At the eight-month mark, send your save-the-dates to give your guests ample time to clear their calendars and start looking forward to your big day. You should also tour venues and schedule catering tastings.
Finalize your song list and shop for attire for your shower, bachlorette party, rehearsal dinner and any additional wedding weekend soirees you may be planning.
1. The Engagement
The engagement marks the moment that a couple publicly declares their intention to marry. Getting engaged can be an amazing moment, but it also brings with it some important (and not-so-fun) tasks like calculating who’s paying what and creating a budget.
The couple also needs to decide who they want to announce their engagement to and when. This includes telling parents, grandparents, siblings and other extended family members, as well as friends.
The average engagement length is 12 to 14 months, but every couple’s timeline is different. The most important thing is that you and your fiance are clear about what kind of ceremony you’re both envisioning, and how soon you want to get married.
2. The Rehearsal
The rehearsal is a chance for everyone involved in the ceremony to get a feel for how everything will work. It’s a good opportunity to double check that you’ll have enough of everything (for example, if you’re doing a candle lighting or sand ceremony), and to make sure your wedding party knows where they are supposed to stand during the procession.
It’s also a great time to distribute gifts for your bridal party and parents (if you’re not doing this on your actual wedding day). Just remember to bring those labeled envelopes! Tips are customary for musicians, videographers, florists and drivers. Also, don’t forget to ask your caterer if they need a gratuity.
3. The Ceremony
The ceremony is where you and your partner exchange vows & make it official as husband & wife. It can take a traditional approach or be more original and fun with unique rituals.
Regardless of religious or secular, most ceremonies include a processional where the bride and groom enter accompanied by the bridal party (maids and groomsmen in pairs), flower girls and ring bearers. There’s also usually a reading or two from beloved books, poems, personal experiences or other meaningful words.
During the ceremony you’ll exchange rings and commit to each other forever with promises that will make your marriage fulfilling and secure. It’s a pretty big deal!
4. The Reception
At the reception, friends and family celebrate with food, drinks, music, dancing, and gifts. Often, people have traveled a significant distance to be there, so it’s an important time to show appreciation and welcome everyone to your special day.
Once everyone has found their seats, the couple is introduced to the guests. This usually takes a few minutes, and it can also include mother-daughter and father-son dances (if you’re choosing them). Once all the toasts are over and the cake is cut, you can say goodbye to your loved ones with a sparkler send off or whatever else you have planned. This is typically a very emotional and heartwarming moment.
5. The Send-Off
Your planner should be the main keeper of your wedding day timeline, but it’s also smart to enlist a family member or close friend to keep a close eye on the clock and make sure everyone stays on track. This is especially important if you’re planning a destination wedding or have guests who will be traveling a long distance to attend.
Get those labeled envelopes ready for last-minute cash tips for musicians, DJs, hair stylists, makeup artists, drivers and bartenders. Some couples also like to include a few fun favors for their guests to take home with them.
6. The Rehearsal Dinner
The rehearsal dinner is a time for everyone involved in the ceremony to gather together and run-through their respective roles. This is also a great opportunity for you to give your groomsmen and bridesmaids their gifts and for family members to offer their well-wishes.
Traditionally, the groom’s parents host and foot the bill for this event, but you may choose to do otherwise. If you’re inviting out-of-town guests, it’s customary to invite their plus ones as well.
Be prepared for your relatives to grab the mic and regale you with embarrassing stories about you two (and remember, it’s PG-rated only). This isn’t your wedding reception, after all.