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Use the following checklist to help plan your perfect day.

Photo by Choke Cherry Photography

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Sixteen to Nine Months Before... q Start a wedding folder or binder.

Begin leafing through bridal, lifestyle, fashion, gardening, design, and food magazines for inspiration.

q Work out your budget.

Determine how much you have to spend, based on your families’ contributions and your own.

q Pick your wedding party.

As soon as you’re engaged, people will start wondering who’s in.

q Start the guest list.

Make a head count database to use throughout your planning process, with columns for contact info, RSVPs, gifts, and any other relevant information. (Want to keep costs low? It may be brutal, but the best way to do it is to reduce your guest list.)

q Hire a planner, if desired.

A planner will have relationships with— and insights about—vendors.

q Reserve your date and venues.

Decide whether to have separate locations for the ceremony and the reception, factoring in travel time between the two places.

q Book your officiant.

Research photographers, bands, florists, and caterers. Keep their contact information in your binder.

q Throw an engagement party, if you wish.

But remember that your invitees should be on your wedding guest list as well.

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Eight Months Before... q Hire the photographer and the videographer.

No need to talk specifics yet, but be sure that the people you hire are open to doing the shots that you want.

q Book the entertainment.

Attend gigs of potential acts to see how they perform in front of audiences, then reserve your favorite.

q Meet caterers.

q Purchase a dress.

If your wedding venue doesn’t offer its own catering service, look for one now and hire the service this month or early next.

You’ll need to schedule time for at least three fittings. Veil shopping can be postponed for another two to three months.

q Reserve a block of hotel rooms for out-of-town guests.

Pick three hotels at different price points close to the reception venue.

q Register.

Sign up at a minimum of three retailers.

q Launch a wedding website.

Create your personal page through a free provider such as weddingchannel.com. Note the date of the wedding, travel information, and accommodations. Then send the link to invitees.

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Seven to Six Months Before... q Select and purchase invitations.

Hire a calligrapher, if desired. Addressing cards is time-consuming, so you need to budget accordingly.

q Start planning a honeymoon.

Make sure that your passports are up-to-date, & schedule doctors’ appointments for any shots you may need.

q Shop for bridesmaids’ dresses.

Allow at least six months for the dresses to be ordered and sized.

q Meet with the officiant.

Map out the ceremony and confirm that you have all the official documents for the wedding (these vary by county and religion).

q Send save-the-date cards.

Reserve structural and electrical necessities. Book portable toilets for outdoor events, extra chairs if you need them, lighting components, and so on.

q Book a florist.

Florists can serve multiple clients on one day, which is why you can wait a little longer to engage one. Plus, at this point, you’ll be firm on what your wedding palette will be.

q Arrange transportation.

Consider limos, minibuses, trolleys, and town cars. (But know that low-to-the-ground limos can make entries and exits dicey if you’re wearing a fitted gown.)

q Start composing a day-of timeline.

Draw up a schedule of the event and slot in each component (the cake-cutting, the first dance).

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Five to Four Months Before... q Book the rehearsal and rehearsal-dinner venues.

Negotiate the cost and the menu. If you’re planning to host a day-after brunch for guests, book that place as well.

q Check on the wedding invitations.

Ask the stationer for samples of the finished invitations and revise them to suit your needs.

q Select and order the cake.

Some bakers require a long lead time. Attend several tastings before committing to any baker.

q Send your guest list to the host of your shower.

Provided you, ahem, know about the shower.

q Purchase wedding shoes and start dress fittings.

Bring the shoes along to your first fitting so the tailor can choose the appropriate length for your gown.

q Schedule hair and makeup artists.

Make a few appointments with local experts to try them out. Snap a photo at each so you can compare results.

q Choose your music.

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What should be playing when the wedding party is announced? During dinner? To kick off the dancing? Keep a running list of what you want— and do not want—played.


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T hree Months Before... q Finalize the menu and flowers.

q Order favors, if desired.

q Make a list of the people giving toasts.

q Finalize the readings.

You’ll want to wait until now to see what will be available, since food and flowers are affected by season. Some safe bets: monogrammed cookies or a treat that represents your city or region. If you’re planning to have welcome baskets for out-of-town guests, plan those now too. Which loved ones would you like to have speak at the reception? Ask them now.

Determine what you would like to have read at the ceremony—and whom you wish to do the readings.

q Purchase your undergarments.

And schedule your second fitting.

q Finalize the order of the ceremony and the reception. q Print menu cards, if you like, as well as programs.

No need to go to a printer, if that’s not in your budget: You can easily create these on your computer.

q Purchase the rings.

This will give you time for resizing and engraving.

q Send your event schedule to the vendors.

Giving them a first draft now allows ample time for tweaks and feedback.

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Two Months Before... q Touch base again with all the vendors.

q Meet with the photographer.

q Review the playlist with the band or deejay.

q Send out the invitations.

q Submit a newspaper wedding announcement.

q Enjoy a bachelorette party.

Photo by Choke Cherry Photography

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Make sure any questions you or they had on your first draft have been answered. Discuss specific shots, and walk through the locations to note spots that appeal to you. Though you probably won’t be able to dictate every single song played, you should come prepared with a wish list. The rule of thumb: Mail invitations six to eight weeks before the ceremony, setting the RSVP cutoff at three weeks after the postmark date. If you’re planning to include a photograph, check the publication’s website: Some have strict rules about how the photo should look. Arranging a night out with your girlfriends generally falls to the maid of honor. But if she hasn’t mentioned one to you by now, feel free to ask—for scheduling purposes, of course!—if a celebration is in the works.


One Month Before... q Enter RSVPs into your guest-list database.

Phone people who have not yet responded.

q Get your marriage license.

The process can take up to six days, but it’s good to give yourself some leeway. If you are changing your name, order several copies.

q Mail the rehearsal-dinner invitations. q Visit the dressmaker for (with luck!) your last dress fitting.

q Stock the bar.

For peace of mind, you may want to schedule a fitting the week of your wedding. You can always cancel the appointment if you try on the dress then and it fits perfectly. Now that you have a firm head count you can order accordingly.

q Send out as many final payments as you can. q Confirm times for hair and makeup and all vendors. q E-mail and print directions for drivers of transport vehicles.

This gives the chauffeurs ample time to navigate a route.

q Assign seating.

Draw out table shapes on a layout of the room to help plan place settings. Write the names of female guests on pink sticky notes and the names of male guests on blue sticky notes so you can move people about without resketching the entire setting.

q Purchase bridesmaids’ gifts.

You’ll present them at the rehearsal dinner.

q Write vows, if necessary. q Get your hair cut and colored, if desired.

Photo by Choke Cherry Photography

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Week of the Wedding... q Reconfirm arrival times with vendors. q Delegate small wedding-day tasks.

q Send a timeline to the bridal party.

q Pick up your dress. q Check in one last time with the photographer. q Set aside checks for the vendors. q Book a spa treatment.

q Send the final guest list to the caterer & all venues hosting your wedding-related events. q Break in your shoes. q Assemble & distribute the welcome baskets.

Choose someone to bustle your dress, someone to carry your things, someone to be in charge of gifts (especially the enveloped sort), someone to hand out tips, and someone to be the point person for each vendor. Include every member’s contact information, along with the point people you’ve asked to deal with the vendors, if problems arise. Or make arrangements for a delivery. Supply him or her with a list of moments you want captured on film. And put tips in envelopes to be handed out at the event. Make an appontment for a manicure and a pedicure the day before the wedding. (You might want to get a stress-relieving massage, too.) Typically, companies close their lists 72 hours in advance.

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TOP 10 Wedding Cake Al ternatives 1.

Cheese 2. Macarons 3. Doughnuts 4. Cake Pops 5. Croquembouche 6. Dessert Table 7. Cupcakes 8. Pancakes 9. Cookies 10. Pies Photos by Choke Cherry Photography

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Did you know?

A first dance song at the wedding reception often sets the tone for the upcoming festivities and can exemplify just how newlyweds feel about each other. Couples may agonize over which song to choose, but there are many different resources available that can help couples narrow down their options. Spotify, the popular streaming music service, has compiled a list of the most popular wedding songs for 2018, based on global respondents. Their top pick was “Perfect,” by Ed Sheeran, a song that many might suspect was composed with wedding dances in mind. Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” Etta James’ “At Last,” John Legend’s “All of Me,” and Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” filled out the remaining top five spots on Spotify’s list.

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Photo by Choke Cherry Photography


Maximize Your Flower Budget

Next to your dress, flowers are perhaps the most visible part of your wedding. According to Brides magazine, you should be budgeting around $3,000 for your big day’s blossoms. For that kind of money, you need to be careful who (and what) you pick. Here are some tips saving some green on your wedding flowers. THINK SEASONAL Ask your florist to work with seasonal foliage to not only give your wedding a sense of time and place but also to save on your budget. If you just have to have that special, costly flower, go for it, but ask the florist to keep it minimal and mix in other, less expensive blossoms.

Photos by Choke Cherry Photography

PUMP UP THE VOLUME Go for flowers with large, showy blooms instead of lots of smaller stems. Florists may also opt to mix in structural pieces like branches to make arrangements look fuller. Give the florist their head, but also reiterate that you’re on a budget.

REUSE Have the florist recycle ceremony flowers at the reception. And, when possible, use the venue’s own natural beauty to accentuate the blooms. Use lighting or other decor to add some umph to what you can afford, and guests won’t notice what’s not there.

GO BIG, BUT JUST ONCE If your heart says flowers everywhere on every surface but your wallet says bud vase, see if your florist can make one big show-stopping arrangement and deploy it effectively. Place this bad boy in one key area and opt for smaller, less-expensive arrangements elsewhere.

GET CREATIVE Instead of giant floral centerpieces on tables, mix in smaller arrangements with things like personal keepsakes, pictures, candles or other items for a cozy, intimate feel. Consider using plants, too, instead of cut flowers for a savings.

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Hiring a Photographer For as much planning as go into them, your actual wedding day will probably pass in a blur. So it’s important to choose the right photographer to preserve memories for you to look back on. Keep reading for tips on choosing just the right photographer to preserve your special day.

DO

Ask for a portfolio. A photographer’s portfolio showcases their best work. Ask to see a complete wedding set to get a better idea of how the photographer operates. Look for uniform quality in the shots and see that the photographer’s style matches your own. Come armed with questions. Typical questions should include if the photographer shoots digitally or with film, if they charge extra for travel or parking, and if there will be a written agreement for your events. Hint: There should be. Scour that quote. Be on the lookout for extras that you don’t need, like extra prints or a CD copy of your album. Don’t be afraid to ask to sub those items out for things you would like, such as a parents album or personalized thank-you cards.

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Photo by Choke Cherry Photography

DON’T

Take the cheap route. A professional wedding photographer costs money. Don’t ever rely on Cousin Ed to take professional-grade shots (unless, of course, he is a professional wedding photographer. Then, if he offers, go ahead.). That said, go over your contract carefully to make sure your expectations and your photographer’s talents align. Overlook venue rules. It may sound silly to you, but venues usually have those rules for a very good reason. Sure, just one little wedding full of flashes won’t hurt the priceless artifacts behind your church’s altar, but think of a whole season’s worth of flashes, several times every Saturday. Prioritize product. Pay for the photographer, not the goods, says the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers. Who cares if you have giant canvas prints of your big day if you can’t stand to look at them?


Your Dog HOW TO INCLUDE

IN YOUR WEDDING

Having your dog in your wedding takes some planning. Here are some things to consider and some steps to take: 1.

DECIDE WHAT HIS ROLE WILL BE The Dog of Honor, The Ring Bearer, or even the Wedding Usher! 2.

CHECK WITH YOUR VENUE Some place allow dogs; some do not!

Photos by Choke Cherry Photography

3.

LET YOUR GUESTS KNOW Just in case people are allergic! 4.

DESIGNATE A HANDLER Have someone take charge with making sure your pet behaves, and has food, water, and ample bathrooms breaks. 5.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE Have many dress rehearsals with your pet. Weddings can be stressful but having your furry best friend by your side as you take your vows will be worth it!

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