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The Secret To Wedding Checklists & Timelines

Welcome back to more of the Wedding Planning Collective blog. We're rounding the corner on our wedding planning foundation series that is made up of the five main pillars of wedding planning. So far we've covered pillar one, your wedding priorities. Pillar two, the wedding budget. Pillar three, your guest list. And today we're going to chat about pillar four: your checklists and timeframes. We'll wrap things up soon with pillar five, your wedding vendor team. These foundational steps might seem pretty basic, but I absolutely promise you that if you spend just a bit of time on these five pillars, you're going to feel so much more confident as you move forward with your wedding plans.

One final note before we get started is to make sure you grab the free worksheet that accompanies the foundational series of wedding plans. You can find it at The worksheets are included in the Four Things Every Couple Must Do After Getting Engaged Guide.

I want to let you in on a little secret...and that is that there really are no rules when it comes to wedding planning.

Like we've talked about, it is all about your priorities and what is important to you as a couple.

Now, that being said, there are things that are commonly done and there is an average amount of time that most couples will spend planning a wedding. But you could get married tomorrow if you wanted, or you could wait and get married five years from now. There really are no hard set rules when it comes to your wedding timeline and checklists.

But I do have some suggestions that will hopefully make the planning process easier on you guys. While the wedding can certainly be planned in any amount of time, the budget and timeline often dictate what you can do throughout the wedding planning process.

For example, several years ago, I was on the board of an organization called Wish Upon a Wedding. We work to gift weddings to couples that were suffering from a terminal illness. We were once working with a couple that unfortunately had a very short amount of time left together. We were able to pull off their wedding in just three weeks from start to finish.

Now, we had the benefit of working together as a group of wedding professionals. So we didn't have to worry about the research, hiring, or budgeting component of the wedding, but it can be done on the opposite side of things. I have clients looking at 2024 and 2025 dates because they know they have certain expectations for their wedding and they want to be able to save up for the wedding of their dreams. In fact, one of those couples are both in medical school and they chose to wait until after they graduate to get married.

Once again, it all comes back to those priorities. If you want something larger and more elaborate, you'll probably need more time to either save up or plan the big day. If you prefer something more relaxed and laid back, you can most likely pull something together relatively quickly.

All that being said, the average engagement is just over a year long.

Most checklists that you find are going to be based on a 12 month planning timeframe.

We'll dive deeper into that in just a minute, but first let's talk about longer engagements. Again, there isn't a cutoff for how long is too long to be engaged, but I don't recommend booking venues or vendors more than 18 to 24 months out. Well, a long engagement can have huge benefits. I found that more often than not trends, opinions and preferences can change in that amount of time.

The dress or color combinations you love today may change in the next six months or maybe a perfect new venue for you guys opens up, but you're already locked in with another space. There's always a slight risk of this happening with any timeframe, but the chances greatly increase when we're two plus years out. That doesn't mean you can't start planning though. Definitely start that Pinterest board, work on your budget, and start pulling some ideas together.

I just don't recommend making any financial commitments until you're in that 18 to 24 month window. Let's go back to those 12 month planning calendars. Now, how do you apply those planning checklists to your wedding timeline? If you're not at the 12 month mark, whether you have more or less time, look at those lists as an order in which you should be completing tasks.

If you have less than 12 months, don't be overwhelmed. If it feels like you're already behind, just because the list says you should have things done already adjust it to your timeframe and start checking things off that list. We'll get more into booking your vendors in the next future, but if your planning timeframe is condensed, that should be your number one priority.

Get your core vendor team locked in and the rest will fall into place. Now, when it comes to the day of timeline, there are many variables that will come into play for your wedding day. I recommend you start working on the detailed version of this, about three to four months out from your wedding and finalize it about three to four weeks before your wedding.

There's not one solid template timeframe that will work for everyone, but I've shared several sample timelines to get you started over in the Wedding Planning Collective Facebook Group. Generally speaking though, here are some of the main things that I want you to keep in mind when you're putting together your timeline.

  1. Things always take longer than anticipated. Make sure you add some buffer time in at random places to allow for things that pop up for hair and makeup. I prefer to tell the stylist when you need to be done by, and then they can determine what time they need to start based on how many services they're doing that day.

  2. Don't get too detailed with the hair and makeup schedules regarding who is starting at what time, but rather make sure that people are getting checked off the list. That way if a bridesmaid is running late, it doesn't mess up the whole schedule.

  3. I typically plan on the process of a bride getting into her dress to take 45 to 60 minutes. It might seem like overkill...putting on a dress is only going to take a few minutes, right? But from the moment you say, "it's time to get dressed" to when you're actually done and ready, there are a lot of things that need to happen. Usually there's a couple of trips to the restroom, some group photos in robes, putting on the jewelry and the shoes. And usually it ends up being about 30 to 60 minutes from start to finish.

There are typically two times a day where we really want to make sure we're strict on time:

  • The start of the ceremony, especially if we're at a religious institution

  • and the timing of food service

Outside of these two times, as long as things are generally on track don't stress about things down to the minute. And of course the best advice I can give you on timelines and the wedding day is to hire a professional day of coordinator at the very least that will be keeping an eye on the timing for you.

They'll also be able to make sure that the timeline isn't missing anything prior to the wedding day and they will get the timeline out to the vendors as needed. Now, I want to hear about your timing. How long will your engagement be? Head on over to the Wedding Planning Collective Facebook group and tell us all about it. You can also grab those sample timelines while you're there.

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