The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Planning

February 13, 2023

Enjoy these tips brought to you by my past brides and my experience as a wedding photographer!

Keep in mind that your planning may look different than this due to different timelines, beliefs, or wants.

  1. Open a credit card that offers travel points
    – You can use this for all wedding expenses and get a free Honeymoon!
  2. Buy a wedding planning book
    – Make to-do lists, what to buy, budget, etc.
    – Keep track of payments, what you’ve paid vendors and the final payment due dates, all wedding expenses, and receipts. Print them to keep a paper trail.
  3. Create a new email for ONLY wedding things to keep everything organized.
  4. Set your wedding budget.
  5. Purchase wedding bands.
  6. Think about dates.
    – Choose a few dates and then check with your closest family + friends as well as your top vendors.
    – Be aware of holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, reunions, or trips scheduled for certain days.
    – Think about what season you want to get married in, what the weather will be like, and how the weather will impact your venue.

  7. Figure out the average cost of each vendor in your area and book your prioritized/most wanted vendors first.
    – You can find vendors in your area by looking up or
  8. When should I book my vendors?

    9-12 months in advance:

    – Ceremony Venue
    – Reception Venue
    – Photographer
    – Wedding Planner, Month-of-Coordinator

    7-8 months in advance:
    – Florist (Decide between real or fake flowers)
    – Caterer
    – Dress (Think of shipping + alterations)
    – DJ/band

    5-6 months in advance:
    – Videographer
    – Furniture Rentals
    – Bartender
    – Officiant (Add premarital counseling)

    4-5 months in advance:
    – Baker (Do you want a donut wall, cupcakes, cake?)
    – Bridesmaids dresses, groom/groomsmen suits

    3-4 months in advance:
    – Transportation (Party bus.)

    2-3 months in advance:
    – Hair and makeup (Schedule your trial for your engagement shoot.)

  9. Figure out how many people are on your guest list before picking a venue.
    – Choose a night to sit down together and make a list. Start with immediate family, the bridal party, extended family, close friends, and so on.
    – If you need to cut people to stay within a certain number or budget, start from the bottom of the list.
    – If you’re trying to keep it small, think of people who have impacted your relationship and will continue to be a part of your lives!
    – Decide if you want kids and/or plus-ones to attend.
  10. Decide if you want to have a seating chart or open seating.
    – Assigned seating, assigned table, open seating.
    – Either way, reserve seats closest to the head table for family.
    – If you are having assigned seats or tables, make sure to save seats at a table closer to your head table for your photographers and videographers.
    – Have a name card with their meal they ordered unless it’s buffet style.
  11. Read your contracts before signing
    – Also read your contracts a month before your wedding as a refresher.
    – Are you required to feed your vendors? (Typically yes)
    – When is your final payment due?
  12. Where do you both want to get married?
    – Your backyard, your lake, a modern venue, a woodsy venue, a barn wedding, a destination wedding?
  13. What kind of meals do you want?
    – Appetizers, dinner, desserts, and treats.
  14. What meal style do you want?
    – Plated, cafeteria buffet, stations, or family style.
  15. What kind of beverages do you want?
    – Water, lemonade, juice, champagne, open bar, cash bar, limited bar, alcohol-free.
  16. Create a mood/inspiration board on Pinterest to figure out the style you want for your day.
    – Formal/traditional, romantic, modern, bohemian, rustic, garden party, casual, Italian summer, whimsical, etc.
  17. Pick your wedding colors.
  18. Make a wedding website.
    – is great!
  19. Build a wedding registry.
    – Use a list so you know what you want/need.
    – Even if you already have things, upgrade them! You can sell or donate your old things.
    – Over register to give lots of options.
    – Know your space. Think about what can actually fit into your apartment or home.
    – Try to see it in person before registering for it.
    – You can always have a registry to put money towards your Honeymoon instead!
    – Register at: Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, your favorite small businesses, etc.
  20. Decide together what style you want for your interior design/home decor.
    – Modern Scandinavian, modern farmhouse, modern traditional, modern industrial, mid-century modern, eclectic chic, minimalist, bohemian, rustic, etc.
  21. Take engagement photos.
  22. Create a hashtag.
  23. Make Save the Dates.
    – Shutterfly and Vista Print are great options. You can also order them from my site after our session together.
    – Looking for a budget friendly option? Make Facebook Save the Dates to save money.
    – Depending on your timeline, send your Save the Dates out around 6-8 months before your wedding day.

  24. Make wedding programs.
    – Print at: Shutterfly, Zola, Vista Print, etc.
  25. Make the process of changing your last name easy by checking out “Newly Named”.
  26. Shop around for option when it comes to a wedding dress. Try on lots of different style even if you think you know what you want.
    – Invite a few close family members and/or friends.
    – Do you want to wear shape wear under your dress?
    – Do you need a strapless bra or pasties?
  27. Buy your dress 6-7 months before your wedding.
    – When getting it altered, make sure you can sit in it, cross your arms, and lift your arms before making it any smaller.
  28. What accessories do you want?
    – Veil, floral crown, diamond hair pins, earrings, necklace, etc.
  29. What color suit and tie will the groom wear?
  30. What color suit and tie will the groomsmen wear?
  31. What perfume and cologne do you and your fiancé want on your day?
  32. Wait a month after you get engaged to choose your wedding party.
    – Let the excitement settle. Make sure these are friends you want for a lifetime. Some friends are just in your life for a season, and that’s okay too!
    – Decide together how many people you want in your bridal party.
    – Ask at least 6 months before the wedding. Don’t rush it, but leave enough time to shop around for dresses as well as have your closest friends help you throughout the planning process.

  33. Choose your…
    – Maid of Honor, bridesmaids, personal attendant/s, best man, groomsmen, ushers, flower girl, + ring bearer.
  34. Choose your bridesmaid dress color, where you want to order them from, and then let them choose the style.
    – They will feel more comfortable in a dress that fits their body type.
  35. Bridesmaid dresses should be ordered about 4-5 months before the wedding so there is time for alterations.
    – Plan a day to get together to go bridesmaid dress shopping or a brunch if you’re buying online.
  36. Decide if you want to do gifts for your bridal party.
    – Possibly jewelry you want them to wear during your wedding. (Check out my blog on bridesmaid gift ideas!)
  37. Notify the people you are wanting to make speeches or to do readings throughout your wedding at least 2 months ahead of time so they can prepare.
    – The MOH, best man, and parents typically give speeches.
    – Close relatives like grandparents often read a Bible verse during the ceremony.
  38. Order your accessories.
  39. Break in your shoes before your wedding day or have bandaids!

  40. Take advantage of Facebook groups that sell used wedding decor or bubbles.
    – Any time you put the word “wedding” in front of an item, the price goes up. Shop for similar items.
    – Look at places like Hobby Lobby or Michael’s to DIY wedding decor.
    – DIY your signage.
  41. Look up bouquets on Pinterest and decide what you want.
    – Composite, cascading, hand-tied, just picked, nosegay, pageant, pomander, clutch/posy, round, unstructured, etc.
  42. Couples typically get flowers for…
    – The bride (bouquet), bridesmaids (smaller bouquets), groomsmen (boutonnieres), grandparents and immediate family that are not in the wedding party (corsages and boutonnieres), flower girl, any floral archways, floral decor, or centerpieces.

  43. Don’t sacrifice on things you have always wanted.
    – Go on a few walks a month with your fiancé, friends, or family.
    – Spend the first 15 minutes talking about anything BUT wedding details and then the next 15 minutes talking about all things wedding.
    – This helps you to keep up with relationships while also getting to plan!
  44. Don’t stress over the tiny details. No one remembers those but you.
  45. Enjoy the process with your people. Don’t do it all by yourself.
  46. Ask your married friends and hired vendors for advice.
  47. Be respectful, but make clear boundaries with in-laws, family, and friends. Remember that it is YOUR wedding.
    – You are joining as on family, so work hard to create relationships with your in-laws if possible!
  48. Remember once the big stuff is planned/booked, a lot of the smaller details can’t be finalized until the last couple of weeks before the wedding.
  49. Talk about your expectations with your people about your engagement party, bridal shower, bachelorette party, and rehearsal dinner details.
  50. Plan the rehearsal dinner.
    – Typically, the groom’s family plans this for the night before the wedding.
  51. Buy a rehearsal dress.
  52. Plan time to get your marriage license.
    – The license must be used within 60 days. This may differ depending on the state.
  53. Create wedding invitations.
    – Vista Print, Zola, Shutterfly, etc.
  54. Send wedding invitations around 6-8 weeks before your wedding.
    – OR three months in advance if it’s a destination wedding.
    – Put a line on your RSVP for a requested song so you know what your guests want to hear.
  55. Have your guests RSVP 2-3 weeks before your wedding.
    – Put numbers on your RSVP cards in case they forget to write their names. That way, you can look back on your list and see that #37 is The Smith’s!
  56. Book hotel room blocks for your guests about 3 months before the event date.
    – You an also just give people suggestions on hotels to stay at if you want to save money and not have to worry about getting charged a percentage of the rooms that don’t get booked.

  57. Designate people for the following jobs:
    – Who sets up the wedding decorations?
    – Who holds the rings before the wedding? (Best man?)
    – Who drives your car?
    – Who’s driving everyone to photo locations?
    – Who cleans up your bridal suite when you’re heading to your Honeymoon?

    The ushers typically…
    – Clean up the getting ready rooms.
    – Clean up the food at the church.
    – Move the decor from the ceremony to the reception.
    – Clean up after the reception (decor, flowers, leftover food and desserts, gifts, etc.)
    – Make sure there is enough room in their cars for all of these.
    – Pick up the furniture rentals before the reception and return the furniture rentals after the reception.
  58. Find someone who can take care of your pets while you’re on your Honeymoon.
  59. Set out Polaroid cameras or disposable cameras at the tables.
  60. Get matching robes for you and your bridesmaids.
  61. Provide clear umbrellas or shawls for you and your bridal party if it’s rainy or cold.
  62. Give your favorite songs to your DJ to make sure they’re on the playlist.
  63. Pick your special dance songs.
    – First look, father-daughter, and mother-son dance.
  64. Write your vows.
    – Purchase “His and Her” vow books from Etsy or Amazon.
  65. Decide if you want a photo album guest book for people to sign. Don’t forget pens/sharpies!
  66. If you’re a K.Ranae Bride, we create a timeline for your wedding day together around 2 months before your day.
    – Check out my blog to see an exam
  67. Get your ring cleaned.
    – You can get this done for free at almost any ring shop.
    – You can order a jewelry cleaner off of Amazon.
  68. Decide if you want to do wedding favors.
    – Consider little treats instead! (Check out my blog for wedding favor ideas).
  69. The week of, confirm the following:
    – Last-minute RSVPs, seating chart, Honeymoon logistics (try calling hotel directly), vendors, all payments take care of, etc.
  70. Decide if you want a receiving line, ceremony exit, group photo, play the DJ photo game, or just give a thank you speech at the reception.
  71. Decide if you want to create a photo display honoring family members who have passed away.
    – (Read my blog on this subject if you need some more ideas.)
  72. Do you want a garter?
  73. Buy a knife to cut your cake with.

  74. Make a list of all of your things and where they are going since you will not be the one setting up or tearing down.
  75. Plan your Honeymoon last so you’re not trying to do too much at one time.
    – Do you want beach vibes or something else?
    – Do you want to chill or have excursions?
    – Do you want an all-inclusive? (Definitely recommend this!)
    – Make a list of what to pack.
    – Make a list of things to bring back such as gifts you want to buy while there. (Most brides recommend to just enjoy your time and not get souvenirs.
  76. Make sure everything is done a couple days beforehand so you can take a day to RELAX.
  77. Pay all of your vendors at least one week before your wedding so you don’t have to think about it all day.
  78. Decide if you want to tip any/all vendors.
  79. Pack an “Emergency Kit” or small purse of personal items that you want your personal attendant to carry for you all day.
  80. Decide your game plan for your wedding night, Honeymoon, and opening gifts.
    – Do you want to…
    – Book a Bridal Suite, sleep at the hotel, open gifts with family in the morning, and then leave for the Honeymoon a few days later?
    – Book a Bridal Suite, sleep at the hotel, leave for the Honeymoon in the morning, and then open gift with your family when you get back?
    – Leave for the Honeymoon that night and then open gifts when you get back home?
  81. Pack for your Honeymoon.
  82. Pack your wedding day bag.
  83. Pack your overnight bag.
  84. Pack flats for your reception. Your feet WILL get sore if you’re planning on wearing heels.
  85. Wear sunscreen the week before your wedding to avoid a sunburn.
  86. Clean your home so you can come home to a clean house.
  87. Avoid spray tans. Crying can stain, it can turn out orange, oftentimes it makes the groom look very pale in photos.
  88. Enjoy a mani/pedi.
  89. Have open communication! Have a conversation ahead of time about your expectations and thoughts about what your wedding night will look like. (Talk about sex + create a fun playlist!)
  90. Exfoliate and shave the night before.
  91. Go to bed at a decent hour the night before.

  92. Eat breakfast and stay hydrated.
  93. Have your details ready in a shoebox for your photographer to take right away.
    – Details: Bride + groom’s rings, bride’s shoes, dress, veil, bouquet, invitations, extra florals, etc.
    – Look up “Wedding detail photos” on Pinterest for Inspo.
  94. Play music in your getting ready room.
    – Ask your bridal party to put together a fun playlist to set a fun mood in the morning!
  95. Write and exchange love notes and have your MOH/best man deliver them.
  96. Turn your phone on silent. Give any vendors your personal attendant + ushers’ phone numbers.
    – Unplug! Your phone will be blowing up with well wishes. You can respond to these AFTER your Honeymoon.
    – Fun tip: Put out a sign with your phone number on it and ask your guests to “blow up your phone” with photos they take throughout the day!
  97. Provide snacks and waters for your bridal party to keep energy up.
  98. Provide lunch (sandwiches) for your bridal party.
    – Bonus points if you provide lunch for your photographers too! 🙂
  99. Don’t wear a bra while getting ready. It will leave marks in photos.
    – Wear a button up shirt or robe so you don’t ruin your hair.
  100. Make sure to eat and drink water whenever it’s offered.
  101. Have the girls pray over the bride + the groomsmen pray over the groom before the ceremony.
  102. Take 5 minutes in private with your fiancé alone to take in the day both before and after you get married.
  103. Take a pause before walking down the aisle to lock eyes with your groom.
  104. Walk slowly down the aisle to take it all in.
  105. Hold hands + look at each other during the ceremony, not the officiant.
  106. Take a moment to look at your guests during your ceremony to see the people who are there to support you.
  107. Remind your MOH to hold your flowers + fluff your dress while up at the altar.
  108. Make sure your mom or MOH knows how to bustle your dress for the reception.
    – Take a video of the shop-owner bustling it so you can watch it if they forget.
    – Don’t forget a crochet hook.
  109. Have your personal attendant carry around your lipstick for the day to reapply. It will wipe off between all of the kissing.
  110. Ask your personal attendant to take BTS videos and photos throughout the day on your phone.
  111. Have someone bring your pet/s to one of the photo locations for some pictures with them.
  112. Bring bug spray if you’re going to be in grassy areas.
  113. Eat dinner!!
  114. Give a thank you speech to your family, friends, and vendors who helped make it all happen.
  115. Don’t stay too long at your reception. You will be tired, so don’t feel bag about heading to your Bridal suite around 10:00!
  116. Share an intimate dance to your first dance song when you get alone in your hotel room.
  117. Bring some desserts/snacks from the reception back to your hotel for you and your hubby!!
  118. Remember this day is YOURS AND YOUR PARTNER’S so be considerate to others, but don’t let them take the joy or control from your day.
  119. Always remember it’s about the marriage, not the wedding.
  120. Remember that even if everything were to go wrong on your wedding day, you are still marrying the love of your life!



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