(a wedding checklist with timeline)

Planning a wedding timeline and following it is quite a feat for couples. Finding time to work out the basics can be challenging as the world ramps back up and our social calendars hit capacity.

With this in mind, how do we start planning a wedding timeline and setting up a useful checklist? The answer: with a lot of honesty and a great sense of humor (and probably wine). All kidding aside, this article is one of three that will describe each line item you need to account for when planning a wedding timeline and checklist. At the close of this article, you’ll see our handy downloadable list to keep you accountable. Happy planning!

Planning a Wedding Timeline: 9-24 months

Let’s start at the very beginning- the proposal. Once the highly anticipated proposal comes (and is accepted), the countdown begins. If you’ve gotten engaged recently, it’s time to think about what you want your future to look like. Some couples prefer a particular season for sentimental reasons or because it’s easier for all their guests to schedule and attend (think summer vacation or long weekends).

Due to the crazy backlog of weddings from Covid-19, many couples will need to think farther in advance than they would like. The average engagement is currently sixteen months. Believe it or not, 2024 isn’t that far off, and many couples are willing to wait the extra time to get exactly what they want. Whether it be the perfect venue, vendor, or date, couples are willing to take the long route.

What Kind of Wedding do you Envision?

The answers to these 5 questions will dictate the overall cost of your wedding:

  • location
  • formality
  • date / season
  • time of day
  • guestcount

Determine what kind of wedding you and your partner both want. Keep in mind the location, day of the week, and the formality. Don’t forget the time of day and the number of guests. Separating the ceremony and reception is another option that allows some couples more flexibility. It might be easier to hold a small wedding ceremony during the week this year then trying to get a 150 of your closest family and friends together. When deciding on a reception date, consider scheduling the reception the following year. Not only does this allow for a potentially larger celebration, but more time to pay for it now that inflation is at an all time high.

Be Thorough

Another thing to consider is season and location. Hoping to say your vows in the exact opposite kind of space your spouse wants? Ta-dah! Here’s a perfect way to compromise. If you have to get married in a remote mountainside town, and your partner needs to have an urban reception with all the niceties, this could be the perfect way to marry (no pun intended) both of these ideas. This thought also applies to seasons, too. If you swoon over the look of winter ceremony pictures but know that your guests won’t be too keen on trekking to somewhere cold, plan for intimate winter ceremony and maybe late summer reception for a larger group. The possibilities are endless!

Wedding Planning Timeline: Date

(Flexibility is Key)

Everyone approaches weddings a bit differently. Some are willing to be the tortoise in this situation, while others are all about faster gratification. Both approaches are fine, just be true to yourselves at this point. This wedding is for you two. Be honest, think about it, and respect what your partner has to say. If you’re at an empass on whether or not to hold your celebration sooner versus later consider this:

Selecting two dates is another idea when you’re planning a wedding timeline. Instead of picking two dates for a one-day celebration, consider picking two dates for two events. The first date can be for an intimate ceremony (which can potentially limit costs), while the second date is for the reception.

The benefits to this idea are twofold. For one, it lengthens the celebration period, gives you something to look forward to, and potentially make your partner happy. Secondly, spreading out the dates can reduce cost if done correctly. Have you considered the following:

  • an intimate ceremony within the next six months might cost less than waiting a year for a larger ceremony and reception.
  • a career change might affect available funds for wedding planning
  • waiting longer than ideal might affect eldery family members can attend
  • each year that rolls by is a potential for increased costs. Think about it- you can’t get the same wedding you paid for today in 2025. It doesn’t matter if we’re in a period of inflation, recession, or recovery.

Don’t Forget Your Pros!

If you choose this route, let your vendors know from the beginning if you’re planning a wedding timeline that has two dates. Be upfront with your pros about having a second date for part two of your celebration. Trust me; all vendors would rather know another date as soon as possible. Especially if they are already double booked for that other date. Depending on the vendor, companies might need to send out alternate associates to accommodate two dates. So if you need the original vendor you booked for day one to be present for both, keep that in mind when planning for another date in the future. There’s no doubt that good communication is key at this phase in the game.

Wedding Planning Timeline: Season

Sure, the day of the week has a bearing on cost, but so can the season. The most popular month of the year to get married in the USA is October. Does that mean that Spring will be less expensive? Not at all.

What is does mean is that seasonality of perishable goods fluctuates, just like their price. If you are pinning for a fall wedding it might be best to just have the wedding in the fall. I’ve seen so many clients that pick a season that has the opposite look in feel and decor just to cut down on venue prices for busy months. Please don’t do this. Do you know how hard it is to make a February wedding look like it’s happening in October? The cost to produce something like this is counterproductive to keeping costs manageable. More on this in an upcoming article about flower costs, stay tuned!

San Diego bride holding bouquet
Joni Bilderback Photography

Wedding Planning Timeline: Location

Have you ever seen or been to a Rainforest Cafe? How about a Kahunaville (may they rest in peace lol)? Regardless, here’s the premise: an indoor tropical-themed restaurant located in an area that is it’s antithesis. Think tiki torches, island music, jungle landscapes, tasty tropical cocktails, and tongue-in-cheek menu descriptions. What does this have in common with a mall in Ohio? Nothing. It’s an attraction.

Now- how is this any different than when a couples wants a tropical theme wedding in their hometown state of Utah? It’s not.

So why do people think it’s possible to plan a tropical wedding for a “reasonable” amount of money if they live in Arizona? I really don’t know, but clients come to me with this great idea all the time. Mind you, it might be less far-fetched considering that I live in San Diego but still, consider where you live and where you want to enjoy your wedding celebration.

If you have your heart set on a desert wedding but you live in Toronto you have two choices: have a destination wedding in a desert, or transform a local Toronto venue into a desert paradise. Though the second choice seems to be attainable consider your budget first. The incredible costs to bring in anything that isn’t local might far outweigh the cost of having a destination wedding.

Planning a Wedding Timeline: Guest Count

Whether it’s the socially awkward aunt who thinks you are your sister, your friend’s crazy plus one, or your brother who thinks it’s a frat party reunion. How do you decide who to invite to your wedding? You know who I’m talking about, don’t you, that “friend” that falls asleep on your couch in your PJs? Yeah, well, we all have them or know someone who does. The bottom line is that some guests end up on the “please do not come list, ‘ while others we welcome with open arms.

To invite, or not to invite, that is the question.

Invite all family and some friends, or only the family you speak to? Do you invite friends that straddle numerous groups, or do you eloquently decline the entire group to preserve your sanity? These are questions that both of you need to decide. Regardless of how many guests you choose keep this in mind: the number one way to decrease your wedding cost is to limit your guestcount. If you are working with less funds than is ideal, please be selective about your guest number. A stunning 50% of your wedding planning costs involve the venue and catering. The more people, the higher the cost; bottom line.

Whatever you do, keep in mind that if you invite someone to your wedding ceremony, you must extend the invitation to the reception. This is no different than inviting someone to your bridal shower but not the actual wedding. If you’re having the wedding one day, remember that this gathering will inevitably be smaller than breaking it up into two different days. If celebrating one day is what you both want, then go for it, this is your day.

heir invitation got lost in the mail. But now, this guest is coming regardless of whether or not they were invited.

Money, Money, Money

A wedding planning timeline would not be complete without discussing the dreaded six-letter word: budget. Yep, there is no way to ignore how you’ll be paying for your affair(s). If money is tight, consider planning your entire wedding far out into the future, or divide the celebration into two. If a job change is on the horizon, keep that in mind. Though it’s impossible to predict the eventual outcome of the job market, it’s worth considering. Why put yourself or your spouse in an even more uncertain and stressful situation when planning your wedding? Check out my article about the monetary benefits of planning for a small wedding if stress is starting to creep in.

Keep Track

We all have good intentions at the beginning (ahem, New Year’s resolutions?), especially when it comes to keeping track of where our money is going. A great way to keep an eye on where your wedding funds are going is by setting up a record-keeping system. One of my favorite apps is Mint. Choose a program that easily tracks where your funds are going. If you don’t think you’re going to sit there and record each item manually, be honest and find a program that you’ll use. Check out this article for some great apps that can help.

Find your Pros

After this virtual walk-thru, there may be the option to schedule an in-person meeting to walk the grounds socially distanced. From there, you should have plenty of information to decide whether this venue is for you.

All in all, planning a wedding timeline will happen. We just need to rework how we plan, that’s all. Check out this article for more insight on why you need an experienced planner by your side. Stay tuned for the follow-up article on Finances.

Planning a Wedding Timeline Checklist
couple-getting-married

Wedding Advice

Planning A Wedding Timeline

August 7, 2022

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