Counting Down to the Wedding: A Timeline of To-Dos

Are you currently preparing for a wedding? If so, you probably already know that you have a long list of “to-dos” to work through before you can finally say, “I do.”

In the months, weeks, and days leading up to your wedding day, you will find there are specific tasks that you must complete in a timely fashion.

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to take care of your must-dos at the right times. This helps you feel less stressed and more confident that your wedding day will be a success.

Our friends at The Knot provide an excellent 12-Month Wedding Checklist. Their calendar covers all the major tasks, as well as those lesser-known wedding planning to-dos which are often overlooked.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Here is a variation of their suggested timeline that will help you as you count down to your wedding day:

12+ months before

  • Start working on your wedding budget. [Check out our recent post about 8 mistakes to avoid when creating a wedding budget here.]
  • Assemble a “planning team” or consider hiring a wedding consultant.
  • Pick a wedding date and time. Be as flexible as possible in order to more easily coordinate your venues, officiant, and important guests before finalizing.
  • Start planning the guest list.
  • Start researching and booking venues for your ceremony and reception.
  • Ask friends and relatives to be in the wedding party.


8-10 months before

  • Bride: Think about, shop for, and order your gown. (“Say yes to the dress”!)
  • Begin thinking about the foods you want to serve at your reception and do your research to find the catering company that fits your taste and budget.
  • Decide what type of entertainment you want. (A pianist for the cocktail hour, a string quartet, strolling violinists, a DJ, or a band?)
  • Think about your floral decor.
  • Research and start booking your wedding professional(s).
  • Take time to interview vendors: caterer, photographer, videographer, reception band or DJ, and florist.
  • Research a wedding insurance policy to protect your deposits.
  • Research and reserve accommodations for out-of-town guests.
  • Register for gifts.
  • Contact rental companies if you need to rent anything for ceremony/reception, such as chairs, tables, and tent. (Many catering companies provide these or partner with vendors that do).


6-8 months before

  • Book ceremony musicians.
  • Order bridesmaids dresses.
  • Start planning your honeymoon.
  • Send save-the-date cards. This is a particularly good idea if you getting married during a tourist or holiday season or having a destination wedding.


4-6 months before

  • Shop for and order invitations and wedding rings.
  • Shop for formalwear.
  • Renew or get passports, if necessary.
  • Envision your perfect wedding cake (and possibly a groom’s cake). Then research, interview, and book a cake designer. 


3 months before

  • Order the wedding cake(s).
  • Hire a calligrapher, if you want your invitations professionally addressed.
  • Attend your shower. (It may be earlier, depending on when hosts decide to have it.)
  • Groom: Rent the men’s formalwear.
  • Hire wedding-day transportation, such as limousines, other cars. Look into transportation sooner if you’re considering renting streetcars or over-the-top travel.


2 months before

  • Mail your invitations.
  • Write your vows.
  • Purchase gifts for parents, attendants, and each other.
  • Book your stylist and get ideas for various hairstyles for your big day.
  • Book a makeup artist and go for a trial run.


1 month before

  • Apply for a marriage license. Check with the local bureau in the town where you’ll wed.
  • Bride: Have final gown fitting. Bring your maid of honor along to learn how to bustle your dress. Have the dress pressed and bring it home.
  • Call all bridesmaids. Make sure they have their gowns ready for the wedding.
  • Make last-minute adjustments with vendors.
  • Create a wedding program to hand out to guests.


2 weeks before

  • Review final RSVP list and call any guests who have not yet sent a response.
  • Deliver must-have shot lists to photographer and videographer. Include who should be in formal portraits and determine when portraits will be taken.
  • Deliver final song list to your DJ or bandleader. Include special song requests and songs you don’t want played.
  • Bride: Get your last pre-wedding haircut and color.


1 week before

  • Give the reception site and/or caterer a final guest head count. Include vendors, such as the photographer or band members, who will expect a meal. Ask how many extra plates the caterer will prepare. Make sure accommodations are made for guests with dietary restrictions and/or food allergies.
  • Supply location manager with a list of vendor requests, such as a table for DJ or setup space needed by florist.
  • Plan the seating chart for your reception
  • Print place and table cards, or finalize list with the calligrapher you have hired to do so.
  • Call all wedding vendors and confirm arrangements.
  • Give ceremony and reception site managers a schedule of vendor delivery and setup times, plus contact numbers.
  • Groom: Get your hair trimmed.
  • Attend bachelor/ette parties.


2-3 days before

  • Bride: If you need to, have your gown pressed or steamed.
  • Groom: Go for final fitting and pick up your formalwear.
  • Groom: Ask the best man to make sure all groomsmen attend fittings and pick up their outfits.
  • Determine wedding-party positions during ceremony and the order of the party in the processional and recessional.
  • Hand off place cards, table cards, menus, disposable cameras, favors, and any other items for setting the tables to the caterer and/or reception site manager.
  • Reconfirm final details with all vendors. Discuss any necessary last-minute substitutions.
  • Call the limousine or car-rental company for pickup times and locations.
  • Arrange for guests without cars to be picked up from the airport or train station. Ask friends, attendants, or relatives to help.


The day before the wedding

  • Provide all wedding professionals with an emergency phone number to call on the day of the wedding.
  • Write checks and/or talk to wedding hosts (usually your parents, if not you) about any final balances to be paid at the end of the reception.


The night before the wedding

  • Rehearse ceremony. Meet with your wedding party, ceremony readers, immediate family, and your officiant at the ceremony site to rehearse and iron out details.
  • Bring unity candle, aisle runner, yarmulkes, or other ceremony accessories to the site.
  • Give your marriage license to your officiant.
  • Attend rehearsal dinner.
  • Present attendants with gifts at the rehearsal dinner. You’ll want to do this especially if the gifts are accessories to be worn during the wedding.


The day of the wedding

  • Present parents and each other with gifts.
  • Give wedding bands to the best man and the maid of honor to hold during the ceremony.
  • Give best man the officiant’s fee envelope, to be handed off after the ceremony.
  • Introduce your reception site manager to your consultant or maid of honor for questions or problems during the reception.
  • Assign a family member or attendant to be the photographer’s contact so he knows who is who.


Cheers to your successful wedding day and a wonderful, happy marriage!

If you’re planning to host or have a wedding celebration in the Portland-Metro area, we’d love to help you with your wedding planning and catering needs. Please call us at 503-222-4553 or contact us online any time.