Wedding Planning 101 – Strategically Organizing Your Timeline To-Do’s!

Good morning friends!

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Photo Credit: Ronca Productions

Wedding season is upon us and whether you are planning your wedding for this summer or thinking pretty far in advance, there are a thousand things to do between when you start planning out your wedding and the big day. We know that there are plenty of checklists out there that you can find to follow, however timeline templates can be problematic, as every couple’s work-flow, time-frame, and approach to wedding planning as a whole is different (therefore, following a wedding timeline template blindly may not be so helpful to many of you out there!). To help you tackle this whole wedding planning to-do list thing, we are sharing a bit of a work-flow guide for putting together a wedding, start to finish. Instead of throwing a bunch of dates and timetables your way (which may or may not work for you), we will present our theory of planning and the overall process on how we like to approach organizing the details of your day in a strategic way. It is important to make sure that each of your decisions make sense in a timely manner.

Kim Fox Photography

Photo Credit: Kim Fox Photography


Although some people take a lot of time to plan out a wedding, and others do it in just a few months, we have found the sweet spot for the best possible planning experience to be about 9-12 months. This is a good amount of time since you can get the vendors you want before it is too late and give yourself enough time to make decisions, but not too much time that wedding trends begin to change (or you drive yourself and all your vendors crazy because with time, you keep changing your mind). With that being said, if you want to start planning at 18 months, or 6 months, go for it! We have planned weddings for 200 people in just 4 months, so it is doable. But, from our experience, less than 9 months can make you feel crunched on time and more than 12 months could be giving yourself too much time.

Clean Plate Pictures.

Photo Credit: Clean Plate Pictures

Overall Process

So, where do you begin now that you have found the cushion of time you need to plan your big event? We think it best to start with the bigger items and then focus on flushing out the smaller details as you get closer to your wedding… here is what we mean: In the beginning of the process, you will spend more time on larger decisions (think venue and vendors that you value more highly and might get booked for another wedding if you don’t scoop them up). Towards the end, you will be working on a number of smaller decisions simultaneously. Some decisions can take a couple months to commit to. For example, it is okay to spend a couple months going through the tasting and estimates process with caterers to figure out which one is right for you. At the end of the planning process, you will be spending time on all the little things at once – the little details that don’t need attention until your big day is getting near. Don’t over-focus on the smaller details of your day until the bigger decisions are nailed down and you are closer to the event date (about 2-3 months out), as going back and forth on these finite details can drive you (and your vendors) mad. It is important to prioritize appropriately.

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Left & Right: KStone Photography

Getting Centered

People want to hit the ground running. However some work needs to be done before a single vendor is booked. If you are hiring a wedding planner (and we think you should, because we save your sanity and more or less pay for ourselves through the savings we get you), then that is the first place to start! Then, work through what is the most important to you and your significant other – what we at Marisa Nicole Events call “vision casting and values” (which is basically centering your wedding values and overall design vision for the wedding – get on the same page regarding what you are willing to spend time and money on and what you aren’t). Having a strong overall vision for your day are crucial to knowing the vendors you want to hire. After you know the wedding items that are most important to you, the design you are going for and your overall budget, you can begin the process of selecting your vendors, beginning with your venue.

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Left: Yaroslav & Jenny Photography Right: Vasia Photography

Tier of Vendors

Setting a venue is vital in determining the date and location, so you have a set idea of when everything needs to be planned out by. Know your venue and date before you hire a single vendor (other than your planner, of course). Begin with the big hitters (we tend to start with catering and photography). Once your catering is set, you can start working on rentals. From here you can also start looking at entertainment. The idea is to secure the vendors that get booked extremely fast and may not have availability on your date if you wait too long. Once you have officially nailed down your design, you can figure out your florist, invitations and rentals. We would suggest focusing in on printed items first, as you will want to send out save-the-dates as soon as possible (6-12 months out), once your location and date is set. The next tier of vendors are the ones that don’t cost as much (linens, cake, hair, makeup and specialty rentals, transportation and valet).

Jessica Lynn.

Photo Credit: Jessica Lynn Photography

Day of Flow

With all your vendors and designs set, you can now begin to work on your day of timeline. I would suggest doing this once you are 3-4 months out since there are a lot that needs to be done before then. If you do this too early, things will change and you will only be creating redundant work for yourself and vendors. While you are working on your day of timeline, you will also start working on the super small details of your day. This includes thinking through the minutia of the wedding such as sending out invites, tracking RSVPs, creating a photo list, creating a music list and pretty much anything else your vendors need from you. You will need to figure out precise details of the ceremony and design accessories – exactly what signage and how many candles you will need. These are all included in this work for the month that can affect your day of timeline.

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Left: Abby Jiu Photography Right: A Little Tipsy

Whew! With the month of your wedding approaching and all the details set, you will be able to do last minute things, make final payments, final counts and finalizing your day of timeline. There is no need to rush, we hope to have laid out for you everything that needs to be completed before your big day. Now you may strategically plan away!

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Photo Credit: Andrew Abajian

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