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Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist (SOP) For Brides from A Project Manager

Do you want to have your dream wedding? Do you love pinterest and don't know where to start with planning? Do you have a tight budget and think its impossible to achieve your dream wedding with very few $$$?

When I first started planning my wedding I remember being COMPLETELY overwhelmed by the number of wedding task lists and checklists and cutesy binders that were available for purchase on the retail market. However, none of them really helped brides that did not hire professional wedding planners. I did not have a wedding planner, I also felt that every resource I looked at was incomplete. A lot of them had one thing, but not another, and I quickly found myself confused and frustrated.

Although I am a professional wedding and adventurous elopement photographer, I also am a Project Manager for a home rehab company in Southern Pines, North Carolina. In project management, SOP's (standard operating procedures) are step by step instructions on how to complete a task in its entirety. I really felt that what newly engaged women were lacking was a WEDDING PLANNING SOP!

Sooooo....that being said, here it is:


so, you just got engaged! now what?

This is our starting point.

{ } Take a moment to be happy you're engaged and hide away from social media with your fiancé before announcing it to the world!

{ } Discuss your dream wedding expectations with your fiancé and make sure you're on the same page.

{ } Discuss a budget. Stick to this. This may involve reaching out to one or both sets of parents and asking them if they planned on contributing anything to the wedding.

{ } Pick a date. You might wanna check with your most important peeps and see if they are available before settling on one.

{ } Start researching venues. Most book prime months 1-1.5 years in advance

{ } Start researching videographers/photographers. Most book prime months 1-1.5 years in advance

{ } Book engagement photos. You have to do this ASAP because you need them for Save the Dates.

{ } Look into wedding insurance (military couples, USAA is really good)

{ } Discuss a wedding planner. I definitely couldn't afford one. Another option, is reach out to a close friend that is not in the bridal party, or a coworker that didn't make the invite list and ask them to be your day of coordinator.

{ } Reach out to both sets of parents and begin compiling family addresses. This takes a while.

{ } Choose Bridal Party and ask them.

{ } Make an invite list with your fiancé. You need this to send Save the Dates.

{ } Begin saving wedding dress styles on Pinterest.

{ } Book ceremony venue

{ } Book reception venue

{ } Book wedding photographer (if you like my style, check me out here!)

{ } Book wedding videographer.

{ } Send Save the Dates.

{ } Lookup local dress stores that have the designers you like.

{ } Book dress appointments. Many designers have a 6-8 month dress ship time without rush fees. Some of my favorites to look up are:

- Lower End:



- Middle End:

Maggie Sottero

Essence of Australia

Ti Adora

- High End:

Monique Lhullier

Haley Paige

{ } Buy a dress!

{ } Research caterer, florist, rentals, invitations places, calligraphers, bridesmaid dress companies, hair stylists, makeup artists, etc.

{ } Coordinate with groom's family regarding booking rehearsal dinner and headcount.

{ } Begin premarital counseling -- if you are getting married at church this might be simple because they often require it!

{ } Decide on color scheme.

{ } Consider cost and inclusive packages from caterers. Some caterers include linens, plates, flatware, etc. Others only include the food.

{ } Book wedding blocks for out of town guests.

{ } Build wedding website -- check out theknot, weddingwire, and zola.

{ } Make wedding registries -- Bed Bath and Beyond is the best for their coupons and return policy!

{ } Taste test wedding cake and caterer options.

{ } Book caterer.

{ } Book wedding cake bakery.

{ } Cocktail hour? YAY or NAY.

{ } Alcohol? Open Bar, Cash Bar, Wine & Beer? Make these decisions now.

{ } Buy wedding bands!

{ } Decide on bridesmaid dress colors and dress company. I went with Azazie because they are affordable and great quality -- some of my actual favorites are WTOO and Watters Bridesmaids, as well as BHLDN.

{ } Decide on wedding band or DJ for reception. Book them!

{ } Determine necessary ceremony musicians. Book them!

{ } Book wedding florist. Send bouquet ideas/flower preferences to florist.

{ } Determine # of bouquets, # of boutoinnieres, # of corsages, flower petals for flower girls, flower arch, swag for welcome signs, centerpieces for reception vs. greenery, etc.

{ } Design invitation suites

Check out they have some ADORABLE options

{ } Send invitations

{ } Begin researching honeymoon.

{ } Find wedding shoes -- if you can afford them, Bella Belle shoes are THE CUTEST!

{ } Buy veil

{ } Buy wedding lingerie for your dress -- do you need a sticky bra, a spanx, a corset?

check out they always have the most romantic and innocent lingerie

{ } Buy additional accessories: belt, hair clip, tiara, bracelet, necklace, etc.

{ } Buy getting ready clothes -- robe, matching PJs, etc.

{ } Book airbnb or wedding suite where the girls can get ready

{ } Book rentals: tables, chairs, flatware, dinner plate, desert plate, wine glasses, water glasses, table linens, napkins, table centerpieces, etc.

{ } Determine any needs for extra power, generators, bathrooms, etc.

{ } Look into menswear -- we did the whole military wedding thing, but I know some friends that did Mens Warehouse and The Black Tux

{ } Book hair trial

{ } Book makeup trial

{ } Order guest book.

{ } Book food/catered if needed for bridesmaids while getting ready -- you need to EAT

{ } Get headcount of bridesmaids that want hair and makeup done

{ } Book wedding hair and makeup

{ } Figure out whether or not bad weather may effect your plans -- do you need to book a backup tent or order umbrellas, or change the entire plan to inside? if so these things need to be planned for in advance.

{ } Determine whether or not you want to do a formal exit. Sparklers, balloons, rice? Order these.

{ } Do you need transportation? Book it.

{ } Wedding night hotel? Book it.

{ } Start determining wedding program. Pick verses, choose readers, pick music.

{ } Design wedding program.

{ } Order wedding programs, menus, and any other printed materials for wedding day.

{ } When your dress comes in schedule several fittings. Make sure you bring your shoes to your fittings.

{ } Start working on playlists for wedding reception, rehearsal dinner, getting ready, cocktail hour, etc.

{ } First dance song, Mother and Son, Father Daughter dance songs, etc.

{ } Order gifts for bridesmaids, groomsmen, MOB, MOG, etc.

{ } Order ring bearer pillow, flower girl baskets, etc. where applicable

{ } Make hotel bags for out of town guests.

{ } Do you have vendors? Photographer, Videographer, etc. Make sure you account for vendor meals with the caterer/ordering.

{ } Put together a bridal emergency kit. Don't know what to include? Check out my blog post.

{ } Make sure you bring a guestbook pen and lighters for sparkler exit.


{ } Determine what DIY items you want to make or have made by friends.

{ } Make welcome sign.

{ } As RSVPs flow in make seating plan.

{ } Make seating chart.

{ } Buy easel or stand for welcome sign.

{ } Make/buy cards/gift table sign.

{ } Buy cake topper.

{ } Buy cake cutting set (almost always forgotten).

{ } Make/buy wedding favors.

{ } Make timeline -- go over key people and roles(e.g. someone needs to collect your DIY signs at the end of the night/set them up...assign these roles).

{ } Give list of must have shots to photographer and touch base regard timeline

{ } Get marriage license (check dates and timeline for when this needs to be gotten by both of you).

{ } Write speeches for rehearsal dinner.

{ } Book appt. to have manicure done week of the wedding.

{ } Pack wedding night bag.

{ } Drop off wedding bags for out of town guests at hotel.

{ } Bring guestbook, signs, pen for guestbook, seating chart, etc. to venue

{ } Distribute day of timeline to bridal party/groomsmen/parents


I may have forgotten something so if I did please let me know!


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