How to Plan a BELLA Wedding

By Lawson Roberts

Congratulations! You’re newly engaged to the love of your life and are now residing on cloud nine. In spite of wedding bells ringing in your ear, reality begins to set in – what do you do first? The experts on the Lawson Roberts Team, an event planning company with locations in New York and Charleston, South Carolina, have set a one-year timeline for you to help ensure that the planning process is as beautiful (and enjoyable) as the day you become husband and wife. 

Nine to 12 months before…

  • Announce your engagement to close family and friends and (later) in the newspaper.
  • Throw a fabulous engagement party: you’ve gotten engaged, now celebrate it!
  • Determine your marriage ceremony location and who will officiate at the ceremony.
  • Select a wedding date and time.

Eight months before…

  • Set your overall budget.
  • Determine the type of wedding you want (i.e., size, formality, style, color scheme). Your wedding’s style is all about you and your fiancé. Listen to your friends and family as much as needed, but remember it is your day.
  • Select your guest list. It helps to put the list into an Excel-based program with the last names first, then first names.
  • Pick your best man, maid/matron of honor, and wedding party.
  • Get guests’ addresses. (Parents can help with this!)
  • Send “save the dates” to your guests.
  • Order the bridesmaids’ dresses.
  • Secure a photographer. Ask yourself: How do you want to be seen? Do you wish to have staged shots or really fun active shots? These questions will help you determine the type of photographer you want.
  • Select a caterer if one is not offered by your reception venue. If a caterer is provided, get creative with the menu. They may be able to offer something different than the same old carving station!
  • Decide on your entertainment. Band vs. DJ? It’s an age-old question.

Seven months before…

  • Choose your wedding cake baker, photographer and florist, and sign all necessary contracts.
  • Shop for your wedding dress and accessories.
  • Start planning the honeymoon. Looking months ahead of time can help you get a great deal.
  • Set up your bridal registry. Remember that your guests’ budgets will vary. (Read: Do not register at Tiffany’s only.)

Four to six months before…

  • Sample the wedding menu at a tasting. (Note that some caterers charge for tastings.)
  • Find a transportation company.
  • Check the marriage license requirements in your state. This is extra important for destination weddings!
  • Shop for wedding bands.
  • Select and order the invitations and stationery (for your thank you notes).
  • Order the grooms and groomsmen’s attire.
  • Finalize honeymoon details and make the necessary reservations.

Two to four months before…

  • Confirm the menu with the caterer.
  • Prepare maps and directions to direct guests to and from the ceremony and reception sites.
  • Buy a wedding guest book.
  • Bridal Shower? Bachelor/Bachelorette party? Now is the time! These events are typically hosted by the best man and maid/matron of honor.
  • Prepare ceremony programs.
  • Finalize details with the florist, photographer, videographer, and entertainment.
  • Arrange accommodations, including a day-after brunch, for out-of-town guests.
  • Plan the rehearsal dinner.
  • Verify the wedding cake details with your baker.

Six to eight weeks before…

  • Mail invitations and announcements.
  • Set an appointment with your photographer for a formal bridal portrait.
  • Select gifts for all your attendants.
  • Make appointments with hairdressers and/or makeup artists. Remember to schedule a trial run to ensure you have the look you want on your wedding day.
  • Hire transportation for the wedding.

Four to six weeks before…

  • Schedule a final fitting for your gown and your bridesmaids’ dresses.
  • Pick up your wedding rings.
  • Confirm florist delivery times.
  • Plan the seating for the reception and write placement cards.

Two weeks before…

  • Set up a final consultation with your entertainment vendor(s).
  • Prepare a wedding announcement for the newspaper.
  • Confirm your guests’ accommodations.
  • Make sure all clothing and accessories for you and your wedding party are ready.
  • Get your marriage license and any other materials you need for the ceremony.
  • Make arrangements to have your wedding gifts moved to your new home.

The week before…

  • Settle all reception details including design and décor, lighting, entertainment placement, and seating.
  • Check in with your photographer, videographer, etc.
  • Reconfirm your honeymoon reservations and start packing.
  • Give a final head count to the caterer.
  • Wrap and present gifts to your wedding party.
  • Finalize your rehearsal dinner.

The day before…

  • Get a manicure or massage to relax you.
  • Finalize all financial transactions. Be sure to fill out your checks in advance so you can pay all vendors on-site.
  • Rehearse with your participants.
  • Go to bed early.

The big day…

  • Allow plenty of time to get dressed and have your hair and makeup done.
  • Make sure the best man and maid/matron of honor sign the wedding certificate.
  • Enjoy your wonderful wedding and cherish each and every moment!

Author bio: Lawson Roberts is an event concept development firm founded by Lawson Roberts, a renowned event planner with over 15 years of experience. Known for his meticulous attention to detail and dazzling creative vision, Roberts has produced events for countless celebrities, including Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Gosling, BB King, Bruce Willis, and the late Elizabeth Taylor, among others. He is the Operating Partner and Program Director on WeddingsRadio.com, where he hosts the lifestyle radio show, “The Sunday Morning Mimosa” and “The Lawson Roberts Show.” Learn more about Roberts and his company at LawsonRoberts.com.

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