Wedding Stationery Guide
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AFTER ENGAGEMENT

Congratulations! You’re engaged!! …Now what?

Your wedding will be a joyous and exciting time to be sure, but the planning process can be long and overwhelming to say the least. Our wedding planning timeline is meant to be a general guide for keeping you on track. Every wedding, and every bride, will be different, so feel free to modify this guide so it works for you! Based on tradition, we’ve given our guide a 1-year time frame, so adjust up or down accordingly.

Brides…Start Your Planning!

  1. Spread the Word! 

    Announce your engagement to your family and friends, either with an engagement party or by word of mouth. Consider placing an announcement article in your local newspaper. Create a wedding web site which you can continue to update as you nail down wedding details.

    • Tip: There are many wedding web site companies out there, ranging from free to costly. Be sure to shop around. Also think about whether you want the whole world to have access to your site, or whether you want to password protect it for only your guests.
  2. Imagine Your Dream WeddingWhether or not you’ve been dreaming about wedding day details since you were a little girl, your first step is to think about what you want out of your wedding day. Barefoot on the beach? Traditional chapel? Extravagent or intimate? Don’t get stuck on the details yet – just think “big picture” at this point. Share your ideas with your husband-to-be, and be sure to get an understanding of his wants and needs (it is his day, too!)
    • Tip: Start an “ideas” notebook you can use to jot down random ideas, rip out magazine articles and paste pictures or samples. Don’t “edit” now – just start grabbing anything that appeals to you. We’ve compiled an article full of ideas like this one if you are looking for inspiration?

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12 MONTHS OUT

  1. Pick a Date 

    Start by selecting the time of year that appeals to you. Next, you will want to check the caledars of your families to see what weekends you have to work with. If you already know the exact ceremony and reception sites you want, you will want to visit those sites and choose your date based on availability.

    • Tip: Other factors you will want to consider when picking a date are: weather, insect activity at outdoor ceremonies, sunset times and travel for guests (holidays are expensive).
  2. Get OrganizedExpand your “ideas” notebook into an official wedding file or binder. You’ll want to keep your wedding contacts, documents, appointment dates, etc all in one organized place for easy access.
    • Tip: Purchase dividers so you can split your folder into categories such as Budget, Guest List, Dress, Bridesmaids, Invitations, Cake, Flowers, Entertainment, and Honeymoon.
  3. Build Your BudgetIt’s not the most romantic task, but now is the time you will need to determine your wedding budget. The longer you put this very important step off, the more likely you are to spend beyond your means.
    • Tip: Now is also the time for that “who will pay for what?” discussion. Are you and your fiance paying for everything? Or are the bride’s parents covering the whole event? You need to know where the money is coming from in order to plan.
  4. Get the Guest List in OrderBefore you select your location but after you’ve built your budget, you will need to come up with a preliminary headcount. Start by organizing your own contact list into a format you like. Now ask for his list, his family’s list, your parents’ list, etc. and add them to your own. If you know exactly how many guests you can invite (for budget or capacity reasons), let your families know exactly how many guests they can put on their lists. It sounds harsh, but it will help avoid conflict later.
    • Tip: As you combine all the lists, create a color-coding system so it remains clear who wanted to invite that person. This way, you’ll know who to go to as you begin to gather addresses. You may want to include an additional column on your list to indicate who is a “Must,” a “Hopefully,” or a “Maybe” to be invited, which will help as you edit and refine your combined lists.
  5. Select your Location(s)You’ll want to make appointments at the locations first, and take your husband-to-be and a few friends for second opinions. You should know that reservations for possible locations are booked for more than a year in advance in many cases. If the site is available and you fall in love with it, ask for a copy of the cancellation policy, put a security deposit down, and secure the date.
    • Tip: Put some thought into the style and level of formality you want for your event. Think about your personalities, your style, and your budget. It is possible to transform that wild garden into a sophisticated black tie party, but it will take a lot more time and money than transforming an already elegant reception room..
  6. Wedding Registry TimeAs early as your engagement party, people will be looking to celebrate by buying you the things you want. Make it easy on your guests (while ensuring you receive the items you want and need) by signing up at multiple registry locations. It will be important to register for gifts in a wide variety of price ranges to appeal to the budgets of all your guests.
    • Tip: Especially if you do register early, make sure to update your registry often so there are always items available. And of course, be prepared to start sending thank you notes! We have several articles on thank you card etiquette to help you.

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8+ MONTHS OUT

  1. Start Shopping!Gather a few beloved ladies and head to the wedding dress boutiques! You’ll get the best service (and the least amount of stress) if you call ahead and make an appointment. If you are dreaming of a custom gown, you’ll want to allow at least 9 months in most cases, for the creation of the dress. Alterations for a standard-sized dress are generally ongoing over a few months.
    • Tip: Try to stay open-minded and calm! It won’t kill you to try on a few dresses you otherwise wouldn’t touch. This is also a time where making your budget clear is crucial. Don’t run the risk of falling in love with a gown that is way beyond your means. You’ll end up way over budget or in a dress you consider “second best.”
  2. Consider Your ColorsGo back and look through your “idea book” and pay attention to the colors that have appealed to you consistently over time. You will want to keep in mind the location, style and season of your ceremony.
    • Tip: Picking your wedding colors can be an intimidating task, so our best piece of advice is to go with your instincts. You’ll be seeing a lot of this particular shade over the next year, so be sure to pick something that is either soothing or exciting, but not jarring or boring to your style sensabilities!
  3. Get the (Bridal) Party Started!Round up your favorite ladies and ask them to stand by you on your big day as part of your bridal party. Ask friends and family as early as possible. You will be able to enlist their help in the planning process, and they will be a great source of advice and support in the coming months.
  4. Interview VendorsThere are a number of service providers you will need to secure for your wedding ceremony and reception. This is not a time to make random decisions. Always shop around, meet the vendors in person, and ask a few questions before signing any contracts.
    • Tip: Ask friends and family for referrals to vendors they enjoyed working with. Have your interview questions prepared ahead of time and make sure everyone understands your budget so that can make it clear to you exactly what your money will buy. You will want to start looking for:
       

      1. Wedding Officiant – Religious or Civil
      2. Photographer and Videographer (two very different people)
      3. DJ or Live Band
      4. Caterer (be sure to schedule a tasting!)
      5. Florist (more information on flowers)
      6. Limo / Transportation Services

       

  5. Dress your Wedding PartyYou’ll need to consider your own style, as well as the body type, comfort levels and budgets of your bridesmaids as you start to shop for their dresses. Some modern takes on bridesmaid dresses include dressing each gal in a different dress but all in the same color, or selecting the same dress in different shades of the same hue for a “watercolor effect.”
    • Tip: Make it clear to your maids what they will need to purchase (and when). Communicating this info via email is totally fine. If fittings or other appointments are necessary, appoint your Maid of Honor to oversee the scheduling.

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6-7 MONTHS BEFORE

  1. Finalize the Guest List 

    Reconsider your budget and your ideal guest list number. Discuss any final additions with your family. Make sure you consider how many children and “plus ones” will be invited (if at all). Determine the final number of invitations you will need.

    • Tip: There will likely be discrepancies in opinions, and possibly tension here. Be prepared to deal with high emotions and do your best to keep cool. Read our tips on guest list special circumstances and how to deal with them.
  2. Invitations Time!It’s time to wrap up all the shopping for your wedding stationery. You will want to keep in mind your color scheme, the level of formality of the event, and your budget. You will most likely need: save the dates (optional), wedding invitations (with envelopes), thank you cards, and possible other personal stationery.
    • Tip: Ordering wedding invitations is a fairly complex process, especially long distance. A company selling wedding invitations online or over the phone should not only be able to send you free samples, but also have staff who are willing to help with wording and advice that are both proper etiquette and specific to your wedding needs.
      Shameless plug: The American Wedding has been serving brides for almost 90 years via phone, fax, mail and the Internet.
  3. Arrange AccommodationsOut-of-town guests and local guests alike may wish to stay at a nearby hotel. Call early to secure a special “wedding rate” and to reserve a room block, and be prepared to communicate lodging details to your guests on your wedding save the dates, invitations and/or web site.
    • Tip: Do your best to secure multiple hotel options in a variety of price ranges to appeal to different tastes & budgets.

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4+ MONTHS BEFORE

If you followed Part 1 of our guide, dive in to Part 2 to ensure a smooth, no-stress wedding day.

You are well on your way to your big day! Congratulations. . . much of the hard work is behind you! Our biggest piece of advice is to relax and do your best to really enjoy the next few months. We hope the rest of this guide will help you get your final priorities and last minute details in order.

4+ Months Before Your Wedding

  1. Taste the Cake! 

    Call local bakeries, or contact your on-site event coordinator to schedule a cake tasting. Think about flavor, style, size, decorations and color so they’ll have a clear vision of your style and.. .taste!

    • Tip: Make the baker aware of any food allergies you may have or any flavors you definitely don’t like. Bring along your wedding planning binder so the cake is sure to match all those fabulous details you’ve been putting together! And, as always, make your budget clear BEFORE you dig in!
  2. Time to Plan the Honeymoon

    If you have your heart set on a dream location, the earlier you can start planning the better! With all the resources out there, be sure to check as many resources as possible! It may also be worth your time to call resorts and hotels to see if they offer honeymoon packages.
  3. Review Marriage License Requirements and ApplyContact your state to determine exactly what the requirements are where you live. In most cases, you’ll both need to get a complete physical exam including blood tests. You’ll also likely need to fill out some lengthy forms.

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3+ MONTHS OUT

  1. Send Your Invitations Make sure the invitations are compiled, addressed, and postmarked as necessary. Remember that while you are free to add to your guest list as you wish, everyone who received a save the date must receive an invitation.
    • Tip: Pay attention to Postage. Take a sample to the Post Office and have them weigh and place postage on the entire package.
  2. The Necessities Do you need to rent or buy useful items for your ceremony and reception? Do not assume that the location will be providing everything (or anything!) Think about candles, flatware, china, crystal, etc. Call around to find the best deals for renting these items in bulk.
  3. Set the Schedule Confirm the arrival and departure times for the caterer, transportation services, band, deejay, etc. Get in touch with your event location to confirm that all your vendors will have access to the site when they need it. Give each vendor a day- of contact person and phone number. You don’t want them calling you.
  4. Order Wedding Favors While they are by no means a necessity. wedding favors can be a great way to show your appreciation for all the love and support you’ve received from your guests. Favors can be as understated as a homemade CD or as extravagant as charitable donations, but they should always be somewhat sentimental.
  5. Shop for Bridal Party Gifts Shower your gals with love and appreciation for all that they’ve done for you over the last few months. Practical ideas include a robe to wear while primping for the big day, or a piece of jewelry to wear with their bridesmaid dresses.

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2+ MONTHS OUT

  1. Create a Perfect Playlist 

    Nothing can ruin your joyful mood than hearing a cheesy song you despise at your own party! Music selection is crucial to the vibe of your wedding reception. Choose your songs together with your fiancé, create a playlist, and share your selections with your Band or DJ early on. Have a discussion with him or her about how much (if any) liberty he or she can take with your selections.

  2. Plan Rehearsal Dinner

    Traditionally, the groom’s family hosts this event, but this is not always the case. If you’ll be taking the lead, select a location for your rehearsal dinner and make the necessary reservations & deposits. If you want to go formal and invite out of town guests, you may want to send an invitation by mail. For more casual events, an email or even a phone call will suffice.

  3. Plan Wedding Weekend

    Now is the time to make arrangements for your “Bridesmaid Luncheon, golf for the boys, and any other events prior to the actual event.

    • Tip: Research local events, attractions, sports games, and concerts for guests who may be looking for entertainment in the days before and after your wedding.
  4. New Address Order address labels with you & your future husband’s new name & new address. This adds a personalized touch when sending out your wedding thank you cards.

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1 MONTH BEFORE

  1. Get with the Program 

    Design or place an order for your wedding programs. You’ve been smart to wait at least this long because things inevitably change right up until the last minute. Programs generally include the names of the wedding party and the names of the family of the bride and groom.

    • Tip: Add fun details like “your story,” bios for the people in your wedding party, pictures, your favorite prayer, etc. This is a great chance to make your guests feel more personally involved in your special day.
  2. The Perfect Fit Now’s the time to have your final gown fitting. Bring along your shoes, your veil, and a trustworthy friend for a second opinion. Don’t be shy — if there’s anything you’re not happy about, speak up now while there’s still time to make last-minute changes.
  3. Primping Practice Run Make an appointment to have a run-through on your makeup and hair. You do not want to see it for the first time on your wedding day! Be sure to bring pictures, magazine clippings, and other inspiration for your stylists.
    • Tip: Bring your veil and a picture of your dress.

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2 WEEKS OUT

  1. Final Count Call any guests that haven’t sent back their response card (there will almost always be a few and you do have every right to know whether they’ll be attending.) As soon as you track down your final numbers, give the final count to the caterer.
  2. Musical Chairs It’s time to complete the seating plan for the reception. Start with a diagram of the room and table sizes, and go from there.
    • Tip: Some brides choose to keep friends together, while others get such a thrill out of making connections that they make entire tables of strangers. It’s all up to you, but if you want people to be comfortable, keep their comfort in mind.

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1 WEEK OUT

  1. Make any last minute seating arrangements/adjustments
  2. Confirm honeymoon reservations and pack!
  3. Confirm reheasal and wedding day plans with attendants – this is the best way to ensure that everyone arrives on time!
  4. Have a relaxing massage

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THE DAY BEFORE

  1. Get a Little Girl Time 

    Indulge in a relaxing manicure and pedicure.  Invite your wedding party and have a little champagne toast and “bridesmaids brunch”

  2. Pay Attention to Detail Lay out all of your wedding attire and accessories.  Shoes? Jewelry? Veil? Something borrowed and something blue? Gather all of those little details for easy access tomorrow and for peace of mind tonight.
  3. Run-Through Rehearse the ceremony with your wedding party and your officiant.  Make sure everyone knows what time to arrive and what their responsiblities are.  Then head to the rehearsal dinner and toast to your happy tomorrow!
  4. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

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YOUR WEDDING DAY

  1. Eat Too many brides forget this crucial step, and end up jittery, nauseous, or just plain hungry on their big day. Eat small bites of substantial food throughout the morning to keep you energized and feeling good!
  2. Primp When you go to get your hair and make-up done, wear a button-front shirt to avoid undoing all that’s been done. Suggest your maid’s do the same, or consider giving them matching robes as a gift.
  3. Reception Run-Through Send someone you trust (your maid of honor? your stylish cousin?) to walk through the reception site. Ask them to check that the flowers are in place, the table is set, and that the whole place looks fabulous in general. It will give you major peace of mind to know that everything is in order.
  4. Smile and Have Fun You’ve worked really hard, and now the time is here.. .enjoy it! If you are feeling happy and relaxed, so will your guests. An added plus? You’ll glow even more in all those last-a-lifetime wedding pictures. On this day, more than any other, you don’t want to sweat the small stuff!

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