Wedding Planning Checklist | Midwest Wedding & Lifestyle Photographer

What's the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time! That's exactly what wedding plan is like. Staring at the big picture can be overwhelming and leave you wondering where to start. Let me hook you UP with this checklist, all sorted out by month and everything, because type A ya dig?


Determine your budget

This is the most stressful, but important thing you can do for yourself in the beginning of planning. Before you start anything, you'll have to figure out who is going to pay for what and come up with your grand total number. From there, you can further break down your budget and decide what's a priority, what can you do yourself, what's not a priority, etc. Most of the time, these numbers will change in either direction, so it's good to have a detailed plan from the start! Also, in keeping your budget, be honest about your budget with the vendors that you want. I would be confident to say that if you're communicating clearly ahead of time, people will try to accommodate you the best that they can.

Make a guest list

Chances are, you cannot invite everyone on your list. When deciding your head count, think about your budget (how much can you afford?) and your venue (how many people does it fit?). Next comes cutting, communicating about how you can trim it down some more, and cutting again until you reach a final number. Don't forget to include plus ones in your count as well! If you want to give your people more information on how to be a STELLAR guest, click here.

Pick your venue

When thinking of your venue - understand that this can shape the overall feel of your wedding. This is one of the most important decisions you'll make right now! It affects the vibe, the lighting, how many people you can invite, the color palette, etc. Honestly, it's probably going to be the biggest expense of your day as well. It's important to explore, look at reviews, ask about options, ask about deals, look at your budget, look at your budget, I repeat look at your budget - and stick to it!

Hotel block

Set up your block of hotel rooms for your wedding guests so that you can ensure that everyone has a place to stay and possibly even a discount!


Decide your overall vibe/colors

This was my favorite part of wedding planning. Choosing the vibe for your wedding can be so fun, and something that the two of you should share together! Think about what's important to you, what do you value, also think about your venue (you don't want a black tie event at a venue that is more boho/rustic themed). So many factors can play a roll when deciding theme - reach out to the loved ones you trust the most and get input. That doesn't mean you have to use it - but it always helps to have ideas! On that note, USE PINTEREST! There's all sorts of free inspiration available at your finger tips, and in most cases organized by the theme you're going for. Wedding planner Jessica Sloaner recommends taking a look at the things that are already in your world. For example, look at the way that you decorated your house, what you "liked" on Instagram, etc. and pull your inspiration from there!

Pick your caterer

Also, a fun part of wedding planning is deciding on the most important part, THE FOOD AMIRIGHT?! This is probably going to be the most amount of people you've ever had to feed, so how do you do that?! Your caterer should be a company you trust, someone you know that is consistent, and should reflect the style of your wedding too. When it comes to food, we are at a place in time where there are no rules anymore! I've seen weddings serve breakfast, taco trucks, fondu style food, bbq, pizzas on every table, you name it. It's your day - pick something that reflects you!

Hire your vendors who book up quick (ie. photographers, videographer, DJs, etc.)

This is so important if you want to grab the people that you know will do you right! These are the people that document your day, make the fun keep on going, and make your memories last forever. Do your research on what to ask each person before hiring them. You'll thank yourself in the end! Click here to check out some things you should think about before hiring your wedding photographer.


Start shopping for your wedding day attire!

Don't settle on your wedding day clothes! You want to find something that reflects your style, personality, and of course that coveted budget you made earlier! Shop around, it's okay if you don't find your perfect match on the first try. Make sure you pick something that makes YOU comfortable, and makes YOU feel your best. I know we all want to please the family members around us but you cannot pour from an empty kettle, so you have to make sure you're doing right by you too!

Create your wedding website

Times have changed and one thing that people are hopping on board with is a wedding website! It's an easy way for everyone to find your registry, invitations, travel directions, preferred hotels, etc. all in one place. If you are looking for someone to hook you up with a website, it just so happens my hubs is a graphic designer and would love to create something catered to you and your personality. Check him out by clicking here!

Take engagement photos

If you book with me, you'll most likely have scheduled these for free - because they come in almost every package I offer!! Regardless, this is a great time to book your engagement session! If you need some help on what to wear, click here!

Start looking at invitations

Your wedding invitations should give an impression about what to expect on your big day. They can help reveal your theme, color palette, etc. and so you want to create something that is personalized to you! If you're going custom, my hubs would be happy to hook you up - check him out here!


Buy your wedding clothes!!

Remember those clothes you tried on earlier? Now it's time to buy them! This is why it's so important to stick to your budget so that when the time comes to purchase everything, you know exactly what you're in for!

Send your save the dates

This is a great time to let everyone know that you are gettin hitched! Make sure that you know that everyone who gets a save the date, gets a wedding invitation - no exceptions! Your save the dates are a great way to showcase those engagement photos too!


Register for gifts

This is one of the most fun things to do together! You get to go into Target with the little scan gun and scan to your heart's content. (Let's be honest, Target is on your registry). Okay okay, don't go crazy. It's smart to ask for staple items like kitchenware, sheets, an ironing board, etc. BUT on the same token don't be afraid to ask for things that you really want either! My husband and I put camping equipment on our registry and we still say that the tent we got was the BEST wedding gift we received, because it's something we love to do together!

Select bridal party clothing and schedule fittings

Ask your bridal party about what style of clothing makes them comfortable. Obviously you can't always please everyone, but it helps to know - after all, you want them to feel great on your big day too! If you are picking dresses/clothing out at a store, take some of your bridal party with you to see IRL what it will look like! Make sure to stick with your color palette but also feel free to reflect your style here too. For my wedding, all my bridesmaids wore differently cut maxi dresses (they picked them out, and I approved, haha!) they just had to be navy and floor length. This saved them money, they got to keep the dress afterwards, and everyone was still in line with our color palette while still feeling beautiful in what they picked out!

Find your florist

Flowers are my favorite part of the wedding! I always tell people if there's anything you're going to spend your money on - buy REAL flowers. It makes a WORLD of difference in your pictures, and a little greenery goes a long way. Make sure that you find someone who is going to deliver on time, and in a way that reflects your vision/personality.


Order rental items

If you have the budget, these extra items can add some more personality/fun to your wedding day. Think of things like lounge furniture, upgraded chairs, decorative lighting, etc. These details can really spice up the atmosphere!

Hire an officiant

If you aren't getting married in a church or somewhere where an officiant typically 'comes with' your venue, you'll need to hire someone to make it official. This can be another religious person, or you can do something a little more intimate and ask a friend/family member - they will just have to take the online class to become ordained. Make sure you go over what to expect with your officiant, you don't want to be surprised by the way things are said/carried out while you're standing in front of all your friends & family!


Think about hiring a lighting expert

I know that's such a weird thing to hear on your wedding task list - but as a photographer, this is one of the things that couples forget about the most! Lighting!!! It makes SUCH a difference not only in your images, but honestly with the whole day. Lighting can change the way your colors present themselves, how intimate a space feels, your makeup, your dress/suit color, so many things! Even if you are doing lighting on a budget, small details like the bulbs/candles you select will ultimately affect your lighting too!


Book newlywed transportation

If your budget allows, transportation can become not only something fun for you two on your special day, but a photo opportunity too! Just like décor and food, there are no limits on transportation either - stretch limo, bicycles, motorcycle, party bus, old timey car, the possibilities are endless. Just make sure you take into consideration your clothing length, weather, time of year, etc.

Book the honeymoon

Do this. Don't skip it. You'll need it after your wedding, and it's probably the most intimate, special time that you two will get to spend together after your wedding.


Choose your dessert

THE BEST FOOD - DESSERT! Let your dessert choice reflect your style too! I have seen people do donuts, pies, cake, cookies, mini pies/treats, a giant cookie cake, whatever you decide! Shop around for bakeries with good reviews, pictures of their product, maybe schedule a time to do some tasting, ask them about delivery methods, etc. If you need an extra taste tester, I'm your girl!!

Buy your wedding bands

Make sure you both get your wedding band situation in order. I know there are a lot of great companies that create rings out of recycled materials if you're into that kind of thing! There's always a way to add personal touches to your special day.

Hair and makeup trial

You gotta look FRESH on your wedding day right?! Now is not the day to try something new and crazy, believe me. Make sure that you get with your hair stylist, barber, MUA, etc. ahead of time to trial your looks so that nothing is new or surprising on your wedding day. Do not feel guilty asking for more/less of something, asking about changes, etc. - communicating with all your vendors regardless of who they are is so important! I always tell people too - don't do anything that isn't you. For example, I have double nose rings that I wear every single day of my life. My mom asked me (kind of suggested, let's be honest) that I take them out for my wedding and I was like "absolutely not!". Granted, when I'm 80 and probably don't have my nose rings in, I may look at that and laugh, but that is 100% who I am now and how I present myself everyday. Be you!

Wedding shower

This should be the time where someone you love is scheduling a wedding shower for you! *hint hint*


Order invitations & find a calligrapher

Make sure that when you order your invitations you account for a few slip ups! Even if you are hiring a calligrapher (did you know I do that on the side too as a a la cart add on, hint hint), we are all human and make errors! Make sure that you have a system for RSVPs set up, whether that's an additional envelope inserted in your invitation (always put stamps on ahead of time if you want to ensure you get them back), or put your RSVPs on your wedding website! Keep in mind that your invitations should stay in line with your overall theme.

Brainstorm guest favors & gift bags

You definitely do not have to do gift bags/favors, but if you can afford it, there are so many creative ways to do so! Check out pinterest for some budget conscious ideas to show your guests some love!

Write your vows

You definitely don't want to save writing your vows for the day of your wedding. Give yourself plenty of time to really put down how you feel about your s/o. On that note, something else to consider is whether or not you want to do a first look! Don't know what I'm talking about? Check out some more information here!

Start all your DIY projects

If you're someone who has a TON of DIY projects to do for their wedding like I did when I was a bride, now is the time to start crafting! Take breaks, don't do everything in one day, and group your friends to help you!


Send wedding invitations

You should have everything together at this point that you need, and now you can just send everything on its way!

Plan & send rehearsal dinner invitations

If you plan on having a rehearsal dinner with your family, now is the time to plan where you want that to be. Whether you do a backyard BBQ or a nice dinner on the town, make sure to include all of this information in your invitation!

Pick up your marriage license

Make sure that you know all of the steps to get your marriage license because each state is different, just google it, and of course snap a selfie with your license - ahhh!

Buy wedding party gifts

A nice way to thank your wedding party for all of their help (because they should be helping you!), for being your friends, and for joining you on your special way - this should be a thoughtful gift! Whatever the price point is, it's a nice way to say "Hey, I see you and I am so thankful for you!"

Give song selections to your band/DJ

A definite must do - send a list of the songs you want played or do not want played at your wedding as well as the songs you want played for specific portions of your reception if applicable (ie. first dance, father/daughter dance, etc.)

Buy all your small items

These are the things like cake toppers, table numbers, a guest book, flower girl accessories, a cute hanger - etc. All of these little things make GREAT detail shot props. What is that you ask, check it out!


Pay your vendors in full

Paying your vendors in full ahead of time ensures that you're not chasing people around on the day of, and keeps everyone happy and ready to please YOU. If you have to pay someone the day of, give the money to someone that you trust so that it's one less thing off of your plate!

Create a seating chart

Oooooohhhh man, this can be a doozy if you're doing it! Make sure you talk with your s/o so that everyone is sitting in a place that will be good for everyone involved. Make sure you keep in mind the floor plan of the venue, where you will be located (line of sight), etc.

Break in your wedding shoes

Whether you're in heels, new dress shoes, chucks, whatever - wear them around your house! You do NOT want to have blisters on your feet during your wedding day. Breaking in your shoes will ease stress that much more!


Woohoo you made it!! Here's some last minute things to get done before your wedding!

Go get your hair done! (Ends trimmed, color refreshed, etc.)

Get your eyebrows done


Final dress fitting

Pack your bags for your honeymoon/confirm with travel locations

Clean your ring

Finalize all your RSVPs

Write your love bug a note for the day of your wedding!

Lastly check out what to do the day before your wedding, now get planning!!



Midwest Wedding & Lifestyle Photographer



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