands.
– Send out wedding invitations.
– Organise other wedding stationery and signage.
3 months before the wedding:
– Finalise your accessories: shoes, veil, cuff links, bow ties, etc.
– Purchase gifts for your bridal party.
– Write your wedding vows.
– Purchase wedding favours if you wish to have them.
– Apply for your marriage licence.
1 month before the wedding:
– Confirm playlist
– Organise your hair and make-up trial
– Have your final wedding dress fitting
– Confirm day-of plan with vendors and inform bridal party.
– Finalise guest list count for caterer and arrange meals for those who will be there for dinner.
– Finalise RSVPs
– Pick up your wedding rings
– Ensure you have your marriage licence.
Again, just a summary – but here’s a more in depth guide to begin with a year out from your wedding.
Your First Tasks: 12 Month Wedding Planning Checklist
The 12 month wedding planning checklist 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