I get asked all the time as a Bay Area wedding photographer about wedding planning. Timelines, checklists, vendors, you name it! And don’t get me wrong, I love to help! I really do!! However, a wedding planning checklist has come up so often with my couples, that not only do I have a pdf for it. But, I am now writing a blog too! And if you are more of a visual learned the checklist is at the end of this blog!
Wedding Planning Checklist
Please note before jumping into this checklist, this is just a starting point! Some couples will have more vendors to hire than what I have listed. While others will have significantly less. Some couples will have a year or more to plan. While others will only have 6 months. Take this checklist as a guide to start your planning, and feel free to add and take away as needed!
If you have a lot of time to plan your California wedding day, congrats! This will make you life so much easier as you will have more time for tasks, vendor research, finding decor and so on.
Before anything else, set your budget! Have a clear understanding of your priorities for your big day. How much already exists in your wedding fund and how much you are willing to contribute every month. Then, it is time to set a loose date (a final date will be determined by your venues availability), start researching your vendors in the area, walk through a few venues to compare, decide on your wedding theme, and of course plan your engagement party!
I recommend having an engagement party at this time for a few reasons, one it is fresh! You just got engaged, you deserve to celebrate 🎉. And secondly, you have a lot of decisions to make right now (as I listed above), so take a night to yourselves. Forget all of that and just enjoy your next chapter with your favorite people!
About a year out from your wedding, you will need to start booking your vendors. But before that, you will need to book your venue! Booking your wedding venue will solidify your date and allow you to start booking other vendors.
Now, back to those vendors! The Bay Area has some amazing wedding vendors, and with that they book up quick. As soon as you know who you want, reach out to them! As a Bay Area wedding photographer the majority of my couples will book at least a year in advance, sometimes further. When reaching out to vendors consider how they book. For example, you want to book your wedding photographer early on because they can only book one wedding per day. Whereas a florist or bakery can have multiple weddings in a day.
During this time you will also have to write out a wedding guest list. This can be a tricky task, but I have an entire blog just for this! Decide on who will be in the wedding party. Including bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, ring bearers. Then ask those people to be in your wedding party with a cute proposal! Oh, and don’t forget sending save the dates to your guest list! … and maybe even start wedding dress shopping?!
You did the research, now its time to book! 9 months before your wedding day you should have the following vendors booked:
- Transportation Vendor
- Hair & Makeup
- Bakery (order your wedding cake)
- Hotels & Accommodations
This list may feel daunting, but don’t fret! A lot of these bookings are simply a phone call away. And you don’t need all the information right away. You don’t need to give your DJ your playlist, or your florist you final design. You don’t need to know what flavor cake you will have even! To put it simply, you just need to reserve these vendors for your wedding date!
In addition to booking vendors, this is a great time to create a wedding website and registry. Some couples send this out with an announcement (this is different than a save the date). While others will share their wedding website and registry on social media.
And the last bit to complete at this stage is deciding on wedding favors, and buying your wedding dress! I suggest buying your wedding dress early in the process because some dresses take a lot of time to be delivered. Also, you will more than likely need alterations. And those are notorious for taking a good chunk of time!
This part of the wedding planning checklist seems to be a bit more fun for most! A lot of party planning and finalizing details comes after about 9 months out. Your bachelor/bachelorette trips should be planned, honeymoon booked and finalizing your guest list.
You will also get to do some fun crafting with working on wedding decor and designing invitations. These are services that you can find easily in the industry. Or save a few bucks and do it yourself! … but with help of course!
In addition, this is the time to shop for your wedding rings, if you don’t already have them! As well as deciding on your groomsmen’s suits and bridesmaids dresses. These usually take less time to tailor, or can be made to size much easier than a wedding gown.
Before you know it you will be walking down the aisle! As a Bay Area wedding photographer, this is when I feel it starts to get real.
To start, your wedding stationary should be chosen and wedding invitations should be sent! You will also want to finalize your menu with catering and send your playlist over to your DJ.
Fittings for bridesmaids and groomsmen should be scheduled. Grooms suit should be finalized. And we can’t leave out the bride! Be sure to book a trial run for your hair and makeup.
Time is flying by at this point! But if you have been thorough before this point, then it should be smooth sailing!
2-3 months before your wedding day you will need to create a rough draft of your wedding timeline and draft your seating chart. This will help as you ready yourself for your rehearsal dinner, which should also be booked during this time.
Share this timeline, as well as your photography “must have” shots with your Bay Area wedding photographer. This will prepare your photographer for the big day, as well as set clear expectations for your wedding.
It’s crunch time! This is when I see a lot of brides start to really stress. So take a deep breathe and remember that you can delegate some of these tasks to bridesmaids.
For example, your maid of honor can easily confirm hotels and accommodations, as well as confirming wedding transportation. They can also help with finalizing seating charts and your timeline if needed.
But what your bridal party cannot do is write your vows, have your final dress fitting and apply for your marriage license. So make sure you carve out some time to do those things yourself a month before your wedding.
When you get to this point, you will be so grateful that you followed along my wedding planning checklist! With just a week before the best day of your life, there are something you will want to do at the beginning of the week. While others can wait till the end of the week.
At the beginning of the week, cut and color your hair. This will give your hair time to grow in a bit, and the color to settle. In addition, if heaven forbid you don’t like the cut/color, it gives you time to fix it. I definitely recommend going to a salon you really trust!
Your hair isn’t the only thing you need to think of at the beginning of the week though! About a week out, send your finalized timeline to all your vendors, as well as your bridal party. And organize your tips for your vendors.
Closer to the end of the week you can put together a Bride Bag or emergency kit, and steam your dress. And if you are really pressed for time, delegate these tasks out to your bridesmaids. They are there to help you! Oh, and did I mention a rehearsal dinner? Because that need to happen the week before your wedding day too!
It is the day before your wedding. Thought this day would never come? The only things you really need to do is assign out bridal party duties to your bridesmaids and groomsmen. Give your maid of honor your vendors contact information. And have some fun!!
Wedding Planning Checklist
Are you feeling more confident in planning your wedding now? I have captured dozens of weddings. Each one has its own hiccups and that is okay. This wedding planning checklist is designed as a starting point to get all the important things on your mind and started.
Need more wedding planning advice, or want your own copy of my wedding planning checklist? Reach out and let’s chat!