Wedding Planning Timeline: Your Month-by-Month Guide to a Perfect Day

Wedding Planning Timeline: Your Month-by-Month Guide to a Perfect Day

Planning your wedding can feel like a big task, but breaking it down into a manageable timeline makes everything easier. From the moment you get engaged, you start the exciting journey towards your big day. A solid wedding planning timeline can help you stay organized and stress-free.

Start by creating a detailed budget and guest list. This will guide most of your decisions, including selecting the perfect venue and hiring a wedding planner if needed.

Knowing your budget helps keep your plans realistic and ensures you can enjoy the process.

You’ll also need a checklist to keep track of all the tasks, from booking vendors to sending out invitations. This keeps you on track and helps you focus on one thing at a time.

Setting a clear wedding date early on helps you work backward, making sure that every detail is in place when the day arrives.

12+ Months Before the Wedding

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Starting to plan your wedding more than a year in advance helps you handle the essential tasks in a relaxed manner. You have plenty of time to make important decisions regarding your budget, guest list, and venue.

Illustrated wedding day essentials checklist categorized into sections for the bride, groom, and emergency kits, with a cartoon couple in wedding attire. Pastel color scheme with detailed item lists.

Set Your Budget

Setting a budget is the foundation of your wedding planning. Determine how much you and your partner can afford, and discuss contributions from family members.

List major expenses such as venue, catering, attire, and entertainment.

Create a spreadsheet or use budgeting apps to track every cost. This keeps you aware of where your money is going and helps prevent overspending.

Remember to include a buffer for unexpected costs, which often pop up closer to the wedding day.

Create a Guest List

Creating a guest list early lets you estimate the size of your wedding and the associated expenses.

Start by listing everyone you want to invite. Divide this list into categories: family, friends, work colleagues, and acquaintances.

Discuss with your partner how large or intimate you want your celebration.

Consider venue size and catering costs since each guest adds to the expense.

A preliminary guest list helps you choose the right venue and ensures you stay within your budget.

Book a Venue

Booking a venue should be a top priority, as popular places fill up quickly.

Think about the type of venue that fits your style and the number of guests.

Visit several venues to compare facilities, settings, and availability.

Consider factors like location, capacity, services offered, and cost.

Some venues may include extras like catering, decor, or parking, which can save you money.

Once you decide, sign a contract to secure your date.

Hire a Wedding Planner

If your budget allows, hiring a wedding planner can make the process smoother.

A planner brings expertise and industry connections, which can save time and reduce stress. They handle logistics, vendor negotiations, and timelines.

Meet with a few planners to find someone who understands your vision and budget.

Check their references and look at previous weddings they have planned.

Having a professional on board allows you to focus on enjoying the planning process and your engagement.

Choose a Date

Choosing a wedding date is crucial as it impacts venue availability and your planning timeline.

Discuss with key family members and friends to avoid major conflicts.

Consider seasonal weather patterns, holidays, and personal significance of dates when deciding.

Check the availability of your preferred venue and vendors for the dates you’re considering.

Flexibility with your date can provide more options and sometimes even discounts.

Engagement Party

An engagement party celebrates your new status with close friends and family.

Plan it shortly after getting engaged to share your excitement.

Decide who will host (traditionally, it’s the bride’s family) and choose a venue—it could be a backyard, restaurant, or rented space.

Send out invitations early to give guests enough notice.

This event sets the tone for your upcoming wedding and allows you to introduce both families and friend groups.

Keep the event fun and stress-free, focusing on celebrating your love and upcoming journey.

9-12 Months Before the Wedding

This period is crucial for setting the tone of your wedding. You’ll start locking in important details like your guest list, attire, and key vendors that will help bring your big day to life.

Send Save-the-Dates

Sending save-the-dates gives your guests a heads-up. It’s especially important if you’re planning a destination wedding.

Include basic details like the date and location. This helps guests plan their schedules and travel arrangements.

Choose designs that match your wedding theme to give a sneak peek into the style of your big day.

Choose Wedding Party

Select your bridal party members who will support you throughout the planning process.

Think about who you want as your bridesmaids, groomsmen, or any other attendants.

Let them know why they are important to you and what you expect from them.

This helps your closest friends and family get excited and involved early on.

Hire Key Vendors

Book your critical vendors, such as the photographer, DJ, and caterer.

These professionals often get booked quickly, so securing them early ensures you get your top choices.

For a photographer, review their portfolio to see if their style matches your vision.

A DJ should have a good mix of songs and the ability to read the crowd.

For the caterer, schedule tastings to ensure the food meets your expectations.

Shop for Attire

Start shopping for wedding attire. This includes the wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses, and suits for the groomsmen.

Begin with your bridal gown as it may take several months for alterations and fittings.

Consider the dress code for your wedding and the season when choosing your outfit.

Begin Planning Honeymoon

Start thinking about where you’d like to go for your honeymoon.

Decide whether you want a beach getaway, an adventurous trip, or a cultural exploration.

Look into travel deals and accommodations, especially if you plan to go abroad.

Make sure passports and any required vaccinations are up-to-date if traveling internationally.

Wedding Website

Create your wedding website to keep guests informed.

Include details such as the wedding date, location, accommodations, and your registry.

This is also a great place to share your love story, engagement photos, and any updates leading up to the day.

Many websites offer customizable templates to match your wedding theme.

Engagement Photos

Schedule your engagement photo shoot.

These photos can be used for save-the-dates, your wedding website, and social media announcements.

Choose a location that is meaningful to both of you, and plan your outfits to coordinate with each other without being too matchy.

This is also a great way to get comfortable in front of the camera before the big day.

6-9 Months Before the Wedding

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During this stage, you will make some of the key decisions for your wedding. This period involves finalizing many of the services and details that will bring your wedding vision to life.

Order Invitations

Start by selecting the wedding stationery that fits your theme.

You’ll need invitations, RSVP cards, and possibly additional details cards.

Think about colors and designs that align with your wedding theme.

Once you have your guest list, order your invitations.

Allow time for printing and proofreading to avoid any mistakes.

Aim to mail out invitations 6-8 weeks before the wedding, so they need to arrive early enough for that timeline.

Register for Gifts

Create or update your wedding gift registry.

Think about different price points to accommodate all budgets.

Popular items include kitchen appliances, bedding, and home decor.

Online registries can make it easier for your guests to shop.

Remember to add this information to your wedding website or include a tiny card with your invitations.

Book Transportation

Think about how you and your guests will travel on the big day.

Options include limousines, vintage cars, or even a shuttle bus for larger groups.

Confirm availability and make sure the transportation provider understands your schedule.

Consider booking transportation for both the ceremony and the reception to ensure everyone arrives on time.

Plan Décor

Plan the décor that will set the mood for your wedding day.

Begin with your overall wedding theme and color scheme.

Think about centerpieces, table settings, and lighting.

Visit your venue to visualize where you want specific pieces. Don’t forget about signage and seating charts.

Mixing candles, flowers, and unique tableware can bring everything together beautifully.

Select Florist

Selecting a florist is a big step for your ceremony and reception.

Meet with potential florists to discuss your vision.

Think about the types of flowers you want and how they will fit with your wedding theme.

Review portfolios to make sure their style matches yours.

Decide on bouquets, boutonnieres, centerpieces, and any additional floral arrangements needed for your ceremony and reception.

Order Bridesmaid Dresses

Choose and order the dresses for your bridesmaids. Consider styles that align with your wedding theme and season. Also, take into account the comfort and preferences of your bridesmaids.

After selecting the dresses, allow time for fittings and any alterations needed. Aim to place your order about 6-7 months before the wedding to ensure they arrive on time.

Hire Ceremony Musicians

Music will set the tone for your ceremony. You might want a string quartet, a solo guitarist, or a small band.

Meet with potential musicians to hear them play and discuss the kind of music you envision. Confirm their availability for your wedding day and discuss any specific songs or pieces you want. This will help you create a memorable atmosphere for your ceremony.

4-6 Months Before the Wedding

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Use this time to take care of crucial details such as ordering the cake, planning the ceremony, hiring hair and makeup artists, finalizing dress fittings, sending invitations, buying or renting tuxedos, and planning wedding favors.

Order Cake

It’s time to choose and order your wedding cake. Set up a tasting with your chosen bakery to decide on flavors and designs.

Consider how the cake will match your wedding theme and colors. Make sure the size of the cake matches the number of guests. Ordering the cake now ensures there’s enough time for any adjustments if needed.

Plan Ceremony

Decide on the flow of the ceremony. Choose the readings, music, and any special rituals you want to include.

Meet with your officiant to go over the details and make sure they understand your vision. Also, plan where each part of the wedding party will stand and any special instructions they need to follow.

Hire Hair and Makeup Artists

Book your hair stylist and makeup artist early to ensure availability.

Have a trial run for both hair and makeup to finalize your look. Discuss any allergies or skin concerns with your makeup artist.

Make sure the stylist and artist can handle your wedding party’s needs as well. This helps ensure everyone looks their best on the big day.

Final Dress Fittings

Your final wedding dress fittings should be scheduled to make sure your dress looks perfect.

Bring the shoes and undergarments you plan to wear so the fit can be accurate. This is also a good time to practice walking and dancing in your dress.

Ensure that any last-minute adjustments can be made in time for your wedding day.

Send Invitations

It’s time to send out your wedding invitations. Make sure to include all necessary information such as date, time, location, dress code, and RSVP details.

Consider any extras like maps or hotel information for out-of-town guests. Sending invitations early ensures guests have enough time to make travel arrangements.

Buy or Rent Tuxedos

Decide if you will buy or rent tuxedos for the groom and wedding party. Schedule fittings to make sure they fit properly.

Coordinate colors and styles with the wedding theme and the bride’s dress. Ordering now gives you time to handle any sizing issues or adjustments that may arise.

Plan Wedding Favors

Think about the kind of wedding favors you want to give your guests. Choose items that are meaningful or match your wedding theme.

Decide how they will be displayed or distributed. Make sure to order or prepare them in advance so they’re ready for the wedding day. This adds a personal touch and shows your appreciation to your guests.

2-4 Months Before the Wedding

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Two to four months before your wedding is a busy and exciting time. You’ll need to focus on important tasks like applying for your marriage license, finalizing your menu, and confirming details with vendors.

Paying close attention to these elements will help ensure your big day goes smoothly.

Apply for Marriage License

Getting your marriage license is a crucial step. Check your local county clerk’s office for the required documents and fees.

Usually, you will need identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, and sometimes your birth certificate.

It’s also wise to check if there’s a waiting period. Some places require you to wait a few days after you apply before you can actually get married. Make sure you and your partner both go in person to apply.

Create a Day-of Timeline

Your day-of timeline is essential for making sure everything happens on schedule during the wedding.

Write down each segment of the day, from getting ready in the morning to when the reception wraps up.

Work closely with your wedding planner, if you have one, and consult with your photographer and videographer to make sure they know the schedule. This planning will help everyone stay on the same page.

Book Rehearsal Dinner

Booking your rehearsal dinner venue is another key task. Think about a location that’s convenient for most guests, especially those coming from out of town.

Often, the rehearsal dinner is a great time to relax with close family and friends.

Ensure your caterers and venue know your budget and preferences. Consider the menu carefully to make sure there are options for all dietary requirements.

Finalize Menu

Your wedding menu should reflect you and your partner’s tastes while catering to your guests. Smoked salmon? Vegan dishes? Check with your caterers and attend a tasting session if possible.

After deciding on the dishes, confirm any special dietary requirements with your guests so the caterers can make necessary adjustments. Be clear about the number of courses and the timing each will be served.

Confirm Details with Vendors

It’s vital to confirm all details with your vendors, such as the photographer, videographer, and officiant, to ensure everyone knows their responsibilities.

Double-check arrival times, setup requirements, and contact information.

Ensure vendors know the venue layout and any specific instructions for accessing the location. Keep a list of contact numbers handy so you can reach them easily on the day.

Hair and Makeup Trial

Having a hair and makeup trial is key to avoiding surprises on your wedding day.

Book an appointment with your chosen stylist and discuss the look you want. Bring photos for inspiration.

Discuss any skin or hair concerns you might have and make sure you’re happy with the products used. Take pictures of the final look from various angles to see how it photographs.

Select Readings

Select meaningful readings for your ceremony. These could be passages from favorite books, poems, or even song lyrics that are special to you and your partner.

Discuss your choices with your officiant to ensure they fit the tone and structure of your ceremony.

Consider asking family or friends to do the readings, as it’s a nice way to include them in your ceremony. Make sure they have the text well in advance so they can practice.

Prepare Thank You Cards

With RSVPs rolling in, now is a good time to start writing thank you cards for your guests’ gifts.

It’s best to write them as gifts come in to avoid a last-minute rush.

Set aside some time each week to focus on these cards. Being specific about the gift received and your appreciation makes the note more personal and meaningful. Keep your list updated to ensure no one is missed.

1-2 Months Before the Wedding

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As you approach the final weeks before your wedding, there are several crucial tasks you need to complete. These include finalizing your seating chart, purchasing your wedding bands, and confirming honeymoon reservations, among other important details.

Seating Chart

Creating the seating chart is an important task that helps your reception run smoothly.

Start by confirming RSVPs to know exactly who’s attending. Group guests by relationship or common interests to encourage conversation and enjoyment.

Consider family dynamics and make adjustments to keep everyone comfortable. Use a digital tool or paper version, whichever you find easier, to visualize your seating plan. This step ensures that everyone has a spot and helps your vendors plan their services better.

Purchase Wedding Bands

If you haven’t already, now is the time to purchase your wedding bands.

Visit several jewelers to explore different styles and price ranges. Consider matching bands or unique designs that reflect both your personalities.

Have your rings sized properly and ask about engraving options if you want to include special messages. Ordering now ensures you’ll have the bands ready for the ceremony and eliminates last-minute rushes.

Write Vows

Writing personal vows can make your ceremony highly meaningful.

Take time to reflect on your relationship, your love for each other, and your promises for the future. Keep your vows personal but concise, highlighting key moments and feelings.

Practice reading them aloud to ensure they flow well and fit within any time constraints set by your officiant. Written vows also provide a cherished keepsake of your big day.

Final Payments

Many vendors will require final payments at this stage. Review your contracts to confirm the due amounts and payment methods.

Ensure you have accurate records of all transactions.

Pay vendors such as caterers, photographers, and DJs on time to avoid any issues on the wedding day. Keeping up with these payments ensures a smooth, stress-free experience.

Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties

One to two months before the wedding is a perfect time for your bachelor or bachelorette parties.

Coordinate with your closest friends or bridal party to plan a fun event that suits your style, whether it’s a night out, a relaxing spa day, or a short trip.

Ensure you set clear boundaries and schedules to keep the celebration safe and enjoyable for everyone. This event is a great way to bond and celebrate before the big day.

Confirm Honeymoon Reservations

Confirming honeymoon reservations ensures a seamless transition from wedding celebrations to your getaway.

Double-check travel documents like passports and visas, and confirm bookings for flights, accommodations, and activities.

Create a packing list to ensure you don’t forget essentials. This preparation will help you relax and enjoy your honeymoon knowing everything is in place.

Order Alcohol

If your venue allows you to bring your own alcohol, now is the time to finalize your order.

Calculate quantities based on the number of guests and the types of drinks you want to offer.

Work with your caterer or a liquor store to get the best deals, and don’t forget to include non-alcoholic options. This step guarantees you’ll have enough beverages for everyone to enjoy during your celebration.

2-4 Weeks Before the Wedding

The final weeks before your wedding are crucial for tying up loose ends and making sure everything is ready for the big day.

Focus on confirming your guest list, handling attire, and finalizing travel plans.

Confirm RSVPs

Make sure every guest on your list has responded. Double-check that you have all RSVPs in hand. This is important because your venue needs a final headcount soon.

Contact anyone who hasn’t responded. Email, call, or text guests to get their answers. It helps to have a list of responses already sorted.

Confirm any special dietary needs and make sure this info reaches the caterer.

Final Dress Fitting

Schedule a final fitting for your wedding dress. This ensures it looks perfect on your big day.

Try on the dress with all your accessories. This includes shoes, jewelry, and any undergarments you plan to wear.

Bring someone you trust to the fitting to help you. Make sure the dress fits comfortably and adjust if needed. Check if any last-minute tweaks are required.

Pick Up Marriage License

Head to the local courthouse or clerk’s office to pick up your marriage license. Make sure you have all necessary documents, like ID and any other required paperwork.

Some places require a waiting period, so plan accordingly. Both you and your partner will need to go together. Double-check the office hours to avoid any issues.

Break in Shoes

Wear your wedding shoes around the house to break them in. This helps avoid blisters and discomfort on the wedding day.

Walk on different surfaces, like carpet and hard floors. Do this for short periods to start, gradually increasing the time.

If the shoes still hurt, consider using shoe stretchers or gel pads.

Pack for Honeymoon

Start packing for your honeymoon at least a couple of weeks in advance.

Make a list of essentials like passports, tickets, and travel-sized toiletries. Consider the climate and activities you’ll be doing.

Pack comfortable clothing and any special outfits you plan to wear. Don’t forget chargers for your devices and any medications you need.

Create Welcome Bags

Prepare welcome bags for out-of-town guests arriving for the wedding. Include essentials like water bottles, snacks, and a local map.

Add a personal touch with a note from you and your partner. Consider including items that reflect your wedding theme or location.

Hand these out at the hotel where your guests are staying.

Confirm Guest Accommodations

Ensure that all your guests have their accommodations sorted.

Check with the hotel to confirm room blocks. Make sure everyone is aware of check-in times and any special instructions. Share any transportation arrangements for the wedding day.

If there are last-minute changes, let your guests know as soon as possible.

1 Week Before the Wedding

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With just a week left, it’s essential to finalize plans, delegate tasks, and ensure everything is in place to make your big day run smoothly. Preparation and relaxation both play a key role in your final week of wedding planning.

Delegate Tasks

In the days leading up to your wedding, you need help managing last-minute details.

Delegate tasks to trusted friends or family. Assign someone to oversee the setup at the venue, and another person to manage the ceremony schedule.

Create a clear to-do list that details each task and contact person. This will keep stress levels low and ensure nothing is overlooked.

Rehearse Ceremony

The rehearsal is crucial for making sure everything goes as planned.

Schedule a rehearsal at the ceremony venue to go through the procession and vows. Involve your bridal party and anyone with a special role.

This practice session helps everyone know their place and time, ensuring your ceremony is smooth and flawless.

Beauty Treatments

This is the time for final beauty treatments.

Schedule appointments for manicures, pedicures, and any other final beauty touch-ups. Avoid trying new treatments this close to your wedding to prevent any unexpected reactions.

Stick to tried-and-true services to enhance your natural look.

Finalize Details

Confirm all final details with your vendors to prevent any last-minute surprises.

Check in with the caterer regarding the final headcount, ensure the florist has the correct order, and verify the timeline with your photographer.

Double-check that all payments have been made and tips prepared for the vendor envelopes.

Relax

Amidst the planning, take time to relax. Consider a spa day or a calming activity, like a quiet dinner or a walk.

It’s important to unwind and take care of yourself. This will help you feel refreshed and ready for your wedding day.

Pack Wedding Day Essentials

Pack a bag with your wedding day essentials. Include items like your dress, shoes, accessories, and emergency kit with things like safety pins, extra makeup, and tissues.

Plan for contingencies to keep everything running smoothly. Having a well-prepared kit can make last-minute emergencies a lot easier to handle.

Prepare Tips

Set aside tips for your vendors. Put cash tips in labeled envelopes for easy distribution.

Typical vendors to tip include the officiant, caterer, photographer, and musicians. This gesture shows appreciation for their hard work and ensures smooth service on your wedding day.

Properly organized tips reflect thoughtful planning and respect for your team.

The Day Before the Wedding

The day before your wedding is crucial for both final preparations and relaxation. Ensuring everything is in place and taking care of yourselves is vital for enjoying your big day.

Rehearsal Dinner

The rehearsal dinner, usually the night before the wedding, is a wonderful tradition. It’s a chance for families and friends to gather, unwind, and connect before the big day.

Make sure to keep it simple and enjoyable.

Plan a menu that suits everyone and remember to consider any dietary restrictions. Assign seats to help guests mingle and feel comfortable.

It’s also a great time for toasts and speeches, so encourage your loved ones to share their thoughts and feelings.

Prepare Emergency Kit

An emergency kit can save the day if unexpected issues arise. Pack essentials like safety pins, stain remover, a small sewing kit, and extra makeup.

Include items like pain relievers, band-aids, and snacks to keep everyone feeling their best.

Think about what you or your bridal party might need if something goes awry. Having this kit ready and easily accessible can give you peace of mind and help you stay cool under pressure.

Get Plenty of Rest

It’s tempting to stay up late with excitement, but getting enough sleep is crucial. Aim for at least 8 hours of rest.

Create a relaxing bedtime routine to help you wind down. Maybe read a book, take a warm bath, or listen to soothing music.

Avoid screen time before bed as it can interfere with sleep. You want to wake up refreshed and ready to enjoy every moment of your wedding day.

Wedding Rehearsal

The wedding rehearsal is essential for ensuring everyone knows their role. Walk through the ceremony from start to finish.

This practice run helps everyone understand where they need to be and what they need to do.

Coordinate with your officiant and make sure any last-minute details are addressed. This rehearsal can help reduce anxiety and ensure that the ceremony runs smoothly.

Give Rings to Best Man

Entrusting the rings to your best man ensures they are safe and ready for the ceremony. Remind him of the importance of keeping them secure.

This small but crucial task should be done the day before to avoid any last-minute rush or confusion.

Consider placing the rings in a special box or pouch to make them easier to handle. Ensure the best man feels comfortable with this responsibility.

Drop Off Décor

If your venue allows, drop off any decorations, flowers, or other items needed for the wedding day.

Coordinate with the venue staff to confirm delivery times and storage details. This step ensures everything is in place and ready for setup.

Label boxes and items clearly to avoid confusion. Having everything organized the day before helps reduce stress and ensures your vision is perfectly executed on your wedding day.

Wedding Day

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Your wedding day can be quite busy, so it’s essential to stick to a well-planned schedule. Here, you’ll find the most critical times highlighted to ensure everything goes smoothly and you enjoy each moment.

Eat Breakfast

Start your day with a nutritious breakfast. After you wake up, take some time to eat a meal that includes protein, fruits, and whole grains. This will help you stay energized and focused.

You might be excited or nervous, but skipping breakfast can lead to feeling faint or cranky later.

Consider eating something like scrambled eggs with toast, a smoothie, or yogurt with granola. Hydrate, too—drink plenty of water or a refreshing smoothie. Keep snacks, like nuts or fruit, handy for later.

Get Ready

Getting ready is one of the most exciting parts of the day. Plan plenty of time for hair, makeup, and dressing.

A common schedule is to start getting ready 4-5 hours before the ceremony.

You’ll want to coordinate with your bridal party and ensure everyone knows their timings. Your wedding coordinator can be helpful here, making sure each member of your party is ready. Don’t forget to have your photographer capture these moments!

First Look

The “first look” is a special moment when you see your partner for the first time on your wedding day.

This can be an emotional and private moment before the busy events of the day. Plan for this to take about 30 minutes, depending on your preferences.

Having a first look helps calm nerves and allows for some intimate photos. It’s also an excellent way to reduce photo time after the ceremony, so you can enjoy more of the reception.

Transportation

Organize your transportation in advance to avoid stress on the big day.

Ensure that you have a clear schedule for when and how you’ll travel between locations. This includes the ceremony, reception venue, or photo spots.

Use reliable transportation and consider the travel time, accounting for possible traffic delays.

Coordinate with your bridal party to make sure everyone knows their ride arrangements.

You might hire a limo, vintage car, or shuttle service, depending on your style and budget.

Stay Calm

With so much happening, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Plan short breaks throughout the day to relax and breathe.

Having a trusted friend or a wedding coordinator manage the schedule can lift a significant weight off your shoulders.

Practice mindfulness or deep-breathing exercises if you start feeling anxious.

Focus on enjoying your big day rather than worrying about every detail.

It’s your day—don’t let stress overshadow your happiness.

Enjoy the Moment

Finally, take time to savor each moment. Weddings often fly by, so pause regularly to soak everything in.

Whether it’s during the vows, first dance, or quiet moments with loved ones, cherish these memories.

Interacting with your guests and appreciating their presence is important. Someone—a coordinator, family member, or friend—can help manage the timeline.

Another good tip is to trust your vendors to handle their roles expertly. This lets you focus on your partner and the joy of the celebration.

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