Big day blueprints

Use this checklist to help plan your marital merger

18-12months out

Nail down your budget. How much are you and your spouse-to-be contributing? Is anyone else pitching in? (Be prepared—those with a financial stake often want a say in things like the guest list and menu.)

Select an officiant (minister, justice of the peace, etc.). You can book one, or you can talk a friend into getting licensed and ordained.

Pick your wedding party. People are going to start wondering about this as soon as they hear you’re engaged. Having your party selected will make it easier to get them outfitted and plan for events like bachelor/bachelorette parties and the rehearsal dinner.

Figure out how many people you’re inviting, and start a guest list spreadsheet. You can use it to track names, RSVPs, contact info for thank you letters and the like.

Pick your date and book your venue(s). The earlier you decide, the better your chances of getting both the date and location you want.

If you’re going to hire a wedding planner, this is the time to start shopping around for one. If you don’t want one, that’s your call—just make sure you consider all of the hypotheticals before you decide. For example, you might plan to decorate your venue the night before but find out that there’s been a last-minute booking for that night, and now you can’t decorate until the morning of—can you deal?

12-8months out

Book your photographer and/or videographer.

Will you be booking a band or a DJ? Either way, it’s time to get this done.

Whether you’ve got guests coming from out of town or are planning a destination wedding, it’s time to consider lodging. You may want to consider booking a block of hotel rooms.

It’s time to make some decisions concerning the menu for your big day. Does the venue offer catering? If not, this is a good time to start meeting with caterers.

It’s time to buy or order whatever outfit you want for your wedding. Between ordering and altering, a wedding getup may take upwards of six months to be ready.

Get your wedding registry up and running. Maybe you’d like to consider something in lieu of a registry? How about a “honey fund” to help pay for your honeymoon?

Speaking of which, it’s probably about time to start planning your honeymoon.

7-6months out

If that honeymoon you just planned involves a great escape to foreign shores, it’s time to get your passports up-to-date and make sure you’ve got any immunizations you may need.

It’s time to get your wedding party outfitted. It’s important not to put this off, because they may need multiple fittings to get their outfits just right.

Send out those “save the date” letters, emails, texts, smoke signals or whatever you’re using. If you’re sending invitations, get them ordered.

Meet with your officiant to plan the ceremony. This is especially important if your officiant is a friend or family member who doesn’t have experience in the wedding arena. You’ll want to make sure the person who’s doing you the honor is confident and comfortable with leading the ceremony.

Book your florist. You should know your wedding colors and theme by now.

5-4months out

Book the venue for your rehearsal dinner.

Choose your cake and order it too.

Start making lists of music. Decide what you want playing during key parts of your wedding day. Make sure you also have a list of songs you don’t want to hear. Send this off to your band/DJ.

If you’re having your hair and makeup done, now’s the time to start shopping around for the right person(s) to do it.

3-2months out

Check in with your florist and caterer. Make any changes to the menu or floral arrangement based on what’s going to be in season and likely to be available.

Give a heads-up to anyone you’d like to have speak during the ceremony or reception.

If you haven’t already, now’s the time to buy your wedding rings. This should leave enough time for them to be sized, if necessary.

Write a provisional schedule for your ceremony and reception—what will happen when. Give copies of this to the people who will provide food, music and flowers. This will give you plenty of time to make adjustments and answer any questions they have.

Send out your invitations about two months before the wedding, and ask everyone to RSVP within two or three weeks. If you’re asking people to travel long distances, do this around six months out instead.

1month out

By this time, you should be sending out as many final payments as you’re able.

It’s time to get your marriage license. If either of you are changing your names, get several copies.

Send out the invitations to your rehearsal dinner.

You should have the number of guests nailed down by now, so—if you’re having booze—go ahead and order it!

If you’re assigning seating at the reception, you’ll want to take care of that soon.

Don’t forget about bridesmaids and groomsmen gifts.

1week out

Pick up your outfit(s).

Call all of your vendors to make sure they’re all set.

Send your final guest list to the caterer.

Don’t let little worries stress you now. This is it. Take a deep breath. Take a nap. Smoke a joint. Take a Valium. We’re not here to judge.