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Once he puts a ring on that finger, it's time to start planning one of the biggest events of your lifetime. You may have been planning out your wedding day since you were a little girl, putting on a white sun dress, your mom's high heels, holding a bouquet of wilted wild flowers and walking down the hallway, arm in arm with your baby brother. But once you get engaged, it's time to really put the wedding plans into high gear and start making plans for REAL your big day.
12 to 18 Months
This is the time that you'll decide what type of wedding you'll be having. Will you choose a more traditional formal church wedding? Or will you throw a down-home, laid back, country style wedding on your family's farm? The choice is yours. Once you have announced your engagement and set a date, you should make sure you have your ceremony location and reception location reserved, with deposits made. Find out all of the details about using those venues. Do they include tables, chairs and a dance floor at the reception location? Will catering be included? Find out about music, as they may have a DJ or house band that is included at a special rate.
9 to 12 Months
You have most likely already been thinking about it and discussing it with your immediate families, but start making the guest list. Also equally important is your bridal party. Choose your closest friends and family that will help you plan and prepare for the wedding, and keep in mind that they'll also be the ones helping you get ready for your big day.
This is also the time to start shopping around for some of your most important vendors. Now that you have your ceremony and reception locations secured and you know your wedding theme, you will need to start looking into florists, photographers, DJs or bands, and shopping around for caterers and wedding cake bakers.
6 to 9 Months
You already know the season in which you'll be tying the knot, so now you need to shop around for your dress, the tuxes/suits and your bridesmaids' dresses. You and your future spouse will also want to start looking at wedding bands. You'll also want to sit down with them and plan your honeymoon and look into any certifications needed for that, such as passports, visas and any other documentation.
3 to 6 Months
As your big day gets closer and closer, you will need to start looking into your bridal registry. There are many choices for brides now, and you can choose to go the less expensive route, the home goods route, or register at your local fine department store. It is also the time to start shopping for wedding day invitations, thank you notes, place cards, etc.
Start finalizing details such as your catering, cake, ring sizes, dress and suit fittings and accessories. Also be sure to finalize your travel plans for the honeymoon. Secure details such as the transportation to and from the reception if necessary. Start shopping for gifts for your bridal party and finalize their matching accessories as well.
6 to 12 Weeks
At this point, look into the details regarding your wedding reception. Purchase themed decorations for the reception if needed and wedding favors for guests. Make sure your family and friends from out of town have adequate information about reserving accommodations and be sure to secure accommodations for the bridal party and immediate family.
Mail your invitations at approximately 6 weeks out. This gives guests adequate time to RSVP and to plan on travel, reservations, gift purchases, etc. Start planning the rehearsal dinner with the groom's family. Discuss any additional details with the caterer, florist, photographer, or music coordinator. Have a final fitting for your gown and for the bridesmaids' dresses, and don't forget about the fit of your wedding bands. Be sure those fit comfortably. Book your appointments for makeup and hair as well.
4 to 6 Weeks
Gather all necessary paperwork so that you can get your marriage license during this time. You may have to have blood tests as well, so plan on a possible visit to the doctor, too. Be sure to be recording gifts during this time, as you will probably be given many gifts outside of the wedding showers or reception. Always send your thank you notes out ahead of time if possible, as this will save you lots of time after you return from your honeymoon. Start planning for your move into your new home together, and make all necessary arrangements.
2 to 4 Weeks
Gather your finalized RSVP count and turn it in to your caterer. Finalize your arrangements with the wedding cake, too. Prepare your seating chart and be sure to make consider space for the band, catering and dancing area. Speak with someone from your wedding venue in order to accommodate for your wedding favors, decorations, etc. Be sure your wedding attendants each have details about the upcoming big day, and the rehearsal dinner as well. Confirm all reservations and venue details.
Start organizing all of your wedding day items. Pack for your wedding weekend and honeymoon. Wrap gifts for bridal party and prepare any other wedding favors. Take some of your belongings and wedding gifts to your new home. Start the arrangements for changing your name on your bank accounts, social security card, credit cards, etc.
Breathe, sleep, and eat well during this time, because you will be tired, stressed, anxious, exhilarated and nervous. This is the biggest day of your life, but enjoy it because you have adequately prepared with a wedding preparation timeline.
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