The excitement of your engagement has passed and reality is setting in... It's time to plan your wedding! Many brides and grooms initially feel overwhelmed when it comes to planning their big day, not really knowing where to start. Here's a general list of 'To Dos' to keep you on track and help make the planning process a little less stressful.
Announce your engagement in the local paper - Completely optional but a nice touch and a great momento.
Set your budget - Will others be contributing to the cost of your wedding or do you as a couple plan on paying for the wedding yourselves? It's important to determine this right off the bat as your budget will affect the rest of the decisions you make from here on in.
Decide on the theme and style of your wedding - Are you looking to have a large formal event or a more intimate informal celebration? Either way, the theme and style of your wedding should reflect your own personality and style.
Create a wedding folder - Keep tears from magazines of your dream dress, possible hairstyles and décor inspiration in a folder. If you're having trouble figuring out your wedding style, it will soon become apparent when you leaf through all the pictures of wedding details you've put together. Staying organized with a folder of all your vendor information, contracts, etc. is also the key to keeping you sane throughout the planning process.
Draft a guest list - It's important to have a rough idea of what your head count will be before you start your hunt for a reception venue in order to make sure it can accomodate your numbers.
Pick a wedding date - Unless you already have a specific date in mind, the best way to do this is to visit your top three ceremony and reception venues and choose a date based on their availability.
Select a venue for your ceremony and reception - We are seeing more and more weddings where the ceremony and reception are being held at the same location. If this isn't the case, make sure that both locations are available on the same date. Many venues are reserved a year in advance so the sooner you can find and book them, the better chance you have of getting the ones you want.
Choose your wedding party - While it's a special honour to be part of a wedding party, it is also a big responsibility. When choosing your wedding party, take into consideration whether or not they will accept the responsibility and more importantly if they can afford it. Unless you are planning to take care of their expenses for them, there is the wedding attire, hair and makeup for the girls, pre wedding parties, possible travel expenses and of course their time to consider.
Celebrate your engagement - Once you know who the key people taking part in your wedding will be, having an engagement party is the perfect way to introduce them to each other and thank them for agreeing to be a part of your big day.
Go wedding dress shopping - Custom gowns can take up to a year to design and create. If you're ordering your dress from a bridal salon, keep in mind that while it may only take a few months for your dress to come in, you still have fittings and alterations that will eat up extra time. Once you've found 'the' dress, you can shop for a veil, tiara, shoes, and any other jewelry or accessories you want to complete your look.
Decide on bridesmaids dresses - Try to choose dresses that will not only coordinate with the theme and style of your wedding, but will also compliment the different body types of your bridesmaids. Your girls need accessories too! Decide what will go best with the dress you’ve chosen for them.
Interview and hire your vendors - Just like great venues, all the great vendors book up fast. It's never too early to start the process of interviewing your vendors and booking them once you've found the right ones. Here's the list: Officiant, caterer, photographer, videographer, band, dj, decorator, florist, baker, transportation, entertainment and of course, wedding coordinator!
Register - Times have changed. Many couples these days are already living together before marriage and therefore may already have the items traditionally put on a gift registry. While you may prefer cash if you find yourself in this situation, it is never okay to ask for it. Your close friends and family are most likely aware of your living arrangements and may give you cash anyway, but there will always be guests who will prefer to buy you a gift instead and it's important to give them the option to shop stress free. Already have enough china, stemware and towels to run your own bed and breakfast? Register at a large department store like The Bay for the his and her watches you always wanted, or the new luggage and digital camera you're hoping to take on your honeymoon. Gift cards for Home Depot and Canadian Tire can also be suggested if asked. They're both great places if you're in need of tools, a barbq, even the patio set you’ve been eyeing for your backyard.
Compile names and addresses for the guest list - Working from the draft list you initially created, make an official list with the names and addresses of your family, friends, parents friends, etc. If you're limited to the number of guests you can invite due to the size of your budget or venue, keep this in mind each time you add a name in order to avoid the painful process of having to cut some of them later.
Wedding stationary - Once you've finalized your guest list you can determine the number of invitations and thank you notes you need to order. Keep in mind that if you're not sending out save the dates, your invitations are the first peek your guests will get of your wedding so make sure they reflect your theme and style. Ordering labels with your new last name and address will come in handy when you're sending out your thank you notes after the wedding.
Arrange accommodations - If you're inviting out of town guests or your wedding itself is out of town you'll want to make sure everyone has a place to stay. Most hotels will let you reserve a block of rooms and offer a discounted group rate. If possible, provide your guests with more than one option at different price levels.
Send out save the dates - If you're having a destination or out of town wedding, these are a great way to give your family and friends a heads up that they will be invited and may need to take some extra time off work or save up for added traveling expenses.
Plan your honeymoon - Talk to your travel agent about possible honeymoon destinations and prices. Most resorts have honeymoon packages so be sure to ask when booking.
Find your wedding bands - It's important to do this with your fiancé since your wedding bands are the visual symbol of your union. Take your time and be sure to choose rings you're both happy with as you'll hopefully be wearing them for many years to come.
Hair & make up trial - If you're the least bit worried about what your hair and makeup will look like on your big day, make sure to have a trial done before hand to put your mind at ease. If you’ve had little to no experience with these vendors before, be sure to do this early enough in the planning process so that you have time to book someone else if you’re not happy with the results.
Pre wedding pictures – If you’ve decided on having pre wedding or engagement pictures taken (most wedding photography packages now include them) try to book your shoot on the same day as your hair & makeup trial to take advantage of your polished appearance! If you’re planning on an updo for the wedding, have your stylist brush it out when the trial’s done so your hair will still be styled but won’t mimic your wedding day look.
Rent tuxedos - Round up the groom, groomsmen and fathers so they can all make the trip to the suit shop together. To ensure proper fit, it's better to have the measurements taken by the tailor onsite instead of the guys trying to measure themselves at home and calling it in.
Send out invitations - Make sure all addresses are correct and double check the postage required to ensure that they'll reach their proper destination. It doesn't hurt to mail one to yourself first so you can see what shape it will be in when your guests receive it and make any adjustments if necessary.
Guest wedding favours and wedding party gifts – While they both seem like little details in the grand scheme of wedding planning, leaving the little things to the last minute can create extra stress you don't need. Be sure to give yourself enough time whether you're making them, buying them locally or ordering them in.
Purchase all other accessories - These are important details you also don't want to forget. Guest book/pen, unity candle, toasting glasses, cake knife/server, etc.
Choose your music - Choose music for your processional, signing and recessional for your ceremony as well as music for your first dance and any other special dances (father/daughter dance, etc.) for your reception. Many couples also provide their djs with a "please play" and "do not play" list.
Design your wedding programs - Once all the details of your ceremony have been finalized (music, readings, etc.) your programs are another thing you can check off your list.
Make rehearsal dinner reservations - Remember you're not booking a table for two. There aren't many places that can squeeze in your party of 20 at the last minute.
Finalize menu – Your caterer will need to know your final headcount. Be sure to consider guests with allergies or dietary restrictions and don’t forget meals for the kids!
Complete floor and seating plan - Once you've received all of your RSVPs and have a final head count you can decide on who you want to sit where and with whom. If you're using escort or place cards as well, now would be the time to make them.
Apply for your marriage license - You can't legally get married without it!
Contact your vendors – Review all contract details (delivery/set up times, etc) with your vendors and confirm the services they will be providing. If you've hired a wedding coordinator, they will do this for you.
Get a manicure and pedicure - A good massage to help you relax wouldn't hurt either!
Attend your rehearsal - Usually held a day or two before your wedding day, this is your chance at a dry run of your ceremony. Relax and enjoy your rehearsal dinner afterwards with your family, wedding party and any other special guests you decide to include.
The big day! - Time to put all the months of planning and stress behind you and focus on what this day is really about, you're getting married! Remember, you can't control anything at this point so let whatever happens happen and don't sweat the small stuff. Wake up with a clear head and try to savour each moment as the day progresses. Enjoy the prep time with your girls as you get your hair and makeup done, absorb every word spoken at the ceremony by your groom, have fun with your family/wedding party as your pictures are taken, reserve a few moments before and after dinner to acknowledge the other key people sharing the day with you, kick up your heals and parté! At the end of the night, reflect on some of the special memories of the day and enjoy being alone... finally... with your husband! Your wedding day is full of moments that will fly by and if you don't enjoy them as they happen, you will never get them back.