The To Do’s Before the I Do’s

Wedding planning is supposed to be fun, but it can get overwhelming. Use our guide to stay organized so you can enjoy your engagement.

10-12 Months To Go

► You’re engaged! Make sure you celebrate with your fiancé, friends and family.
► Nail down the basics. Where are you getting married? Who’s paying for what? What is the budget? How many guests will be there?
► Alert the wedding party. Decide who you want in your wedding party and ask them as soon as you can.
► Pick the date. Check with your family members and wedding party before you make a final decision so there are no huge time conflicts.
► Find a wedding planner. If you’re planning on using a wedding planner, find one in the early stages. He or she will make all the craziness more manageable.
► Book your ceremony and reception location. Where you get married will affect a lot of your planning decisions, so reserving a place should be at the top of your to-do list.
► Insure your ring. Your engagement ring is special, but it’s also expensive. Make sure you get it insured, just in case.
► Book officiant. You need someone to marry you so make sure your preferred officiant has your wedding date on the calendar.
► Write thank you notes for engagement gifts. You will most likely receive a few gifts right after your engagement. Send a thank you note for each gift within three months of receiving it.
► Take engagement photos. For a list of popular New Orleans spots, go to page 91.
► Get inspired. Think about your wedding colors and the overall look of your day. Are you going for a classic look or trendy? Vintage or glamorous?


6-9 Months To Go

► Interview and select vendors. Make sure you book the “big ticket” items, such as the photographer, the caterer, the florist and the entertainment, early.
► Send out save-the-dates. The typical rule on sending save-the-dates is six months before your wedding, but send them earlier if you’re inviting a lot of out-of-town guests so they can book flights.
► Go dress shopping. You need an appointment at most wedding boutiques, so call a few of your favorite stores to set up a time.
► Register. Register at two or three stores. Choose items at a variety of prices so everyone can find something they can afford.
► Think about the rehearsal dinner. It’s customary that the groom’s parents host the rehearsal dinner. Talk to your future in-laws about possibilities.
► Schedule transportation. Book a limo, trolley or another form of transportation to shuttle your wedding party from the hotel to your ceremony location. Also think about whether you need transportation for your guests to get from the reception to the hotel at the end of the reception.
► Plan your honeymoon. If you’re going out of the country for your trip, make sure you and your fiancé have up-to-date passports.
► Figure out your rentals. Rentals depend on the location of your wedding, but if you’re responsible for common rental items such as chairs and plates, make a list of everything you need and where you’re going to find each item.
► Book a block of hotel rooms for out-of-town guests. If you’re not familiar with the hotel, ask a hotel representative to show you a room and don’t forget to inquire about a group rate.
► Order bridesmaid dresses. If your bridesmaids live far away, give them plenty of time to buy their dresses and get them fitted.  
4-5 Months To Go
► Buy wedding bands. Shopping for wedding bands is usually less stressful than shopping for an engagement ring, but carve out a time when you and your fiancé can go look together.
► Finalize the rehearsal dinner. Once you’ve decided on the location, book your rehearsal dinner.
► Reserve a wedding night hotel room.  Where are you staying for the wedding night? If you’re not leaving for your honeymoon immediately after the reception, decide where you want to stay for the night.
► Get your dress fitted. Your wedding dress is one of the most important dresses you will wear in your life, so it should fit impeccably. Many brides plan for up to three fittings.
► Decide on attire for the groom and groomsmen. Talk to your fiancé about what he wants to wear and what will match your overall color scheme. Keep the time of day in mind when researching options.
► Check in with your vendors. Make final decisions with your vendors and update them on new wedding information, such as when they should arrive.
► Order your wedding cake. Taste a few cakes before you decide on your final choice. Talk to your fiancé about a groom’s cake if he wants one.


2-3 Months To Go

► Mail out the invitations. Have a system for handling the RSVPs and check with any guests who do not RSVP by your deadline.
► Solidify the catering menu. Whether you’re doing heavy hors d’oeuvres or a sit-down meal, verify the final menu.
► Schedule your hair and makeup team. Find a good hair stylist and makeup artist to help you and your bridesmaids get ready for the day.
One Month Before
► Send your wedding party an itinerary. Make sure your family and friends know where and when to be for the wedding day so everyone shows up at the right place at the right time.
► Enjoy a facial. Everyone reacts differently to facials. If you’re planning on getting one, schedule it a few days before your wedding, or do a trial run months before.
► Get your marriage license. Head to the Orleans Parish Marriage License Office in Benson Tower (1450 Poydras St., Suite 407) for your marriage certificate. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. until 3:15 p.m. Visit dhh.louisiana.gov for requirements.
► Set up your second line. If you’re planning to second line at your wedding, you’re going to need a permit. Call the New Orleans Police Department Special Events Section at (504) 658-7100 to schedule everything 15 to 20 days before your wedding day. You can also email questions to specialevents@nola.gov.
► Practice your hair and makeup. it’s best to practice with your hair stylist and makeup artists ahead of time so there are no surprises on the big day.
► Finalize the guest list. Send a final headcount to your caterer and any other vendor who needs the number.


One Week Before

► Double-check with your vendors. Check in with everyone one more time to remind them where to go and to answer any last-minute questions they might have.
► Remind friends and family of their responsibilities. Assign duties to your wedding party or other loved ones.
► Get a manicure and pedicure. This can be a great bonding experience with your bridesmaids, mom and future mother-in-law.
► Put together a welcome package. If you have a lot of guests traveling for your wedding, ask the hotel if you can put a welcome basket or bag in their hotel room for when they arrive.


The Wedding Day

► Find a way to relax. Whether you go for a run or read a book in the morning, find a way to keep stress to a minimum.
► Make sure you eat something. Brides always say, “I never had time to eat anything!” Give yourself some time during the reception to have a bite.
► Have fun! You’ve made it through all the planning, now it’s time to celebrate. Enjoy your first day as a married woman.


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