The Timeline For Planning Your Wedding Varies, But Here’s What Real Planners Suggest

If you've seen The Wedding Planner, Bride Wars, or any romantic comedy of the wedding-planning variety, it's easy to feel intimidated by the process of planning a wedding. Don't be discouraged! Getting married is exciting, and the timeline for planning your wedding isn't one-size-fits-all. I spoke to three wedding planners to try and understand what this process can look like and how long they think it takes to put a wedding together. Most couples give themselves about 12 to 18 months, they say, but where do you start? The two things they agreed should come first were: your guest list, and your budget.

"Set your guest list and budget on day one," Mandy Connor, founder of Boston-based Hummingbird Bridal and Events, tells Elite Daily. "These two elements will guide every decision that you make from this point forward." The reason setting your budget should be the first thing you do is because "you must create a realistic vision based upon your financial means," Apryl D. Roberts, owner of Memorable Events by Apryl, tells Elite Daily. Once you've established how much you can spend and how many people you're planning on having, you can start looking for venues and vendors. "Some of the best venues and vendors begin booking up around that time so in order to stay competitive and to secure the best location for your day, it's best to begin researching options for your day at least [12-18 months] out," she says. Here's a breakdown of a timeline for your wedding planning.

Nine to 12 months out

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For the first three or so months of your wedding planning, you should be primarily focused on booking your venue, your wedding planner (if you want one), and your photographers. These "book up very early in the process, so it's best to get a jump on those vendors first," Connor explains. Once you've set the date and secured your location, "this will allow you to know what your next steps should be, such as if you need to book a caterer or if your venue provides it," Kia Martinson, owner of ESTOccasions, tells Elite Daily. If your venue provides the catering, a DJ, a photographer, or any other built-in vendor, that's one less thing you need to worry about in the coming months.

Six to eight months away

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After you've figured out your budget, venue, date, and photographer, now it's time to switch the focus to yourself and your bridal party. Roberts suggests using this time to choose your wedding dress, your bridal party's attire, and to start thinking about your honeymoon. "Focus on catering, entertainment, stylists, and lastly, your florist," Connor says.

Pro tip: Your florist should be one of the last big things you choose because "you will need to have a firm sense for the exact style vision for the day before you begin discussing florals," she adds. You'll need to know what your dress looks like, what your bridesmaids dresses look like, and what your decorations will look like before you decide on flowers.

Four to five months and counting

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Ah! Your wedding is less than six months away, and you still feel like there's so much you have to do! Turns out, at this point, you've probably already done most of the heavy-duty lifting. When you reach the four to five-month countdown, Roberts says you should "select [your] makeup artist, meet with [the] baker, and choose [your] song selections."

Three months until you say "I Do"

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Once you've reached the three-months before your wedding mark, it's time to start making final calls. Roberts advises that you finalize the menu and the ceremony to confirm everything is exactly what you and your partner are envisioning.

Two months out

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According to The Knot, the best time to send out your wedding invitations is six to eight weeks in advance of the big day. The time is now, folks! It's also a good time to check-in with all your vendors.

T-minus one month

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In the last month before your wedding, you should be doing any last-minute things. "Get a marriage license, [go to your] final dress fitting, mail rehearsal dinner [invites], record wedding RSVPs," Roberts says. Now is also a good time to do a practice run of your wedding hair and makeup to make sure you feel fully satisfied with your look on your wedding day.

The week of

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Just to be safe, Roberts suggests checking in with vendors one last time to make sure all the moving parts are in line.

In your wedding planning process, it's important to remember that this timeline is just a suggestion. Any pre-set timeline is a suggestion, really. What matters is what makes you feel comfortable, even if that means booking a venue more than a year in advance. This, like everything in your wedding, should be your call. Most importantly, remember to enjoy the process! Above all else, it should be fun, and the payoff will be worth it ten times over.