Wedding Planning Timeline

Congratulations! You're engaged!

He asked! You said yes! It is such an incredible time right now and I so hope you enjoy every second of it!!! 

Erin Elizabeth Lifestyle Photography

Erin Elizabeth Lifestyle Photography

But now what? How do you get started? You've probably never been married before so how are you supposed to know what to do now. 

First, you announce :) Yes! Not just through Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat, but directly to your friends and family. They kind of deserve to give you a real hug and not just a virtual one. Enjoy this moment. Savor it!

Second, make a plan (or hire a wedding planner)! Wedding planning can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Set deadlines for yourself and keep them. Your plan should generally start at least a year out (give yourself some time :) 

Wedding Planning Timeline

Because we recommend planning for at least a year, this general outline is based on a 12-month schedule. 

  • 12 months out:
    • Set a date & set your budget (We already have a blog dedicated to budgets, but we'll be updating it and posting a new one soon!)
    • Scout venues and vendors thinking about why you like them and how they'll help make your day reflective of you.
    • If you haven't already, hire a wedding planner or go buy a binder and prepare to get more organized than you have ever been in your life ;) 
    • Set deadlines and mark them in a calendar for when you need the rest of the timeline items completed.
    • Choose your wedding party and ask them to be in your wedding. (We'll post a blog on this topic too!)
    • Start thinking about and defining your wedding day and how you want it to feel for you and your guests. This is your vision. It's your day. Own it!! 
  • 10 months out: 
    • All vendors should be booked! Yup, book them! You don't want to miss out on the vendors you really want because you waited. So get booking :)
    • Start dress shopping for you and your ladies. This is definitely a part of the planning process you do not want to rush!
    • Start a running list of guests you might want to invite (Another future blog post!)
    • Create your website and start posting general information regarding your big day
    • Start scouting locations for guest accommodations. Most hotels have a deadline of when guests need to book so you'll want to get this going and share it with guests!
  • 9 months out:
    • You've got your vendors booked. Yay! Now use that photographer you booked to do some engagement photos. This is the perfect time to get to know your photographer and for them to start to get to know you!
      • You can use these photos for save-the-dates! 
    • Your venues are booked. Now to start thinking about estimates on rentals and decor you might need. 
  • 6 months out:
    • Save-the-dates should be out! Yes, get them out so your guests can mark their calendars. If it's a destination wedding, you'll want to think about sending these even earlier. (If you're doing save the dates, your guest list will need to be finalized.)
    • Start thinking about and talking to your planner about the estimated timeline. You'll need this to plan the transportation for your day. I do not recommend setting exact times for transportation until the timeline is more defined. You do not want to end up with a limo arriving at 3pm but you won't be ready until 5pm. 
    • Wrap up dress shopping for both you and your ladies. 
    • Wrap up your "vision" for you day. At this point you don't want to start all over with how you want your day to look and feel. It could cost you more money. 
    • Based on your budget and your venue, clean up that guest list! You're getting ready to do invitations!
    • Book rehearsal dinner venue. 
  • 3 - 6 months out:
    • Tastings and vendor consults should be happening and wrapping up. 
    • Invitation drafted, reviewed and prepped (That means you might want to hire a calligrapher at the 6month marker so she can start working on invites at about the 3month marker.) 
    • Wrap up your guest list. It defines how many invitations you are sending out. 
    • Dress your groom and groomsmen! That's right, it's time to get them into the right outfit to keep that vision intact ;) 
    • Now is the time to get in some more time with your photographer. Do some bridals so you can have a trial run with your hair and make-up! I highly recommend this!
    • Buy your wedding bands.
  • 3 months out:
    • Address those invitations!
    • Remind guests about the hotel block. 
    • Finalize your menu and update your vendors of the estimated guest count.
    • Finalize plans for rehearsal dinner. 
  • 2 months out:
    • Invitations are mailed! You're getting married!
    • Work with your vendors to start finalizing the timeline. (We'll post a whole blog on timelines.)
    • Start your vows and ceremony outline with your officiant. 
  • 1 month out: 
    • Paper products should be done (that includes your programs and such).
    • Welcome bags should be planned for and ready to organize.
    • Timeline should be finalized.
    • Touch base with all of your vendors to confirm and review the contract to ensure your timeline reflects everything required of them and yourself. 
    • Finalize favors.
    • Wrap up that seating chart. You don't want to rush to update it the week of :) 
  • The week of your wedding:
    • Deliver welcome bags to hotels.
    • Pack for your honeymoon. 
    • Pack for the weekend. 
    • Welcome your guests and try to start relaxing.

You're getting married!! 

This is not an all inclusive wedding planning timeline. There are so many details in between each of those lines. My biggest recommendation is to start early and to plan, plan, plan. You want to be finished planning by the month of, so at that point it is just a matter of re-checking everything. If you are still planning at that point, you're not enjoying your guests or that special moment and I so want you to enjoy it!! Contact us if you need some help. 


Wedding Planning: Setting the Budget

Setting your wedding budget. 

Wait a minute, you're looking at venues you can't afford huh? I know it's hard but you have to stick to a have to know what you can and cannot afford.

We have hit on this before, but since we're slowly moving through the planning process, I figured we should hit on it again and update a bit. You've got your preferred choices for a venue, but do they fit into the budget? Hmmm....tough question.

NOBODY and I do mean nobody likes talking about the budget...not even your parents. Setting the budget, while not the fun part of planning a wedding, does not have to be painful. Setting the budget determines many of the questions addressed in the next blog post (Planning Your Wedding). 

And while you you may think with your budget, you cannot afford an event planner, an event planner can help you stay on that budget and achieve your goals. Having your budget in place can help the rest of the process be more efficient and go much smoother.

Wedding budget key concepts:

  • Is there a set limit? Yes, there is most definitely a limit. Everyone has one, that know...where they freak out. I'm pretty sure your fiance has one and even your parents or grandparents. It's important to know what it is so you can keep things in perspective and work within that number (you don't want your heart set on one thing only to have someone say (whether it's your parents or your fiance) you cannot do it because you've hit their number).
  • Know, up front, who is paying for what items. For corporate events it's much clearer as to who is paying. Just make sure your contracts reflect
  • Traditionally in a wedding the bride's side pays for the following: 
    • church costs, 
    • reception/venue, 
    • transportation, and 
    • wedding dress.
    • Traditionally the groom's side pays for the following: 
      • honeymoon, 
      • liquor, 
      • marriage license, 
      • officiant fee/gratuity, and 
      • rehearsal dinner. 

You can always go completely non-traditional because of course it is your day, but whatever way you go, KNOW what is included in the budget and what is not included in the budget and if you really want something make it a priority or make sure you can help pay for it (if someone else is paying).

Know Your Wedding Budget Priorities

If your reception venue is number one keep that in mind. What is the overall budget and how many items need to be included? Define what you want. What is most important to you for this event? Set those as your highest priorities. Then set percentages to represent them. Finally divide your budget to represent those percentages. If you do not have enough, think about what you do not need. For example, there are four key areas: venue, decor, entertainment and catering. Rank them. Now, for number one decide how much of your budget you will need for it. Once you've determined your first priority and what you can and/or want to spend, you can continue moving through your list. If your venue is most important, is it really a deal breaker to have chicken instead of steak for catering? Knowing your priorities and how much you can spend on each one will help when it's time for vendors to submit proposals. You don't want to try on a dress or see event decor if you cannot afford it. 

I know, you're probably thinking "OMG, I have to do all kinds of math with that?!?!?" But really it's okay. Use a spreadsheet :)

Once you know what you do want, a very easy way to manage your budget and break it down is a budget calculator. A budget calculator will provide appropriate expenses for each portion of the wedding...from venue and catering to attire and clothing. You can find many budget calculators online (just Google it). Here is a sample one I've drawn up for my wedding clients that calculates as we go.

You'll want that bottom line number then you can pretty much expect the following:

  • Reception: 48%-50% 
  • Attire: 8%-10% 
  • Flowers: 8%-10% 
  • Entertainment/Music: 8%-10% 
  • Photography: at least 10% of your budget (if you can hit it, at least $4,000) 
  • Videography: 5% (I'm a tad bit biased, but I consider video a necessity) 
  • Stationery: 2%-3% 
  • Wedding Rings: 2%-3% 
  • Parking/Transportation: 2%-3% 
  • Gifts: 2%-3% 
  • Miscellaneous: 5% 
  • To avoid stress, allot about 5% of your budget for a "just-in-case" fund. 

Recognize that you will probably splurge on something so keep this in mind. Factor it into your budget. Make sure to put a little bit extra into the areas where you think it's possible you might splurge: like, a special type of flowers or a specific band you want.

So, just as an example, a $50,000 budget broken down might look something like the following: All-inclusive venue, multi-course cocktail-reception, a live band, full bar.

  • Venue (all-inclusive): $25,000 
  • Catering (included above) 
  • Rentals (included above) 
  • Dessert (included above) 
  • Alcohol & beverages: $3150 
  • Pro-videographer: $2500 
  • Pro-photographer: $4000 
  • Band: $5400 
  • Wedding planning: $4000 
  • Website & invites: $1025 
  • Flowers: $2225 
  • Other: $2000 
  • Pro hair and makeup for bride, bridesmaids, moms: $500 

Once you've locked down a reasonable budget, take a deep breath and remember to HAVE FUN!!!

If you have any questions or need some help developing your budget, give us a call or shoot us an email. We love working with people, even in the smallest of ways (Budget sessions start at $250 for 2hrs).

It's Your Time Events, New Orleans Wedding Planning Design


You Make Me Smile...What Makes You Smile?

I don't know where it came from. Maybe it's being a New Orleans girl and it's just in my blood, a love of music. I can't would probably hurt your ears if I tried. In fact, my husband makes fun each time I sing in the car. But I do, I love music. I love hearing a song and it touches me to my soul. And it's this love for music that made me want to find the absolute perfect songs for my wedding. I wanted songs that were personal and meant something to us. Is this a detail that you think about? Do you worry about it? If so, you might be a little like me. If not, it's okay. We're all a little different, but make it personal.

I started our processional with the Kenny G's Over the Rainbow. Kenny G holds a very special place in my heart due to some great nights as a child growing up with some great adults. Over the Rainbow is a dream coming true. And knowing my mom and mother in law were walking down to this meant, it was the start of my dream coming true...I was marrying the man of my dreams.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue.
And eh dreams that you dare to dream
Really do Come true.

We continued with the love theme from Romeo and Juliet. Have you ever listened to the music? Not watched the scenes associated with it but listened to how the notes rise and fall and cascade in such a beautiful pattern? I have loved it since I first heard it (I won't tell you when that was b/c it would date me). And as I heard the music and my bridesmaids started walking, I knew it was time. My true love was here and this was happening.

O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.

The processional ended with what I consider the most romantic song I've ever heard - Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific (a musical my husband and I saw together). When I first heard this song, it truly touched my soul. I was enchanted and I wanted to remember that feeling when I walked down the aisle and I wanted my husband to know, to get, what was about to happen. We were getting married.

Some enchanted evening
When you find your true love
When you feel her call you
Across a crowded room,
Then fly to her side,
And make her your own....

Now, the reason behind the name of this blog - You make me smile. We danced to Uncle Cracker's Smile. I know, it's silly and it's not your norm, but it meant something to US. Choose the music and songs that mean something to you. It's amazing how just hearing one of those songs on the radio or in the background can bring back so many memories from such a wonderful night. Choose it for you. Choose it because it means something to you.

Even when you're gone
Somehow you come along
Just like a flower poking through sidewalk
crack and just like that
You steal away the rain and just like make me smile like the sun....

Okay so here's the part to help - Music to think about:

  • processional
  • recessional (we did LSU's Pregame)
  • first dance
  • bridal party dance
  • father daughter/mother son dance
  • bouquet toss song
  • garter toss song
  • cake cutting song
  • final song (a lot of people choose Shout to end on a high note).