You’re engaged! Congratulations. And good luck. This is both one of the happiest and most stressful times of your life; all rolled into one. The key to success and lack of stress, as with so many things in life, is preparation. And while the joy of the proposal might still feel fresh, and the actuality of the big day far in the future, reducing pressure as the wedding nears is all about getting started early. So, with that in mind, here is the IDEAL month-by-month wedding planning checklist.

THE FUN PART OF THE PLANNING: 18 MONTHS BEFORE THE BIG DAY

In the beginning, planning a wedding can be very overwhelming when you look at the bigger procedural picture. But when viewed in the right light, this part can be great fun too as you can decide what exactly it is that you want for your wedding day and imagine a scene still far enough off to not seem real. 

We’d suggest that this is the time to start flicking through wedding magazines and start a pinterest board folder to keep track of all your favourite ideas. Once you have a rough guide of what it is that you really want, you can then work out what the costs for this would be and adjust your budget accordingly. Another fun part is inviting close friends and family to be part of your wedding party. Breaking the big news to loved ones, we think, is one of the most enjoyable parts of the whole process. So take a moment to bask in the engagement glow and even throw an engagement party if you wish.

THE REAL PLANNING BEGINS: 12 -10 MONTHS OF COUNTDOWN

Once the year mark is here, the real planning begins. You should have by now decided on your guestlist, reserved a prospective date in the diary. Weddings venues get booked out months in advance so the sooner you can book the better.  Look at places and check availability, to get an idea of how many backup options you’re likely to need. Then visit the places you really like and book one. It’s also time to do the boring stuff like book your officiant and sort out your wedding license and look at wedding insurance (yawn). It’s also time to send out those save the dates cards. At the stage, trying on dresses is a must as you’ll need plenty of time to get the dress altered, fitted and re-fitted as is necessary.

NERVES START TO JANGLE: 9 – 7 MONTHS TO GO

If you’re planning on filling that dancefloor with moving, grooving units, it’s time book the entertainment; if you’re planning to fill bellies with good food, you’d better be meeting the caterers. Accommodation needs to be considered, too; reserve blocks of hotel rooms for your guests that will be travelling from out of town. Also, have a think about the wedding stationary and personalised accessories that you want. Now is the the kind of time that you can schedule in a fun day out with the girls, shopping for bridesmaid dresses. Book hair and makeup artists for the morning of the big day if that’s your thing.

If you’re still not sure about what style of wedding invite you want, drawing inspiration from others is no bad thing. Head on over to a website such as Bride and Groom Direct, which offers a huge range of wedding invitation ideas, wedding stationary and personalised wedding accessories that you can order online. There’s also a lot of great stuff on sites like trusty old Pinterest, so don’t be afraid to pool knowledge and ideas from the web. And don’t forget to keep RSVP list on an excel spreadsheet – not a piece of paper that you’ll lose.

Now is also a great time to make a wedding website with all the information the guests might need including your wedding gift list and detailed travel information. Having all the information online will make your wedding planning so much easier and will save on phone calls from guests who will inevitably have loads of questions to ask.

IT’S GETTING NEARER: JUST HALF A YEAR TO GO

Around 6 months before your wedding day, you will want to start planning for your honeymoon, meet with your officiant, book a florist, and arrange transportation to and from the wedding. It’s also a sensible time to confirm your catering and try sample dishes so your menu is war ready. Don’t forget the vegetarian and vegan options – a must these days. Don’t forget your wedding cake either. Start considering the the type of decoration you’d like to hire and do it if you want to feel really organised.

4 MONTHS TO GO: IT’S GOT REAL

In many ways, much of the more complex, headache inducing planning has been done by now, and it’s time to hone in on the finer details. This most pertinently takes the form of the purchase of your wedding rings; a symbolic moment which really brings home how close everything is. Everything you need to know about purchasing the perfect diamond wedding ring can be found here in this guide. Also, now is an opportunity to organise another jolly with the ladies in your life; the final dress fittings for you and the bridesmaids needs to happen; you don’t want to do it too early as you may fluctuate in weight. Another fun outing is the scheduling of hair and makeup trials, which need to happen soon. Don’t forget the grooms suits and also, order favors and any wedding party gifts. 

NEARLY THERE: 2 MONTHS TO GO

Final dress fittings should be happening in this time window. Apart from that, fine tuning of the big day’s ceremony timeline and readings and entertainment needs to happen. Choose the music you want people to be cutting rug to, and make a playlist if you’re not having a D.J. It’s also a good time to finalise readings and the order of service, and once that’s done, get the programs printed. If you’ve got any annoying so-and-so’s who are sitting on the fence or simply not replying, chase up the final RSVP’s. Call the venue, florist and everyone else you can think of to reconfirm the bookings.

PANIC STATIONS: 1 MONTH TO GO

If you have been following this month-by- month  wedding checklist hopefully you shouldn’t be panicking. That said, there are a few more tasks to do that you really shouldn’t leave till the week before the wedding…

Providing that there’s no anticipated tension and squabbling, arranging the seating plan can be fun. Think about having a children’s table if your having lots of younger guests and what about that not so obvious singles table? Although you may have been doing this in your head for years, you should get your wedding vows committed to paper, and if possible, memory for extra flair. The truly prepared among us will also delegate the day’s tasks to the groomsmen and bridesmaids to avoid on the day flapping and fussing.

Most importantly, it’s important to keep calm and remember that planning a beautiful wedding does not have to be hugely stressful as long as you organise everything in plenty of time.