The ultimate wedding planning timeline
Updated: Apr 26, 2022
Did you know that the average couple is engaged for 15 months?
Whether you’re planning a short or a long engagement, there are a number of things that have to happen in order for your dream day to come together…but where do you start? Wedding planning can be very overwhelming, especially when you start making lists of what all has to get done.
That’s where we come in! While there are lots of other great resources out there that can help you with all of the nitty gritty, teensy tiny details, we here at The Stella Collective are big picture people. From event coordination to working with vendors and everything in between, our team knows what every wedding needs to be successful. Not only that, but with our experience owning two unique wedding venues (Cellar52 and The Timber Barn, in case you’re interested), we understand what will impact your venue’s ability to make your wedding the absolute best it can be.
So let’s break down the biggest things that need to happen before you walk down the aisle.
12+ months before your wedding
1. Book your vendors
You may have heard the term “wedding boom” over the past few years and wondered what it means. Thanks to Ms. Corona, there are more weddings than ever trying to happen over the next few years as couples move ahead with postponed plans. This huge influx means experts are recommending that you book your vendors at least 12-15 months in advance.
When it comes to prioritizing who to secure first, we would recommend starting with the Big 6:
Hair + makeup
These vendors are the ones that have the most impact on your day and are the ones that always get snatched up quickest. These are also the ones that can only take on a limited number of weddings a day while maintaining the artistic quality and integrity you booked them for. So do your research, book meetings, tour venues, and start making some decisions!
2. Decide whether you want to work with a coordinator or planner
Since planning a wedding is, well, a pretty big deal, it’s never a bad idea to consider working with a wedding planner or wedding coordinator. As the experts, they can help you make sure no box goes unchecked and everything gets done on time.
You can even check if your dream venue offers coordination services! (If your dream venue happens to be Cellar52 or The Timber Barn, we’ve got you covered!) We believe that day-of coordination is an important role your venue can play on the big day which is why it’s included with each of our venue rental packages, but we’ll stop trying to sell you on us now!
Bottom line: part of a venue’s role in your coordinators and planners are the experts, so now’s the time to start working with one if you’d like to take advantage of their experience!
Are you a Gilt Catering couple looking for a day-of coordinator?
Get in touch – we’ve got something special for you!
3. Start getting decor inspiration
Florals and table settings and candles, oh my! With just over a year before your wedding, it’s time to begin thinking about what you want it to look and feel like. Consider things like the mood you want to set with your decor and how you’d like your tablescapes to look.
Social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are great starting points and effective ways to keep ideas organized. Create some boards, start saving posts, and keep an ongoing lookbook for what gets you excited! These ideas will all be useful when you start fleshing out decor ideas with your florists and/or decorators later on.
This is also the perfect time to get ahead of last year’s trends! See what’s new in the world of weddings and take a deep dive into blogs that predict what the next best thing is. Neon signs? So last year. Monogrammed cocktail napkins? Hello, trendsetter!
4. Book hotel room blocks for guests
Photo by Liam Good Visuals
Whether you have a lot of out-of-town guests or just love to throw a good party, making sure that rooms are available for your guests to safely spend the night is a critical step during this phase of planning. If you’re local to Waterloo Region, might we suggest Hotel52?
6+ months before your wedding
1. Choose a caterer and start considering your menu
Food is a huge part of your guest’s experience at your wedding, which is why it’s so important! This is the time to start making decisions about what kind of food you’d like to enjoy with your guests so that you can find a caterer that can meet those needs.
Photo by Jasmin Guest Photography
This is a lot easier if you’ve chosen a venue that either has in-house catering services or a list of preferred vendors! By choosing to work with this type of venue, you can cut yourself out as the middle man and make conversations about your menu a lot faster and easier.
2. Finalize guest list and send save the dates
Now that you’re only 6 months out, it’s time to send your save the dates! Decide who makes the cut and who doesn’t and get your wedding information to your nearest and dearest so that they can keep your wedding date open. There’s nothing worse than sending these too late only to find out your best friend can’t make it, so get these ready to go as soon as possible.
Hot tip: if you have your photographer booked already (which we’ve already told you should have happened by now), your engagement photos are perfect for adding a romantic touch to your save the dates!
3. Start booking rentals
Chances are you’ve got great taste, but so do other couples. If it’s important to you to have certain cutlery, charger plates, linens, or ceremony space at your wedding, decide what those are and get them booked as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
4+ months before your wedding
1. Start building out your wedding day’s timeline
Having a clear timeline for your wedding day is really important for making sure all of the moving parts know what’s going to happen at what time. This timeline should include the following types of information:
When do vendors arrive?
When do guests arrive?
What details are still missing?
This is something your wedding coordinator or wedding planner will help you with if you’re working with one, and if you’re on your own, don’t panic! We did some digging and found this great article from Wedding Wire that gives you all the tools you need to get started.
2. Meet with your venue coordinator (if applicable)
Photo by Sandra Monaco Photography
If you’re working with a day-of coordinator at your venue, this 4 month out mark is the perfect time to get in touch and start going through what you’ve already planned. Don’t worry if you haven’t ironed out all the specifics yet – they’re ready and willing to help guide you! Lean on their expertise and trust them to point you in the right direction for any of those outstanding details.
3. Send out your official invites
With only 4 months to go, it’s time to get your invitations in the mail! By now your guests should have penciled your wedding into their calendars – with an official invitation, that pencil will turn to pen.
Typically, we would recommend that your official invites be sent no later than 6 weeks before your wedding. Anywhere between 6 and 10 weeks before is perfect – gives you enough time to plan, and your guests enough time to plan what they’re going to wear!
4. Schedule your hair and makeup trial
If you’re not doing your own hair and makeup for the big day, it’s a good idea to do a trial ahead of time. By getting a sense of what you like ahead of time, you avoid the stress of hating it and rushing to redo it on your wedding day. Worse yet, what if what you envisioned isn’t possible with your hair? Having a trial will help you know what to expect from your artists on the big day and eliminate so many potential disaster scenarios.
Still not convinced this cost is worth it? It’s important to keep in mind that your wedding hair and makeup will be impossible to forget because they’re captured in every photo. So if you want our opinion, get the trial – the stress you might experience otherwise just isn’t worth it.
1 month before your wedding
1. Confirm your final guest count and meal selections
Once those RSVPs start rolling in, it’s time to let your vendors know how many guests will be celebrating with you. This is especially important for your venue and caterer as this will impact how many tables and chairs they need to have in-house and how much food to prepare.
2. Build your seating chart and floorplan
Finalizing your guest count will also give you everything you need to build a complete seating chart and dining room floor plan. This doesn’t need to be fancy but should include every guest’s first and last names to make it easy for your caterer to prepare everyone’s meal. Wedding Wire has an awesome free tool to help you put this together!
3. Apply for your marriage license
If you’re getting married in Ontario, you have up to 3 months to get this done, but don’t forget about it! Without this small but important piece of paper, you might just have to plan a second wedding…
4. Touch base with each of your vendors
Now that you’re under a month away, it’s a good idea to circle back to each of your venues and confirm whether they need any other info from you in order to execute their role flawlessly. This could be things like playlists, shotlists, the order of your processional.
Similarly, is there anything else that you need to know? Some good questions to ask your vendors could include:
How much time they require for setup
The name and contact info for additional staff
Their meal selection (if part of their contract)
For more wedding planning inspo, visit our Instagram pages: