Just in time: How to plan your wedding, from start to finish

Diamond rings and wedding bands
Image via Getty Images.

Congratulations, you’re engaged! While you will want to take some time to show off your sparkly new ring and just enjoy being engaged, you’re probably being asked constantly about the date and location of your wedding.

Now the planning process begins, and the real question is: where do you start?

For over 27 years, Carolina Bride has worked with countless couples to perfect the art of planning a wedding. Today, we’re going to share with you our “Just in Time” wedding timeline.

While not everything on this list may be applicable to every couple, it’s a comprehensive and realistic starting point. The most important thing to keep in mind is that planning your wedding should be fun (OK, it will also be stressful, but it’ll be mostly fun) and it should reflect your relationship.

Happy planning!

Photo courtesy of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.

9 – 12 months before your wedding

  • Select your bridal party 
  • Create a budget 
  • Hire a planner, if desired 
  • Reserve date and venues for wedding and reception
  • Select photographer, caterer, baker, florist, videographer and musicians 
  • Meet with clergy to discuss premarital requirements such as classes or counseling
Photography by Erica Serrano Photography.

8 months before your wedding

  • Determine color scheme 
  • Select your gown and attire for attendants 
  • Begin planning details of ceremony and reception 
  • Sign contracts with service professionals and pay deposits 
E. Henigan Studios Photography Uptown Charlotte engagement
Photography by E. Henigan Studios Photography

5 months before your wedding

  • Order invitations, thank-you notes and stationery
  • Finalize guest list and arrange accommodations for out-of-town guests 
  • See that all wedding attire is ordered and fittings are scheduled
  • Order wedding rings
  • Create bridal registry 
  • Make honeymoon arrangements 
  • Have a hair and makeup rehearsal with headpiece in place
  • Send save-the-dates
Photography by Juan Zambrano Photography.

3 months before your wedding

  • Sit for formal portrait
  • Plan bridesmaids’ luncheon 
  • Plan rehearsal dinner 
  • Order wedding cake and groom’s cake

2 months before your wedding

  • Review ceremony with clergy and schedule rehearsal 
  • Select gifts for parents, groom, attendants and others 
  • Purchase accessories such as toasting goblets, ring-bearer’s pillow, garter, and cake knife 
  • Record gifts as they arrive and send thank-you notes 

5 weeks before your wedding

  • Finalize details with clergy and all service professionals
  • Arrange final fittings and check on men’s formalwear 
  • Mail invitations
  • Complete transportation arrangements 
  • Pick up wedding rings 
Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina
Photo courtesy of Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina.

1 week before your wedding

  • Give caterer final guest count 
  • Confirm honeymoon reservations and pack  
  • Confirm rehearsal dinner plans

The day before your wedding

  • Visit with out-of-town guests
  • Share a quiet moment with your fiancé 
  • Attend rehearsal and rehearsal dinner 
Indigo Photography Robert Porcher South Carolina Wedding
Photo courtesy of Indigo Photography.

Your wedding day

  • Relax, have fun and cherish your special day! 


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