· The first vital step in planning a wedding doesn't involve dresses, flowers, cakes, music or etiquette. You -bride and groom-not parents, friends or Aunt Susie, should take time to talk about what marriage means to each of you. Whatever rite or ceremony you choose to mark your commitment to each other should reflect your values and tastes, not the expectations of others or some kind of arbitrary "rightness.'' If one of you wants a formal church wedding and the other an informal family get-together in the context of a picnic, this is an important time to test your "couple skills'' of listening, communicating and coming to a joint decision that has nothing to do with winning or losing.
· Once you've decided what kind of wedding you want, create a budget, first determining who will pay for what. Make sure you both agree that this is the best use of available money. Choose vendors and professionals you can afford (if you use them)and who can adapt to the style of wedding you want, and begin working out the details. If you are using a marriage consultant, this is the time to contact one.
· Reserve locations for ceremony and reception unless they take place at home or in a more informal setting.
· If it is to be a church wedding, remember that more than a building is involved in a religious expression of wedding vows. The pastor or a staff person may want to talk with you about marriage before discussing the details of the ceremony you want.
· Choose your attendants, if you are going to have any, hopefully without any pressure or sense of obligation. Remember, you're not obliged to have an equal number of men and women or have an attendant of the same sex as you are. Involve children if you want to, as long as they are old enough to follow directions.
· Start on your invitation list, consulting with your families as you wish. Again, remember it is your wedding and you both will want to be surrounded by people whose company you enjoy, not necessarily the people your parents want to be there. If the initial list is too long, start negotiating as a couple, again practicing the communication skills which will be so important in the years ahead.
· The bride-to-be will select her dress and accessories and consider the dresses of her attendants. As weddings have assumed the look of a stage production, outfitting brides and attendants has become more and more intimidating to some people. Remember that attendants need not be dressed alike nor must they necessarily have to buy something new if they already own an appropriate dress. Nor do they need to shop in a bridal shop even for matching or coordinating dresses. It's a real test of friendship to insist on expensive and often unbecoming gowns which will not be worn again. A formal wedding involving men who do not include formal wear in their wardrobes means resorting to rentals. Consultation with formal wear specialists should happen at this time.
4 Months Before
· If you're going to have printed invitations (hand-written notes might be your choice instead), this is the time to order them. You may want to get thank you notes and personal stationery at the same time.
· Plan your honeymoon, making reservations andapplying for passports as needed.
· Shop for trousseaus (his and hers).
· Have mothers choose their outfits if they are to be new. The important thing is that what they wear expresses their personal tastes and is something they will be able to wear on other occasions.
· Visit your doctor for physical examinations and to check on immunizations.
· Decide on where you are going to live (if you haven't already) and begin shopping for home furnishings if they are needed.
· Buy wedding rings and order any engraving.
· If you are inviting guests who don't know your tastes or don't want to duplicate wedding gifts, sign up with the bridal gift registry at your favorite store(s).
· Check again with vendors and professionals. This is the time to make deposits and sign contracts.
· Reserve tents, rental tables and chairs, etc., if these are needed.
2 Months Before
· It's time to address wedding invitations. Make a party of it with your attendants or family members helping, or you can do it together as a couple. If it becomes an unwanted chore, maybe you've made the wrong kind of wedding plans.
· Make sure your attendants (if any) know their responsibilities and select gifts for them.
· Plan how you will record and perhaps display gifts.
· Order a wedding cake unless a relative or friend is going to make the cake or the cake is included inthe reception catering package.
· Schedule the rehearsal (if there's going to be one)and rehearsal dinner.
· Make beauty appointments (if there are going to be any). Hair appointments should be for the day before or the day of the wedding; a facial and beauty treatment might be scheduled a week before; nail appointment the day before.
· Arrange accommodations for out-of-town guests.
· If your wedding involves photographers, musicians, florist, caterer, etc., this is the time to finalize plans.
1 Month Before
· Make a date to get your marriage license.
· Mail invitations.
· Arrange name change on documents if a namechange is involved.
· Order travelers checks for honeymoon.
· Have final fittings if needed.
· Plan how to handle traffic and parking if this mightbe a problem at either wedding or reception.
· Buy wedding gifts for each other.
· Attend parties in your honor.
2 Weeks Before
· Record each gift as received and write thank you notes promptly, either together or dividing up the task. This is no longer seen as a task for the bride alone.
· Draw up a seating plan for the reception if you think one is needed; make place cards for the"head table'' if there is to be one.
· Go over your personal wardrobes, discarding and adding where necessary.
· Arrange to move belongings to new home if there is to be one.
· Check with people who have not responded to the invitation so you can give final number to caterer.
· The bride should experiment with hair style and makeup in the type of lighting that will be used at the wedding. The groom should have his hair cut,if he is wearing a style that requires it.
1 Week Before
· For a formal wedding, this is the time for a final consultation with caterer, florist, photographer (give a list of photos wanted), musicians (give a list of music wanted), etc.
· Confirm rehearsal plans with clergy (or other) and attendants, if there is to be a rehearsal.
· Arrange to have a family member or friend serve as a last minute runner for errands on the big day.
· Make sure you have all the tickets and other necessary things for your honeymoon, and pack your bags.
· Break in your wedding shoes at home.
· Be sure to make time to relax and touch base on what marriage means to you both. Formal or informal, your wedding should be what you — the bride, the groom — want, not what your families and friends and the wedding magazines tell you is"right.'' If you want to enter the church or other setting together or serve refreshments before the ceremony, or skip having a cake, or sing at your own wedding, it's OK. Make your own traditions.