You just got engaged! You are overwhelmed with excitement….and maybe even with the wedding planning process, too. There are so many details involved in planning a wedding, and a lot of brides-to-be have a hard time figuring out where to begin and in what order to do it all. Don’t worry—with the right timeline, you can easily plan the wedding of your dreams.

Looking ahead and getting everything in place will help make your big day exactly what you imagine, without the stress of rushing and scrambling last minute. Here’s a simple timeline to follow when you begin to plan the details of your wedding.

Venue: Book at least 1 year in advance.

Outside wedding ceremony space with white chairs set up.

Booking the venue should be the first thing you do. After all, you can’t plan your dream wedding without knowing where it will take place! Your venue sets the tone for your wedding—it helps you imagine and plan your color scheme, place settings, centerpieces, flower arrangements and many other big and small details. Giving yourself a year or more should give you more date options at the venue you ultimately choose.

Quick tip: If your heart is set on a specific date, you may have to be flexible with venues—your dream venue may not have availability on that date. Try to tour and book venues as early as possible so you are more likely to lock down a location on your special date, or to have a few different options to pick from. Our event planners at Crystal Gardens can work with you to coordinate the perfect wedding, even if your selected date is coming up faster than a year! We can even help suggest vendors and other items often made more challenging with a quick turn-around time.

Dress: Order at least 1 year in advance.

Four wedding dresses in window display.
Perhaps the most exciting part for brides, shopping for your wedding dress is one of the earliest tasks of the wedding planning process. It’s a good idea to start hitting bridal salons sooner rather than later. Not only do you want to give yourself enough time to find the perfect dress, but you also need to leave time for three fittings before the wedding, (yes, three!) These fittings allow for custom alterations to tailor the dress to be the perfect fit for you.

Finding yourself in a time crunch? Some bridal stores, like The Dress Shop in Howell, Michigan, offer a lot of options for brides with limited timelines for dress shopping. The Dress Shop offers off-the-rack purchases and possible rush options from designers.

Quick tip: Remember that you need to shop for bridesmaids dresses, too. Those will also need alterations, and you may even need to cushion in extra time if they have to be ordered outside of the store.

Musicians and Entertainment: Book at least 1 year in advance.

DJ sound board buttons.

Have a specific band, musician or DJ in mind? Don’t waste time—just like venues, musicians book quickly and far in advance! One year is a good rule of thumb, but you may even have luck booking only nine months in advance.

Quick tip: If you’re not specific about your choice of entertainers, you can work with a DJ company. This usually buys you more time and flexibility, allowing you to wait six to nine months before booking.

Photographer/Videographer: Hire at least 9 months in advance.

Man in dress clothes holding a camera in both hands.
By nine months out from your wedding day, you should have already picked your venue and built a basic timeline. These two big details help your photographer and/or videographer in advance: it allows them to scope out the location and venue to see the best locations for scenic and beautiful photos.

Quick tip: Make a shot list that has all the different kind of shots you want your photographer and/or videographer to capture throughout the ceremony and reception.

Florist: Meet at least 9 months in advance.

Bide holding her bouquet of white and pink flowers.
Choosing the right florist is vital for completing your theme and decorations. Don’t just go with the first florist you find: give yourself time to “shop around.” Narrow your list down to your top choices and meet with them at least nine months in advance. This gives you a chance to spend time looking at their portfolio of work—you want to make sure their skills and work fit your vision.

Quick tip: Nail down your venue and attempt to get a ballpark idea of how many guests you will have. This gives your florist an idea of the kind of decor you will need, and how many floral and centerpiece arrangements you’ll need.

Invitations: Prepare at least 5 months in advance.

Close up on wedding invitations that show a map. These are on a table with hand sanitizer, key and rings.
You should choose your stationary and get your invites designed at least six months in advance, and send the “save the date” five months out. The official invitation can be sent six to eight weeks before the big day.

Quick tip: Don’t forget about the time it takes to package, address and mail the invites. If you are getting your envelopes hand lettered, leave extra time, as that detail usually takes longer and can delay the mailing process.

Cake: Choose at least 3 to 6 months in advance.

Couple cutting wedding cake.
No wedding is a wedding without a delicious cake or sweet treat for your guests! There are tons of bakeries to choose from, so start with your research early: ask friends and family for recommendations, and do some Googling to read ratings and reviews. Once you have made a small list of your top two to three choices, call each one to see if they can fill an order for the date of your wedding. You should choose your baker three to six months before your big day.

Quick tip: Choosing a cake also means tastings! Leave time for at least one, if not two sessions. Your baker will work with you to deliver your favorite flavors and a cake that fits your theme and vision.

Planning your dream wedding can be enjoyable and (mostly) stress-free when you have a solid plan and stick to the timeline. Follow these tips to help you map-out the details for your big day, and reach out to the professionals if you are in a time crunch. Not all brides and grooms have lots of time on their hands—Crystal Gardens is happy to jump in and assist in planning weddings that are less than a year away. Our event planners can help suggest vendors, build your theme and complete your vision.

Contact us today to start putting together your dream wedding! You can reach our event coordinators at (517) 545-1000.