Here at Entertainment Nation, we speak to countless couples who are in the midst of planning their big day.
Our speciality may be in providing top quality live wedding bands – but through the years we’ve picked up quite a few helpful hints and tips regarding all aspects of wedding planning. We get to hear all about the fun bits, but we also hear about the stressful bits, the “left to the last minute” bits, and also the “oh my goodness, we completely forgot to do this!” bits.
A few years of these conversations and providing entertainment for countless weddings, and we think we’ve gotten pretty savvy in terms of when things need to be organised and booked, as well as the little bits and pieces that creep up on you, and often get overlooked.
We don’t think that planning a wedding has to be stressful, and there’s lots of great inspiration and advice out there. So, we thought we’d impart what we’ve learned throughout our many years in the wedding industry, as well as point you in the direction of some of our favourite wedding resources, by providing a comprehensive wedding checklist!
We’ve also included some pretty stunning photography from a handful of talented wedding photographers who you’ll see listed in the photo credits below.
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So what are you waiting for? Scroll down for our in-depth post on each stage of planning your wedding, or simply click on the image to download a handy PDF version of the checklist you can use for your big day!
And if you’d like to share this checklist on your website – you’ll find an easy embed code at the end of the post.
At Least 12 Months Before the Big Day:
Decide Who Is Going To Pay For What –
Our advice is to get the awkward financial conversations out of the way with your loved ones now! It will be very helpful to know if anyone was planning on contributing financially and how much they are willing to part with – it might make all the difference to what you can include in your day! In some cases, parents who want to contribute might decide to cover the cost of a certain aspect of the day, rather than just contribute a certain amount. Whatever the case, it’s better to know before you start planning so that you can work out a budget that takes this into consideration.
Budget and Allocation –
Decide how much money you have got to spend on your day. Include any contributions from loved ones, as well as how much you are willing to put towards each different element of the wedding. Some couples are willing to prioritise areas of the day, compromising to save in some areas (such as choosing a midweek day to get married), yet don’t want to compromise in others, be it a prestigious venue or live music throughout the day.
Set The Date & Book A Venue –
These two points come hand in hand. You don’t want to be setting a date and then finding that your dream venue is booked already and that you have to compromise. Perhaps have a few dates in mind or just a general season that you’d be happy with, so you can ensure getting your dream venue booked. If you do have a set date that you really want to get married on, it might be that you need to be more flexible on venue.
FAQ: Do I Need A Wedding Planner? –
Does your venue include this service? If not, it’s very much down to personal preference. Would you rather be hands on, dealing with suppliers and organising all the finer details – or would you rather ‘oversee’ the process, sit back and enjoy choosing elements without the stress of needing to provide the creative ideas? Another option is to consider using a wedding planning website.
Set A Theme –
Many weddings at the moment are based around a theme, sometimes very general like ‘summer’, and some more specific such as ‘festival’ or ‘vintage’. This can impact many of the choices that you’ll make surrounding your day, so deciding on your theme early can save you time and money later on; This goes for everything from invitations and decorations, to wedding favours and live music; We often get asked for ‘Vintage Styled’ bands or ‘Mumford and Sons’ type festival acts to help bring themes to life.
Plan Your Wedding Entertainment –
Prior to the actual booking process, you need to think about which parts of the day you would like live music/entertainment.
Here are some suggestions:
- Ceremony – Popular choices for this part of the day include a classical singer or solo guitar/vocalist playing you down the aisle and for signing of the register etc.
- Drinks Reception – A sophisticated addition to your drinks reception is a string quartet, jazz trio or acoustic folk band.
- Wedding Breakfast – A lot of people opt for a playlist for this part of the evening, but if you would like live music throughout dinner, why not book a piano/vocal duo to perform ambient background music?
- Evening Reception – This is the main/focal point of your entertainment choices. Choosing the right band/dj/musician can really influence the atmosphere that is created on your night. Do you want something a little more subtle (a vintage jazz band perhaps) or do you want a foot stomping pop and rock party band that’ll get all of your guests jumping up and down like lunatics on the dance floor?
Book Your Wedding Entertainment –
We speak to no end of couples that are disappointed because they have left it until 6 months before their day to book their dream band, inevitably finding out they have already been snapped up. Please ignore publications that tell you otherwise, if you have something specific in mind, book your entertainment as soon as you’ve booked your venue to avoid having to compromise. We have many options available and guarantee that we’ll find you an alternative band that you love if push comes to shove – but your first choice can be yours if you book well in advance! You can browse through our range of wedding bands here.
Start Compiling the Guest List –
It’s important to at least start thinking about the practical questions surrounding your guests. “How many people can we afford to invite for the wedding breakfast?” “Can the venue only hold so many?” “Should we allow children and plus 1’s?” The guest list can cause quite a headache during your planning; have an idea in place as soon as you’re able…and try not to fall out about it.
Appoint Bridesmaids/Best Man/Ushers –
It’s an exciting time when you ask your closest friends and relatives to be an integral part of your special day – they will want to know as soon as possible, not just so they can help you with your plans, but they may like to make certain preparations i.e. dare I say it, starting a diet.
Save The Date Cards –
It’s a good idea to send these out as soon as your venue is booked and you’ve decided on a provisional guest list, especially if you’re getting married on a prime Summer date that might see your guests attending other weddings – get in there first! Remember that invitations with details about what part of the day people will be invited to can go out later, so don’t get too hung up on these details.
Booking your Photographer and/or Videographer –
Just like when it comes to top quality live bands – the best photographers and videographers get booked up quickly and are regularly snapped up over 12 months in advance. If you find someone that you’d like to entrust with capturing the happiest day of your life to date – don’t hang around, get them secured!
Book Your Church Registrar / Minister –
Whether you’re getting married at your local church or having a civil ceremony at your venue – you need to ensure that somebody is free to perform the marriage rites. This is especially important if you would like someone specific to oversee your ceremony. Getting this out of the way early means you’re not worrying about it later down the line.
Book the Caterers –
If your venue is providing all the food for the event, then by all means ignore this point. If you’re hosting more of a DIY day however, it’s never too soon to start looking around for the perfect wedding catering company who’ll provide the style of food that you and your guests will adore – perhaps some mouth-watering street food.
Start thinking about Wedding Dresses –
This is one of the really exciting parts. It’s never too soon to start looking around and getting an idea of what suits you etc. It might take a while to find the perfect dress, so it’s never too early to start looking. The earlier you start to look, the less stressful it’s going to be and the more fun you can have playing dress-up!
9-12 Months in Advance:
Book Wedding Cars/Transport –
The running theme of this article seems to be ‘get in there quickly’, and the same applies when it comes to your transport. If you are planning on booking something a little different such as a replica of ‘The Batmobile’ – chances are that the company will only have one or two of them and if they’re already booked on your day, you’ll have to rethink.
Book your Florist –
Flowers are a key part of any wedding. Here is where your pre-determined theme will make things a lot easier. Your florist will be able to talk you through complementary colours, what will be in season and an idea of cost etc. so that you can work out the best package for your special day.
Wedding Insurance –
This is a highly recommended purchase, and usually very inexpensive. As much as you may not want to consider these possibilities, freak weather, illness, supplier problems and venue issues could really leave you out of pocket. Get covered!
Toastmaster (if required) –
Some venues include a Master Of Ceremonies within their package, but they are available to book directly if you’d like one. They aren’t for everyone, but they add a nice air of formality to the day and lead you through the proceedings without your ushers or best man taking the responsibility.
Decide What Kind Of Dress You Want and Order –
Now that you’ve spent a bit of time looking around, you’ll have a good idea of whether your dream style is available off the rail or if you’ll need to have it made just for you. Bespoke dresses generally take up to 6 months to make, plus subsequent alterations. Making the decision and purchasing or ordering your dress nice and early will save a lot of headache closer to the date!
6-9 Months Before The Big Day!
Book any Additional Entertainment –
You’ll be able to see how your day will be shaping up around now and will be able to decide if you’d like/can afford any other entertainment elements to add to proceedings. These can include close-up magicians to wow your guests, fire artists to add a sparkle to summer evenings or caricaturists who’ll poke light-hearted fun at your guests’ facial features!
Book your Honeymoon –
Now is a good time to secure your holiday, you’ll have more of an idea surrounding your available budget and will still be able to get good ‘early-bird’ deals.
Wedding Cake –
You may or may not have a good idea of what you’d like your cake to look and taste like, but either way, now is the time to partake in a few (or more) tastings and decide on the layers, colours and flavours of this integral part of the day.
Shoes, Underwear and Accessories –
It’s time to buy all the fun fripperies associated with your role as Bride. Now you know what dress you’ve ordered, you can decide what underwear you’ll need, what to wear in your hair, what jewellery to wear and also choose the all-important shoes. Don’t forget to the superstitious necessary additions of ‘something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue’!
Dresses and Suits –
Your theme and colour choices will have started to impact the decisions you’ve made up to this point, and they’ll also influence what dresses you’d like your bridesmaids in and what kind of suit the groom and his possé will be wearing. It’s still early enough to get all of this organised as they’ll require less fittings etc than the bride, so it’s more of a case of try them on, order them and perhaps alter once for the girls and organise a simple collection for the boys.
Wedding Favours and Stationery –
It’s certainly a good time to start organising your wedding stationery and favours for the table. If you’re hiring an external supplier for these details, you want to give them plenty of notice, or if you’re making things yourself (with the recruitment of a bridesmaid or two) then get going – it’s always a part of the day that you underestimate in terms of how long it will take – Table plans can take a while to perfect!
Book Hair and Makeup –
This is obviously an important part of making you feel your best and most beautiful self on the big day. Unless you know whom you’d like to do your hair and makeup, it can take a couple of trials from perhaps a couple of different companies to really get the look you want. You’ll also need to book them well in advance if you require them coming to your venue or working from very early in the morning.
Wedding Night Accommodation –
This element may already be covered as you may be getting married in a hotel that provides discount for wedding parties. If you’re holding your wedding at a barn or somewhere else a little different though, you’ll need to find out what accommodation is close by and get it booked/send out the details to friends and family so they can arrange their stay. It will also be helpful to ask the venue for a list of taxi services close by to avoid your guests being stranded at the end of the night.
Invitations and Gift List –
Your loved ones already possess a ‘Save The Date’ card, but now is the time to follow it up with a firm invitation so they know if they’re invited for the whole day, or just the evening, and if they can bring children etc. A lot of couples now create their own wedding website where guests can RSVP to the invite and view any gift lists.
Plan Stag and Hen Do’s –
This is traditionally the job of the best man and maid of honour, but they might need a bit of a nudge to get things organised. It’s not uncommon for stag and hens to take their parties abroad nowadays, so make sure that they firm up the plans and let everyone involved know, especially if they’ll need them to book time off work. If you’re staying in the UK and looking to book an activity or weekend break, it’s still a good idea to book this now as you don’t want to be left searching for available hotel rooms at a peak time of the year.
Book Time Off Work –
If you haven’t thought of this already, it’s not a bad idea to book a few days off prior to your date, rather than get there and realise you have far too much to do to make it in! Also don’t forget to get the honeymoon dates in there too as you’ll need a job when you get back to pay for all these luxuries!
3-6 Months Before The Big Day!
Buy Wedding Rings –
Now is a good time to think about finding your perfect rings. You don’t want to be holding on to these for too long at home, but still need time to find the perfect ones for you, especially if you need to get them resized or engraved.
Food Tastings and Finalising your Menu –
If your venue is supplying your food, you’ll be invited to attend a menu tasting so you can decide what you’d like to enjoy on your day. It’s not uncommon for choices to vary in price either a little or dramatically, (sometimes by up to £5 a head – which quickly adds up!) so bear that in mind when making your decision.
Agree Order of Service with Registrar/Vicar –
You’ll be able to decide how you’d like your ceremony to shape up around now. Are you having readings or songs? Who would you like to speak? You can also think about whether you’d like to write your own vows or be traditional.
Valid Passports –
This little detail can cause a huge headache, so just check to make sure that your passport is valid until at least 6 months after the date you come home from your honeymoon.
2-3 months Before The Big Day!
Final Dress Fittings –
If all goes to plan, you’ll have your last fitting a couple of months before the big day. There is still enough time to fix any issues at this point so don’t leave your ‘final fitting’ too late in case it turns out not to be the last one!
Wear Your Shoes In At Home –
This point is not just for the ladies. There’s nothing worse than going through the torture of uncomfortable shoes when you’re trying to have a good time. Wear them lots at home and you’ll get the blisters and tightness out of the way well before you’re doing the conga. For the ladies, if you decide to go down the practical route and opt for some alternative, comfortable shoes for the evening – now’s a good time to get them sorted!
Buy Gifts for Bridal Party –
Sorting this detail now means another point is checked off the last minute list. If you’re planning something personalised i.e. engraved cufflinks or necklaces, you obviously need time for these to arrive without having to pay for expensive fast delivery.
Choose Special Songs and Requests Including First Dance –
If you’ve booked a live band for the evening and they offer to learn special requests, it can only be a good thing to let them know your choices well in advance so they can learn and, if necessary, rehearse together before your date.
Buy Guestbook –
We’ve included this detail here as it’s very popular at the moment for couples to choose an alternative to the standard ‘guest book’. There are all sorts of unique options available such as providing tags and pens so your guests can write a note and hang it off a tree, writing on little wooden hearts and posting them into a glass fronted frame, or writing directly onto a canvas that has a photo of the bride and groom in the middle. If you’re choosing something like this, it may take time to order or make yourself.
4 Weeks Before The Big Day!
Write Speeches –
The positive thing about waiting until now to write the speeches is that you don’t have to worry about it for too long! You also still have time to write and practice a good speech if you start at the beginning of month leading up to the wedding.
Make Contact with Entertainment to Finalise Details-
Here at Entertainment Nation, our acts all provide a ‘4 week call’ to clients in order to finalise details of your day. This includes timings, venue discussions (where they can bring their equipment in etc), and any live music requests if you’d like to choose specific songs from their repertoire. If your band also provides a DJ service (either a playlist or fully-manned), you can let them know any songs you want included.
Stag and Hen Do’s –
You’re well and truly on the countdown now and most couples choose this time to kick off the festivities and go on their respective stag and hen parties! (Having them a couple of weeks before the wedding gives everyone enough time to recover if things get a little crazy).
Decide on your Witnesses –
If you haven’t already, choose who you’d like to sign the register and witness your marriage in the eyes of the law.
Chase Up Wayward Guests –
You may find that a few people have been a little non-committal about whether or not they’ll be attending. It’s now no longer rude to get in touch and ask them if they’ll be present, as you “need to finalise numbers with the venue and caterers”.
Finalise Seating Plan –
Once you know a definitive list, you can firm up your seating plan. Some tables may seem a little disjointed, but everyone will make the best of it so don’t let it worry you.
1 Week Before The Big Day!
Confirm Final Numbers with Venue and Caterers –
You’ll now hopefully know if anyone has dropped out or if you’ve forgotten anyone that needs to be slotted in. They’ll appreciate knowing this information ASAP.
Brief the Bridal Party –
You don’t want to be worrying about anything on your day. You can avoid this by making your bridesmaids and groomsmen aware of timings, suppliers etc. and giving out any emergency contact numbers so they can deal with any last minute niggles while you’re busy being pampered.
Confirm Final Details with Suppliers –
It’s never a bad thing to call your suppliers and just check in with them to make sure that everything is still fine with your booking. You may need to pay final balances at this point anyway.
Collect Suits and Dresses –
Don’t forget to encourage the groomsmen to try on their suits at home before the day, as any last minute size errors can be embarrassing (yet comical!).
The Big Day!
Pick Up The Flowers –
The flowers are usually delivered in boxes, which will hopefully save anything being squashed. Your florist will provide any special instructions on the care of them during their car ride to the venue.
Pick Up The Cake –
Your supplier may deliver this to your venue and if they are then you have no worries! If you’re picking it up – 4 words…drive slowly, air-con on!
Get Hair and Makeup Done –
You’re at the enjoyable bit now, sit back with your glass of bubbly and let someone transform you into a swan for the 17,000 photographs you’ll be in that day.
Get Dressed –
Do this in plenty of time if you have a fiddly dress – don’t underestimate the confusing nature of corset laces.
Relax Knowing you’re highly organised –
You’re looking beautiful; you have your flowers, a huge smile on your face, and all your favourite people around you. This is your moment!
Drink, Eat and Be Merry –
The serious bit is out of the way. You can now enjoy the best day of your life with your new families. Dance the night away with the best band you’ve ever seen, sing along to all your favourite songs, and make lifelong memories with all of your favourite people.