12 Ways to Have Your Dream Wedding, Part 4:  Plan Ahead

Cheryl Ford of Cheryl Ford Photography is back with Part 4 in her guest post series. Enjoy!

Welcome Back to Part 4 of my blog series on 12 Ways to Have Your Dream Wedding. Over the course of these months I will be sharing with you a series of articles to help you have the most amazing day of their life. In case you missed it, you may want to catch up on the past articles:
Part 1 :: Money Talk
Part 2 :: Hiring a Photographer
Part 3 :: Hiring a Wedding Planner

Read the full post after the cut!

I’ve written these articles to share with you my perspective on what you can do to have your Dream Wedding. A lot of this is just good old common sense and none of it is that much work. But I promise if you incorporate these ideas into the planning of your wedding day, you will reap the rewards of a beautiful, calm and fun wedding day of your dreams! Trust me.


One of the best ways to add stress to your life is to procrastinate! Think about cramming for a test at the last minute or waiting until the night before to put that presentation together. We have ALL done it and it’s just about the worst feeling. Not the worst-worst, but you know what I mean.

Weddings take a tremendous amount of coordination, communication, and planning. So plan ahead and plan early for best results Typically, I would say 9-12 months is a reasonable amount of time to plan a nice event and not end up pulling your hair out in the process. I’ve seen weddings put together in 2 or 3 months. I’ve seen it . . . But I don’t recommend it! Unless you want those 2 or 3 months to ONLY be about your wedding and literally NOTHING else. Which is not very practical.

You know those timelines for planning your wedding that you can find everywhere? They’re actually super helpful! Don’t be afraid to consult them and take their advice to heart. I’ve included an example below.
In any case, there are a few things you’ll want to book and/or decide first:

  • Wedding Planner – If you’re going to have a planner help with your wedding, find one right away. They can be invaluable to the rest of the process.
  • Venue (ceremony and/or reception) – where are you having your wedding? Do you have something specific in mind? Is it a popular location? Figure this out quickly and book it first. You definitely don’t want to be scrambling for a location at the last minute because everything is booked up.
  • Photographer – photographers often book up to a year or more in advance, particularly for summer weekends and do get fully booked up so plan to do your research and book a photographer early in the process.
  • Dresses – it takes 6 months on average to get a wedding dress once you purchase it (unless you’re buying off the rack or at a sample sale, in which case you have a more limited selection). Plus, you will most likely need some alterations done to the dress which can add weeks to the process. Bonus, this is one of the most fun parts of the process so don’t delay. But I will warn that personally, I wouldn’t buy a dress more than a year in advance of the wedding . . . just in case your taste changes.

And sidebar, my best piece of wedding dress shopping advice is, well there are 2 things really:

1. Try on different styles of dresses – everything possible really – because dresses look very different on people, very different on different body styles and VERY different on the hanger than on your body. Have an open mind.

2. Don’t show up to try on wedding dresses with no makeup and your hair in a ratty ponytail. It’s harder to imagine yourself in a wedding dress if the rest of you looks like you just came from the gym.
Those are the main items you’ll want to secure as soon as possible. Then hit the florists, bakeries, graphic designers, rentals, caterers, etc. And don’t leave those to the last minute. Again, you’ll stress yourself out and narrow your choices as vendors get booked up.

Waiting until the last minute or last couple of months before your wedding to get these vendors booked will be a huge drag! It will be frustrating and time-consuming. This is a time that is supposed to be fun. You’re supposed to be having the time of your life, planning the most important day of your life. Don’t manufacture stress by procrastinating or trying to plan a wedding with too short of a lead time.

Here is a good example of a wedding planning timeline. This isn’t an all-encompassing to-do list but hits the high-level items:

9-12 Months Before Your Wedding:

  • Set a date
  • Create a wedding planning notebook
  • Determine your wedding budget
  • Select your wedding attendants
  • Create a guest list
  • Hire a wedding planner
  • Book your venue(s)
  • Purchase your wedding dress and accessories

7-8 Months Before Your Wedding:

  • Book photographer and/or videographer
  • Book entertainment (DJ or band)
  • Select a caterer
  • Reserve hotel for out of town guests
  • Send Save the Date cards
  • Select and order groom and groomsmen attire
  • Book rentals, if needed

5-6 Months Before Your Wedding:

  • Start Wedding Registry
  • Book graphic designer
  • Plan your honeymoon
  • Select bridesmaids dresses
  • Book your florist
  • Book hair and makeup artist(s)

3-4 Months Before Your Wedding:

  • Arrange your wedding day transportation
  • Book rehearsal and rehearsal dinner
  • Order invitations and/or other stationery
  • Meet with bakery
  • Finalize catering menu
  • Finalize floral design
  • Order favors
  • Choose readings/readers for ceremony
  • Purchase rings
  • Finalize decoration plans

2 Months Before:

  • Check in with all vendors
  • Start playlist and confirm with DJ or band
  • Send invitations (8 weeks before)
  • 1 Month Before Your Wedding:
  • Record RSVPs as they come in
  • Get marriage license
  • Dress fittings
  • Create seating arrangements
  • Purchase attendant gifts

1 Week Before Your Wedding:

  • Confirm all vendors
  • Send timeline to bridal party
  • Pick up dress
  • Break in your shoes
  • Send final count to caterer
  • Pack for honeymoon
  • Relax and have fun!

For more wedding planning tips, check out my Pinterest Board – Weddings :: Planning Tips. I have tons of timelines, tips, and planning ideas for your wedding.

Wonderful advice; thank you Cheryl! For more information about Cheryl Ford Photography, please visit her WeddingLovely Vendor Guide Profile or head straight to her website. Today’s post was originally published on Cheryl’s blog.

Do you have any questions or comments for Cheryl? Add them to the comments below!