The Ultimate Wedding Planning Timeline
Congratulations! It’s official! You just got engaged and you’re ready to start your lives together. Now what? Good question! It’s easy to get overwhelmed with wedding planning and a seemingly endless list of decisions and to-dos. Don’t stress! The wedding experts at Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel are here to help make the planning process easy for you, which is why we put together a wedding planning timeline of specific to-to do items. While every couple has their own process and every wedding is a little different, the below should serve as a good roadmap on your way to saying “I do!”
12 Months Before the Wedding
Host an engagement party.
If you choose to have one, engagement parties are a memorable way of celebrating the big news with close family and friends — and a great excuse to show off the ring!
Set your wedding budget.
It’s easy to get excited and jump into planning mode right away, but it’s important to take a step back and look at your finances with your future spouse. What can you realistically spend on a wedding? Are family members or friends planning to help with some of the expenses? A firm budget will help guide every step of the way. It’s also a good time to talk about what aspects of the wedding are most important to you and where you may be able to cut back to help reduce costs.
Start researching themes, styles, and vendors.
Now is the time to start browsing the internet, books, and magazines and organizing your thoughts into a wedding binder or Pinterest board. You never know what may inspire you or spark some new ideas. If a particular venue or vendor catches your eye, consider contacting them right away to set up a consultation or tour. Don’t forget to keep your budget in mind and start estimating some costs.
Start planning your guest list.
Who do you want to include in your big day? A rough headcount is going to be important as you plan and consider the ceremony location, reception venue, and catering options. You may have to cut your guest list to stay within budget or venue capacity, so consider organizing your guest list in a way that makes it easier to narrow down if necessary.
Set a date & book the venue.
Picking a wedding date and venue often go hand-in-hand. Start by picking a target date for the big day, then pick a few backup options in case the venue you want isn’t available on that date. Once you have the date(s) in mind, contact the venue and get ready to put a deposit down to reserve it. Be very clear on cancellation policies, what’s included, and what is or is not allowed at the venue before signing anything or paying anything upfront.
Assemble your bridal party.
Who do you need by your side on your wedding day? It’s a big decision that you shouldn’t take lightly. You’ll want to assemble your squad early on in the planning process — especially if you’re having a destination wedding that may require additional travel time and money. Bridesmaids, groomsmen, and attendants will need to mark the date on their calendars, request off of work, and start collaborating for bridal showers and bachelor/bachelorette parties, so be sure to give them plenty of time.
If members of your bridal party don’t know each other already, it might be a good idea to host a dinner or night out so everyone can get acquainted. Since couples often vary on how involved they want their bridal party to be during planning, it’s also best to be upfront with those standing up so everyone is clear on expectations and deadlines from the get-go.
Hire a wedding planner.
If you’re opting to work with a wedding planner, this is the time to book. Much like venues, they book up fast. You’ll want to make sure you get on their client list before their schedule gets too jam-packed.
8-9 Months Before the Wedding
Start booking your vendors.
Booking dates vary from vendor to vendor, but by now you should be solidifying who you want to work with, putting money down, and signing contracts to reserve your date. You may need to have multiple consultations and tastings, so it’s good to get the process started early. Some of the vendors to consider booking at this time include caterers, cake decorators, entertainment, transportation, florists, photographers, and videographers. At the very least, you should have a good idea of how far in advance a specific wedding vendor books out or when payments are due so you don’t miss out.
Shop for your wedding dress & bridesmaids dresses.
Shopping for dresses is a highlight of the wedding process for many of the brides we work with at Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel. It makes it feel “official” when you put on that perfect dress for the first time. Starting the process early assures you have plenty of time to find the dream dress and have any and all alterations and customizations done before the big day. If you specific shoes, undergarments, or jewelry, plan to bring it along to fittings to make sure it works with the dress.
Book your officiant.
Whether working with a place of worship or asking a loved one to perform the ceremony, now is the time to officially book your wedding officiant. Officiants also need time to check availability, plan the service, etc. Many places of worship also have specific requirements — such as marriage preparation courses or meetings with the pastor/priest — that you may have to fulfill before the big day.
Reserve hotel (if not part of the venue).
Since many guests may be coming from out of town, wedding lodging options are a must. Wedding ceremonies and receptions that take place in hotel banquet halls, ballrooms, or courtyards make it easy to take advantage of the attached hotel rooms, but that isn’t always the case. If your venue is not attached to or near any accommodations, now is the time to contact local hotels and reserve blocks of rooms for your guests. Oftentimes, reserving a number of rooms at once and booking early will get you discounted rates and special perks.
6 Months Before the Wedding
If there are any wedding vendors yet to book, it’s time to make it official. Also, if there’s anything your vendors are waiting on you for — such as an updated headcount or approval on the menu, flowers, fabrics, etc. — be sure to touch base and finalize details.
Plan your wedding registry.
If you plan to create a wedding registry for your guests, you’ll want to do so before sending out the official invitations to your shower or wedding. Creating a registry can be a fun bonding activity for couples to do together. Before creating your registry, be sure to have a heart-to-heart with your significant other, go through your belongings, and decide what you actually need for this new chapter in your life. That way, your registry is organized, cohesive, and a reflection of who you are as a couple.
Create a wedding website.
Wedding websites can be a great organizational asset for happy couples and their guests. While each site is a little different, most websites include information about the couple (how they met, the proposal details, etc.) as well as wedding specifics (event dates, times, venue, registry, etc.) that guests want to know. Many sites even allow guests to easily RSVP or pick their menu option online as well. If you plan to create a website, you’ll want to have it up and running before sending out Save the Dates and official invitations so that you can include the website address on the invites.
Send Save the Date cards.
There’s no set in stone rule when it comes to Save the Dates, but six months ahead of time is a pretty good starting point. People are busy and calendars fill up fast, so we generally like to operate on “the earlier, the better” mantra — especially if you’re planning a destination wedding that will require more money, time, and planning from your guests.
3-4 Months Before the Wedding
Purchase your wedding bands.
Now is the time to head to your jeweler of choice and get those wedding rings! Going in a few months before the big day allows you to check out different styles and price ranges, add any customization (such as engraving or special gemstones), and have the ring sized appropriately.
Book your honeymoon.
If you’re planning a honeymoon for shortly after your wedding, it’s time to start finalizing your travel and accommodations. Booking a few months ahead of time allows you to scope out the best flights and hotel deals and have everything ready to go. If you’re planning your post-wedding getaway during a prime travel season (such as holidays, spring break, etc.), you may want to consider booking even earlier.
If you need to order or update your passports, you’ll want to do that at this time as well. It generally takes 6 to 8 weeks to get a passport, sometimes longer. You don’t want to be rushing to get them at the last minute.
Organize groom/groomsmen attire.
While men’s apparel doesn’t require nearly as many consultations and fittings as dresses, measurements and ordering does take time. Have the men in the wedding get their suits or tuxedos ordered and ready to go for the big day.
Attend your wedding shower.
If loved ones are throwing you a bridal shower, generally it’s around the time. Get ready to attend, relax, and enjoy your special day with family and friends. Once the wedding shower is over, plan to send out thank you cards within the next few weeks so they arrive in plenty of time before the wedding.
Book your hair and spa appointments.
Your wedding is one of the biggest days of your life and you deserve to feel your best. If you have someone specific in mind to pamper you on your wedding day, you’ll want to be sure and schedule your appointments before schedules fill up. It’s also good to plan for a trial run and a quick cut/color a few weeks before the wedding so you can get a good idea of how your hair and makeup will look.
2 Months Before the Wedding
Organize wedding favors and bridal party gifts.
Now you’re starting to get into the nitty-gritty details. At this point you should be finalizing what you want to give as wedding favors to your guests, as well as special gifts for your bridal party, parents, grandparents, and other guests of honor. You want to be sure you give yourself plenty of time to order the special gifts online or make them if you opt for the DIY route.
Send out the wedding invitations.
You’ve already sent out save the dates, but now it’s time to send out the official invitations. You’ll want to do this about 8 weeks ahead of time to give guests plenty of time to send RSVPs and reserve lodging and travel accommodations now that the date is getting closer. Once invitations are sent, it’s helpful to have a checklist so you can easily mark when someone returns an RSVP.
6 Weeks Before the Wedding
If you and your future spouse are writing your own vows, it’s not something you should save to the last minute. They’re important! Start thinking about what you want to say and write down any special moments, phrases, or quotes that come to mind that may be a good fit for your vows. Once you have a good rough draft written, take a few weeks to practice them to yourself and in front of trusted family or friends so they’re polished for the big day.
Apply for a marriage license.
This is an important step to make the marriage official. Generally, this can be done online or in person at your local governing agency and may take a few days or weeks to process. Requirements may differ from state to state, but they generally include:
- Birth certificate
- Photo identification
- Social Security number
- Proof of citizenship and/or residence
- Parental consent (if underage)
- Divorce decree (if divorced)
- Death certificate (if widowed)
You want to apply for a marriage license in the state and county you’ll be married in. If you’re planning a destination wedding, you may have to do some digging or reach out to the local clerk to see what you need to do. If you’ll be visiting Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel or the surrounding area, learn more about applying for marriage licenses in Orange County.
2-4 Weeks Before the Wedding
Have a haircut and spa day.
Remember that appointment you scheduled a while back? The day is here! You want to look and feel your best for your special day, so go all out with a fresh cut/color, and any waxing, tanning, or other spa treatments necessary. It’s also a good time to discuss and do a trial run of hair and makeup to make sure it’s what you want for the big day as well.
While a fresh, polished look is good, most stylists advise against a completely new style/color or using new products so close to your big day. If you’re using new hair care or cosmetic products, be sure to test them during your trial run to make sure you won’t have a reaction to them on your wedding day.
Attend pre-wedding celebrations and bachelor/bachelorette parties.
If your loved ones are throwing you a bachelor or bachelorette party, it is customary to have it in the weeks leading up to your wedding. There’s no doubt that planning a wedding is stressful, so take some time to enjoy your last few weeks of “singleness” before starting this exciting new journey with your partner.
Final dress fitting.
By this point, all the alterations and customizations should be done, which means it’s time to go have your final bridal gown fitting. Much like when you first tried ‘the dress’ on, it is truly a magical feeling when you see the final version of your wedding dress.
Go through RSVPs
The wedding is coming up fast so you’ll need your final headcount. Go through RSVPs that have been returned and compare it against your guest list. Start contacting those who you haven’t heard from yet to get a final answer.
Create a wedding program for the ceremony.
If you opt to have printed programs at your wedding, head to the nearest printer to get them all set to go.
Arrange for meals on your big day.
Between hair appointments, pictures, and prepping for the ceremony, breakfast, lunch, and snacks are often overlooked. Talk to your venue about catering options, arrange for someone on the bridal party to grab takeout, or plan a shopping list to take care of things yourself! Stock up on plenty of bottled water and mess-free snacks for the day!
Deliver a list of must-have shot to photographers and videographers.
There is only so much time to take photos and video, so it’s important to be organized. Leading up to the wedding, get your media professionals a list of those “must-have” shots, including names and locations. You’ll save time, minimize confusion, and all the memorable moments (and important people) will be captured on the big day.
Deliver final song list to DJ/entertainment.
Music and entertainment is an important part of any wedding reception. Once you’ve narrowed down the song choices for the important moments (like the first dance, father/daughter dance, etc.), be sure to let your entertainment team know. DJs should make sure they have the song on hand, especially if it’s a lesser-known track. Live musicians may need time to learn and rehearse the song if it’s not already in their repertoire. Either way, you want to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
1 Week Before the Wedding
Pick up any last minute items.
From nylons and hair ties to decor items and thank you cards, there are sure to be some last minute items that you’ll need. You’ll want to go now so you can finish up all the last minute to-do items and not be stressing at the last second. If possible, keep an ongoing list throughout the planning process to save time and minimize the number of trips to the store.
Finalize the seating chart.
By now all your RSVPs should be in, which means it’s time to finalize the seating chart for dinner and the ceremony. Creating the perfect seating chart is an art form in and of itself, especially with larger or split families. With that in mind, you may need to enlist the help of your parents to seat their friends and extended family members. Keep in mind that tables closest to the head table and the happy couple are typically reserved for immediate family.
You may want to have your bridal party “host” tables and encourage mingling, have a separate table for kids, or simply assign a table number and let the guests seat themselves as appropriate.
Provide the final headcount to the venue and caterers.
Once your seating chart is done, you’ll need to contact the venue and the caterers so they can start making the final arrangements on their end of things. Try to be as accurate as possible with your headcount to avoid ordering the wrong amount of food or having an overcrowded, congested space.
2-3 Days Before the Wedding
Finalize the “day of” schedule.
There’s a lot that needs to happen in a short amount of time on your wedding day, so it’s important to have a firm schedule to keep people on track. In the days leading up to the wedding, you’ll want to put together a list of important tasks or events, when it’s happening, and who is responsible for it or needs to be there. The more details you provide, the smoother things will be. Be sure to share the list with your vendors, officiant, bridal party, parents, etc. When planning, take into account travel time and weather, both of which can impact your schedule and how long specific tasks may take and when people will arrive.
Get a manicure done.
There are sure to be lots of people looking at your ring and shaking your hand. To be sure you are “picture-perfect,” take the time to get a manicure before the wedding. A standard french tip or a color that matches your wedding decor is sure to pop!
Put together your wedding day emergency kit.
Another wedding mantra to live by is “hope for the best, plan for the worst.” You should be prepared and ready to go with a well-stocked wedding day emergency kit. Oftentimes, this is something your maid-of-honor or bridal party can put together for you. While survival kits may vary, here are some potential items to include:
- Phone charger
- A mini sewing kit
- Makeup remover
- Blotting papers
- Bobby pins and hair ties
- Feminine products
- Nail polish (one clear, one in the shade the bride is wearing)
- Nail clippers and file
- First aid kit with band-aids
- Medication (pain reliever, allergy medicine, antacids)
- Bug spray
- Grab-and-go snacks
- Water bottle
- Super Glue
- Fabric tape
- Pen & post-It notes
- Stain remover pen or wipes
- Lint roller
- Glasses or contacts/contact solution
- Safety pins
- Corsage pins
- Extra batteries
Get dresses steamed and pressed.
Hopefully, your wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses have been hanging at the shop or in a closet to avoid wrinkles. Even with taking precautions, you may need to get your dress pressed or steamed before the big day. Wedding gowns are delicate, so be sure to follow all care and fabric instructions and use caution during travel to avoid any mishaps.
Provide vendors with emergency phone numbers and contact information.
While your vendors have likely been working closely with you or your significant other throughout the planning process, you’ll have your hands full on the day of the event. That may mean you have to designate another loved one to be the point person if vendors have questions or concerns. Be sure you let vendors know who they should touch base with on the day of the ceremony and provide the proper phone number.
1 Day Before the Wedding
Decorate the ceremony and reception locations.
While rules vary from venue to venue, many will let you decorate the hall (or oversee decoration) the day before your wedding. Having that option is nice because it gives you time to make any last minute changes or shopping trips if need be. You’ll get the final look and make sure everything is ready to go!
Enjoy your wedding rehearsal.
At this point, the only thing left to do is go through specifics at the wedding rehearsal and bask in the excitement of the event.
Plan Your Wedding with Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel
Remember, planning your wedding should be fun. When you partner with Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel, it will be! Our castle-themed hotel makes for a magical backdrop for your fairytale wedding in the SoCal area. Check out our wedding packages and FAQs. When you’re ready to learn more, contact our wedding experts.