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The Emily Post Guide to Planning a Wedding

Planning a wedding can be one of the most exciting times in life. Whether it is something you have always dreamed about for yourself, something you want to do well for a partner, a chance to help your child celebrate one of life's biggest moments, or a re-commitment ceremony that takes on new meaning with the passage of time, there is so much to keep track of. Use this handy countdown by month to stay on schedule and bring a sense of ease to your wedding planning.

1-2 Years Before The Wedding

  • Get engaged (here's how to plan a proposal, if you haven't already)
  • Announce your engagement to friends and family, and in any newspapers if desired.
  • Decide the date and time of your wedding.
  • Review the duties of the bride, groom, and others involved in the wedding.
  • Choose the style of your wedding—formal or informal; traditional, theme, or destination; civil or religious. The style you choose will dictate what attendees are expected to wear.
  • Determine a budget.
  • Create a filing/organizational system for wedding paperwork.
  • Decide on the size of the guest list and number of attendants (here's how to decide who to invite to your wedding)
  • Meet with your officiant or clergy member.
  • Meet with family members to discuss plans and the division of expenses
  • Decide whether to hire a wedding consultant.
  • Choose your ceremony and reception locations.
  • Investigate the legal requirements to acquire a marriage license.
  • Select your attendants (bridesmaids and groomsmen).
  • Interview and book wedding professionals, including the caterer, florist, photographer, and musicians.
  • Research honeymoon options and destinations.

9-12 Months Before the Wedding

  • Select your wedding gown and accessories. Look for bridesmaids’ dresses.
  • Finish hiring wedding professionals. Sign contracts for services.
  • Decide whether to include children and guests of single friends.
  • Create a master guest list. Get the names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of all invited guests.
  • Make honeymoon reservations.
  • Open gift registries and start selecting items for them.
  • If desired, create a wedding website.
  • Create a gift record so that you can record gifts as they are received.
  • Promptly write thank-you notes for gifts as you receive them.

6-9 Months Before the Wedding

  • Order bridesmaids’ dresses and accessories.
  • Order your invitations, announcements, personal stationery, and other printed accessories and invitation enclosures. Obtain envelopes in advance. Here's our guide to wedding invitations.
  • Schedule the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. Notify attendees of the schedule.
  • Schedule religious or personal counseling sessions, as desired or as required by your faith.
  • Select the groom’s and ushers’ wedding attire; schedule rentals as necessary.
  • Help your mothers choose and coordinate their outfits.
  • Plan/reserve accommodations and activities for out-of-town guests and attendants as necessary.
  • Discuss prenuptial agreements. Draw up with lawyers if needed.
  • If you want an out-of-town officiant to perform your ceremony, consult the local clergy to ascertain related regulations and requirements.
  • Choose your reception menu and the type of food-and-beverage service.

3-6 Months Before the Wedding

  • Address and send save-the-date notices if necessary (or earlier).
  • Apply for or renew your passports if necessary.
  • Meet with your officiant to discuss the ceremony and rehearsal.
  • Address your wedding invitations and announcements; buy postage stamps.
  • Give the rehearsal dinner hosts your list of names and addresses for the invitations.
  • Make the remaining decisions about the ceremony and reception.
  • Choose gifts for your attendants and for each other.
  • Select/order your wedding rings; have the rings engraved.
  • Set the dates for your blood tests if necessary.
  • Explore babysitting options if necessary.

1-3 Months Before the Wedding

  • Start to notify banks, employers, and other agencies and organizations of name and/or address changes.
  • Visit the reception site with the site manager to plan the setup’s lighting, acoustics, and air circulation.
  • Choose the linens and place settings. Coordinate the reception decor and the floral centerpiece with the florist, the reception-site manager, and the caterer.
  • Have the final fitting of your gown and accessories.
  • Have your wedding portrait taken if desired.
  • Assemble and mail your wedding invitations six to eight weeks prior to wedding date.
  • Mail your wedding announcement write-up to any newspapers.
  • Apply for and obtain your marriage license.
  • Reconfirm your honeymoon plans; pay the final deposits as required.
  • Do any shopping for your “going away” outfit and honeymoon.
  • Make sure your attendants have their outfits in order: purchased, altered, rented.
  • If a flower girl and ring bearer are participating, confirm that their outfits are in order.
  • Make hair, nail, and spa appointments as necessary.
  • Verify with rehearsal dinner hosts that invitations are mailed.

In the Final Weeks Before the Wedding!

The weeks before the Big Day are sure to be busy, so don't forget to check these items off your list:

  • Reconfirm the rehearsal plans with your clergy member and the dinner-site coordinator. Remind all attendees of the time and place.
  • Finalize the seating plan for the reception.
  • Have final consultations with the caterer (head count) and other professionals as necessary.
  • Attend pre-wedding parties: showers, bridesmaids’ luncheon, bachelor or bachelorette party.
  • Review the best man’s duties with him.
  • Prepare a list of any special ceremony seating for guests, to give to ushers.
  • Prepare a list of “must have” photos or videos to give to photographer and videographer.
  • Pack for the honeymoon.
  • Make final arrangements for you and your attendants for the day of the wedding.
  • Give your wedding announcements to whoever will be mailing them shortly after the wedding.

And lastly- enjoy the wedding! Soak it all in, and have a great time with your family, friends, and perhaps most importantly, your partner.

Check out our wedding books for more info.