The sooner you start planning your wedding the less stressful it will be.
Wedding planning can seem daunting, but couples who start early, adhere to a budget and take advantage of existing wedding planning resources find that the task becomes more manageable. Since many couples get engaged well before the wedding date, planning can begin early. Starting the process about nine months before the wedding allows the bride and groom ample time to plan a flawless affair. With less time to plan, though, the same tasks can be done in a more rapid succession.
Once couples have set a date for their wedding, it is best to secure the desired location and vendors early on before they get booked. Vendors may include a photographer, videographer, DJ, cake baker and florist. Other decisions that are made nine or more months before the wedding include selecting the time for the event, choosing the person to officiate at the ceremony, deciding on the number of guests to invite, picking a color scheme for the wedding and bridesmaids dresses and setting a preliminary budget.
Typically between six to nine months before the wedding, the bride's dress and other accessories are purchased, a gift registry is created and attendants for the wedding party are selected. According to the Bridal Association of America, a bride can have up to 12 bridesmaids.
Often when the wedding is between four to six months away, the couple will select men's attire, finalize the guest list and order invitations. This is also the time period when a wedding ring is purchased and honeymoon plans are made, as is the decision about where to live after the wedding.
At two to four months prior to the wedding, it is time to plan the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. Maps and directions for the ceremony and reception are completed and accommodations are arranged for out-of-town guests. During these two months, the bride and groom usually meet with the caterer to make menu selections and discuss other details. They also sit down with the baker to finalize the details for the wedding cake. Arrangements are also made with the photographer, videographer and DJ if applicable.
Invitations should be mailed six to eight weeks before the wedding. Also during this time frame, gifts are selected for the attendants and appointments with a hairdresser and/or makeup artist are made.
When it is four to six weeks before the wedding, final fittings for the bride and bridesmaids are generally scheduled. Wedding accessories such as candles, goblets and similar items are purchased, as well as the bride's going away outfit. Since the wedding is drawing near at that point, it is also time to confirm delivery of the flowers and complete any remaining planning for the ceremony and reception.
Approximately two weeks before the wedding, the marriage license application and any needed blood tests are completed. There may be one last consultation with the DJ at this time, and arrangements are made for getting wedding gifts to the couple's home.
One week before the wedding is when all the last-minute details are taken care of. For example, ushers receive seating instructions, seating arrangements and place cards for reception are completed and the caterer receives a final guest count. Lastly, gifts are distributed to the wedding party.
If the wedding planning has gone smoothly, the only task left to do on the wedding day is to sign the wedding certificate.
Couples are advised to finance their wedding with savings, although assuming some debt may be unavoidable. Brides.com suggests wedding debt should not be more than the couple can realistically pay off in one year.
Adhering to a wedding on a budget takes discipline, but it is preferable to entering married life with a large debt from wedding expenses. Couples who keep a record of all money spent and avoid unnecessary expenditures are more likely to limit their expenses. Budget-conscious couples may enlist the help of skilled family and friends. For example, if there is a baker in the family, someone who likes to DJ or someone who arranges flowers, they may get a deep discount on the services. Or perhaps the services will be offered as a wedding gift.
Suggestions abound on how to save money on wedding planning, but each couple must determine where they are willing to cut corners. Some practical ways for couples to reduce their wedding expenses include:
Martha Stewart Weddings has online wedding planning tools as well as ideas and advice about dresses, cakes, flowers, decorations, favors and traditions.
Personalized wedding planning calendars are available on sites such as Elegala.com, the National Wedding Association and The Knot.
Attending a bridal show provides a quick and easy way to speak with many local vendors in one day. Many cities offer bridal shows once or twice a year, and they can be a good source of wedding planning tips and ideas.
Wedding planning books also offer a wealth of information. Some popular choices include "Planning a Wedding To Remember" by Beverly Clark and Bridal Magazine's "How to Plan the Perfect Wedding without Going Broke." Individuals with limited planning time may read "How to I Do: Planning the Ultimate Wedding in Six Weekends or Less" by Holly Lefevre and Christine Cudanes. For the less traditional types, there are books such as "The Anti-Bride Guide: Tying the Knot Outside the Box" by Carolyn Gerin and Stephanie Rosenbaum.