The first thing many people want to do as soon as they become engaged is to begin planning their wedding. Before you do that, stop, and enjoy the moment of being engaged! This is an exciting time, and you don’t want to miss this special time by being so focused on the wedding. Most couples state that the commitment they have made to spend their lives together brings a whole new level of intimacy to their relationships, and most look back on this time as great memories, so don’t miss this moment. So, once you have celebrated your engagement period and are ready to begin planning your wedding, where do you start?

One or both of you may already have the perfect wedding all planned in your mind, but you are now entering a lifelong partnership and it will take compromise and communication to plan a wedding that will be special to both of you. California Weddings and Events is here to help you plan one of the most momentous days of your life. The checklist can be adapted to be a short timeline if you are marrying in just a few weeks or lengthened if you want to wait a few years. The key will be ensuring you consider and discuss all aspects, so nothing is missed, and you are not stressed out during the process.

Developing a Budget

The first step in planning a wedding, regardless of the size, when, or even the type of wedding, is always the budget. You cannot plan on holding a wedding in a venue you cannot afford. The number of people you want to invite will impact the budget for food, venue, seating requirements, etc. Knowing how much money you have to work with from the beginning will help you to establish the planning for every step from here on out. Many couples even open a bank account just for the wedding, so that they can easily track all their expenses.

If you are going to hire a wedding planner, now is the time to begin that process. Having your budget before you hire a wedding planner is crucial, so they do not start throwing out ideas you love but cannot afford. If you provide the budget to the planner up front it will simplify the process for all of you. Many people easily plan weddings without a professional planner, and this checklist will help you with that process.

Getting Organized

Being organized and keeping track of everything is the key to planning any event, including weddings. You can use spreadsheets, a wedding organizer, even Pinterest, to keep all your ideas documented and organized. Develop categories for each organizational tool you use, and be consistent with the titles of your categories, so if you are looking at Flowers or Menu Items, or Photographers in your Pinterest pins your matching category in the organizer and spreadsheets have the same title. This will also help you to stay within your budget as you will continue to adjust how much you spend in one category to save money for another category, this is where the spreadsheets will come in very handy.

Guest List

First, you must figure out those people that you cannot imagine holding your wedding without, your VIPs. Choose the special people in your lives who will serve as your wedding party, they will go on your VIP list. If you have a special someone you want to officiate your wedding, they also go on the VIP list. Next, you can work on the regular guest list of relatives, friends, co-workers, etc. that you want to invite. You may have developed a budget that allows for a very large wedding, or just planned for a small, intimate gathering. Regardless of the size, you must know how many people you are inviting so you can plan many of the next steps, such as venue, food, and invitations. While you are putting together the guest list, don’t forget addresses, so you are ready for sending invitations.

Setting a Date

Choosing a date sounds simple, but there are several factors that may impact your plans. One of the reasons you must develop your guest list before choosing a date is so you can discuss a few optional dates with your VIPs. You don’t want to choose a date, book a venue, and then find out your parents had booked a cruise during that time. You can’t have that special someone officiate if he or she is already booked for another wedding. Having optional dates ready will also be helpful when you research venues, in case a few of those dates are already reserved. Your date will be finalized when you book a venue.

Picking a Venue

Now that you know your budget, who you want to attend, and have some potential dates, it is time to pick a venue. You may want to be married in a church and hold a reception elsewhere or hold everything at one venue. Maybe you are looking for a formal venue or planning a backyard gathering. California Wedding and Events has a great list of venues that may be perfect for your wedding. Whatever venue you are considering, be prepared with your list of potential dates, so you can book your venue and ensure it is yours for the date you pick.

Now is when you will also want to secure a plan for tables and chairs if they are not included in the venue. You may plan on borrowing chairs from friends, or book them now for delivery and pickup from a rental company.

Once your venue is booked you can send your Save the Date cards so your guests can mark it on their calendars and make their plans, especially if you are holding a destination wedding. Make sure your VIP guests, including the wedding officiant, solidify the date in their calendar.

Book Your Caterer, Photographer, DJ/Band, and Florist

Many venues include food, others require you to find your own caterer. Choosing your menu now and solidifying your caterer ensures that you get the quality food you want that fits your budget. Many wedding guests say that, for them, the most important part of a wedding is the food, so have fun planning a menu to wow your guests.

Choose a photographer with wedding experience and a portfolio that appeals to you. If they have a portfolio of pictures from other weddings that you really like, then they can likely provide similar services for you. Your close friend who takes great pictures may mean well, but experience in organizing all the different groups together, and choosing those perfect poses for a variety of shots is a true talent.

Great bands and DJs are in high demand, so get on their calendar as soon as possible, figure out where they are going to be placed at the venue, and start developing your music list.

You will also want to start planning your décor and choosing a florist. You will want to make sure that the flowers you choose for your bouquet, boutonnieres, arrangements, and décor will be in bloom and within your budget.


All About the Dress

For some brides, the dress is one of the most important items for their wedding. Shopping to find that perfect dress may take time but be sure to enjoy those moments with your closest friends. Many shops require up to nine months for a dress order to be completed, so if you do not want to pay rush fees, allow for this timeline. Discussing colors and style with your wedding party should also happen early so that they may ensure their dresses are ready. Don’t forget to book your hairstylist and any help you may want with makeup in plenty of time. Planning the groom’s outfit and outfits of any groomsmen and ushers should occur early, although any rental booking can usually wait until a few months out.


Choosing your stationary for invitations is a fun and important process. The invitation is the first glimpse that many of your guests will receive to give them an idea of the type of wedding you will be having. Choosing an invitation that reflects the same style as your wedding is important, formal or casual, be sure it reflects your style so your guests will know what to expect. Invitations should be sent out up to 6 months in advance and no less than 2 months in advance. Invitations for destination weddings should be sent early enough to allow guests time for planning their attendance.

Rehearsal Plans

Making plans for the rehearsal should be done as early as possible, especially if a venue will need to be booked for a rehearsal dinner. Now is the time to plan how your wedding will proceed. Decide who is escorting the bride down the aisle, whether you take the spotlight alone, or maybe you want to walk down together. The rehearsal is a great opportunity for young wedding party members such as ring bearers and flower girls to practice their role. If you are having ushers, ensure they know where they are seating the VIPs and other guests. Make weather contingency plans, so you know who you are calling for shelter if needed.

If you are considering writing your own vows rather than using traditional vows, then start early. Don’t wait until the last minute to write those vows, be ready for that moment during the rehearsal when your wedding officiant or your partner ask whether you have written your vows.

Many couples tend to present their wedding party members with some type of gift at the rehearsal celebration. The rehearsal celebration is a great time for the bride and groom to spend some time with their closest friends and family before the big day. Enjoy this special time and show your appreciation to your wedding party members.

Honeymoon Planning

We can’t forget the honeymoon! If you will be traveling for your honeymoon, then all reservations should be booked as soon as possible to take advantage of the best prices. Feel free to plan as many activities as you want to enjoy together on your honeymoon, but don’t forget to leave plenty of unplanned time to spend just enjoying each other’s company. Have fun with planning a time that you will happily remember for the rest of your married life together.

The Rings, Registering, and Extras

Choosing rings together can be a fun time. Some couples like to shop together for the engagement ring and wedding set, so they all go together. Others may provide their own chosen engagement ring during the proposal and choose a wedding set together. Regardless of how it is done, choose the rings in plenty of time so they can be sized to fit on your special day.

Registering for wedding gifts may be the first compromising shopping venture many couples face. There are many programs out there that allow you to tie all your registries from a variety of stores into one link to make it easier for your guests to shop and offer them the best prices for your wish list.

You will have some shopping of your own to take care of, from the wedding party gifts to party favors for your guests. You may also need items such as a garter for the toss, special glasses for the toast, guest book, cake carving knife, unity candles and more. Create a list of everything needed so you don’t forget the small details.

Whatever type of wedding you plan, the most important part is to enjoy this time together with your family and friends. Your day will be all you could have ever imagined if you put a little thought into the planning process. California Wedding and Events is here to help you find everything you need for all the steps above, so explore our website and have fun planning your wedding.

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