Your Wedding Countdown begins, so where do you start?
Whether you’ve just got engaged, or you’ve just started planning your dream day, checklists are going to be your saving grace over the next few months! This first one is designed to start around 12 months out from your wedding – a great place to begin the wedding planning process. Keep in mind that the 12 month timeline is just a guide – if you’re having a short engagement, you can plan your entire wedding in just a few months, or you can take it slow and have a long engagement. You are on your own unique wedding-planning journey, and it should be at your pace. Even if you have a shorter time to plan your wedding, work through this list to make sure you haven’t left anything off. You’ll see not only what steps to tick off now, but also get an idea of what’s to come over the next 12 months in the lead up to your wedding.
Our best-selling wedding planner is designed to incorporate all the checklists and other pages you need to plan your wedding, so grab your little white book, make notes along the way, and have a beautiful keepsake of your engagement to look back on forever.
Planning a wedding should be a fun and exciting experience, and it really can be if you can stay on track and tick checklist to-do’s off in manageable bite-sized pieces. Let’s make planning your wedding as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.
You’ll see not only what steps to tick off now, but what’s to come over the next 12 months in the lead up to your wedding.
The Ultimate 12 Month Wedding Planning Checklist
As with all the wedding planning advice you’ll find here, this 12 month wedding planning checklist is just a guide. I encourage you to celebrate your day in a way that is special and meaningful to you, and include only those traditions and wedding customs which feel natural and personal.
There’s almost nothing you absolutely must do for your wedding (choosing a celebrant and getting your marriage licence are the exceptions), and your special day will be all the more so if you follow your heart.
The wedding planning checklists and articles here are designed around the time-frames set out in the little white book. When I was planning our wedding I found it easiest to stay organised and on-track with countdown checklists in my diary, hence the wedding organiser I designed is also a 12 month countdown diary – making it the ultimate wedding planner book. The wedding planning checklists are integrated into the diary on a day-to-day basis, so you can organise your wedding with ease.
Your First Tasks: 12 Month Wedding Planning Checklist
When you start planning your wedding, it’s sensible to start with choosing your wedding venue and setting a date. However, before you do that, you need to give a lot of consideration to your wedding budget and determine your guest list.
Start your Wedding Budget
The first thing I would strongly recommend is starting and prioritising your wedding budget. Your wedding budget may be relevant to determine how many guests you’ll be able to invite (and therefore the size of your venue), so the first thing to do is work out how much you’re comfortable spending.
Organise your budget to refect the elements most important to you for your big day. While it can be tempting to think that you can plan, organise, and spend as you go without considering what it is all going to cost in the end, by doing so you risk being unable to afford some of the elements which may be really important to you, later down the line.
- Determine who will be contributing to the wedding budget.
- If family want to help you out, just make sure you know if they want to have any influence over decisions you make.
- Consider how much you can each save, and feel comfortable spending on the Big Day.
- Discuss and set a budget, update the total budget in your book and/or the software and make adjustments as needed.
- Begin to prioritise and allocate your budget according to what’s important to you (software helps with allocations too).
Begin Your Guest List
Once you have an estimate budget, you can start to consider how many guests you can afford to invite, depending on the style of wedding you want. Before you can book your wedding venue you will need to confirm your guest list, so take a few days or weeks to be really sure about what size of wedding will suit. Whether you want a big wedding or a smaller, more intimate wedding, at around this stage, you should be talking about and writing out your guest list to working out what size/style and cost of wedding venue will suit.
Start with an A and B list, discuss with your families any expectations they have around inviting their friends or extended family.
- Compile your guest list and addresses
- Consider whether you will have any children present for the ceremony or reception
- Give overseas guests plenty of notice, even before Save-the-dates go out, to guarantee their ability to come
- If you’re having a destination wedding, consider guest accommodation
Do consider, the more guests you have at your wedding, the less time you’ll actually be able to spend with each of them, not to mention the level of extra work required for a big wedding and the expense. If you already have a wedding venue in mind, double-check their guest capacity.
Connect with your most sought-after vendors
If you’ve had your eye on a particular supplier for a while, and you know they fit within your budget, get in touch as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. Many in-demand vendors book out a year in advance, so (especially if you’re choosing an ever-popular Saturday in Summer, don’t delay
If you’re considering a wedding planner or coordinator, connect with them first too, as it’s their job to deal with the remainder of the suppliers.
- Start looking at wedding photographer/videographer
- Arrange to talk to/meet a few celebrants
- Meet with any other vendors you’re determined to have.
Find your wedding venue
You can’t organise very much else without a wedding date set and venue booked. Popular venues can often be booked out around 12 months out from your wedding, so now is the time to start looking at the ones you’ve taken a liking to, and choose your wedding venue.
To find a beautiful wedding venue that’s right for you, there’s a few ways to start. One of my favourite methods to find wedding venues is to browse some of our best wedding vendors’ websites and go from there. This gives you the ability to not only find a beautiful location, but also helps you to work out what style of photography, and perhaps even style of wedding you like.
Browse google, facebook, instagram, magazines and other blogs for wedding vendors: local wedding planners, photographers, florists, etc, and have a look at their portfolio.
Wedding photographers especially will feature their most beautiful weddings on their site, and you’re likely to come across wedding venues you’ve never seen before too. You’ll also potentially discover the best local photography spots and hideaways nearby those wedding venues – which can be huge drawcards too, and help you choose a venue.
Begin with how to find your wedding venue.
Once you’ve booked your venue, Look into other essential venue accompaniments
Once you’ve booked your wedding venue, you can begin to organise everything else you need to turn the space into the vision you have. Think about what you will need to hire to accommodate all guests, and logistics like transport and parking, both between the ceremony and reception venues (if applicable) and how your guests will get home afterwards. These are all essential items to work into your budget before spending on other areas.
- Reserve other necessary rentals: marquee, furniture, etc.
- Choose a catering company, if not in-house
- Record all your vendors so far in your little white book, include the total costs and any deposits made into your budget pages.
Prioritise the remainder of your wedding budget
Booking your wedding venue and associated things such as catering and rentals is usually the most expensive outlay of your wedding budget, and following that, you need to work out how to allocate the remainder.
Unless you have an unlimited budget, I strongly suggest you look at prioritising your wedding budget rather than spending money on every element that a wedding could, should, or ‘must’ have (they really aren’t). You do not need to tick every possible wedding planning box as though it is a requirement, I suggest that if you choose and apportion your wedding budget carefully, and organise (and spend money on) only those elements which are really important to you. Spend more on those, and those features will really shine, making your day unique and personal. You may also wish to read how much does a wedding cost (my real wedding budget breakdown); and of course prioritising your wedding budget. (including the pitfalls if you don’t).
Take a Break – You’ve Earned It!
Booking your wedding venue and working out your wedding budget and guest list are huge accomplishments. I understand, between family and financial pressures and expectations, getting your budget, guest list and wedding venue to work together can be a massive task. From here, wedding planning is much, much easier, especially if you still have around 12 months to go.
Don’t be in a rush to plan it all, and please try to enjoy it. Perhaps you’ve already celebrated with your friends, but you may wish to organise an engagement party with both sets of your families and friends to celebrate.
If you’ve started your little white book, I hope you’ve recorded your proposal, started using the ‘our love story’ pages (those will help later with your vows and speeches) and are making notes along the way, it’s going to be a timeless keepsake of your engagement and will be wonderful to look back on in years to come. You will never regret this. It’s so nice to keep a journal of the whole process – there are so many exciting experiences during your engagement, but it can go by in a bit of a blur too – so record as much as you can in your wedding planner book as a keepsake.
If you want to get even more organised, consider the next two steps:
Choose your wedding photographers/photography style
Wedding photographers are often the next wedding vendor to be booked, many being in very high demand. In the very visual (and socially connected) world we live in, there can be a lot of pressure to have the most out-of-this-world wedding photos, but what is really the most important is that you have something to look back on to remember, and cherish your wedding day.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the most jaw-dropping (or jaw-droppingly expensive) wedding photos, in fact many couples still choose not to hire professional wedding photographers. You probably already know whether you will or won’t, but you don’t need to feel pressured either way.
Because photography is so visual, this is one of the easiest wedding vendors to choose just by browsing online, but I also suggest meeting with your photographers or having a Zoom call. You will spend the most one-on-one time with your photographer on the day, so it’s really important that you feel comfortable with them.
While most of you probably don’t need to be encouraged to go shopping for this very exciting outfit, do be aware that it may be a longer process than you think – don’t be afraid so start early. If you need some inspiration (and if you’re shopping for a wedding dress, begin with choose the wedding dress shape for your body type.
These are really the only things you need to organise 12 months before your wedding, so you actually relax now for a while, just don’t let your little white book be far from sight.