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The Ultimate Free Complete Wedding Checklist (2024)

Updated: Jan 13

The Ultimate Free Complete Wedding Checklist (2024)

If you are a newly engaged couple, with an engagement ring on your finger, I'm certain you are so excited about your big day! You have already made one of the biggest decisions in your life. You have found the best friend that you will spend the rest of your life with. The best advice I can give you is to remember that through planning your wedding, it's all about perspective. At the end of the day, you will be married and that's what it's all about. 

I just love weddings. I always have. I don't know, there is just something about two people committing to be together through the good times and bad times, forever, that makes my eyes sweat. But of my goodness, it can bring out the worst in people. Trust me, I have seen it all. My event experience started in corporate events but I made the leap of faith into the wedding industry over twenty years ago and I've never looked back. I love weddings but I'm also really good at planning them. I fully understand how much this day means to my clients and I strive every day to be their calm in the storm of planning a wedding. 

Let's just say, my perspective on wedding planning is different than most wedding planners out there. I'm a wedding planner who is also divorced. How ironic is that? Going through a divorce was one of the darkest moments in my life. On most days, I was numb to anything and everyone around me for years. All of the plans we had for our lives and our children's lives died that day. I remember standing with clients who were about to walk down the aisle needing to be so incredibly happy for them while I was dying inside. I felt inauthentic. I had to put on a smile no matter how I was feeling. And in those moments, my perspective on wedding planning changed. I didn't want any of my clients to ever feel the way I felt. So, I teach about perspective through planning a wedding. At the end of the day, you will be married and that is what we are planning for...your marriage. The logistics, we can handle. It's a well-oiled machine, second nature. I can help you have a great first day of marriage! That's why I had to create The Wedding Planning Process where all of the details of planning a wedding are covered but most importantly, your relationship with your fiance is the number one thing to take care of through the process of walking down the aisle. 


Pretty soon after the good news has been shared on social media, the engagement photos have been posted and your loved ones are on the preliminary guest list, the fear begins to set in. You wonder if you have plenty of time to plan the best day of your life with the list of things you need to get done. What will be the overall theme? What will the wedding invites look like? Will you have a traditional wedding or a non-traditional one? Will you have a wedding photographer? Will you have a guest book, wedding website, wedding cake, or wedding rings? Will there be a seating chart? What will your wedding dress look like? Again you wonder, Is there enough time to get everything done? The list of things to do in advance of the wedding can make you so stressed that you might consider running to the courthouse steps. 


Planning a wedding can be both exciting and overwhelming, especially with all the details that need to be taken care of if you have a 12-month engagement or just a few weeks. That's why after over two decades of experience, I had to curate The Wedding Planning Process to simplify the entire wedding planning experience. In this post, we'll go over some of the key steps in the process and I'll offer some additional tips to help you plan your dream wedding. Take a deep breath, it's all going to be ok and I am here to help take you from engaged couple to married couple and all the little things in between. Before all the planning begins, take some time to celebrate your engagement with family and friends. It's a good idea to announce your engagement on social media after your family hears the good news directly from you. 


You may have a long to-do list but the first thing you need to do is set a budget. Setting a wedding budget is one of the first steps in planning your wedding. I believe it's also one of the most important things you do for your wedding. Determine your overall budget and allocate funds for unforeseen expenses with an additional 20% for the last-minute things you want and the unforeseen additional charges that may occur. Then, break down expenses such as the wedding venue, catering, wedding gown, wedding planner, wedding photographer, bartending and alcohol, wedding flowers, rentals, dance floor & decor, etc. This will help you manage costs effectively and avoid any unpleasant surprises down the road. If you are planning a destination wedding or a backyard barbeque work with what you have to spend on your best day ever. 


The next three steps work hand in hand together. Selecting your venue, wedding day, and guest list. Those three things to do, work together. Take the extra time needed to pick the perfect venue. It will feel like something you need to do instantly but your venue is what sets the tone for your day. This place will hold a special piece of your heart forever. It's important to make sure you pick a place that you love, can accommodate your guests, and highlights your wedding style. Your venue selection may determine your guest size. Compile a list of family and friends and consider the venue's capacity. Divide the budgeted guest count to manage costs effectively. This will also help you determine the perfect venue for your big day. When it comes to choosing the perfect wedding venue, do your research and visit potential wedding venues. Confirm availability on your chosen wedding date, and make sure you understand the venue's policies and offerings. Choosing a wedding date that suits you and your partner is also crucial. Consider the season, weather, and potential conflicts with other events. This will help ensure that your guests can attend and that you have the perfect setting for your special day.


Another key step in planning your wedding is to hire a professional wedding planner. You knew I was going to say this because I am a wedding planner, but it is important to have someone who can manage vendors, make sure everything runs smoothly, and will be your advocate on the day of your wedding. Research and interview potential wedding planners, confirm availability and discuss your vision. Decide on a full-service planner or a day-of coordinator to suit your needs and budget. At the very least, have a friend or family member manage the details of the day so that you can relax and have the best time ever. It's a great way to incorporate someone in your life who is organized and knows how to take control. 


Booking your wedding vendor team is also an important part of the planning process. I always say, your wedding day is only as good as the team you put in place to execute it. Secure essential vendors like a photographer, videographer, caterer, florist, and entertainment, especially if you want a live band. Review contracts carefully and keep contact information handy. Assemble a great team to bring your wedding dreams to life. Make sure they have all of the necessary permits and licenses that may be required by your vendor for them to work at the wedding and reception venue. If you are booking a professional wedding photographer for your big day, schedule an engagement session with that person. Even if you don't think you need that, this will allow you an opportunity to have a trial run with the person who is photographing you on your day. Those pictures can also be used in your engagement announcement, holiday card, or wedding invitation and they can be displayed at your wedding. 


Choosing wedding attire can be a fun and exciting part of the planning process. When you know you know and when you find that perfect wedding dress, you will know. Begin the search for wedding attire early, schedule fittings and alterations well in advance, and consider your bridal party's comfort and financial commitment. The bridal party is likely taking time off work or maybe time away from family to be a part of your wedding day. Make sure to communicate what you want so that together you can make the final decisions on attire. Be thinking about those wedding party gifts so that you can thank them for their friendship, time, and financial commitment so that you can have the best day ever with them by your side. 


Planning the ceremony and reception details is also crucial. Creating a wedding timeline is vital to the success of your day. Create a wedding ceremony outline with your officiant, and decide on processional and recessional details, readings, music, and vows. Plan table layouts, and seating plan for your guests, and print place cards if needed. Select a menu, and caterer, and arrange for entertainment. Create a reception schedule with key elements like cake cutting and toasts such as the best man or maid of honor. Make sure to speak with your vendors when you create your wedding timeline so that you don't go outside of their booking time frame. Don't forget about the flowers and decor. Create a mood board or Pinterest board that includes your color palette and the flowers that you like. This is a great way to keep all of your wedding ideas in one place. If you hire a florist, these inspiration boards help them see your vision so that they can bring that to life. 


Sending out wedding invitations is another important step in the planning process. You can send out a Save the Date as early as you would like. When you send these out early in your process, you allow out-of-town guests plenty of time to plan their travel and pick their wedding guest attire. Send your invitations two months before the wedding, include RSVP instructions with a deadline one month before the wedding keep track of responses, and follow up with non-responders. You don't want to pay for one more guest than you need to. On the flip side, you want to have enough room for your guests so it is important to make sure you have an accurate count of who is attending. 


Preparing for the wedding day is also crucial. Obtain a marriage license, create a day-of timeline for all events, pack an emergency kit with essentials, and schedule personal beauty appointments. Make sure to check in with the county clerk's office in the location of your ceremony so that you know when you need to obtain a marriage license. Check-in with your makeup artist and hair stylist to book a trial run of your hair and makeup. That way you feel confident that you will look and feel amazing on your wedding day. 


In the final days leading up to the wedding, it's important to confirm the final guest count and provide it to vendors. Send the timeline to all vendors and coordinate setup and delivery times. You will also want to make all of your final payments before the wedding. Your vendor may require this but it also gives you the ability to relax on the wedding day knowing that everyone is paid in full. Rehearse the ceremony with the bridal party. And most importantly, relax and savor the days leading up to the wedding. Trust your vendors and wedding planners to handle the details, and cherish special moments with your partner and loved ones.


The best part of wedding planning is that you've already accomplished the hardest part—choosing a partner for life. Maintain perspective throughout the process, and remember that you'll be married, which is what truly matters. For an ultimate wedding checklist and comprehensive guide on how to plan a wedding, take a look at The Wedding Planning Process shop HERE


I hope you found these tips helpful and wish you the perfect wedding day and the very best in your journey and marriage! I have included a snapshot of what needs to get done in the coming months below. Whether you're embarking on the journey solo or seeking personalized guidance through one-on-one consultations, my products—ranging from a signature course, comprehensive wedding planning book, and detailed checklist, to floral arranging classes on bouquets and centerpieces—stem from both triumphs and lessons learned. Even the less-than-glamorous lessons have contributed to shaping these resources. The bride's family, the groom's family, and all your friends will have opinions on your wedding. Remember, this is your own wedding, no one else. Make it reflect your love and the little details will all fall in place to create a beautiful love story that only you can tell. 


The Ultimate Free Complete Wedding Checklist (2024)


Enjoy your engagement

  • Share the news with family & friends.

  • After you share with your family is the right time to go ahead and share on social media.

  • ​Have a great time with family and friends at an engagement party. 

Set a Budget:

  • Determine your overall budget for the big day.

  • Allocate funds for unforeseen expenses with an additional 20%.

  • Break down expenses such as the wedding venue, catering, attire, and more.

Create a Guest List:

  • Compile a list of family and friends.

  • Consider the venue capacity and send save-the-dates well in advance.

  • Divide the budgeted guest count to manage costs effectively.

Choose the Perfect Wedding Venue:

  • Research and visit potential wedding venues.

  • Confirm availability on your chosen wedding date.

  • Ensure you understand the venue's policies and offerings.

Select a Wedding Date:

  • Choose a date that suits you and your partner.

  • Consider the season, weather, and potential conflicts with other events.

Hire a Professional Wedding Planner:

  • Research and interview potential wedding planners.

  • Confirm availability and discuss your vision.

  • Decide on a full-service planner or a day-of coordinator.

Book Wedding Vendors:

  • Secure essential vendors like a photographer, videographer, caterer, and florist.

  • Review contracts carefully and keep contact information handy.

  • Assemble a great team to bring your wedding dreams to life.

Choose Wedding Attire:

  • Begin the search for wedding attire early to give you as much time as you need to plan the attire.

  • Schedule fittings and alterations well in advance.

  • Consider your bridal party's comfort and financial commitment.

Plan the Ceremony:

  • Create a ceremony outline with your officiant.

  • Decide on processional and recessional details, readings, music, and vows.

Organize Reception Details:

  • Plan table layouts, and seating, and designate tables/seats for guests.

  • Select a menu, and caterer, and arrange for entertainment.

  • Plan the fun stuff through a reception schedule with key elements like cake cutting and toasts. Toasts are the perfect time during your reception to feature someone special in your life. 

  • Plan to have a shuttle bus for your guests if needed. 

Send Wedding Invitations:

  • Design and send invitations two months before the wedding.

  • Include RSVP instructions with a deadline of one month before the wedding.

  • Keep track of responses and follow up with non-responders.

Prepare for the Wedding Day:

  • Obtain a marriage license per the county clerk's specifications.

  • Create a day-of timeline for all events. Add as many details as possible. 

  • Enjoy a bridal shower with your closest friends. Enjoy multiple ones if you want. Have a good time celebrating your love! 

  • Pack an emergency kit with essentials and schedule personal beauty appointments.

  • Book your wedding night stay. Plan a special night just for the two of you to celebrate your love. 

Finalize Details:

  • Give yourself ample time and start finalizing all of the details with your vendors one month before your wedding. 

  • Confirm the final guest count and provide it to vendors.

  • Send the timeline to all vendors and coordinate setup and delivery times. Give them any additional details needed to pull off your plan. 

The Wedding Weekend

  • Drop off welcome bags for your guests at their hotel if you book a hotel room block. 

  • Rehearse the ceremony with the bridal party.

  • Enjoy spending time with your bridal party at the rehearsal dinner. 

Enjoy the Moment:

  • Relax and savor the days leading up to the wedding.

  • Trust your vendors and wedding planner to handle the details.

  • Cherish special moments with your partner and loved ones.


Remember, the best part of wedding planning is that you've already accomplished the hardest part—choosing a partner for life. Maintain perspective throughout the process, and at the end of the day, you'll be married, which is what truly matters. For a detailed timeline on when to check off your wedding planning checklist items, click HERE. I'm cheering you on! Wishing you the perfect wedding day and the very best in your journey and marriage. Now, go on a date with your fiancé!


XOXO, Sarah Lizabeth


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Wedding Blogger

I'm Sarah Lizabeth

WEDDING PLANNER, FLORIST, VENUE OWNER, WEDDING NON-PROFIT CEO & FOUNDER, AUTHOR, SPEAKER AND CREATOR OF ONLINE WEDDING PLANNING PRODUCTS.

Twenty years ago, I started my career in weddings. I am excited to share everything I know about wedding planning with you through this wedding blog. I believe I was created to serve and this platform gives me a voice I always wanted in the wedding industry. So, let's talk all things wedding!

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