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November 23, 2021
The Best Websites and Tools for Planning a Wedding
As you dip your toes — or full-on dive — into planning your wedding, remember that this day is about celebrating your love. You don’t have to follow this checklist. You can do anything you want, whether that’s a destination elopement with a small group of loved ones, planning a soiree in 3 months, or going the whole shebang with a massive party planned a year or more in advance.
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2. Dress, Guests, And Other Must Do's
Get Organized Sooner Rather Than later...
....12 Months Out
Getting organized might just be the most crucial part of planning your wedding day. If you don’t make a plan and figure out what you want and what you can afford, you’ll be winging it as you move through the planning stages, which can get a wee bit stressful and definitely costly. Below you’ll find some of the topics that you need to figure out on your path to organization and ultimately to a smooth-sailing celebration.
The average engagement length is around 12 months, so prioritize wisely! We’ll start in order of importance, although this is just a guide, so do what feels right for you.
Create A Master Checklist
It’s easier to forget the little things (and even the big things) when you’re planning a wedding. You’re already excited to throw a massive party and celebrate your love. Toss in the emotions tied to the process, the stress of finding all of your favorite vendors — and affording them — and the inevitable bumps in the road that come with being a human, and, understandably, you might feel a little overwhelmed.
Take a deep breath, and know that things are about to become a little easier, thanks to the master checklist you’ll create to guide your way through the experience. It’s best to use something like an Excel spreadsheet to track everything. This master checklist will likely have a couple of pages. The master will include everything you need to do arranged by the timeframe you need to accomplish it. Because it’s a running list, you can edit it when you need to add or take away something. On other pages in this master checklist, you can create a budget page, a honeymoon planning page, and any other pages necessary to keep everything in order in one place.
If you book your venue, check it off in the master list and pencil in the final cost on the budget page. If you’ve got ideas for what you want to do on your honeymoon, add them to the honeymoon page, and mark them down as complete once they’re booked on the master sheet (e.g., flights: check, hotel booked: check).
It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. It just needs to offer you peace of mind that you don’t forget anything.
What's Your Budget?
Where there’s a wedding, you know there’s money flowing. This might be the most daunting part of wedding planning, and it’s the most essential. It will determine almost every other decision you make from here on out. When considering how much wedding you can afford, you need to look at a couple of things:
• How much can you set aside each month for wedding expenses that won’t cut into paying your bills, living, and emergency savings? Is anyone else contributing to the wedding? Find out how much.
• You can track your wedding spending with a simple spreadsheet with a few columns — Estimated, Adjusted, Final. The estimated cost can get you started. Figuring out the typical costs for different services will show how much you’ll need for each category. Add the adjusted expenses after you pick the vendors you want and learn how much they actually cost. The final cost will be the total, plus taxes, tips, and all the other little fees that sneak in.
YNAB is an online budgeting tool that helps you take control of your money. Utilize this resource to save for your wedding and to gain control of your money.
You can have a spectacular experience on any budget as long as you plan ahead. One thing you should always plan for is surprises — then they won’t be quite so surprising! There will always be unexpected expenses (plating fees, set up and break down fees, down to invitation postage which adds up if you have 200+ guests), so plan for a 15%ish cushion that you don’t touch during the planning process.
Once you have your budget, you can add it to your master checklist. If you’ve got someone handy with Excel, they can create a formula that will automatically tally how you’re doing in the expense department, or you can use a tool like YNAB to track expenses.
Pick Your Date and Venue
Now that you’ve got your budget complete, it’s time to pick your date and venue, not always in that order. If your heart is set on a specific venue, you’ll likely need to set your date around the available dates that they have, especially if they’re highly sought after. This means that you need to book the venue as early as possible or risk losing it.
When choosing your venue, you’ll want to know the cost of the venue (and any “hidden” expenses), the number of people it can hold, rules surrounding outside food, drink, music, photography, and more. If it’s outside, what’s the backup plan, and does it cost extra?
Finding your perfect venue isn’t always an easy thing. Some people have a top choice, but what if you have no idea? Don’t worry, we have several resources below that will set you on the right track.
A helpful resource for learning more about the different wedding venue options is through websites like The Venue Report. It includes inspiration for various venues (i.e., a barn wedding or destination weddings) and how you might use them (engagement party, rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception). Now we’ll zoom in to other tasks as the big day starts getting closer.
The Wedding Spot is a great resource for venue inspiration. You can find venues all across the world on any budget.
Zola is another great resource for quickly finding different wedding venues in your area. The choosing just got a whole lot easier.
Once you know the date and location, things get a whole lot simpler. You’ll need to do quite a bit of hiring depending on what you want your wedding day to look like. You don’t have to hire all of them right away, but if your heart is set on someone, it’s best to hit them up sooner rather than later. Once you have your major players in the game (venue, photographer/videographer), you can add their actual cost to your spreadsheet. You’ll have a clearer idea of what you have left for other expenses.
Day Of Coordinator
The Day Of Coordinator can handle the flow of events, getting everyone where they need to be, and ensuring you’ve crossed your T’s and dotted your i’s.
You can learn more about what the Day Of Coordinator does and how they might benefit your big day at Brides.com.
Photographer & Videographer
Most people want photos and videos to remember their wedding day. Should you hire both? Absolutely.
At The Knot, you can find some of the best wedding photographers in your area. Also read this article on Brides.com about the best wedding photographers in America.
If you’re getting married, you likely need an officiant if you want the marriage to be legal. It’s best to interview different ones to find one that will make the best fit for your needs.
You can check out WeddingWire to find officiants in your area.
Everyone loves to nom on good food. Caterers are going to bring the heat (in the kitchen), and provide you with a mouthwatering gastronomic experience.
Thumbtack is great option to seek out caterers. You can also search The Knot for caterers in your area. With both resources, you’ll be able to look at the types of food they serve, general costs, and customer reviews.
Don’t forget the entertainment! It’s a party, after all. Entertainment comes in many forms, so brainstorm what you want to showcase on your wedding day.
Check out GigSalad to find entertainment in your area. You can find orchestras, bands, singers, actors, and all kinds of performers.
If you want to make shopping incredibly easy, create a wedding registry with Amazon. Most people already shop with Amazon and can send you gifts ahead of time — perfect if it’s a destination wedding. Ad
The Dress, The Guests, And Other Must Do's...
....8-10 Months Out
Time is ticking, but you’ve still got plenty of time before the big day. With that being said, it’s critical to stay on top of things that tend to take a while — like dress alterations, for instance. Below you’ll find a list of some essentials to consider during the 8-10 month mark, so you stay ahead of the game.
The Dress And Rentals
Shopping for a wedding dress is an exciting time, but it requires just that — time. Give yourself plenty of it when looking for that perfect gown because it’s more than just swiping a card and walking away with a form-fitting piece. Alterations can take months and sometimes require more than one appointment to get it just right.
Rentals are a little simpler for those looking to get a tux. They still require a fitting, and time to reserve them, so work out all the kinks ahead of time. Another consideration with tux rentals is whether the wedding party will also be decked out in tuxedos. If so, you’ll want to get a head start on figuring out who they are so they can make plans.
You’ll need to decide whether you plan to front the cost of tux rentals and bridesmaids’ gowns or if they’re going to pay themselves. Don’t forget to expense gifts for the wedding party as a token of gratitude for their friendship and commitment to you.
If you’re seeking inspiration for wedding gowns, some bride favorites are the following.
BHLDN is a part of the beloved brand Anthropologie. You’ll find gorgeous, whimsical, dreamy gowns here.
Kleinfeld’s is one of the most famous bridal gown shops in the U.S.
Lulu’s Weddings offers classic and detailed gowns and bridal party attire for all body types.
David’s Bridal is a classic for those looking for a mixture of affordable gowns mixed with the uber chic.
Azazie features matching sets for everyone in the bridal party.
Reformation offers sustainable and affordable dresses for all body types.
Tadashi Shoji is another excellent bridal gown resource that offers virtual styling.
Allure Bridals cover all the details with satin, lace, and decadent beadwork.
Suits & Tuxedos
Formal wear is another accessory that you want to have complete around this time. Make sure your wedding party has their gowns and suits rented or purchased. You can also start shopping with the mothers of the bride and groom. Schedule your final fittings and everything else that’s needed to complete everyone’s look.
Men’s Warehouse is a popular go-to for tuxedos and suits rentals for all the groomsmen.
The Black Tux is a snazzy little shop where you can rent or buy custom-fitted tuxedos for everyone.
Jos A Bank is another tux rental shop offering designer labels and a smooth process.
Of course, there are plenty of other resources online, and we’ll include them throughout this list. When you’re looking for your gown, find something that makes you feel beautiful! When you’ve found the right one, you’ll know. Just come in with a budget in mind and communicate it to the salesperson. They’ll likely offer dresses above and below your price point, so holding tight to that budget will help prevent you from splurging outside of what you can afford.
Optimize The Guest List
Now is the time to figure out how many people you want in attendance for your nuptials. You may be tempted to invite everyone you know (perhaps you can), but your budget should play a significant role here.
Figure out who will be in the wedding party, which family members can make it, and how many people you really want to be there. It’s also a good time to start thinking about food. You can treat each category (venue, food, guest list count, etc.) as a puzzle piece. If the piece costs too much and there is flexibility in it, adjust it to increase the guest list or boost the budget in other areas. Eventually, everything will fit together, but it takes some planning during these initial stages.
As part of the guest list, you’ll want to consider the vendors because these might creep in as a surprise expense if you aren’t prepared for it. Typically, the photographer, videographer, entertainers, and anyone else of service to you will be eating a meal during the big day. So when you book a caterer for 150, your photographer needs to be a part of that final number. Once you know how many guests you’ll have, you can start on the next section.
Zola offers a free guest list management tool that keeps track of RSVPs, addresses, and more.
Save The Dates
You know where, when, who, and how much, so now it’s time for the invites. You don’t have to send wedding invitations this early, but it is a good idea to send out a save the date (even a year in advance is helpful). This is especially true if you’re set to wed on a popular day such as a holiday, or you’re planning a destination wedding that requires some logistical planning.
Your save the dates are also a fun opportunity to take some engagement photos and get familiar with your photographer. Don’t forget to include postage costs into your budget! When you’re looking at save-the-dates, it might be a fun opportunity to look at the different stationery and invitation options. It’s ok if the save-the-dates and formal invitations don’t match, but it will definitely add to the style of your wedding to see hints of the formal invites in your save-the-date notes.
Stationery and invitations
Choosing your stationery and invites is an exciting time in the wedding planning process. These will be the first hints to your wedding guests about what to expect. You can incorporate your colors, themes, wedding website, location, dates, and all the information they might want to know.
If you need some wedding invitation inspiration, shop at minted. They also offer luxury gifts and the stationary necessary to great beautiful invites.
Shutterfly offers affordable prices for high-quality wedding invitations, so you don’t have to break the bank to throw the biggest party of your life.
Paper Source is a one-stop shop for all your wedding invitation needs. You’ll find invites, response cards, informational cards, and so much more.
Magnet Street is another invitation suite offering chic and custom wedding stationery, programs, save the dates, and other inspiration.
If you want to keep your wedding sustainable and “green,” you can purchase digital invitations from Greenvelope. They’re fully customizable and provide a unique spin on wedding invites.
Vistaprint is another affordable option for creating elegant and high-quality wedding invitations for your big day.
Hire Everyone You Can Now
You’ve likely already put a deposit down for the wedding venue, but that’s not all you need to consider. Staying ahead of the game means you’ll likely have your top choices when it comes to the big day. We’ve touched on the main categories for vendors that include photography, food, and entertainment, but don’t forget the smaller but still essential reservations like the following.
You may need to rent a car for various points during your wedding day. Are you booking a limo or a vintage car to drive you from the ceremony or reception? What about cars to take you to the airport?
Find all of your rental car needs at Rentalcars.com. Taking care of things early can guarantee lower prices and coverage on your wedding day. Also check out our handy visual overview of all well-known car rental companies.
Hotel blocks if traveling
If people are coming from out of town or you’re having a party with a lot of alcohol, it might be worth it to block off some hotel rooms somewhere nearby — ideally within walking distance. Hotel blocks will help your guests save money and keep them safe.
You can reserve a block of rooms with booking.com. You might save even more money by calling the hotel directly and bargaining for a cheaper block of rooms. Also check out our handy visual overview of all well-known hotel chains and hotel booking sites.
Looking for a romantic boutique hotel? Check out our tips for finding small and specialty hotels.
Florists & Flowers
Flowers have the power to transform a space into something jawdropping. They add texture, color, and even scent. Hiring a florist is just as important as any other wedding hire because they’re going to make your wedding day pop.
FTD offers bridal floral arrangements right online. You can choose from the premade arrangements or custom order your own ideas. Also check out our handy visual overview of the best online flower boutiques.
The Knot offers a marketplace where you can look up florists in your area, check out customer reviews, and even browse the website for wedding flower inspiration.
Wedding coordinators are going to make your wedding day as easy as digging into that first slice of wedding cake. You can hire a full-on coordinator who tracks the entire process, or you can bring on a Day-Of Coordinator who ensures everything goes according to plan.
When booking your venue, you’ll learn whether they provide tables, chairs, or linens. Some do, and some don’t. If they don’t, you’re going to need to look into rental companies in your area that can provide these services.
Wedding insurance policy
Why would you need a wedding insurance policy? Some venues require insurance to protect against liability. At the same time, the wedding couple may want the insurance to protect against significant weather events, the photographer not showing up, and any other instance where you could potentially lose a lot of money.
Travelers offers event insurance in the case of natural disasters, lost jewelry, and other moments of misfortune that might strike on a wedding day.
Wedsure is an excellent wedding insurance option that covers rented property, media, loss of deposits, cancelations, host liquor liability, and more.
Wedsafe is another wedding insurance company that is here to protect your assets in the case of liability or other mishaps that may occur.
If you’re unsure if it’s worth the expense to purchase wedding insurance, trust that it is. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially if you’re investing a lot into your wedding day.
If you want to make shopping incredibly easy, create a wedding registry with Amazon. Most people already shop with Amazon and can send you gifts ahead of time — perfect if it’s a destination wedding. Ad
The Halfway Point...
....6-8 Months Out
At this point, you can celebrate booking all of the major vendors for your big day. It’s likely shaping up, which means it’s time to get down and dirty with the details — for many, this part is the most fun. You can create your wedding website, create a gift registry, plan your honeymoon, and more. We’ll start with the logistical things and dive into the play.
While logistics may seem boring or tedious, they make it possible for the fun to be had. If you’re planning to leave the country, you’ll need valid passports. If you want everyone to stay on-site, you need to block off hotel rooms. Some of the logistics are loads of fun, though, depending on how you look at them.
Some things to consider when planning out the details for your wedding day include:
• Figuring out precise timing for each of your vendors. Do you want your photographer to photograph the rehearsal dinner or only the day of? What kind of transportation do you need to the wedding, to the reception if it’s at a new location, and to depart from the final venue? When do you want the entertainment to start, food to be served, etc.? These are some common questions to look at, and your vendors will most likely ask you as well.
• Paperwork necessary for the day. You’re going to have all kinds of contracts to look through with your vendors. Read over them carefully to understand when payments are due, cancellation policies, and other important information. If you want something added or removed from the contract, chat with the vendor about it. You’ll also need a marriage license, depending on what legal routes you’re taking for marriage. And you’ll want to make sure all honeymoon and travel arrangements are set and ready to go.
Create a Wedding Website
If you haven’t already, this halfway mark is a great time to get the wedding website up and ready, so you can direct your guests to it when you send out invitations. The wedding website could include your love story, information about when, where, and what to expect, and your gift registry. Some people opt into a gift registry for items for the home, and others choose a registry for an experience like a honeymoon. As a wedding couple, you can decide which works best for your desires.
Zola is a great resource for building out a wedding website. You can also build out your registry, guest list, and more.
Blueprint is another place where you can build out a beautiful wedding website that will get people excited for your big day.
Create a Wedding Registry
Your wedding registry will include anything you need or want. Some people opt to create a honeymoon registry, while others prefer to incorporate gifts for the home and daily life.
The Knot is a great place to build out your wedding registry. You can link to multiple registries at different stores.
Zola is another place to create a registry that you can share directly on your wedding website.
My Registry is another resource where you can add gifts from all of your favorite stores right into one list.
Some people just absolutely love Target. If that’s you, you can create your Target registry right on their website.
Macy’s is the perfect place to create a wedding registry because of its many attractive home design options.
If you want to make shopping incredibly easy, create a wedding registry with Amazon. Most people already shop with Amazon and can send you gifts ahead of time — perfect if it’s a destination wedding.
You can opt to a honeymoon registry at most wedding registries above. There are also registries that specialize in making it easy to fund your dream honeymoon, like Honeyfund.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to start envisioning the design for your wedding day. Design can include a color scheme, wedding theme, tabletop displays, wedding cake or dessert ideas, and how you want the venues to be decorated. There are so many resources to pull from for design ideas. Our favorites include:
Pinterest is a great place to gather all of your wedding inspiration and develop your ideal style. Mood boards are our favorite!
You can spend hours and hours down The Knot rabbit hole looking at inspiration. As you find images that you like, pin them to your Pinterest board.
WeddingWire also offers plenty of wedding inspiration to help hone in on your design style.
Brides will have you dreaming of glamour and high fashion for your wedding day.
Vogue Weddings will offer plenty of real wedding inspiration along with fun and trending pieces focused on current events in the wedding world.
Get crafty and inspired with Martha Stewart Weddings. You’ll find all kinds of wedding inspiration to get you excited about your big day.
There are many more online resources to pull from for wedding design inspiration and celebration ideas, these were just our favorites. To discover more, visit our extensive overview of the most popular wedding sites on the internet.
All the choices can feel overwhelming if you aren’t sure, which is why we love Pinterest. You can create a wedding board and pin the images that inspire you. Eventually, you may see a theme emerge from the ideas, and you can bring those examples to your florist or wedding planner. The wedding planner or coordinator is another invaluable resource if you’re feeling stuck or unsure. It’s their job to help you feel unstuck and get you excited about the full vision while taking some of the tasks of executing the vision off of your plate so you can focus on other things.
Let the Shopping Begin
....4-6 Months Out
While it’s not quite time for the biggest party, the shopping part of this experience is its own kind of party. Whether you’re looking for vintage formalwear or custom-made ball gowns, the shopping part can be a blast. Below, you’ll find a list of some of the more common items you’ll need to shop for as the big day gets closer.
Taste Testing The Cake
The wedding cake (or other desserts if you’re going for something different) is a fun experience. You book an appointment with the baker that you want to use and head in for taste testing. Bring in your ideas for how you want the cake to look, and then get ready to sample some delicious cakes, frostings, and fillings. You might want to bring a notepad to take notes on the flavors and why you like them to help you decide which ones you want when it’s time.
Enjoy the process of finding wedding rings that you and your partner both love. Now is an excellent time to accomplish this task because you might need to get them sized. It’s better to be a little ahead of the game rather than not have your rings when the day comes. Sometimes it also takes a bit of time to find exactly what you’re looking for.
You can find some wedding ring options at:
Blue Nile offers classic and elegant wedding rings, bands, and so much more.
Jared is another option that provides all the jewelry you’ll need for your wedding day at affordable prices for many of the pieces.
James Allen offers classic wedding rings that you’ll love for many years to come.
Another classic wedding ring store, Kay Jewelers, offers many classic pieces in a wide range of prices to meet any budget.
At Zales, you can find all of your wedding jewelry needs, including gifts for the mothers of the bride and groom.
There are many more online sites to shop for wedding rings, these were just our favorites. Visit our extensive overview of the most popular jewelry stores on the internet.
....1-4 Months Out
It’s almost D-Day, and now you can see the big picture taking shape. During these last few months before your wedding day, dive deep into the details of the day to make sure you’ve covered all of your bases while also staying on budget.
Back To The Master Checklist
You should have most everything planned up to this point — venue, vendors, gowns, cake, florists, transportation, lodging, food, etc. Now is the time to go back to the master checklist and the budget spreadsheet. What have you completed, and how are you doing with the budget? Now that you’ve completed the major tasks on your master checklist, you can zoom in to the actual wedding day.
Make a timeline starting with when you want everyone to gather, where you’ll be getting your hair and makeup done, and when vendors should arrive. Write down the ceremony start time, songs you’ll be using, the order of events, and how you’ll depart. Think of what photos you want, and chat with your photographer and videographer about any time to be incorporated for pictures during the day. Dream about how you’ll enter the reception, what time food will be served, and what kind of entertainment and dancing you want. And finally, what time will the party wrap up, where will everyone stay, and what comes next.
This is a time to finalize everything and get down and dirty with the exact details of the day. Of course, plan for surprises during the day and trust that everything will be beautiful even if things stray from the detailed plan.
The Final Logistics
You’ve likely hired everyone you plan to hire, but there are some things to prepare for with them before your wedding day arrives. Some final logistics to consider are:
• Scheduling a hair and makeup trial.
• Sending out invitations if you haven’t already.
• Create or plan your menu with the caterers.
• Compile favors for the guests.
• Write your views.
• Connect with the officiant and anyone else that needs a pre-wedding meeting.
• Finish up any DIY projects, so you aren’t rushing.
• Give song selections to your DJ or other entertainment.
• Purchase any smaller items you might need like the guest book, cake toppers, flower girl and ring bearer accessories, dancing shoes, wedding party gifts, etc.
• Create a seating chart.
• Put tips in envelopes for each of your vendors.
Thanks to your wedding master checklist, you’ll know what’s left to do, including paying the final balances for all of your vendors.
It's Time For The Big Day
....1 Week Out and Wedding Day!
Congratulations! You’re only one week out from your wedding day, and the excitement is mounting. Perhaps friends and family are arriving in town, you’ve settled all expenses with vendors, and the party is most definitely happening. There are a few last-minute things you can accomplish before the celebration commences.
The Week Before
It’s the week before you’re wedding and there’s not much left to do. First off, keep taking deep, relaxing breaths. Everything is going to be fabulous! Next:
• Book a couples massage.
• Touch up hair and nails as needed.
• Do a final walk-through of the venue.
• Final dress fitting and ensuring a bridal party member knows how to bustle it if necessary.
• A definitive headcount to send to the caterer and venue.
• Pack for the big day and the honeymoon to follow.
• Wrap up any work that needs to be finished so you can focus on the day.
You can add more to this list as it makes sense for you. There’s no one right way to do things, so enjoy the experience.
The Night Before
It’s the night before the wedding day. We know you’re bursting with nerves, excitement, and hopefulness that everything will go according to plan. The night before the wedding, make sure you:
• Get a good night’s sleep.
• Eat a nourishing meal that doesn’t leave you feeling too full or uncomfortable.
• Pack a bag of some personal items you might need for tomorrow.
• Drink all the water.
The Day Of
Happy wedding day! All of your hard work over the last 12 months has paid off, and it’s time to marry the love of your life. What you need to do today includes:
• Eat a nourishing, light breakfast.
• Have someone steam your dress and veil as required.
• Share some love notes or words with your life partner to be.
• Drink more water.
• Leave the rest to your wedding coordinator, family, friends, and bridal party.
• Enjoy the first day of the rest of your life.
Planning a wedding is one of the most exciting events in a person’s life. It requires a lot of time, money, effort, patience, and creativity. It’s also totally worth it! We hope this ultimate guide to planning your wedding gives you a solid foundation for creating a memorable wedding day. Always remember that there’s no right way to celebrate your love. The most important thing is that you’re getting to celebrate one of the greatest loves of your life and anything outside of that is just a bonus.