To-Do List: The Dreaded Timeline
There are several guidelines out there for when you should do what for a wedding, but most of them make the assumption you have a year (or longer) engagement over which to complete the list of 120398204739 tasks. While a year is the length of the average engagement, maybe you’re not average. Maybe you’re waiting until you’re done with school and its going to be longer. Maybe you absolutely can’t wait and want to do it in a few months. Whatever the case may be, the timelines these resources give you aren’t a “one size fits all” type deal.
For trying to come up with your own checklist of when things need to be done by, I highly recommend looking at several different suggested ones and devising yours based on those. Your needs will be different depending on the length of your engagement, the area you live in, and the time of year you want to get married. I was lucky enough to have about 15 months to plan, so my personal timeline wasn’t too far off from the suggested ones, but with so many factors to consider it became very obvious very quickly how much shift could happen in those timelines.
There are two major traps to the timeline. The first and most obvious is waiting too long to do something. Sites can book a year in advance. Dresses can take 6 months to a year to come in. Invitations can take 3 months to be printed. If you do some things too close to your wedding date, you may have to pay a rush fee, or you may simply have the risk of something not being ready in time. While sometimes this can’t be helped (like you only have a 6 month engagement and your dream dress usually takes 8 months to come in), most of the rushing around that brides do that cause extra fees and extra stress can be helped with careful planning. Utilize any calendar program you have, whether it be on your computer, phone, iPod, whatever, to help remind you of your upcoming deadlines. If you know you will have a time crunch issue, be prepared with a plan B. Plan B may not be as awesome as Plan A, but Plan B is better than no plan at all.
The second less obvious timeline trap is doing something too far in advance. How silly does that sound? Planning when you’re still 2 years out is a bad thing? Yes, it sure can be. Think about yourself 2 years ago, even a year ago…were you the same? Did you have the same tastes? Same friends? Same schedule? Things change over time, and maybe what you thought was your dream dress 2 years ago is no longer really your style. You don’t want to risk sticking yourself with something you won’t be happy with come your wedding day because you were too on the ball. Things like sites you can get away with (and for some of them it may be necessary), but be wary of choosing that’s personality based (trendy sites, dresses, bridesmaids/groomsmen, etc). If there’s any chance at all you might change your mind, you’re better off waiting and weighing your options.
Here is the timeline/checklist I devised for myself. We’re getting married outside of Grand Rapids, so we had some competition to worry about for vendors. The big three for us were the photograph, the reception site, and the DJ, and we knew the most competition would be for the reception site, so we tackled that first. We weren’t sure what to expect in terms of competition for the photographer, so we worked on that concurrently, but it took a backseat to reception sites.
No timeline is fool-proof. You’re going to hit unexpected snags that can throw the whole thing off. The best thing you can do is probably the least helpful advice anyone can give you: stay calm and carry on. It will not be the end of the world. Obviously, if you’re having a shorter engagement, you’ll have more to do off the bat. If you’re having a longer engagement, you can most likely afford to take your time a little in your research. The nice part of wedding planning is that the brunt of it comes at the beginning and at the end, with a lull in the middle that lets you recuperate.
The most important part of the checklist? Look at it! It doesn’t do you any good if you never check it.