To plan the perfect celebration, use this comprehensive checklist, with a timeline based on a 16-month engagement.
16 - 9 months before
Start a wedding binder. Begin leafing through bridal, lifestyle, fashion, gardening, design, and food magazines for inspiration.
Work out your budget. Determine how much you have to spend, based on your families’ contributions and your own.
Pick your wedding party. As soon as you’re engaged, people will start wondering who’s in.
Start the guest list. Make a head count spreadsheet, with columns for contact info, RSVPs, gifts, and any other relevant information.
Hire a planner, if desired. A planner will have relationships with—and insights about—vendors.
Reserve your date and venues. Decide whether to have separate locations for the ceremony & reception. Factor in travel time between them.
Book your officiant.
Research photographers, bands, florists, and caterers. Keep their contact information in your binder.
Throw an engagement party, if you wish. But remember that your invitees should be on your wedding guest list as well.
Eight Months Before
Hire the photographer and the videographer. No need to talk specifics yet, but be sure they are open to doing the shots that you want.
Book the entertainment. Attend gigs of potential acts to see how they perform in front of audiences, then reserve your favorite.
Meet caterers. If your wedding venue doesn’t offer its own catering service, look for one now and hire the service this month or early next.
Purchase a dress. You’ll need to schedule time for at least three fittings. Veil shopping can be postponed for another two to three months.
Reserve a block of hotel rooms for out-of-town guests. Pick three hotels at different price points close to the reception venue.
Register. Sign up at a minimum of three retailers.
Launch a wedding website. Create your personal page through a free provider such as .
Seven to Six Months Before
Select and purchase invitations. Hire a calligrapher, if desired. Addressing cards is time-consuming, so you need to budget accordingly.
Start planning a honeymoon. Make sure that your passports are up-to-date & schedule doctors’ appointments for any shots you may need.
Shop for bridesmaids’ dresses. Allow at least six months for the dresses to be ordered and sized.
Meet with the officiant. Map out the ceremony and confirm that you have all the official documents for the wedding.
Send save-the-date cards.
Reserve structural and electrical necessities. Book portable toilets for outdoor events, extra chairs if needed, lighting components, etc.
Book a florist. Florists can serve multiple clients on one day, so you can wait a little longer to engage one.
Arrange transportation. Consider limos, minibuses, trolleys, and town cars.
Start composing a day-of timeline. Draw up a schedule of the event and slot in each component (the cake-cutting, the first dance).
Five to Four Months Before
Book the rehearsal and rehearsal-dinner venues. Negotiate the cost & menu. If you’re hosting a day-after brunch for guests, book that too.
Check on the wedding invitations. Ask the stationer for samples of the finished invitations and revise them to suit your needs.
Select and order the cake. Some bakers require a long lead time. Attend several tastings before committing to any baker.
Send your guest list to the host of your shower. Provided you, ahem, know about the shower.
Purchase wedding shoes and start dress fittings. Bring the shoes to your first fitting so the tailor can choose the appropriate gown length.
Schedule hair and makeup artists. Make a few appts with local experts to try them out. Snap a photo at each so you can compare results.
Choose your music. What should be playing when the wedding party is announced? During dinner? Keep a running list of what to play.