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Wedding Planning Checklist: the First 7 Tasks to Put on Your Wedding Planning Timeline

You’re engaged. Congratulations! Once you’ve shared the news and popped the bubbly, the first question friends and family always ask is, “Have you set the date?” Even if you haven’t, it’s never too early to get organized and start planning. And our wedding planning checklist will help you enjoy each step as you start down the road to wedded bliss.

December 24, 2020 in Life

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Wedding planning task #1: Nail down the budget

This is definitely the best place to start. Knowing how much money you’re working with can help alleviate stress along every step of your wedding planning timeline, from choosing your venue and picking out flowers to deciding how big to make the guest list for that country-chic destination wedding.

Budgeting tips


● Write a list of wedding must-haves versus “nice-to-haves.” This makes it clear where to concentrate your budget, and what isn’t worth spending on for you and your soon-to-be spouse.


● Consider setting up or designating a dedicated credit card for wedding expenses, which can help make your spending easy to track. American Express® offers a wide variety of Cards with benefits that can help you achieve your goals. For example, American Express CobaltTM Cardmembers earn 5 points for every $1 on eligible food and grocery purchases in Canada, up to $30,000 annually1. Membership Rewards® points can be redeemed to pay for almost anything that you charge to your Card2 including travel purchases or merchandise found in our Membership Rewards catalogue3.


● Create a shareable online budget spreadsheet that you and your partner (or your wedding planner) can easily update as estimates and actual charges come in. Then everyone will always be on the same page.

Wedding planning task #2: Decide whether to hire a wedding planner or to DIY

Although hiring a professional planner is an expense you might think you can do without, their expertise around how to plan a wedding can save you stress, time and possibly even money. And for out-of-province and destination weddings, a wedding planner can serve as your feet on the ground at the location.

Planning tips

● If your wedding is complex, or you’re busier than ever at work, consider hiring a wedding planner. They can provide peace of mind and take care of a million details while you focus on the important things.


● If you and your spouse-to-be are hands-on people, then a wedding planner may not be your cup of tea — you won’t get the satisfaction of completing the job yourselves. While some couples DIY their wedding due to a small budget, others see it as a fun escape from daily life (after all, it’s basically throwing the party of your dreams) and relish all the steps to planning a wedding, from drawing up the seating plan to picking out themes.


● The disadvantage of DIY wedding planning is that you don’t have a project manager to handle any complications that pop up — you’ll have to do that yourself, too.


● Consider creating a wedding website — it can be a vital planning tool for you and your guests. There are free templates, as well as paid sites, you can sign up for, and you can make it as simple or as detailed as you like. A wedding website adds a layer of convenience for you and your guests, because you can update it with details as they are confirmed, such as the ceremony and reception addresses. That way, on the big day, if guests forget or even lose their paper invitation, they will still be able to look up the locations on your website using their phone.

Wedding planning task #3: Book the venue or wedding destination

Reserving the venue or wedding destination will help you finally answer the endless “So when’s the date?” questions you’re getting! It’s the big decision that lots of other small choices hinge on. Your venue or destination determines how many guests you can host, the style of the event, the date itself and even the food and beverages that are available.

Booking tips

● If you’re having a ceremony and reception at different locations, remember to make sure both can take place on the same day. Provide enough time for transportation between locations so that no one feels rushed.


● A good venue is one that not only merges practical considerations, like your budget and guest count, but also imparts good energy and feels like the right place to start your married life.


● One of the most common wedding planning tips for picking a date is to allow a year after you start the planning process. Popular venues are often booked a year or longer in advance.

Wedding planning task #4: Determine your style and theme

Wedding theme planning may not sound like a top priority, but it can be the key to unlocking a well-coordinated event. Having a theme, style and colour combination in mind narrows down the options you need to consider, which means decision-making is easier.

Theme tips

● Though often confused, wedding themes and wedding colours are separate concepts. The theme is the overarching style and mood, such as “rustic” or “romantic.” The colours serve as the palette that expresses that feeling.


● Wedding magazines are a fave for inspiration. You can physically tear out the pages to create a custom "look book" or bookmark them for easy reference.


● Online sites and apps are other popular resources for gathering inspiration. You can even create virtual pinboards that encompass any or all the steps to planning a wedding.


● If the luxe details you want seem out of reach, consider creative ways you can get the look without overspending. Maybe you can stretch your budget by using the points earned on your Membership Rewards®– enrolled Card for purchases2. Finding the right Card with rewards that fit your wedding theme planning goals could help you get those dream details that will make the day extra special.

Wedding planning task #5: Make your fashion choices

The earlier you settle on what you’ll wear, the less stress you’ll have as the wedding approaches. If you need to special-order garments, get alterations or allow time for your attendants to select their own outfits (if you’re going that route), the more time the better.

Fashion tips

● Take cues from your location if you’re not sure where to start. The formality of your venue can help inform your fashion selections.


● Keep your theme in mind when making your fashion choices, too — particularly the colour palette. Perhaps you want your attendants’ dresses and suits to pop harmoniously against the background of your decor, or maybe you want a tone-on-tone look. There is no right or wrong answer, but don’t forget to consider how your fashion selections like the hues and tailoring will work with your chosen theme.


● Fashion trends change all the time, so decide whether you want to be ultra-mod or go for the classics. There really are no limitations or universal rules. Just because black tuxedos and suits were once the must-have doesn’t mean you can’t go for navy or midnight blue. (Or fuchsia, for that matter. You do you!) For dresses, you can continue the chic minimalist looks that have been popular recently, or throw back to the big sleeves, ruffles and dramatic one-shoulder looks we all loved in the ’80s – they’re making a comeback.


● If you like personal service, a full-service bridal salon is a good choice. It feels upscale and elegant, with knowledgeable staff that can help guide your decisions. Expect luxe extras like glasses of bubbly while you shop. They require a little more advance planning, though: Bridal salon dresses often take four to six months to arrive, and you have to allow an extra three or so months for the alterations process.


● Wedding dress discounters and suit warehouses offer fewer frills and lower prices, and they often carry looks you can take home the same day. You may still need to factor time for alterations into your schedule, though.


● Wedding gowns usually require three fittings. The last one is typically a week or two before your wedding date.

Wedding planning task #6: Assemble the guest list

Your budget and your venue will largely determine how many guests you can host at your wedding. Start by creating a primary list of the closest family members and friends you have to include, and then make a secondary list of people you’d love to have if space and costs permit.

Guest list tips

● There’s no magical way to divide up the numbers when it comes to inviting people to a wedding. One traditional guideline is that the couple gets half the guest list, while each set of parents gets a quarter. Honest, open communication is key when it comes to keeping everyone happy.


● Establishing ground rules up front about who can be cut from your list can go a long way toward keeping the peace and helping you stick to your wedding budget. There are no hard and fast rules — for example, maybe you can cut an invitee if you haven’t spoken to them in two years and you’re not related to them. Or perhaps you can send a simple wedding announcement after the fact to your parents’ friends whom you’ve never met.


● It’s totally acceptable to have a wedding for adults only. Just be clear from the start and be understanding if a guest can’t attend because they don’t have child care.


● Next up is crafting the wedding seating plan. Usually couples arrange tables by natural groupings, such as work friends, high school chums and family members. It makes for livelier conversation!


● Save-the-date cards should be sent out eight to 10 months in advance, and invitations two months before the wedding.


● An online shared RSVP spreadsheet (like your budget spreadsheet) is the easiest way to keep track of your guests. Make sure to create a field for notes, where you can add relevant details, such as food allergies and the names of plus-ones.

Wedding planning task #7: Line up your wedding party

When you announce your engagement, family and friends will wonder who will be standing up with you on the big day. Don’t keep them hanging! As soon as you know, tell your attendants you’d like them to be part of the ceremony and reception, and let them know about any other festivities. This allows them to book time off work, which is especially vital if you’re planning a destination wedding.

Wedding party tips

● Make your attendants feel special by writing about them on your wedding website.


● Whenever you can, plan events for days when your attendants are already off work so they don’t have to take extra vacation time.


● Keep attendants’ expenses affordable. For example, if you want professional makeup and hair done for everyone in the wedding party, pick up the tab.


● Give your wedding party small tasks to do, such as helping with the invitations or assembling favours for guests. Honour attendants — like a best man or woman — are often assigned more jobs, including arranging any pre-wedding parties.

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