You’re getting married next summer. Think it’s a little early to plan your perfect wedding? Think again. Venues and caterers are already booking up.

But before you charge out to book a hall, order flowers and create the ultimate in wedding menus, we suggest you sit down, take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture.

Ask yourself what is important to you. That requires you to look honestly at your intended and yourself and determine the expectations you both will have from the day. Should it be formal? Religious? Infuse heritage and culture? Involve family? Only when you determine what you want out of the day can you even start to plan your perfect wedding.

And plan is the operative word.

While it might not sound wildly romantic, think of planning the perfect wedding as if it were a work project that you are overseeing. Set specific deadlines, schedules, timetables, goals, and divide the tasks. Breaking everything down into smaller jobs will make everything less overwhelming and much more manageable.

To plan your perfect wedding, you are going to need nerves of steel and anywhere from 9 – 12 months of preparation time.  Remember, you’re on a timetable and you’ll need to stick to it.

Yes, there’s a lot to do. But if the two of you plan it together, you’ll both learn how well you work as a team on a big project. And sharing and working together on something this important is actually indicative of your future happiness. There will be give and take, and you’ll hit some snags, but it will also be one of the greatest experiences of both your lives. And if things get too overwhelming, you can always consider hiring a wedding planner. A wedding planner can be your best friend. Not only will a wedding planner relive you both of some of the stress but they can save you time and money.

Here’s a look at what you’ll need to do to plan your perfect wedding starting now.

9 – 12 Months before Your Perfect Wedding Day

Up first: choose your wedding date. Whether you plan to be married in a church, temple, pagoda, at home, etc., make sure you clear the date and time with your clergy.

Announce your engagement in local newspapers.

Set a realistic budget. Take the time to talk with your fiancé (and your parents if they’re paying) about the budget and style of your wedding, reception and wedding-related parties, and who pays for what.

Enlist help. Consider hiring a wedding planner. If your budget won’t stretch that far, consult with one for an hour or two and get some much needed advice and guidance. Then ask relatives and close friends to assist you in specific tasks – choosing the band, interviewing caterers, locating a reception site – look for guidance from them in areas where you feel you really need support.

Compose your guest list. Plan to send Save the Date cards or emails to let out-of-town guests know your wedding is in the works so they can make travel plans.

Reserve your reception site.

Choose your wedding attendants.

Select your wedding gown, shoes and accessories.

Decide on bridesmaids dresses and choose your color scheme.

Determine the theme or mood that you‘d like to establish with the food, table settings, flowers and entertainment at your reception.

Interview caterers, musicians, florists, photographers, videographers and bakers. Get written estimates of their costs. Keep records of your discussions and their bids in a notebook or with wedding planning software.

6 Months before Your Perfect Wedding Day

It’s time to choose your caterer. Remember to get a written contract.

It’s also time to choose your musicians. Once again, remember to get a written contract.

Book your photographer and videographer. We’ll say it again; remember to get a written contract.

Select your baker and order the cake.

Choose your florist.

Shop for wedding rings with your fiancé.

Decide on your honeymoon destination. Work with a travel agent to book your travel and accommodations.

Select your wedding invitations.

4 Months before Your Perfect Wedding Day

Register for gifts at one or more bridal-gift registries.

Help both mothers to coordinate and shop for their wedding-day attire. Make the most of the day and take them to lunch.

Select music for your ceremony and reception.

Choose readings for your wedding and write your wedding vows.

Plan a rehearsal dinner for members of your wedding party, your family, and out-of-town guests. Reserve the location.

Make appointments for gown fittings.

Check the requirements for a marriage license.

Reserve your wedding-day transportation and any other wedding-day rental needs.

Make sure contracts and arrangements are complete with all of your service providers.

Make appointments for a hairdresser and makeup artist for the big day.

Arrange hotel accommodations for members of the wedding party who live out of town.
Reserve a block of rooms for other out-of-town guests, and let them know the rooms are available. Remember to ask for any group discounts or special packages.

Carefully prepare directions, including simply drawn maps, if necessary, to help guide guests to the wedding and reception, and to hotels. For guests who will travel a long distance to your wedding, consider assembling an information package on fun things to do and see while in town.

Begin addressing invitations and announcements.  Invitations should go in the mail six to eight weeks before your big day.

Give the caterer or other food suppliers a close idea of the number of guests you expect.

Make sure all reservations are in place for honeymoon travel.

Select your “going away” outfit and special items for your trousseau.

Check with bridesmaids to make sure they have their gowns and are getting them adjusted.

Shop for gifts for your bridesmaids.

Offer to help your fiancé select gifts for his attendants.

Make a date with your photographer for any formal portraits you desire.

Make an appointment to have your hair done just before your portrait session and again the day or so before your wedding. Consider including your bridesmaids in a “day of beauty” before your wedding, with manicures, hair styling, massages and makeup sessions.

2 Months before Your Perfect Wedding Day

Mail out your wedding invitations and announcements.

Have wedding portraits taken.

Send bridal portrait and wedding announcement to newspapers for publication.

Make your final choices on the music that will be played during your wedding ceremony.

Meet with the musicians who will provide entertainment during your reception and let them know what you want and when you want it played. Remember those nerves of steel and don’t be shy to voice your preferences, from everything to the volume, favorite songs you’d like to hear and even songs you don’t want to be played.

Plan your rehearsal dinner and a brunch or fun activity for out-of-town guests to enjoy on the day following your wedding.

Purchase special accessories for your wedding-day attire.

Plan a luncheon for your bridesmaids.

Finalize honeymoon plans. If you’re traveling overseas be sure to double check that your passports are current and that you have any and all necessary visas.

Gather necessary birth or baptismal certificates you may need for your wedding license.

1 Month before Your Perfect Wedding Day

Get your wedding license.

Have a final fitting of your gown and make sure your attendants have theirs.

Check that your menu selections and service plans are locked in place with your caterer.

Purchase a special book to keep track of wedding gifts as they arrive.

Keep writing those thank-you notes on a daily basis!

If you plan a formal dinner for your reception, it s time to draw up a seating plan and make up place cards.

Check with your florist to confirm dates and times of flower deliveries.

Review your wedding-day transportation plans and make sure drivers are clear about addresses, times and number of passengers.

Make name or address changes official on documents, including driver s license, Social Security forms and financial accounts.

Meet with your photographer to specify the formal shots you want taken of the bridal party, as well as specific, candid shots you d like taken during the reception.

Review the video plans with your videographer.

2 Weeks Before Your Perfect Wedding

Keep writing those thank-you notes for wedding gifts!

Pick up your wedding rings. Make sure any special engraving appears precisely as you wished.

Begin packing for the honeymoon.

One Week before Your Perfect Wedding

Make final checks with all your vendors: musicians, florist, photographer, videographer, limousine, service, caterers and baker.

Ask a friend or a family member to arrange for wedding gifts that may be brought to your reception to be delivered to your home or another safe spot.

Wrap gifts for bridal attendants and have them ready for the rehearsal dinner.

Purchase  travelers checks and reconfirm honeymoon travel and hotel plans.

See that checks are written and ready to be handed out to vendors at the agreed-upon time.

Inform your caterer of the final number of guests. Confirm that out-of-town guests are set with hotel accommodations, transportation and wedding-day directions.

The Day before Your Perfect Wedding Day

Take time to relax and enjoy a massage, manicure and pedicure.

Traditionally, this is your day for rehearsal ceremony and rehearsal dinner.

Have fun!

Turn in early for a good night’s sleep.

Your Perfect Wedding Day

Allow plenty of time for dressing, makeup and hairstyling.

If you plan on photography before the ceremony, allow ample time so you’re not rushed.

Relax, breathe, and remember: This is your special day, the result of all your careful planning. Now it’s time to enjoy.

Refuse to let any glitch get to you. Savor every moment of this sacred day. Let your happiness shine through and have a perfectly wonderful wedding day!

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