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Ultimate Wedding Checklist and Timeline: The First Six Months

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Picture of invites, a notepad, and rings

You’re getting married! Congrats! Take a beat to bask in your post-proposal glow (and admire the sparkle of your engagement ring). But after that? The countdown to your wedding day officially starts now. Experts suggest allowing up to a year to coordinate everything and our guide adheres to that timeline. 

Planning a shorter or longer engagement? This wedding checklist still works. Just follow the sequence of tasks and adjust the wedding timeline accordingly. Our wedding checklist is not one-size-fits-all and can easily be adapted to accommodate all budgets and style preferences.

Ahead, you’ll find specific tasks to complete every month for the first six months of your engagement. You’ll soon see that our structured approach to wedding planning makes for a more stress-free experience so that you don’t have to rush through the fun parts (like choosing a wedding dress and tasting cake).

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in! 


12 Months To Go

Insure Your Engagement Ring 

Before you dive headfirst into wedding planning, be sure to insure your engagement ring. We realize this is probably as far from romantic as it gets, but there’s nothing sweeter than peace of mind. Getting insurance allows you to wear your ring with confidence, knowing it’s protected. No two engagement ring insurance policies are alike, but in general, engagement ring insurance helps cover the cost to repair or replace your ring should it get lost, stolen, or damaged. For reliable, comprehensive, and affordable coverage, consider Jewelers Mutual. Get a quote in 30 seconds using the button below.  

 

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Gather Wedding Style Inspiration

Use this first month or so to daydream about what you want your wedding to look and feel like. Doing so will help narrow your choices when it comes to things like venue, invitations, and flowers. A few questions to clear up immediately: Do you want your wedding to be small and intimate or large and lavish? What time of year are we talking? What’s the vibe – modern, classic, romantic, casual or glamorous? Do you want to get married on a beach, on a farm, in a house of worship, in an intimate restaurant, at home, or in a catering hall? Location is everything!

For ideas, hit up wedding planning sites and use Pinterest to keep track of your favorite photos. Flip through bridal magazines; scroll through Instagram and save the images you like; watch YouTube and TikTok videos; and chat with your married friends about their wedding planning processes. All of these visuals can be gathered into a mood or vision board that you share with your vendors. If you hire a professional wedding planner, they might handle this piece for you. 

Establish Your Wedding Budget 

Creating a budget is the most important piece of the wedding planning puzzle because it informs every decision you make going forward – from the number of guests you invite to the venue you choose to the dress you’ll wear. No one wants to start married life in debt, which is why it’s so important to determine how much you can realistically afford to spend on your wedding. 

What do most couples spend the bulk of their wedding budget on? According to data pulled from a recent survey conducted by The Knot, the top three items are venue (37%); Catering (29%), and entertainment (13%). These numbers are based on national averages—it might be helpful to use them as a guideline.

Draft a Guest List 

First things first: The more guests you have, the higher your costs overall as catering fees are usually calculated on a per-person basis. From there, deciding whom to invite to your wedding can be challenging but lots of couples use the following formula to narrow it down:

  • A List – the guests you need to invite (immediate family and close friends) 
  • B List – the guests you really want to invite (friends and extended family) 
  • C List – the guests you’ll invite if your budget allows (friends of parents, distant relatives, work colleagues, plus-ones, children

Enlist the Help of a Wedding Planner  

Totally optional but if you have room in your wedding budget, hiring a professional wedding planner to transform your vision into reality and handle the logistics might be money well spent. If a full-service wedding planner isn’t in the budget, there are day-of coordinators who focus solely on making sure the wedding day itself goes off without a hitch. 

Book a Venue, Set a Date

Here comes the fun part of wedding planning! Deciding where and when you will tie the knot. When researching potential venues, let your budget, guest count, and wedding style be your deciding factors. 

  • Make a list of ideal venues and reach out to see what dates are available and get detailed estimates on what’s included.
  • Schedule on-site visits with top contenders as soon as possible. Many venues book up to a year in advance. 
  • Review the contract carefully before signing—everything you’ve been promised should be noted therein. 

Book a Caterer 

Many wedding venues offer on-premises catering or ask couples to choose from a list of preferred caterers. Things potential caterers will want to know before providing an estimate: Hours of the event, type of reception (cocktails and hors d’oeuvres only? sit-down dinner? buffet?); if you or the caterer will be handling the purchase of alcohol; equipment needed; food preferences, and food allergies. If you’re happy with the quote, the next step is to schedule a tasting. Because tastings are not complimentary, most couples book just one tasting with their top-choice caterer (or one they have already hired) and use the time to taste different options and fine-tune their desired menu. You can certainly schedule tastings with a few different caterers as a way to shop around, just know that this approach will require additional time and money. 

Buy Wedding Insurance 

Hosting a wedding is a major financial and emotional investment, so err on the side of caution by purchasing wedding insurance (also called special event insurance) in advance of the wedding. The two most common coverage options are general liability insurance and cancellation insurance. 

General liability insurance can protect you from being held liable for property damage or guest injuries. Cancellation insurance provides reimbursement for deposits made to vendors – i.e., your event space, photographer, caterer, band, florist, etc., if you need to cancel/postpone your wedding due to extreme weather, an unexpected serious illness, military deployment, or other factors beyond your control. 

 

11 Months To Go

Establish Colors & Design Scheme

Once you nail down a palette and overall vibe (understated? romantic? beachy? rustic? classic? Western? vintage?) all other details (like the color and style of your bridesmaids’ dresses, flowers, table linens, and more) will easily fall into place.

Hire In-Demand Vendors Who Book Up Quickly 

Many top photographers, videographers, DJs, and bands in your area get hired for weddings more than a year in advance. So if you have your heart set on a particular vendor, act now. 

Choose Your Wedding Party 

Aim for assembling attendants that are reliable, fun, and likely to get along well. If you feel guilty about leaving certain people out, try finding another role for them to play during the ceremony. 

Finalize Guest List 

It's time to make some tough (yet necessary) decisions. If you need to trim down your headcount, here’s how some couples finalize their wedding guest lists:  

  • No kids allowed
  • Plus-ones only for those in long-term relationships, i.e., over 1-year, cohabitating, engaged, or married
  • Restricting the number of friends your parents can invite


10 Months To Go 

Start Shopping for Your Wedding Dress 

Did you know that wedding dresses require upwards of six months for production and shipping? That’s why it’s important to begin looking for one as soon as possible. This ensures your dress will be made to your measurements, shipped to the bridal shop, and sent to the tailor for alterations—with time to spare. 

Arrange Hotel Room Blocks for Guests 

Simplify travel and lodging for out-of-town guests by reserving a block of rooms at a nearby hotel. This group of rooms should be offered to you at a pre-negotiated group rate. Block sizes vary from property to property but they’re usually between 10 and 30 rooms, with larger hotels offering larger blocks. Shop around for the best rates. To accommodate different budgets, consider reserving blocks at a few different hotels.   

Take Engagement Photos 

Engagement photos are optional but they really pay off because you can use the pictures for your save-the-dates, wedding invitations, wedding website, and other content related to your wedding. Use the engagement photo shoot to get used to being in front of the camera (work those angles!).

Create Your Wedding Website 

A wedding website is a one-stop shop for guests to easily find all the information they need about your nuptials. At a minimum, it should include event particulars; travel, lodging, and transportation information; and the option to RSVP via email. 

 

9 Months To Go

Order Your Wedding Dress 

It’s time to officially say “yes” to a dress (especially if you want to avoid rush fees). When you purchase your gown, you will be asked to sign a contract and put down a deposit. Deposit amounts vary by retailer but plan to pay 50% up front. The contract includes all the details about your dress, including the designer, size, and when it will arrive. Read the fine print! Make sure any extras like alterations, veils, etc. are clearly itemized.

Design and Send Out Save-the-Date Cards 

A save-the-date card is a thoughtful gesture that reminds guests to mark your wedding on their calendars. It’s especially helpful for those who are traveling from out of town. Save the dates should include the particulars of your wedding, the URL of your wedding website, and note that a formal invitation is forthcoming. 

Choose Your Wedding Invitations and Stationery

It’s not just a wedding invitation but an entire suite of components including the main invitation and a response/RSVP card, and in some cases additional information cards regarding lodging, wedding weekend events, and other details. (Important: Your reply card should request an RSVP date of no later than one month before the wedding.) The simplest invitation suites can be created and purchased online; a more complex order might be better handled by a local stationer or invitation designer. 

 

8 Months To Go

Create a Wedding Registry 

Together with your partner, take inventory of all the things you need and want to comfortably begin married life (throw pillows? a good set of knives? wine storage?). Then compile a gift registry at one or a few trusted stores so that guests can give you a wedding present you’re sure to love.   

Nowadays, wedding registries aren’t limited to household staples, so don’t feel shy about requesting cash funds for honeymoons, charity donations, or other experiences (i.e., a weekend getaway, a cooking class, etc.).

Meet with Potential Florists 

It’s important to know the difference between a florist and a floral designer. A florist works out of a brick-and-mortar shop selling arrangements à la carte. This would be a fine option for smaller weddings that require simple table arrangements plus bouquets and boutonnieres. If you’re looking for someone to compose an event design with more elaborate floral centerpieces, lighting, linens, the works, you probably want to hire a floral designer. To find someone who matches your style and budget, ask friends and family for recommendations, browse Instagram, and read reviews. 

Shop for Wedding Party Attire 

There are lots of ways to handle this: Some attendants are asked to wear specific dresses or outfits, all the same style. This is fine—just let your crew have some input and don’t make anyone wear something they don’t feel comfortable in. It’s definitely tricky to accommodate different body types, budgets, and style preferences, so you can either shop for attire as a group or give them a palette and let them choose the gown or outfit that suits them best.  

 

7 Months To Go

Book Rehearsal Dinner Venue  

The ceremony and reception venues are set, but you still need to choose a host for your rehearsal dinner. This event will take place immediately after a run-through of your ceremony one or two nights before the wedding. The rehearsal dinner guest list typically includes close family members, the wedding party, the officiant, plus their spouses and dates. Traditionally, the groom’s family foots the bill, but these days, anything goes. 

Don’t forget to buy gifts for your wedding party, which you will present to them at the rehearsal dinner as a gesture of thanks. 

Hire an Officiant 

You’ll need a wedding officiant such as a clergy member or a justice of the peace who is legally qualified – or ordained – to marry you. If you’re not having a religious ceremony, perhaps your bestie wants to step up to the plate! (It’s relatively easy and inexpensive to get ordained online.) Either way, your wedding officiant should be someone you are comfortable with and who can manage the flow of the ceremony. 

Hire DJ/Ceremony Musicians

Live bands book up quickly for wedding receptions, so if this is your plan, hopefully, you’re all set at this point (if not, hurry and do it now). The (quite popular) alternative is to book a DJ and many couples do so at the seven-month mark (but a little later is probably fine). You might want live music to play during your wedding ceremony (vocal or instrumental) and save the DJ for the reception. If so, start researching potential classical musicians and proceed with the best choice. Before booking, consider any noise restrictions your venue may have as well as its acoustic capabilities. 

Order Rental Items 

Some venues provide tables, chairs, linens, and basic décor, while others provide only the space, requiring you to bring in everything else you might need. In this case, you’ll work with your caterer (possibly in tandem with your florist or event design team) to figure out these details. 


Phew! You’ve made it through the first six months of wedding planning! Now, let’s move on to the homestretch... 

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Jewelers Mutual was founded in 1913 by a group of Wisconsin jewelers to meet their unique insurance needs. Later, consumers began putting their trust in Jewelers Mutual to protect their jewelry and the special memories each piece holds. Today, Jewelers Mutual continues to support and move the industry forward by listening to jewelers and consumers and offering products and services to meet their evolving needs. Beyond insurance, Jewelers Mutual’s powerful suite of innovative solutions and digital technology offerings help jewelers strengthen and grow their businesses, mitigate risk, and bring them closer to their customers. The Group insurers’ strong financial position is reflected in their 37 consecutive “A+ Superior” ratings from AM Best Company, as of November 2023. Policyholders of the Group insurers are members of Jewelers Mutual Holding Company. Jewelers Mutual is headquartered in Neenah, Wisconsin, with other Group offices in Dallas, Texas and Miami, Florida. To learn more, visit JewelersMutual.com.