How to Plan a DIY Wedding: The Ultimate Checklist
When it comes to planning a DIY wedding there’s plenty to think about, from what to wear to what to eat and who to invite. Here’s our ultimate wedding planner checklist to help you and your partner organise the perfect stress-free DIY wedding.
12 – 18 months before your wedding
Fix your budget
Decide what kind of wedding you want and how much you want to spend. Also have a conversation about where you want to spend the money and where you’re willing to compromise. If you’re a foodie, you may be happy to hire your dress or buy vintage so you can spend more on the catering.
Book your venue
Wedding venues get booked up very quickly. So it’s worth having a few dates in mind so you can be as flexible as possible. And think about midweek dates too. Often there’s more availability, and getting married on a Wednesday is often more affordable too.
Book your registrar
Like venues, registrars get booked up quickly. So check your registrar or celebrant is available on the day you want to get married, and get them booked in.
Write your guest list
Start putting together your guest list and getting addresses. Some kind of spreadsheet is good for this task. Decide whether you’re going to have close friends and family or everyone you know including neighbours and work colleagues. Are partners you don’t know invited? How about kids? Or the distant auntie you haven’t seen for 20 years? Decide on your numbers now and stick to it.
Choose the wedding party
Decide on the best man, the groomsmen, the maid of honour and the bridesmaids and let them know. Get your friends excited and onboard early so they can help with the planning and organising of your big day.
Create a mood board
Browse through Instagram and all those wedding magazine websites for style ideas, and save your favourite dresses, flowers, themes, table decorations and colour palettes to your Pinterest board. A mood board is really handy when it comes to briefing your suppliers too, as it will help them understand the overall look you’re going for.
Book a wedding co-ordinator/stylist
If you’re having a DIY wedding, it may be tempting to do everything yourself. But you need to delegate tasks wherever you can. Think about hiring a co-ordinator/stylist too. They can bring your ideas to life, organise your suppliers and be there on the day so you can relax and enjoy yourself.
Six to 12 months in advance
Book your photographer or videographer
Take a look at the portfolios of lots of different photographers to find a style you like. Organise a meeting or telephone conversation as soon as possible. You need to have a good relationship with your photographer as they’re going to be with you all day. So don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions. As soon as you find someone get them booked. Good photographers and videographers get snapped up quickly.
Book the florist
Talk to your florist about the style of your wedding and your colour scheme, and share images from your mood board of your favourite bouquets, boutonnieres and floral displays. Let your florist know if there are any particular flowers you want to include but also be led by them as to what flowers will suit the overall style of your wedding and what’s in season and available.
Book a hair stylist and make-up artist
If you want your hair and make-up done professionally, now’s the time to secure the services of the experts. Have an idea of the overall look you want to achieve such as vintage, glam or natural and browse through your Instagram feeds for make-up artists and stylists who have created something similar before.
Book the caterer
If you’re any sort of foodie, booking the wedding caterer is one of the most fun parts of the planning process. Think about whether you what a full sit down three course meal or a buffet. Maybe you want canapes as people arrive? Or bacon sarnies at midnight? Do you want exotic ingredients? Or are you committed to buying local produce? Do a taste test on all the dishes on offer and finalise your menu with your caterer.
Organise the music
When it comes to DJs and bands, choose someone you’ve heard before or who comes recommended. DJs and bands will have an example of the kind of set list they play on their website. So take a listen and make sure they offer the kind of vibe you’re going for. Don’t forget to put a playlist together of your favourite tunes that you absolutely want played (and those you absolutely don’t). Also think about any incidental music you might need, such as when guests first arrive or when you’re having dinner. Do you want a classical three piece playing music or will you opt for a Spotify playlist?
Book the bar
Organise someone to manage the bar and talk to them about how much alcohol and soft drinks you need to buy in. Be guided by them as they’ll have experience of previous weddings and will know what people are likely to drink. You may also want to ask them to create a few cocktails specifically for the occasion named after something personal to you and your partner such as favourite holiday destinations.
Six months to go
Shop the dress
You probably started looking for a wedding dress the moment the venue was booked and may have already tried on a few. But now’s the time to make the decision and buy one. That way you’ll have plenty of time to make alterations before the big day. And this is especially true if you’re opting for a vintage or secondhand wedding dress.
Send save-the-date cards
Send your save-the-date cards or drop guests an email letting them know the date of your upcoming nuptials. This is especially important if you have guests flying in from overseas.
Create a wedding website and registry
Create a personal wedding website that includes all the wedding details such as date, location, travel details, maps, accommodation. Tell guests where your gift registry is held too, such as Prezola or John Lewis. Or you may want to give details of a charity you want guests to donate to.
Choose the bridesmaids’ dresses
Talk to your girls about your ideas for bridesmaids’ dresses and make sure everyone is onboard. (This is where your Pinterest board comes in handy.) Perhaps you want everyone in the same colour but different styles. Or the same style but different colours. Or just in a similar colour palette. And decide now if you’re going to buy all the dresses or if you’re going to hire them.
Shop for the groom and groomsmen’s outfits
Classic tux, country esquire or relaxed and informal? When it comes to dressing the groom, the best man and the groomsmen anything goes. But it’s important the boys match the overall theme of the wedding. Match the ties, suit lining, waistcoat or buttonholes to the colour of the bridesmaids for a stylish and uniform look.
Four to five months before the wedding
Order your wedding rings
When it comes to wedding rings, it’s the design process that takes the time. So book some time with your chosen jeweller a good few months before the wedding.
Organise the decorations
If you’re getting the creative members of your family and friendship group to make the decorations or table arrangements, get started now. If you’re ordering decorations online the lead time can often be quite long if you’re buying an item from overseas. So get your order in as soon as possible. But an even better option is to hire your decorations and props. Speak to a wedding stylist about decorating the venue and tables. They will have lots of vintage or quirky props you can use to personalise your big day.
Order wedding favours
If you opt for wedding favours, avoid anything wrapped in plastic and likely to be left behind. Instead choose a sustainable option that your guests will love such as homemade candles, personalised coasters, little jars of jam or honey, wildflower seeds, or succulents or other small plants. These can also be part of your table decoration too.
Choose your wedding cake
Think about whether you want to go down the traditional fruitcake route for your wedding cake or opt for a delicate sponge cake with rose and lemon flavours. Or perhaps you want to have a tower of gluten free organic cupcakes or chocolate brownies. Whatever you’re looking for, book a taste test with your preferred baker and get your cake ordered.
Do people need picking up from the airport or the station and bringing to the venue? Or do they need collecting from the party at the end of the night and dropping off at nearby hotels or B&Bs? Organise transport for you and your guests, whether that’s a car, limo or minibus.
Draw up a timeline for the day
Write up a schedule for the day including what time suppliers arrive, to what time you’re going to cut the cake and have the first dance. If you’re working with a wedding co-ordinator, they can help with this.
Three months to the big day
Buy gifts for your wedding party
Choose gifts for your best man, groomsmen, maid of honour and bridesmaids. A personalised piece of jewellery is perfect. And don’t forget to order bouquets for the mothers of the bride and groom too.
Touch base with photographer/videographer
Speak to your photographer and discuss any particular shots you’d like, such as a group photograph or a photo with a grandparent or walking through a wall of confetti. Ideally, have a venue walk-through with your photographer. If they’re familiar with the venue, they’ll also recommend some shots that are absolute must-haves.
Have a hair and make-up run through
It’s always a good idea to have wedding hair and make-up run through before the big day. Talk to your make-up artist and stylist about the look you’re going for such as vintage or natural, and bring along plenty of images along as inspiration. Wear something white too (if that’s the colour of the dress you’re wearing) so you can see how your make-up will look. If you’re planning on getting a spray tan (or going on holiday) before the wedding, make sure the make-up look you like still works on sun kissed skin.
Organise your marriage licence
In England and Wales, you must give your local Register Office at least 28 days’ notice that you want to get married, and also provide the date and the location of the wedding. Both of you must be resident for seven days in England or Wales before notice is given.
One to two months to go
Have your dress altered
Make any final alterations to your wedding dress and your bridesmaids’ dresses and try everything on, including your shoes, to make sure everything fits and is the perfect length.
Collect your invitations from the printer and post them. Or save on paper and ink and ping everyone an email instead. Traditionally, wedding invitations are sent out six to eight weeks before the big day. But couples often send invitations up to 12 weeks in advance, especially if there are friends or family coming from overseas. Set the RSVP date at three weeks before the wedding.
Two to four weeks before the wedding
Confirm the guest list
Gather up all the RSVPs on to your spreadsheet and give a quick call to anyone who has not yet replied. Give your final numbers to your venue, caterers and wedding co-ordinator.
Finalise the seating plan
Now you know who’s coming, work out who’s going to sit where. Write everyone’s names on Post-it notes so it’s easy to move people around. Then get a custom printed seating plan drawn up or have one handwritten. Or use other creative ways to let your guests know where they’re sitting.
Write your vows
This is an opportunity to say something meaningful and personal in front of friends and family. So it’s worth giving it some thought. Say what you love about your partner, tell an amusing anecdote, say how you promise to support and love them always, and how much you’re looking forward to the future. You may also want to read a poem or a particular piece of prose.
Finish up any DIY projects
If you or family members or friends are making table decorations, bunting, photo garlands, paper bouquets or signage now’s the time to get everything finished. If you’re struggling to get everything done, invite your bridesmaids over, open a bottle or two and get gluing and stitching.
Pick up the groom and groomsmen’s outfits
Collect the boys’ outfits and try them on. Make sure everything fits. If there are any issues you still have time to fix them before the big day.
Only one to two weeks to go
Speak to all your suppliers
Call all your suppliers and speak to them personally and then confirm all the details in writing such as date, arrival times, address and guest numbers.
Create a schedule for the wedding party
Email the parents, groomsman and bridesmaids with a schedule outlining the order of the day’s events. Let them know where they need to be and at what time.
Check in with the DJ and band
Give your DJ or band any last-minute additions to your playlist.
The week of the wedding
Wear in your wedding shoes
Wear your wedding shoes on carpet around the house to break them in (this goes for both the bride and the groom) and ensure they’re comfortable to wear on the day.
Delegate small tasks
Decide which bridesmaid will carry your lipstick, choose which groomsman will be in charge of gifts, and decide who suppliers should speak to if there are any questions.
Have a mani and pedi
A day or two before your big day, book a manicure and pedicure. Make sure you take away a tiny spare bottle of polish in case you need to do any touch-ups and avoid doing the washing up for the next 24 hours.
The day of the wedding
All the planning is done and everyone is going to have the most amazing time. So sit back and relax and enjoy every single moment of your big day.
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