Week 1: What to Remember

Do these things this week
Confirm with all vendors
Confirm with transportation company
Arrange for bouquets, corsages, boutenniers to be delivered
Deliver paper goods to wedding coordinator to arrange
Deliver guest book to wedding coordinator
Deliver vendor payment and tip envelopes to Best Man
Deliver wedding bands to Best Man
Deliver wedding favors to coordinator
Practice vows
Pick up groom's and groomsmen's attire (and check sizes!)
Get manicure and pedicure
Arrange for flowers to be set up at reception
Give gifts to wedding party
Attend bridesmaid luncheon
Attend rehearsal dinner
Get married!

You made it! The finish line, and yet the beginning of something new. First off, congratulate yourselves. You got here, and that’s all that matters.You’re right where you need to be.

Regardless of what’s behind you, how many items you’ve crossed off your to do list or whatever still needs to be done, look ahead. Take a deep breath. Let it go. This is your week to love and be loved. To be surrounded with the people who got you this far and to be alone with the one you’re committing to walk beside for the rest of your life.

Let the rest of it fall to the side. Forget the details and focus on the special moments.

And if you really can’t help yourselves, take a quick peek at your day-of schedule and checklist or give it to someone else who can. Then go back to letting go.

THE REHEARSAL

Don’t be afraid to ask questions at your rehearsal or to go through the motions several times until everyone is clear on where they should be and when they should be there. And most of all, don’t forget to have fun. More than likely the groomsmen will be cracking jokes and not paying attention. (Boys!) They’ll rely on the bridesmaids for help later.

Your officiant and / or wedding coordinator will help guide you through the process, and the rehearsal is a great time to take a deep breath, have fun, and remember that you and your fiance are on your way to starting your new life together.

And since you’ll have all of your important people in one place, it’s also a good time to distribute copies of your important people contact list and wedding day schedule.

YOUR BIG DAY

You’re about to get married. We’re wishing you all the happiness in the world. Thank you for letting us be a part of your big day.

If you’ve joined us in this guide, we hope you’ve found it to save you stress. Let us know – we’d love to hear from you at [email protected]. And if you have friends who are preparing for their big day, send them our way!

Week 2: The Day-Of Checklist


Do these things this week
Prepare day-of-checklist
Coordinate with wedding party for day-of assignments
Share day-of schedule with vendors
Put together day-of emergency kit
Pack honeymoon bags
Pick up wedding dress
Prepare vendor payment and tip envelopes

You’re here. Two weeks out, and no doubt simultaneously giddy and freaking out all at the same time. It’s totally normal, and if you’ve made it this far then you’re doing great. Let’s talk about getting you prepared for your big day.

Below is a list of items to get you from the bridal and groom suites to the altar and all the way through your reception. Print it out, recruit your bridesmaids, your closest family members, or the one person who will show up with take out, a tiny piece of chocolate, and the words you need to hear, and have them assist you in pulling all of the below together in a safe place for your wedding day. While they’re around, ask them to help you distribute your day-of schedule to all of your wedding vendors.

You’re one step closer and as prepared as you’ll ever be. The only job left is showing up and soaking in what will surely be one of the greatest weeks of your life.

DAY OF CHECKLIST

Bride:

  • Wedding dress, lingerie, veil / hair accessories, shoes, hosiery, jewelry
  • Groom’s ring
  • Beauty tools such as brushes, bobby pins, hairspray, curling iron, hair dryer, elastic bands, manicure set for touch ups
  • Hygiene kit: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, deodorant, tissues, pain relievers, band aids, hand lotion, pantyliners
  • Sewing kit, lint brush, stain remover, safety pins

Groom:

  • Groom’s tux or suit, tie, socks, shoes, cuff links
  • Bride’s ring
  • Hygiene kit: razor, shaving cream, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, deodorant, tissues, pain relievers, band aids, hand lotion
  • Lint brush, stain remover

Additional:

  • Important people contact list and day-of schedule for planner / coordinator, wedding party, and vendors (email or hand this off to your vendors before your wedding day if possible)
  • Vows
  • Marriage license
  • ID, driver’s license, passports, travel documents (plane tickets, confirmations)
  • Packed suitcases for honeymoon

As you’re putting your day-of materials and emergency kit into place, start packing your honeymoon bags and give yourself a whole heaping spoonful of grace to take it at your own pace.

And while it’s important to have your day-of kit pulled together (“Of course, you want the usual sewing kit, pain reliever, lotion, bobby pins, ponytail holders, etc,” says event planner Jaime Dydalewicz of Coordinate This) it’s more important to stay focused on what matters most. “Most importantly, surround yourself with family and great friends. Enjoy your day!”

Week 3: Final Fitting, Final Details


Do these things this week
Finalize list of attending guests
Type up honeymoon info for family, sitters, etc.
Finalize seating chart and send to vendors
Final dress fitting
Schedule manicure and pedicure for week of wedding
Give appropriate stationery to calligrapher
Visit country clerk for marriage license

We’ll spend this week wrapping up final details and making sure everyone knows what you’ll need of them on the big day. As the days inch closer, your job is to take stuff off or your plate and put it on others! “Delegate to family and friends and have everything done the week before your wedding,” suggests event planner and stylist Camden Chitwood of Emerson Events. “If you have a planner, they will make sure everything behind the scenes is taken care of. If you don’t have a planner, then follow up with your vendors the week before your wedding to finalize their delivery times, set up, etc. That way you aren’t getting a million calls the week of your wedding!”

GETTING YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE

Arrange a time to visit your County Clerk’s office and apply for your marriage license. Bring the documents that you compiled earlier and call ahead get an estimate as to how much time you should allow for your appointment.

The marriage license itself doesn’t make you legally married, but it does give you the legal grounds to hold a marriage ceremony. Your officiant will sign the license alongside you and your new spouse following your wedding ceremony, and he or she will be responsible for submitting it to the county as proof of marriage. Within a few weeks of your wedding, you’ll be able to request certified copies of your marriage certificate, which will act as legal proof of your marriage.

WRAPPING UP

Use this week to hand off your important people contact list, your day-of schedule, and your seating chart if you haven’t done so already. Grab the star of your bridal party and make that person your decision making proxy for the entirety of your wedding week. Give her unbridled ability to say yes or no on your behalf and trust her to do it well. Resist the temptation to take on new projects or be involved in all the details.

While you’re at it, make a plan to give your cell phone and purse to your Maid of Honor or designated point person. Scrap together the final payment and gratuity envelopes and arrange to hand them to the Best Man before your wedding. Take a deep breath. Relax. And remember you’re almost there.

If you don’t have a day-of coordinator or an involved venue manager, ask your wedding party to be on site the morning of your wedding day to make sure all deliveries are successful. If you’re working on a tight budget, you may have already designated your wedding party as your decorating team. It takes a village to pull off your special event, and these are the people who will make sure it goes off without a hitch.

Remember your thank you’s. Remember to be good to your people and good to yourself.

SHARING YOUR HONEYMOON INFO

Type up the basic honeymoon itinerary (flight numbers and schedules, accommodations, contact information) before wedding excitement is in full swing and share it with your close friends or family members, as well as anyone who will be house-sitting, pet-sitting, or baby-sitting if you have children.

FINAL FITTING

Bring your shoes, undergarments, hosiery, and accessories to your final fitting and inspect the dress in a 360-degree mirror to make sure no pantylines are showing and the hem is even. Walk around for a minute to make sure you can move well. If you plan on changing after the ceremony or reception, talk to you mom or Maid of Honor about taking your wedding dress to be cleaned while you’re on your honeymoon (and don’t forget to thank her like crazy afterward!).

TIPPING YOUR VENDORS

As you’re preparing your vendor payment envelopes, look back at your contracts to see if tip is included with the balances due. If not, slip a little something extra into the appropriate envelopes and hand them off to your Best Man to distribute after your ceremony or at the end of the night. Below is a quick cheat sheet of suggested tips for your vendors:

  • Bartenders: 10% of the liquor bill
  • Catering: Gift the manager a cash tip of 1-2% of the total fee or a personal gift, like a nice bottle of champagne
  • Chef: $100 or more
  • Coat attendants: $1.00-$2.00 per guest
  • Hairstylist and Makeup Artist: 15-20%
  • Transportation & Valet: 15%
  • DJ or Band: 15% or $25.00-$50.00 per musician
  • Waiters: Leave an envelope with $20.00 per waiter with the catering manager

Even if you’re not including an extra tip on top of what was agreed to, this is where a thank you can go a long way. Keep the thanks going after the honeymoon with a thank you note by mail and a review of their services for future couples to refer to.

GIVING STATIONERY TO YOUR CALLIGRAPHER

If your calligrapher or handwriting artist will be working with any of the additional stationery (such as your guest book, menu, escort or place cards, or table numbers) make sure he or she has those items at this time.

Week 4: Epic Seating Charts and Nagging Laggards


Do these things this week
Compile initial seating chart
Reach out to late responders
Collect documents for honeymoon
Confirm rehearsal dinner with invited guests
Attend third dance lesson

SEATING CHART

Once you have all (or most) of your RSVPs in, you can begin to decide where everyone should sit. While seating charts are optional, we think they’re good practice. Seat guests together who haven’t met, but you know they have a lot in common. Maybe even do a little matchmaking! It might feel like a puzzle at first but it doesn’t have to be a hard. And as with many aspects of planning your wedding, you have options when it comes to creating your seating chart. This isn’t rocket science. You can:

  • Assign nothing
  • Assign tables but not seats
  • Assign tables and seats

To get started, ask your wedding planner or venue manager for the dimensions and seating capacity of the tables at your reception venue. If the venue doesn’t provide tables, work with your planner, designer, or a rental company to figure out the best tables for your reception and how many you’ll need.

A seating chart tool can help you play around with different seating assignments until you find the right one for you. Hello Wedding lets you pick the your table shape and size and see the breakdown of male and female guests at each table so you can keep things balanced. Mathematically, there are literally over a trillion ways to seat your guests, so go for good enough and not perfect.

Even if you don’t plan to assign tables or seats, go ahead and build a table layout chart to share with your vendors before the wedding day. That gives everyone an idea of how the room will be laid out and where all of the decorations and floral arrangements should go.

NAG THE LATE RESPONDERS!

Still haven’t heard from your guests? Now is the time to start nagging the late responders. If your parents or wedding party have close relationships to any of your unresponsive guests, recruit them to help out with the task.

HONEYMOON PREP

If you’re taking a honeymoon, start collecting all of the relevant information and documents into one place, including your flight numbers and itineraries, hotel, bed and breakfast, condo, or resort information, passports, vaccination records (if relevant).

Week 5: Epic Bachelor(ette) Parties


Do these things this week
Bachelor(ette) parties!
Final tasting with caterer
Update guest list based on RSVPs
Hair and make-up trial
Confirm honeymoon accommodations and travel
Schedule bridesmaids' luncheon for the week of your wedding

The bachelor and / or bachelorette party is an opportunity to get your wolfpack together to celebrate the end of your singleness. We’d give you suggestions, but given that we spend our spare time writing wedding planning guides, we’ll defer to your judgment as to what constitutes a weekend of fun.

Chances are your bridal party is already scheming on ways to celebrate your final few weeks of single living, and if you have opinions about it, now is the time to let them know.

Whether you’re going for one last night on the town or something more laid back, ask the host to take everyone’s schedules and budget into mind when he or she is putting it together. If your groomsmen or bridesmaids live all over the place and will have to fly in for your bachelor(ette) party and your wedding just a few short weeks later, maybe nix the big bash and go for something smaller and intimate with friends who are nearby.

BRIDESMAID LUNCHEON

Of course you’ll want to thank your ladies, too, and a bridal luncheon is an opportunity for the bride to host her bridesmaids in the week leading up to the wedding. It’s usually a morning or early afternoon gathering over brunch or tea as a way to say thank you to the bridesmaids for all of their hard work. The important thing is showing your gratitude to the people who are working hard to make your wedding wonderful.

If you want to host a bridal luncheon, start browsing your options for a location. You can do it at your house, a family member’s house, or a restaurant or venue. Once you have a date and location in mind, reach out to your bridesmaids and set aside the time for all of you to get together, relax, and have fun before all of the other wedding festivities ensue. Make it a time to let each bridesmaid know how much she means to you and how thankful you are for having her with you on your big day.

THE BEAUTY TRIAL

If you’re working with a professional hairstylist or makeup artist, schedule a beauty trial for this week. If you’re doing it yourself, make an appointment with a beauty boutique for a makeover and see week 21 for our tips.

THE FINAL TASTING

If you haven’t settled on your reception menu, schedule a final tasting with your caterer. Bring your wedding planner or designer along if you’re working with one.

Week 6: Staying cool under of pressure


Do these things this week
Attend second dance lesson
Track RSVPs
Get venue layout from reception venue (for seating)
Review day-of schedule with photographer, caterer and DJ
Finish vows
Select ceremony readers and readings

We want to use this week to check in and see how you’re doing. The next six weeks may pass by in a blur, and at the same time it’s possible to feel like you have so much to do! If you find yourself bumping heads with your spouse-to-be more than ever over the next few weeks, just know that’s normal.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself while taking care of everything else. A few tips for de-stressing:

  • If you and your fiance(e) are feeling disconnected or overwhelmed, schedule some time for the two of you to get away (and to get away from wedding planning!). A small weekend trip or weekend off of planning won’t set you back, and it could be the breath of fresh air you need to tackle the final steps ahead of you.
  • Block out a few hours of your day for you-time. Put the wedding plans aside and remember what makes you tick and what you liked to do with your free time (remember that?) before you were planning a wedding. Then do those things.
  • Let go and let your vendors do what they do. Event planner Jaime D of Coordinate This suggests that you, “lean on the professionals you hired. Don’t over think the details. Everything will be perfect. Take time to reflect as the wedding will be here and gone before you know it.”

A FEW SIMPLE TASKS

If you’re up for a crossing things off you’re list this week, we’ve included a few simple tasks above that should be easy to complete.

Week 7: Day-Of Schedule


Do these things this week
Draft wedding day schedule
Draft important contact list and share with planner and wedding party
Ask toasters to toast
Discuss ceremony readings with officiant
Brainstorm and schedule bridesmaid luncheon
Attend first dance lesson

Everyone’s wedding looks a little different depending on what you’ve prioritized and what time of day you plan on saying “I do,” but the sample timeline below should be helpful in thinking through the schedule for an evening ceremony and reception.

Jaime of Coordinate This advises couples to “stay true to what you want” when putting together a day-of-schedule. “We all have visions of what we want our big day to be like, and as a wedding planner I believe it’s important to stay true to that.” For example, she says that many couples feel forced to schedule a first look when they’d rather wait to see each other while walking down the aisle. Communicate with your wedding planner and your photographer about your hopes and preferences for the day, so that your wedding day schedule reflects the wedding you want to have.

“We believe it’s the coordinator’s and photographer’s job to work together to make a plan to give the couple what they envisioned and not settle for less,” she says.

Sample Day-Of Schedule

9:00 AM – Hair & Makeup begins for bridesmaids, followed by bride.
9:00 AM – Wedding designer / rental company begins set up at reception location
11:00 AM – Groom and Groomsmen meet to begin preparing
12:00 PM – Lunch hour
1:00 PM – Flowers delivered to bridal suite, groom suite, and ceremony and reception site
2:00 PM – Getting ready photos of bride and bridesmaids (bridal suite) and groom and groomsmen (groom suite)
3:00 PM – First look photos (if applicable)
3:30 PM – Ceremony music starts. Guests begin to arrive. Ushers pass out programs.
4:00 PM – Wedding party all on location
4:30-5:30 PM – Ceremony
5:30-6:30 PM – Cocktail Hour / Family and Wedding Party photos
6:30 PM – Grand entrance of bride and groom and wedding party
6:45 PM – Dinner
7:30 PM – Toasts
8:00 PM – First dance, Mother-Son and Father-Daughter Dances
8:30 PM – Cake Cutting
9:00 PM – Bouquet Toss
9:45 PM – Last Dance
10:00 PM – Bride and Groom Send-Off

There’s always a chance that not everything will go according to schedule, but the important thing is that you and everyone else involved has a basic idea as to how the day will be structured. If you have a wedding planner, she’ll keep things running smoothly while the two of you focus on enjoying yourselves.

IMPORTANT PEOPLE CONTACT LIST

While you’re having a list-making party, let’s add one more.

Make a list of all wedding party members and their contact information, as well as all vendors and their contact information. Share this list with your wedding party, parents, venue manager, and anyone else who might need to contact you or your vendors leading up to and through your wedding.

Designate point persons to field calls from vendors, and note if someone is especially well equipped to handle certain tasks. For instance, you could make a note that says, “call in case of schedule issues” next to your Maid of Honor so that neither you nor your fiance will have to take the call. That will allow the two of you to enjoy the minutes leading up to your wedding without worrying about any last minute hiccups or questions that might come up. The last thing that you want is your cell blowing up while you walk down the aisle.

READINGS AND TOASTS

As you’re putting together your day-of schedule and your important people contact list, reach out to the people who you’d like to assign special roles to (such as toasts or readings) and confirm their participation.

Week 8: The Paper Goods and The Party


Do these things this week
Browse for and order menus
Browse for and order programs
Browse for and order escort cards, place cards and table numbers
Browse for and order guest book

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by just how many paper products you need to buy, especially if you want each to be perfect. We love the advice of event stylist Jen Elliott Blake: “Less can be more. Yes, things like flowers and paper details and great linens can all enhance the beauty of the day (I recommend all of them!), but they can be done in a way that is cost effective and also visually appealing too. For example, instead of feeling like you have to have every last paper detail imaginable at your wedding, just focus on a beautiful dinner menu. Put all the money you might spend on ceremony programs, or favors, or labels for your desserts into one beautiful hand-calligraphed menu at each spot at the table. A detail like that can be so visually striking when displayed side by side at each plate.”

THE PROGRAM

A good program tells your guests what will be happening and who will be doing it. They’re helpful but certainly not required. If you do want to do a program, at minimum you should include a rough order of the ceremony (think processional, the names of readings, songs, and hymns, the exchange of vows and rings). If you want to go into more detail, you can include the names of every person in the processional, the lyrics to songs and hymns you want your guests to participate in singing, prayers you’d like your guests to be included in, and the name of your officiant. You can also use the program to give a general shout of appreciation for all of your guests or to honor special family members who aren’t able to celebrate with you on your big day.

ESCORT CARDS, PLACE CARDS, TABLE NUMBERS

Depending on how you choose to seat your guests, you’ll use escort cards or place cards. Guests will find their escort card at the “where to sit” table (official terminology). This will direct them to their table, where they’ll find a place card at their seat. If you’re not assigning specific seats, just leave the place cards out and let your guests seat themselves at the table. And of course neither escort cards nor place cards have to be cards at all. You can display seating assignments in a large frame or string decorative garland made of colorful paper with guests names on it.

Table numbers don’t have to be numbers either. You can use table names instead, such as the names of places the two of you have traveled, and you can display table numbers or names as actual card stock or in picture frames or miniature chalkboards.

MENUS

Menus are another optional item, but they’re helpful if you’re allowing guests to make their meal choice while actually at the wedding, if you want to acknowledge the chef and / or catering company behind the meal, or if you just want to let your guests know what’s for dinner.

If you’re printing menus on card stock, you can order them through stationary companies or find a free printable, and you’ll include them in the place settings at each seat. If you don’t want to print menus you can meal options or buffet items on an extra-large chalkboard leading into the reception or on smaller cards next to each item on the buffet.

GUEST BOOK

Your guest book is a way for your guests to leave notes and well-wishes for you to read following the wedding day. It can be a blank book, a decorative box with blank note cards for guests to write on, a page that guests can fill in with thumb prints (just make sure you use water soluble ink and have a wet cloth for guests to clean their hands), a photo book with space for personal notes, or anything else that you want to use to collect thoughts of love from your loved ones. Have fun with it, but don’t over think it.

Week 9: Drafting a Photo List


Do these things this week
Draft shot list and share with photographer
Visit your top 2 rehearsal dinner venues
Select and sign for rehearsal dinner
Share rehearsal dinner info with attendees
Begin collecting RSVPs
Schedule appointment with county clerk for marriage license for 3 weeks out

While a great photographer will already know which general pictures to take and how, it can’t hurt to brainstorm about specific moments you’d like captured. Some photographers will want to walk through a basic shot list with you and your fiance before the wedding so they have a clear idea what you’d like from your photos. But even if they don’t, it’s OK to reach out and provide a brief rundown of the photos you’d like to see in your album.

As you’re planning for your wedding day, provide your photographer with a small list of photos that matter most to you.

  • Family portraits: Make a list of those family members you must get a photo with.
  • You and your spouse: Are there any shots that are really important to you? Let your photographer know (but also trust their instincts).
  • Special details: Your wedding will likely have a lot of small details, so if any of them carry special meaning point it out to your photographer beforehand.
  • Special moments: Let your photographer know if the cake cutting or mother-son dance are especially important.

If you’re working with a videographer, loop him or her into your photo shot list and conversations with your photographer, too. “Photographers share the same space with videographers nearly all day, so we work together very closely,” says Leslee Leaming of Leslee Leaming Films. “Teamwork is important since we are both getting the same shots. My assistant and I take a mostly candid approach to filming, so we rarely ask couples to pose, but photographers have to do a lot of that, so we give photographers the lead in these situations while we stand back and capture it as it happens.”

SCHEDULING THE REHEARSAL DINNER

Once you’ve toured a few rehearsal dinner venues, select the one that’s right for you and make an appointment to sign the contract.

  • Who: name and contact info (your’s and their’s)
  • What: everything they’ll be providing
  • Where: the location of the rehearsal dinner
  • When: dates and time of rehearsal dinner
  • How much: cost for service, including any additional fees
  • Receipt: the deposit paid, the balance due and due dates
  • Uh oh: cancellation policies and emergencies

File your copy of the contract away with the rest of your wedding contracts and update your budget to reflect any deposits paid and balances due. Then update your wedding website or spread the word to your wedding party and close family and friends.

COLLECTING RSVPS

As RSVPs come in, keep track of who is and isn’t able to attend. You’ll need to share these numbers with your venue and vendors, and you’ll also refer to it while putting together your seating chart. If you have a guest list management app, it should collect the information for you. If not, it’s not too late to sign up for Hello Wedding.

MAKING AN APPOINTMENT TO GET THE MARRIAGE LICENSE

You probably won’t need an appointment with your County Clerk in order to apply for a marriage license, but you should make still mark a specific date and time on your own calendars. Aim to visit the County Clerk’s office 3 weeks before your wedding date, but confirm online that this timeframe falls within your county’s marriage license limits. Some counties require you to get married within a specific number of days or weeks from the time you receive your marriage license.

Week 10: Address Etiquette


Do these things this week
Address invitations
Send invitations

IT’S INVITATION-SENDING TIME!

Most experts advise getting the invitations out at least 8 weeks before your wedding. If you’re having a destination wedding, you might want to send them even earlier. Be sure to include an RSVP by date so guests know when they need to get back to you. Even with the date in there, plan on following up with a few last minute stragglers who will likely not get their RSVP in until nudged.

RSVPS

Collecting RSVPs is one of the most crucial pieces of wedding planning, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful. Allowing your guests to RSVP digitally makes it easier on both them and you. A good guest list management tool will allow you to incorporate an RSVP feature into your wedding website and will automatically update your guest list as the RSVPs roll in, taking a huge amount of work off of your shoulders.

We think ours is awesome. You can tally results and filter them with ease! (Regardless of whether you’re collecting RSVPs digitally or traditionally.)

If you’d rather have guests return formal RSVP cards, the return envelope is traditionally addressed to the bride’s parents (hey, one less thing for you to do!) but there are no rules that say you have to do it that way. Have a bridesmaid that’s dying to help out? Ask her to collect RSVPs.

Regardless of which route you go, include a response date of at least three to four weeks before your wedding. That will allow you to tally up a final headcount, finalize your seating chart, and accurately relay the information to your vendors, while also following up with anyone who’s past deadline.