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The Countdown Begins: Your Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist

First things first:

- Tell friends and family.

- Set the date.

- Choose the type of wedding you want (formal, semi-formal, informal; which season).

- Set a wedding budget and decide who will be able to contribute and how much.

- Visit, choose and book your ceremony and reception sites.

- Pick a photographer/videographer.

- Have engagement photos taken.

- Start shopping for your gown.

- Start working on your guest list.

- Arrange for both sets of parents to get together.

9 to 12 months before:

- Sign up for any pre-marital counseling or classes.

- Announce your engagement in local newspapers, if desired.

- Choose your wedding party members.

- Arrange the first meeting with your minister, priest or rabbi and wedding planner (if using one).

- Throw an engagement party.

- Gather wedding inspiration. Start a Pinterest board. Search magazines and websites for ideas.

- Begin adding the names of vendors and their contact information into a master contact list.

6 to 9 months before:

- Select a caterer.

- Choose a baker, schedule cake tastings.

- Order your gown and schedule fittings (remember to bring your shoes).

- Shop for bridesmaid dresses.

- Hire a florist.

- Book a band/DJ.

- Start researching honeymoon spots.

- Finalize the guest list.

- Book a stationer (and calligrapher, if using one).

- Mail save-the-date cards.

- Purchase your shoes, headpiece, jewelry and lingerie for the big day.

- Book hair and makeup artists for the big day.

- Reserve event necessities. Book portable toilets for outdoor events, extra chairs, linens, lighting and so on.

- Start making a day-of timeline, determining what should happen when (speeches, first dance, etc).

- Book a block of hotel rooms near the reception site for out-of-town guests.

- Register for gifts at two to three places.

- Start to keep track of favorite songs.

4 to 6 months before:

- Order all wedding stationery (invitations, envelopes, thank-you notes) and work out pricing for programs, menus and place cards, which will be printed closer to the date.

- Hire wedding-day transportation.

- Book flights and hotel reservations for your honeymoon.

- Arrange the rehearsal dinner.

- Schedule any beauty treatments (brow-waxing, facials, teeth-whitening) that you’d like to have done before the wedding.

- Send a guest list to the host of your bridal shower.

- Order passport, if necessary.

- Purchase wedding rings; order engraving.

- Remind mother and mother-in-law to start shopping for their dresses.

2 to 4 months before:

- Order the suits for the groom and groomsmen.

- Meet with the caterer or facility manager to discuss menus, wine selections, serving style, etc.

- Choose and order wedding favors and welcome baskets, if desired.

- Order the wedding cake.

- Meet with your officiant to discuss your ceremony; invite loved ones to perform readings, if appropriate.

- Choose songs for the ceremony and reception.

- Buy thank-you gifts for your attendants.

- Confirm group hotel rates for out-of-town guests.

- Book your pre-wedding and wedding-night hotel.

- Finalize your honeymoon plans.

- Send invitations to the calligrapher if you’re using one.

- Plan your bachelorette party with your attendants.

- Send a day-of timeline to your vendors so they’ll have ample time for tweaks and feedback.

- Sign up for dance lessons, if desired.

1 to 2 months before:

- Mail invitations.

- Do a hair and makeup run-through (with headpiece).

- Meet with the caterer to finalize a menu.

- Send programs, menus and escort cards to the stationer to be printed (if not using a calligrapher).

- Send your wedding announcement to local newspapers, if desired.

- Write thank-you notes as you receive gifts. Maintain a list of all presents received and thank-yous written.

2 to 4 weeks before:

- Plot the seating for the reception.

- Confirm times with all vendors.

- Have your final dress fitting.

- Write your rehearsal dinner toast.

- Compose your vows, if desired.

- Visit the salon for one last cut and color.

- Send escort cards and the seating chart to your calligrapher to fill in guests’ names and table numbers.

- Enter RSVPs into a guest-list database, and call invitees who haven’t yet responded.

 -Get your marriage license. If you’re changing your name, order several extra copies.

- If changing your name, make arrangements with Social Security, Department of Motor Vehicles, credit card companies and your bank.

- Mail the rehearsal dinner invitations, if applicable.

- Stock the bar using your final head count as a guide.

- Send out as many final vendor payments as you can.

- Provide addresses for drivers of transport vehicles.

- Create a must-take “shot list” and discuss it with your photographer.

1 week before:

- Compile the fees that will be due on the wedding day.

- Give the caterer a final head count.

- Appoint a reliable pal to transport the cake knife, toasting glasses, etc. to and from the reception site.

- Get final beauty treatments (facial, waxing, brow-shaping, etc.).

- Pack for the honeymoon.

- Give your honeymoon itinerary to a friend or family member in case of emergency.

- Pick up your dress or make arrangements for it to be fetched or delivered.

- Arrange for the cake to be delivered to the reception venue.

- Buy a guest book, if you choose to use one.

- Delegate small wedding-day tasks: someone to carry your things; someone to bustle your dress; someone to manage the gifts; someone to hand out tips; and so on.

- Send a timeline to the bridal party, including every member’s contact information.

- Break in your shoes.

- Assemble and distribute welcome baskets to out-of-town guests, if desired.

- Pick up wedding rings, check engravings and sizes.

- Remind men to pick up formalwear and shoes, and check them for fit.

- If you don’t have a personal attendant, ask a friend to help you get dressed on the big day.

- Talk to head usher about any special seating arrangements.

- Arrange for a light snack for the wedding party to eat while getting ready for the ceremony.

Last 24 hours:

- Help decorate the venue, if necessary.

- Have a manicure, pedicure and any other last-minute pampering treatments.

- Distribute thank-you gifts to the wedding party, special attendants and parents.

- Organize for a note or gift to be delivered to your fiancé on the wedding day.

- Take a relaxing bath, go to bed early and start getting excited. You’re about to get married!

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