The Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist

Congratulations! If you’re getting started with this process, you must have recently gotten engaged. Planning a wedding is one of the most exciting adventures and yet sometimes an overwhelming experience for anyone. To help you navigate through this journey, we’ve compiled the ultimate wedding planning checklist. Whether you’re getting married in Montana, or anywhere else, this guide will ensure you don’t miss a beat!

Tips For Staying Organized

image shows a person planning an event with pen and paper, coffee, and a computer

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Staying organized from the start of your wedding planning is crucial for a stress-free journey to your big day. Doing this you keep track of tasks, manage your budget effectively, and ensures that no detail is overlooked. An organized approach allows you to make informed decisions, prioritize your needs, and enjoy the process without feeling overwhelmed. By doing this, you set the foundation for a memorable and smoothly executed day that reflects your vision and values. Here are some practical ways to stay organized when wedding planning:

  1. Use a Wedding Planning Checklist: Break down tasks by month or week leading up to the wedding to keep track of what needs to be done.
  2. Create a Budget Spreadsheet: Keep track of all expenses to ensure you stay within your budget.
  3. Utilize a Wedding Planner Book: A physical planner can be a great tool for jotting down ideas, appointments, and vendor information.
  4. Set Up a Dedicated Email Account: Use a separate email for all wedding-related correspondence to keep everything in one place.
  5. Use Digital Tools and Apps: Apps like Notes, WeddingWire or The Knot can help manage guest lists, seating charts, and timelines.
  6. Maintain a Binder or Folder: Keep contracts, receipts, and important documents organized in one physical location.
  7. Make Use of Calendars and Reminders: Set deadlines and reminders for important tasks and appointments.
  8. Delegate Tasks: Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your wedding party, family, or a wedding planner.
  9. Regularly Review and Update: Set aside time each week or month to review your progress and update any plans as needed.
  10. Keep Communication Open: Regularly check in with your partner and vendors to ensure everyone is on the same page.

The Breakdown:

Image shows a man proposing to his partner in front of a fire in the mountains

12+ Months Before

Once you’ve had time to share the good news and soak up the moment, your wedding planning journey begins. Though there is no “set” order to book your vendors, a photographer and venue usually top the list. So, before inquiring you should set a budget early and consider what your must haves are. This ensures that you have a clear financial roadmap for your planning.

Things like choosing a date is crucial as it sets the timeline for all other decisions. Drafting a guest list helps you understand the scale of your wedding, which influences your venue choice. Hiring a wedding planner can provide invaluable guidance and support especially if your venue doesn’t provide their own Wedding Coordinator. Researching and booking your venue early is essential as popular spots can fill up quickly.

Key Tips:

  • Set a Budget: Determine how much you’re willing to spend on your wedding. Consider what vendors are most and least important to you.
  • Choose a Date: Select a few potential dates and check their availability with important guests and venues.
  • Draft a Guest List: Create an initial list of guests to get an idea of the guest size. Doing this will also help you decide on a venue.
  • Hire a Wedding Planner: Consider hiring a planner to help with logistics and coordination.
  • Research Venues: Start looking at venues for both the ceremony and reception. If possible, look at venues that accommodate both. This way, you and your guests won’t have to shuffle around (especially helpful for destination weddings).
  • Book Your Venue: Once you’ve found the perfect spot, book it to secure your date.
  • Start a Wedding Website: Create a site to share updates and information with guests. Sites like Zola and The Knot are popular for sharing information + collecting RSVPs + hosting your registry.

Click here to read a helpful post that can help you strategize what vendors to book and when.

Here’s a helpful post on wedding planners local to Bozeman.

And here’s one on affordable wedding venues in Bozeman.

9-12 Months Before

DIY all your own signage using Canva + printing locally

Now is the time to start shaping the look and feel of your wedding. What kind of vibe are you going for? Rustic Elegance, Western Chic, Traditional, Boho, Minimalistic, High Glam, etc. These kind of themes will not only be fun for you but also make a memorable experience for your guests. Choosing your wedding party is a pretty meaningful decision. These are the people who support you as a couple and possibly throughout the planning process. Inquiring and hiring vendors is important, as they will play a significant role in bringing your vision to life. When shopping for attire, it’s important that everyone involved feels confident and comfortable.

Depending on the route you go, it might take several months to order and receive attire, so plan ahead. If you choose to plan a honeymoon, doing it early can help you secure the best deals and ensure a seamless transition from wedding to relaxation. Alternatively, it’s not a bad idea to plan a honeymoon for 6 months down the road, for example. From experience, my husband and I were completely out of it for about 2 weeks after our wedding. I don’t think we would have been able to enjoy a honeymoon because were emotionally and physically exhausted. Depending on your personality type and season it might be a good idea to have a delayed honeymoon!

Key Tips:

  • Choose Your Wedding Party: Decide on your bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers and other roles.
  • Hire Vendors: Start inquiring and booking a photographer, caterer, florist, wedding content creator and other essential vendors.
  • Shop for Attire: Begin looking for wedding dresses, suits, and other bridal party attire. Azazie, Show Me Your Mumu, and Birdy Grey are great options for bridesmaids + wedding dresses.
  • Plan the Honeymoon: Start planning your honeymoon, including booking travel and accommodations. Or consider whether you’ll want a belated honeymoon. Honeymoon planning can also depend on the time of year where you’re wanting to go. If it’s peak season, maybe you’d consider going in the off season instead. If you’re having a spring or summer wedding, consider a Winter honeymoon to somewhere warm to break up the season.

6-9 Months Before

As your wedding day gets closer, details start to become more defined and things are starting to come together. Now you need to get the word out! Ordering and sending invitations sets the tone for your wedding and provides guests with all the necessary information. It’s definitely encouraged to send them as early as you can. You want to give guests plenty of time to make their travel arrangements, especially if they have animals or kiddos.

Booking transportation ensures that you and your guests move smoothly between locations on the day. It’s a real peace of mind for everyone if there is transportation at the end of the night. This way everyone gets home safe. Planning the rehearsal dinner is an opportunity to spend quality time with close family and friends before the main event. Finally, finalizing the menu with your caterer is key to a memorable dining experience for your guests.

Key Tips:

  • Order + Send Invitations: Order and send out your wedding invitations. Tip: consider using a QR code for your RSVP’s. Not only does it save you return postage, it’s convenient for guests to reply and it’s all easily collected for you.
  • Book Transportation: Arrange transportation for the wedding day, including any guest shuttles and/or end of the night transportation.
  • Plan the Rehearsal Dinner: Start organizing the rehearsal dinner, including the venue and guest list.
  • Taste and Choose the Menu: Schedule tastings with your caterer to finalize the wedding menu.
  • Start a registry or Honeyfund: A Honeyfund is a great alternative if you find yourself not wanting or needing to ask for items.

3-6 Months Before

image shows a wedding dessert table
We ordered our custom wooden cake topper off of Etsy

This period is all about finalizing the elements that will make your wedding unique. If you choose to have dessert, ordering the cake or other option like cupcakes or donuts, etc. is a sweet task that allows you to customize flavors and designs. Purchasing wedding bands is a symbolic step that represents your commitment to each other. Finalizing rentals ensures that your venue will look exactly as you envision. Scheduling hair and makeup trials helps you refine your wedding day look and avoid any last-minute surprises. Even though it may cost you per visit, it’s worth it to do as many trials as you need. Feeling happy and confident with the way you look on your wedding day is ultimately priceless.

Key Tips:

  • Order the Dessert: Choose your wedding cake design and flavors.
  • Purchase Wedding Bands: Select and order the rings you’ll exchange your vows with.
  • Finalize Rentals: Confirm any rental needs, like heaters, chairs, tables, decor, and linens.
  • Schedule Hair and Makeup Trials: Book trials to finalize your wedding day look.

1-3 Months Before

image shows wedding guests holding their drinks up for a toast

The countdown to your wedding day is on, and it’s time to tie up loose ends. Going over your RSVP list is when things start feeling real and makes your wedding feel imminent. Finalizing the seating chart is a thoughtful process that ensures your guests’ comfort. Open seating works for some weddings, but it’s less overwhelming if guests have an assigned table. Trying to find a table to sit at, especially if they don’t know the other attendees, can be uncomfortable.

Confirming vendor details is crucial for a smooth execution on the day. Make sure to share working timelines with anyone who needs it (bridal parties, parents, vendors, planners). Obtaining your marriage license is a legal necessity that officially allows you to tie the knot. Make sure to be aware of expiration (depending on the state, most marriage licenses are valid for 30-180 days).

Key Tips:

  • Review RSVPs: If there are people yet to reply, check in and see where they’re at. People sometimes forget to RSVP and if you’re doing it by mail, sometimes those get lost in the process.
  • Finalize the Seating Chart: Create a seating plan for the reception.
  • Confirm Vendor Details: Check in with all vendors to confirm arrangements and timelines.
  • Get Marriage License: Obtain your marriage license according to local laws.

The Week of the Wedding

The final week is all about preparation and eager anticipation. Finalizing details and timelines with vendors and the wedding party ensures that everyone is on the same page. If you’ve chosen to honeymoon right after your wedding, packing for the trip means you’re almost ready to jet off to your first adventure as a married couple. Most importantly, take some time to relax and enjoy the excitement leading up to your big day. Treat yourself to a massage, facial, and manicure. Make it even more of an experience with your bridal party or mom/siblings!

Key Tips:

  • Finalize Details: Confirm all final details with vendors and the wedding party.
  • Pack for the Honeymoon: Ensure you have everything packed for your honeymoon.
  • Relax and Enjoy: Take some time to relax and look forward to your special day.

Each of these stages is an important step in creating a wedding that reflects your love and commitment. By staying organized and focusing on what truly matters to you as a couple, you’ll create a day that’s not only beautiful, but also deeply meaningful. Remember, this checklist is a general guide, and you may need to adjust it based on your specific wedding plans. The key is to stay organized, start early, and enjoy the process of planning one of the most memorable days of your life.

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