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Countdown to the big day.

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WHILE you may have only just got used to wearing your sparkler and it seems like yesterday that you were announcing your engagement – now is the time to start thinking about planning your wedding day. Even if it is one to two years away the more you plan now the more smoothly things will run. Ideally it takes about 12 months to plan you wedding day, and if you think that seems excessive given that it is only one day we are talking about – then think again, there is so much to do!

12 months

Decide on the style of wedding you want. Draw up a budget – this is really important Pick a date/season that you would like to get married and then select a church/venue and a reception venue and check if they are available at this time. Book your reception entertainment/musicians/DJ.

11 months

Book your photographer and/or videographer. If the ceremony is to be held in a church or other religious building, check that you will be permitted to take photographs or film there.

10 months

Think about, shop for, and order your bridal gown. Make a decision on the style/colour for your wedding party and start looking for accessories. Allow at least six months for any made to measure dresses/suits. If you are hiring formal wear for male members of the party place your order. Decide on the food you want at your reception and confirm the menu with your reception venue Research a wedding insurance policy to protect your deposits. Research and reserve accommodations for out-of-town guests. Register for gifts. Choose your cake maker and cake design. Choose your wedding ring(s).

8 months

If you’re arranging a church wedding, chat to the priest/vicar about music. Discuss possible dates for a rehearsal, if required, and finalise the form of the service and the readings prior to having the invitations and order of service printed. If you’re having a civil wedding, choose any readings that you wish to include in the service. Send copies of your chosen readings to the person you have asked to read, so that they can practice.

7 months

Have another look at your provisional guest list. Order your stationery, which includes invitations, place-cards, orders-of-service, thank-you notes, favours, little boxes for posting wedding cake, etc. Start looking for clothes for your honeymoon. Check the expiry date of your passports and renew them if necessary. Some countries will deny entry if your passport is close to expiry.

6 months

Send save-the-date cards. This is a particularly good idea if you’re marrying during a tourist or holiday season or having a destination wedding. Book your wedding transport or make firm arrangements with family and friends about lifts or borrowing vehicles. Arrange reliable back-ups. As soon as you have your veil, tiara or other head-dress, make an appointment with your hair stylist to discuss and try various styles.

5 months

If you aren’t spending your wedding night at your reception venue, book accommodation. Either make bookings for guests (remember you will probably be able to negotiate a reduced rate for a block booking) or give them a list of local hotels/guest houses to make their own bookings. Attend pre-wedding counselling, if required.

4 months

Confirm that everything you have booked so far is on course and that all friends and family involved in the arrangements are sure of their role. If the stationery hasn’t arrived, chase it up.Give the caterers your estimated number of guests.

3 months

Send out the invitations and keep an up-to-date list of refusals and acceptances.

2 months

Write your vows. Purchase gifts for parents, attendants, and each other. Book a makeup artist and go for a trial run. Try on all your wedding clothes. If you are unhappy with anything, take action now. If you have left anything to others to organise, check that they have done it.

1 month

Apply for a marriage license. Check with the local bureau in the town where you’ll wed. Bride – have your final gown fitting. Bring your maid of honour along to learn how to help you manage the train and veil when you are getting in and out of cars. Have the dress pressed and bring it home.

Call all bridesmaids. Make sure they have their gowns ready for the wedding. Make last-minute adjustments with vendors. Create a wedding program to hand out to guests. Make a plan of timings for the day and distribute a copy to everyone concerned. Buy a guest book to place at the reception so your friends and relatives can record messages. Delegate tasks to your friends and relatives. Make sure that somebody has your handbag, make-up, hairbrush, tissues, etc, handy, and a large umbrella in their car/in the vestry just in case. Write your speech(es).

Two weeks before

Review final RSVP list and call any guests who have not yet sent a response. Deliver must-have shot lists to photographer and videographer. Include who should be in formal portraits and determine when portraits will be taken. Deliver final song list to your DJ or bandleader. Include special song requests and songs you don’t want played. Bride – get your last pre-wedding haircut and colour.

One week before

Give reception site/caterer final guest head count. Include vendors, such as the photographer or band members, who will expect a meal. Ask how many extra plates the caterer will prepare. Plan reception seating chart. Print place and table cards. Call all wedding vendors and confirm arrangements.

Two-three days before

Bride – If you need to, have your gown pressed or steamed.

Groom – go for final fitting and pick up your formalwear.

Groom – ask the best man to make sure all groomsmen attend fittings and pick up their outfits. Determine wedding-party positions during ceremony and the order of the party in the processional and recessional. Call the car-rental company for pickup times and locations. Arrange for guests without cars to be picked up from the airport. Ask friends, attendants, or relatives to help.

Day before

Provide all wedding professionals with an emergency phone number to call on the day of the wedding. Write cheques for any final balances to be paid at the end of the reception.

Night before

Rehearse ceremony. Meet with wedding party, ceremony readers, immediate family, and your officiant at the ceremony site to rehearse and iron out details.

Bring unity candle and or other ceremony accessories to the church/venue.

Give your marriage license to your priest/officiant.

Present attendants with gifts at the rehearsal dinner. You’ll want to do this especially if the gifts are accessories to be worn during the wedding.

The day of the wedding

Present parents and each other with gifts. Give wedding rings to the best man to hold during the ceremony. Give best man the priest’s/officiant’s fee envelope, to be handed off after the ceremony.

Introduce your reception venue manager to your best man and/or maid of honour for questions or problems during the reception.

Assign a family member or attendant to be the photographer’s contact so he knows who is who.

Postwedding

Prearrange for someone to return any rentals. Take the bride’s gown for cleaning and return the groom’s suits to the rental shop. Write and send thank-you notes.