One Year to Go
• As soon you say yes to those four all-important words, "Will you marry me?", it's time to start strategically planning your wedding. The first thing you will need to decide on is your budget.
• Once you've set an approximate budget, you need to think about how you want to tackle this planning process. Are you going to do it all on your own (which is, generally speaking, tough to swing)? Do you have some fabulous girlfriends, sisters, aunts or fairy godmothers to take a load from your shoulders? Or will you need to hire a professional wedding planner to help you out?
• If you do decide to hire a planner, you have a few options. The planner can help you from start to finish; they can assist you a few months down the track, tying up loose ends; or they can simply help you with co-ordination on the day. Take an inventory of the resources you have at hand - this includes cash and helpers – and decide which package would be best for you. You also might need to consider hiring a stylist as well as a planner, but you'll find out more about that at the 6 month mark of this checklist.
• If you're going to hire a professional planner, ask around for referrals. Some venues offer planning services as a separate package, so you might find that booking the venue before the planner is actually more beneficial to you. If not, both bridal expos and directories are a great way to find reputable wedding planners in your area. If you want the planner to help you with the entire planning process, book their services as soon as you can.
• Even if you don't need a full service planner, you will need to start having consultations with suitable candidates at this time. Each individual planner works to an individual schedule, so you'll need to discuss the depth of involvement you'd like your planner to have, and work out a suitable timeline from there. Mark important dates in your calendar and make sure that you don't miss your next consultation. More importantly, don't forget to finalise your booking.
• Brides who are having a destination wedding need to start sending out save-the-dates and booking venues and vendors now. Hiring a wedding planner in your destination city could save you a lot of stress. Do an online search for reputable planners or, if you have a venue in mind, email the staff and ask if they can recommend a local wedding planner.
• Take a look at the other comprehensive checklists we have in our articles section and set up a timeline for all of the tasks you need to tackle. Use a virtual calendar (we think this one is absolutely fab) to help you keep on top of things. You might also find that printing out the calendar, or purchasing a diary, specifically for your wedding plans, is useful as a physical visual reminder of your to-do list.
• This is the time that you'll need to start having consultations with vendors. You can attend all of these consultations in person, or you can attend with/send alone your professional wedding planner or your maid of honour, to some of the meetings.
• This is also the time that you need to get on top of your guest list, so that you can send out save-the-dates. NB: if you're having a destination wedding, you should have already done this.
• Couples who have decided to hire a wedding stylist and/or on-the-day coordinator should be booking their services now. Some wedding planners act as stylists too, so if you've already hired a full service planner, make sure that you read his/her resume carefully before hiring the services of an additional stylist. Also, many venues offer the services of their on-staff wedding co-ordinator, so check with your venue before you begin the search for a co-ordinator and stylist.
• Once you've decided on a stylist and/or co-ordinator, make sure that they are clear on the details that you've already arranged, such as the venue hire and wedding dress, and then set up a schedule to complete all of the other details.
• If you're hiring an on-the-day planner, give them your vendors' contact details, as well as your wedding party members' (just in case one of the groomsmen goes AWOL on the day). Start working on a program for the big day and keep in regular contact with your planner, from now on.
• You should have already booked most of your vendors by now. Make sure that all of the contracts have been filled out, the deposits have been put down and that you've clearly listed all of your payment schedules on your calendar.
• Communication is the key to smoothly pulling of an incredible wedding. Make sure that you check in with your vendors a few times between now and the big day. Ensure that they are clear on everything you've ordered, where they need to be on the day, what time they need to rock up, and any other important details you can think of.
• As soon as you have all of your RSVPs, contact the necessary vendors (venue, caterers, etc) and give them the final head count so that they can adjust their figures if they need to.
• This is not the time to have a meltdown. Take a big breath and remind yourself that you're on the home stretch now. If you're finding that the stress of planning is really overwhelming you, delegate a couple of jobs and go and have some downtime. Have a massage, go for a walk on the beach, have a glass of wine with your girlfriends, or just snuggle up on the couch with a good book.
• Scan through all of your checklists and make sure that everything is on track.
• Contact your vendors and double check that everything is good to go.
The Day Before
• Enjoy your rehearsal dinner. If there are any problems with the program, now is the time to iron out the wrinkles.
• Make sure that everyone is clear on their jobs for the next day.
• Pop everything you'll need in the car and do a quick stock take, to make sure that everything's there.
The Big Day
• Do. Not. Panic. You've thoroughly planned this day. Trust your planner, or your mum, to take care of the final details, and enjoy your day. You pulled it off, you star!