The ring is now on the finger. He got it all right- from the 4Cs (clarity, cut, colour and carat) to the proposal, you are the Mrs to be but now what? Planning a wedding can seem overwhelming (I had three, plus other wedding and cultural activities that shall be discussed in the wedding series) with so many tasks to be done. Don’t worry girl, this checklist got you!
The wedding planning processed step by step will be the most helpful thing for you. Breaking down the wedding planning, will keep you organised and keep stress at bay. The advised engagement length is between 12 to 14 months, with some advising up to 18 months. This is because wedding vendors get booked really quickly. I experienced this early on and made sure to stick to my deadlines. It is also the case when it comes to venues. Wedding venues can be booked two years in advance- so get in there as early as you can. My engagement length was 9/10 months, so I had a little less time than average.
So let’s break it down, to the 12 month countdown:
12 months +
I would advise this for every couple wanting to get married, engaged or even married. You can never go wrong with marriage counsel. Both my hubby and I went to marriage classes held at our churches as well as having one-to-one counselling with my pastor. I would even go so far as it being mandatory in your wedding planning process, having a neutral counsellor who can look at issues objectively as well as giving practical marriage advice really helps.
Dig into your favourite bridal magazines and social media pages for inspiration. I favourited, saved and screenshot several photos on the internet which I drew inspiration from. Some I took and some I did not, it is all about finding what works for you. My sister in law was kind enough to share her friend’s wedding moodboard book with me, which was lovely to go through and get ideas.
Buy a wedding planning journal
Wedding planner, wedding journal, wedding organiser, wedding notebook…however the shop names it, make sure you get yourself one. Whether it is a detailed wedding planner, a simple checklist, or a plain notebook or even a wedding planning app online- whatever option you go with it makes all the planning easier. Having a notebook where you can jot ideas, create to-do-lists in one place, is a life saver. I first started off writing things to do on my phone’s notes, then my mum got me a notebook to jot ideas down. My sister-friend who I grew up with, gifted me with a wedding planning journal which I treasure so much. The wedding journal was such a great help and got me focused early on with its must-dos, checklists and so forth.
It is all about the Queen Elizabeth’s baby (In my Biggie Voice & dropping all the pound emojis). It is time to get out the pen & paper, do some calculations and account for everything. Budgets and finance is not fun I tell you but its the most important thing to consider when planning. You have to figure out who is paying for what and determine your wedding budget.
What’s your priorities? That is the number one question you will need to ask yourself when budgeting. You will need to allocate funds to each potential vendor and service you would like on your day. Research will definitely come in handy when allocating funds. Ask those you know who are newlyweds and ask them how much they roughly spent on vendors and services. I asked friends who had recently got married on what they spent roughly on services, so I could get an rough idea when allocating funds. It is also time to create a spreadsheet to keep track of your wedding funds, do bear in mind though numbers will change as the months go on. For this reason, please allocate funds for things that may pop out of the blue.
Pick your wedding party
Deciding who will be in your bridal party, will be one of the most important decisions you will make during your wedding planning. Remember to choose those who will support you and your husband to be during this time.
The guest list
We all wish we could invite everyone to our weddings right? But we simply cannot. Finances play a big part in how big or small the guest list can be. Now I know also some people out of choice decide to have an intimate wedding regardless of whether they can afford it or not. Your wedding budget and finances will determine your guest list (see why I said wedding budgeting is the most important factor in planning). The easiest way to also creating your guest list is to look at your venue (how many people can it take?) Additionally, who is paying for what? If yourself and your partner is paying for the majority, then you may want to take the majority of your guest list. If it is your parents contributing the most, then they may want to have a say in the guest list also. It all depends on your circumstances but what I will say is that it is you & your partner’s day, have the people you want there to share in your joy. Then the final stage is to go through the list, negotiate, cut and cut some more until you reach the number set for your wedding.
Hiring a wedding planner, will depend on your commitments and finances. I believe a wedding planner can give you the peace of mind that you will definitely need as a bride to be and save you from stress so you can put your mind towards other things. The wedding planner will be your guide and should help with everything, from selecting a venue, to caterers, to tracking your budget, handling logistics and things you can’t even think about. I also believe that you can go without a wedding planner, if you can handle it on your own why not. If you have a supportive circle around you who can help in anyway possible, that is great also. I had a really great support system with my mum, aunties, family and friends who helped every step along the way. I decided to plan the wedding on my own with my support system. However, I knew from the very beginning I would definitely need a wedding coordinator on the day. A wedding coordinator, organises the wedding day and also leading up to the wedding he/she keeps track of vendors and logistics.
Reserve your date and venue
You found the love of your life, you know who you will be marrying but where will you be getting married? Choosing the venue will be another important decision to make. I know I have mentioned ‘this will be an..important to make’ a few times, but trust me this really is. Your venue effects everything from the theme, to the dates you want, to your caterer and to how many people you can have. The best one is that this will be where the biggest chunk of your wedding funds go to. So yes guys, it is really important. Explore different venues, go on site visits and select the one that not only you fall in love with but fits the key factors of the day (guests, theme and budget).
Decide overall theme
What did you always dream your wedding will be like as a little girl? I do not think I had this experience. Yes I talked with friends on how what I would like it to be. However I had no set ideas. When my husband and I decided our themes for our weddings, we based it on colours that we liked and chose to keep it classic and simple (so when we looked at the pictures in 30 years time, we would not think ‘ewww what were we thinking’).
As much as your wedding guests love you and want to be there for the most special day, they do look forward to the wedding chops. So go with caterers who you believe who will deliver on the day- whether this is one of the venue’s in house caterers or a private caterer. Also start to have a look at mixlogist vendors and those who will be servicing the bar at your wedding.
Save the dates
Time to send the save the dates to your guests. Exciting times!
Booked and Busy Vendors- Photographers, Videographers, MUAs, MC/Host, DJ, Hairstylist, Decor & Florist
All the things that make you, your hubby and bridal party look lit, this is it. All the things that make your day lit, this is it. In other words, these are the people that will make or break your day and create the memories that will last forever. Do all the research you can, go to consultations, ask former Brides and Brides to be for their recommendations. Also, let your mind go back to the weddings you attended and enjoyed, ask the Bride and Groom who their vendors were- do not be afraid! Keep in mind the best vendors do book up quickly, some are booked a year in advance. I have personal experience of this, I will tell you that story later.
Find the wedding dress
You may already have an idea of what you want. You may not have a clue of what you want either. I did, I had a few. My ideas were very different, so I struggled to think how to get it in all in one…but we shall discuss this later. Finding a wedding dress is trial and error, look for inspiration on the net, on social media and write what you like and what you do not like. You already have met the one and you will find the wedding dress for you.
Do remember to leave some time for a couple of fittings, the advice I received was to have your dress at least 6 months before. This is so you leave time for alterations and fittings that need to be done. Veil shopping can be done also a couple of months beforehand.
If you can work with hotels nearby your venue to get good rates for your guests. We worked with our venue plus other hotels to reserve rooms and get discounted rates.
Take engagement photos
Time to start practicing before the big day, when yourself & your husband will be the centre of attention. Also, you can use your engagement shoot for wedding stationery & your website.
Create wedding website
Create a personal page with the date of your wedding, ceremony & reception details, transport, accommodation & travel.
9 to 8 months
Register for gifts
Include items that you will need in the journey post wedding, so think household staple items e.g cutlery, glassware & tableware and bedding. Some also request to donate to charity or just tailor their registry to their lifestyles. There is also the option of requesting monetary gifts.
When it comes to bridesmaids’ dress shopping, ask your girlfriends to come along. The wedding boutique from where I brought my dress, also does bridesmaids’ dresses as well as eveningwear. So I got lucky and did not shop far. I had it in mind for them to get it custom made, but we found it at the boutique. With bridesmaids’ dresses allow at least 6 months, for them to be ordered, fitted and sized to each bridesmaid.
7 to 6 months
If you are going custom, make sure you leave enough time to hire a graphic designer, stationer or calligrapher. The wedding invitation gives an important impression as to the theme of the day and that is why you want to get it right. Try to include the themes and colours of your day on the invitation as well. We ordered our invitations from abroad, they worked out cheaper that way and we also did e-invites as well.
Planning your honeymoon
It has been advised by many to have booked your honeymoon at least five months before your wedding date but do start planning before that. Make sure whilst planning, that you check your passports are up to date, that you are clued up on the shots and travel information that you need.
Rental items, Chair Hire, Lighting, Structural and Electrical Items
This may not even be in your head or even on your wedding checklist. Do not forget, I repeat do not forget. If you are having an outdoor wedding, do not forget to book portable toilets. Additionally, your decor vendor may not cover dance floors or chair hire. So double check with your vendors and source other vendors who will take care of this. With electrical items such as projectors and mikes, you may need to also source vendors for this. I left this a little too late, thankfully my venue managed to sort it all out for us.
Hire an officiant
Who is going to marry the both of you? If you are both religious, inform the religious leader of the necessary details. If not find the person who will officiate the ceremony. This is also the time to plan for any legal wedding notices or licences that you have to apply for the country you reside in.
Let them eat cake
Look on the net- instagram and pinterest are a great help for cake designs. Then search for a baker, making sure you read all the reviews (scroll all the way down honey). Also, go to tastings so that you do not end up choosing a baker based on only how the cake looks, you want to love the cake filling as well as how pretty it is. Both yourself and your partner should love the look and taste of the cake, do not be afraid to stray away from the traditional. The cake should express who the both of you are as a couple.
5 to 4 months
Will you have music during your ceremony? It is time to figure this all out.
How will be you riding in style? A bicycle, vintage car, motorbike or limo. Also think of your guests if the venue and ceremony are very far apart, maybe hiring a shuttle bus will help. In addition, your bridal party will also need transport.
Book rehearsal dinner
Traditionally, the groom’s family pay for the rehearsal dinner. It is also traditional to have family and friends at this dinner, with a couple of a speeches. We had an intimate dinner with our bridal party after our rehearsal the night before the big day.
Buy wedding bands
One for him and one for her.
Hair and Make up Trials
Have some ideas saved on your phone and done some research before going for your trials. The trials are a time to know what works for you and what does not.
- Finalise menu and flowers
- Order favours/gift bags
- Buy wedding shoes and undergarments
- Write your vows
- Select your readings
- Finalise your ceremony and reception order
- Order/create guest place settings
- Order/create menu cards
- Order wedding stationery- table numbers/names, floor plan (seating chart), programme order, welcome signs and guest, guest book and gift box
- Bridal shower/Hen party/Bachelorette party
- Buy your small items- cake knife, cake stand, flower girl and page boy accessories, bridal party robes etc
- Final dress fitting- go with your maid of honour and mother, or whoever who will be helping you dress on the day.
- Meet with the Officiant
- Send out final payments
- Purchase thank you gifts for the bridal party
- Give song selections to DJ
- Create timeline of the day with wedding planner or coordinator
1 week to go
You have finally made it! Only one week to go and all is left is the itty bitty details:
- Final visit to the venue with wedding planner or coordinator
- Reconfirm arrival times with vendors with wedding planner or coordinator
- Send a timeline of the day to the bridal party, make sure also that the wedding planner/coordinator has everyone important on the day (bridal party, parents of the bride and groom) numbers
- Delegate small wedding day tasks to family and friends
- Hair treatments
- Manicure/pedicure and get your nails pretty.
- Book a spa treatment or something fun before the big day
- Pack your bags for the wedding day and honeymoon
- Clean your ring so it is looking extra sparkly on the day- pay a visit to the jeweller.
- Practice your vows
- Break into your wedding shoes
- Clear out your work responsibilities and focus on your wedding
The night before and the morning of
The night before
- Eat a good healthy meal
- You should have packed your wedding bag or suitcase (see above). Do not forget to pack things such as medication and survival items (things like needle and thread which your wedding coordinator/planner will also have) and put them all in the car.
- Get a good night sleep
The morning of
- Write your partner a note- it can be a text message, whatsapp or however you will like to communicate to your boo. Just something to let your other half know you cannot wait to be with them for the rest of your life.
- Relax and stay away from stress for example my wedding coordinator took my phone away from me when she saw me on it.
- Eat breakfast and drink lots of water. I was too nervous to eat and I only managed to eat an apple, I made sure my bridesmaids were eating with breakfast treats I had got for them.
- The dress and veil to be taken out of bag or box
- Lay out all your jewellery, perfume and shoes.
- Thank everyone and be in a joyous mood- it is your wedding day, enjoy.
We have reached the end of my wedding checklist. Now darlings, it is not the be all and end all. Nor is it the ultimate must do wedding checklist. It is just my advice and advice that I have taken from others. This checklist is applicable to what I and many people in my culture describe as the ‘white wedding’. Though people usually have a 12-14 month engagement to plan, many also do not and have a short period of time to plan. You can squeeze in as many things in as you want in your time of planning.
And if you are a bride to be, Congrats darling! Enjoy the planning. If you are a former bride or a newlywed, do you not just miss it all? If you are single and wish to marry, take this all in-there is nothing better than a clued up, prepared and organised bride.
Stay Blessed x