Wedding Planning Timeline & To-Do Checklist

Wedding Planning Timeline

Bridal Stylsts help the bride-to-be try on and fit wedding dresses as she shops for the perfect gown.

Most newly engaged couples quickly discover something about wedding planning: it’s equal parts exciting and overwhelming! A wedding may be the largest event you’ll ever plan, and the many moving parts present a big challenge—enter the wedding planner.

We asked planner Emily Capitano, founder of Pittsburgh’s Em and E Events, to share her expert advice on all things weddings. Since founding Em and E Events when she was just 22, Emily and her team have offered full-scale wedding planning, day-of coordination, and everything in between. Below, she answers common questions and shares her essential wedding planning checklist.

Q: What are the responsibilities of a wedding planner? A: All of them, haha! The serious answer is that our involvement depends on which package the client selects. We offer everything from full-scale planning (where we handle every aspect of the day) to day-of coordination (executing a client’s plans on the wedding day itself). There’s a package for every situation.

Q: How can couples determine if they need a wedding planner? A: All couples need a wedding planner, or at least a day-of coordinator. There are so many moving parts to a wedding—no one can do it alone! Couples should gauge their personal strengths and weaknesses, then find a planner who meets their needs. As I mentioned before, there are lots of options:

Full-Scale Planner: Helps with every step of planning, from design to vendors to day-of details!

Designer: Brings your dream wedding aesthetic to life.

Month-Of or Day-Of Coordinator: Takes over vendor communication, setup, and logistics leading up to/during the event, so you can sit back and relax.

Partial/Hourly/Logistic Planning: Helps with specific elements of the planning process as needed.

Q: How should couples factor a wedding planner into their overall budget? A: For a full-scale wedding planner, allot 10% of your budget. For a day-of coordinator, set aside at least 5%. Expect to pay more for planners with more experience and impressive portfolios.

Q: What’s the first thing a newly-engaged couple should do when they start planning? A: Determine your maximum budget, then make your guest list. The more people you invite, the more you’ll need to budget. It’s also important to set some ground rules that you both agree on. No kids at the reception? Great! Now, don’t let Aunt Sally sway your decision in two months because her 5-year-old nephew (who you met once) isn’t invited!

Q: Are there any elements of wedding planning that couples commonly overlook? A: Remember to invest in the things you take with you after the day is over: photo and video. Far too often, couples decide against a videographer. That’s such a shame, because video allows you to relive the day in motion. It’s so special!

Q: Any advice for couples working with a tighter timeline? A: If you’re on a tight timeline, hire a full-scale planner! Most skilled planners can plan a wedding in a week. We have the connections and know the logistics, so it’s money well spent.

Q: Finally, the big question—can you recommend a timeline of major wedding planning milestones? A: A timeline is never as straightforward as couples might hope. That’s one of the biggest perks of having a planner—we know all the ins and outs! In many cases, the time of year and popularity of the vendor determine when you should book. For example: you want a well-known hairstylist for your fall wedding. A general timeline might suggest booking in spring, but there’s a good chance that stylist will already be booked for the busy fall season! The more popular and experienced the vendor, the earlier you should book. That said, the wedding timeline checklist below will help you get started!

Wedding To Do List

Make Guest List | 12+ Months

Book Venue | 12+ Months

Create Wedding Website | 12+ Months

Create Registry | 12+ Months

Emily’s Note: Create your registry and website ASAP—people will be eager to know all the details!

Book Photographer* | 10 to 12 Months

Book Caterer* | 10 to 12 Months

Book Florist* | 9 to 12 Months

How to Choose A Wedding Florist

Purchase Gown & Accessories | 9 to 12 Months

Emily’s Note: This allows ample time for gown delivery and alterations.
15 Wedding Dress Shopping Tips

Book Band or DJ | 7 to 10 Months

Send Save the Dates | 6 Months (if most guests

are local) to 8 Months (if most are out of town)

Purchase Bridal Party Dresses | 6 Months


Order Cake* | 6 Months

Purchase Groom & Groomsmen Attire

6 to 9 Months

Book Officiant | 5 to 11 Months

Book Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist* | 5 to 12 Months

Our Guide to Wedding Hair

Rent Linens & Furnishings* | 5 to 10 Months

Rent or Purchase Additional Décor

5 to 10 Months

See our Décor Checklist

Purchase Wedding Bands | 5 Months

Purchase or Assemble Favors & Wedding

Party Gifts | 2 Months

Emily’s Note: Order or assemble favors well in advance, so you don’t stress about them last-minute.

Send Invitations | 6 Weeks (if most guests

are local) to 8 Weeks (if most are out of town)

Emily’s Note: If you have A and B lists, allow ample time to send a second round of invitations.

Schedule Final Meetings with Vendors| 2 Weeks

2 Weeks

Take Engagement Ring for Cleaning | 1 Week

*Emily’s Note: Book these vendors as early as possible, particularly if they’re well-known in your area!

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