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The Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist

Weddings can be stressful. Use our wedding planning checklist to help make the planning a little less stressful. From the initial planning stage to the big day.

By Hannah Purvis

Picture this - you're recently engaged and in the throws of celebrating this momentous occasion. You're calling friends and distant relatives to share the news and to bask in the excitement that everyone is sending your way. You find yourself staring at your ring finger and gesturing with your left hand more often than not. The only topic of conversation that hangs in the air is the proposal story and retelling it to anyone who'll listen - your coworkers, the local barista - you get the point. The thought of wedding planning is looming in the distance. It's thrilling, but it’s a lot and you have no idea where to start. Sound familiar?

newly married couple about to kiss.png

I know exactly how this feels. As a recently engaged woman, I've found myself searching the depths of the internet, looking for some magical source of guidance to hold my hand through the various elements of wedding planning. To highlight even the most miniscule details that I might forget along the way, and to ensure my special day is as seamless as can be. For those who want a more hands-off approach, I encourage you to hire a full-service wedding planner. But if you're like me and enjoy being involved in the planning process, I've got just the thing for you!

  • How Do I Start Planning My Wedding
  • Initial Planning Points
  • Determining Your Guest List
  • Select a Venue
  • Decide a Theme
  • Book Your Wedding Vendors
  • Accomodations
  • Rehearsal Dinner
  • Day-of Timelines/ Details
  • Attire
  • Legalities
  • Paper Products
  • Gifts and Favors
  • Additional Planning Points

How Do I Start Planning My Wedding?

This checklist for wedding planning is meant to be an intensive guide that's broken into easily digestible categories, so you feel confident that every element of your day is accounted for. It's the list that I myself have used for planning my wedding and I'm excited that we're doing this together!

wedding planning checklist.png

Initial Planning Points

  • Decide on your overall wedding budget.
  • Choose what season/month you want to get married and try to lock in a date.
  • Start visualizing the theme of your wedding and what type of venue may lend best to this vision.
  • Try to roughly estimate the headcount you want to stick to.
  • This will help you decide on the rule for plus-ones and who you want to prioritize inviting.
  • Decide whether or not you want to hire a full-service wedding planner. You can also choose to hire a wedding coordinator just for day-of activities if you want to take the lead on planning each and every detail! Additionally, If you're looking to plan a destination wedding, consider working with a travel coordinator or planner that specializes in that area.

Bride with her bridesmaids.png

Determining Your Guest List

  • Start by writing down a list of everyone that you would ideally like to see on your wedding day.
  • Determine your rule for plus ones. For instance, will they only go to those who are married or in serious relationships?
  • From your initial guest list, consider the headcount you want to stick to and break the names into an A/B list. This will be who is first priority and who you'll invite once RSVPs come back and you have a better idea of guest count.
  • Decide if you want a kid friendly or an adult only wedding and consider whether or not you'd like to provide childcare at your venue.
  • Choose your wedding party

outdoor wedding venue.png

Select a Venue

  • Tour a few venues.
  • Consider if the chosen wedding venue has ideal space for your ceremony, cocktail hour, reception and suites to get ready in.
  • Consider lodging and whether there are onsite or local accommodation options for you and your guests.
  • Make sure to find out what's included in the venue pricing and whether there are any rules or limitations on guest count and vendors.
  • Ask about any needed liability insurance, as some venues require this.
  • If you plan to run any slideshows, photos or videos during your event, make sure the venue has proper AV equipment and someone who is able to get this set up.

center pieces for a wedding.png

Decide on a Theme

  • Plan out any details related to a theme and source inspiration from Pinterest for your big day!
  • Decide on a color palette
  • Make a list of specific decor pieces you want at your ceremony and reception, such as a unique guest book, signage, and more.

Book Your Wedding Vendors

appetizers served at a wedding


When considering catering, you not only need to consider the type of food you want to serve your guests but how they're served. Whether you choose a buffet style or plated arrangement could depend on the available kitchen space that your venue has. Some venues even require that you use in-house catering, so be sure to ask about this when touring spaces. Additional considerations are allergies and special dietary restrictions. Make sure to run through these with your catering team beforehand.


Bar Options

Depending on the venue you choose for your wedding, you may be required to use in-house bar staff. Typically, when choosing a drink package, you're able to choose an open bar, full-tab, or cash bar. Your budget, as well as the demographics of your guests can help you determine what's right for you. Consider offering a signature cocktail for a personal touch!

wedding cake


Choosing a cake is definitely one of the more fun elements of wedding planning, as most bakeries offer tastings prior to choosing! Be sure to go over the cutting of the cake with either the bakery or the serving staff, as some vendors charge extra to provide cake-cutting services.

wedding bouquet of flowers


When planning your theme and decor, take time to consider the different floral elements you'll want to be showcased on your wedding day. Most people only consider the bridal/bridal party bouquets, however, you also need to consider additional elements such as centerpieces, boutonnières, arch, and aisle decor, etc.

There are also companies that offer floral pickup services after the wedding. They will repurpose your floral and greenery elements to deliver to nursing homes and hospitals. It's a great way to continue sharing the love from your special day!

wedding photos in black in white


What could easily be one of the most important vendors to choose is your wedding photographer. I highly recommend doing research on photographers in your area that have a breadth of experience in the style you want. For instance, some photographers focus more on family shoots than weddings and others have a highly artistic and moody style of capturing the day. You want to make sure that your photographer's vision aligns with how you want to remember your wedding day. Jump on Instagram or Facebook and search photographers based on your city to learn more.

groom kissing his bride


Not all couples opt to have a videographer capture the day, but it can be a unique and sentimental way to relive the wedding day for years to come. Despite so many guests likely having smartphones and the ability to record footage themselves, hiring a professional is a way to tell your story in a context that is fitting to your relationship. Consider hiring a videographer who specializes in film and captures your special day on a Super 8 camera. Or consider a visually stunning montage of some of the smaller and more intimate moments that you will be too preoccupied to capture yourself. Have them film guest interviews, behind-the-scenes shots of your bridal party getting ready and other moments you’re sure to cherish for a lifetime. We promise it’s worth it!

seats in a shuttle

Shuttle Services

This applies to venues that are not within reasonable distance to accommodation or within a convenient route for ride share pickups. You may want to consider offering a shuttle to take guests back to the allotted hotel after the event to avoid parking concerns and any worries about alcohol consumption.

wedding updo hair

Hair and Makeup

Search for local hair and makeup artists with good reviews and make sure to provide reference photos and book a test date before your wedding, so you're confident in your stylist and your look going into your special day!

tables and chairs at a wedding

Furniture/Decor Rentals

Depending on whether or not your venue offers seating, tables, and dishware, you may need to find a rental company to book with. You can also use rental companies to find unique decor pieces! Make sure you have a good understanding of whose responsibility it is to set up and take down these rentals so you aren't stuck doing it yourself (or with an extra charge) on your wedding night.

first dance at a wedding

DJ or Live Band

Decide on your preference for entertainment and if that's a DJ or a live band. Once you choose your vendor, compile a playlist of important songs for the day, such as the first dance of your exit song for their reference.

hotel accommodations


Decide where you want to stay the night of your wedding and plan a ride to the destination if it's off-site!

Many hotels will allow you to reserve blocks of rooms for wedding guests that they can reserve online for a certain period of time. This will limit confusion for those coming from out of town, provide a convenience for guests and ease the planning of a post-wedding shuttle.

decor on wedding tables

Rehearsal Dinner

Decide whether or not you want your rehearsal dinner to be held at your venue and if it's available that night for you to come and start setting up.

Once you decide on the location, determine who needs to be there for the run-through.

ideas for wedding photos

Day-of Timelines/ Details

There are various timelines and small details that should be hashed out before the wedding day to avoid any unnecessary stress or confusion. By hiring a day of planner, you can easily delegate the organization of the following timelines.

  • Set a time that your bridal party should arrive and consider how long it will take each person to get ready so that the event can start on time.

  • The order that your bridal party will walk down the aisle and who is partnered with whom.

  • Consider any religious or personal ceremony items that you'd like, such as the lighting of a unity candle or personal anecdotes from family.

  • Choose who will give speeches or toasts during the reception, and give the order to the DJ or wedding planner to facilitate.

  • Make sure your seating chart is finalized and that there is an easy-to-follow organization of name cards so your guests know where they're supposed to be.

  • Overall, make sure you have a fully planned timeline of the day and the order that different elements of the ceremony and reception should take place.

wedding dresses


  • Decide on the dress code that you want your guests to adhere to.

  • Choose your perfect wedding dress or suit and coordinate dates for additional fittings, alterations, and pickup. Make sure to account for shoes and other accessories prior to alterations, so you're confident that everything fits perfectly and looks great together!

  • Select the color for your bridal party and make sure you give them plenty of time to order their outfits!

signing marriage license


  • Visit your local courthouse or go online to ensure you've filed everything correctly to obtain your marriage license.

  • Choose your officiant! You can hire someone who officiates weddings professionally, but it could also be incredibly meaningful to choose a loved one and have them go through the simple process of getting ordained online.

  • Start filling out name-change paperwork ahead of time to avoid stress right around or after the wedding day.

wedding invitations

Paper Products

  • Create your wedding invitation and unique save-the-dates for free using, or order a personalized suite on Etsy.

  • Make sure you buy lots of stamps and speak with the post office about how many stamps are needed per card prior to sending.

  • Design custom signage, name cards, menus and more on Etsy or speak to a local printing/design company to handle this.

thank you gifts for wedding

Gifts and Favors

  • Wedding favors don't have to be boring! Consider a unique favor such as a grab bag of midnight snacks for the road, a steal the glass favor or a donation in honor of a charity that's important to you.

  • Bridal party gifts can be a nice way to say thank you to those you're closest with for being a part of your special day. You can use this as a chance to get them matching accessories to wear the day of like earrings or robes, or take a more personalized approach with a framed picture or something handmade.

  • Giving a small gift to your parents and inlaws on your wedding morning can be a small but meaningful touch. Some ideas are jewelry to wear, monogrammed shawls, or custom cufflinks!

  • The last gift that can really start the day off right is a small gift or note for your spouse to open, to let them know you're thinking about them. The wedding morning can present even the calmest and most collected person with some nerves, so knowing your partner is right there with you will mean a lot.

walking down the aisle after "I do"

Additional Planning Points

  • Buy your wedding bands
  • Choose a signature scent for your day-of and save it to wear for future anniversaries.
  • Write your vows
  • Set up your wedding website/gift registry. Learn more about how to set up a honeymoon registry by visiting our homepage.
  • Plan/book your honeymoon
  • Take a deep breath and get ready for a new and exciting chapter of your life!

kissing the bride

I know that this list may seem daunting at first glance - it was for me too - but my hope is that it can be a helpful resource for you as you walk through the various stages of planning your wedding. This period of your life will inevitably present you with stresses you may not have seen coming. However, it will also be such a beautiful time for you to bond with your partner as you inch closer to your new life together. So don't be overwhelmed, you've got this! Remember what you're celebrating and get excited, because we're excited for you!

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