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The Ultimate Stress-Free Timeline for Wedding Planning in Australia

Stress-Free-Wedding-Planning-Timeline-Australia

Wedding planning and stress don't belong together, but so frequently couples find themselves so overwhelmed with checklists and to-do's that they're too anxious to enjoy their wedding planning experience. We know there's a better way, and it starts with an organised timeline, a couple of simple tools, and a few big deep breaths.

When I started She Said Yes (the blog from which the little white book wedding planner was born), I felt completely submerged by wedding advice. 

In reading a lot of NZ and Australian wedding magazines and blogs, I soon realised that a lot of the content I was consuming was actually advertising - encouraging me to have a large guest list, have all the 'bells and whistles' and ultimately spend a lot of money on my wedding.

Though we had a flexible budget, and I had the confidence to set aside any wedding elements that didn't really suit us personally, I wanted to share wedding planning advice without any element of sponsorship, advertising or influence from the wedding industry.

One of my most-loved articles was a simple wedding planning timeline, designed for wedding planning in Australia, according to how far in advance most vendors and venues need to be booked. These timelines are of course included in the little white book, along with all the wedding planning advice you need, and nothing you don't.

P.S. Before you start wedding planning, please take a moment to celebrate and enjoy the excitement of being engaged.

Your First Steps to Wedding Planning 

Depending on where in Australia you're getting married, what day of the week, and which season, your first steps can begin as soon as you get engaged, or much much later if you're planning a long engagement.

If you're trying to secure one of Sydney or Melbourne's most popular wedding venues on a Saturday in February, chances are you'll need to book much further out than if you're planning a DIY wedding at a family home. Either way, you begin with a wedding budget, a guest list and a few thoughtful conversations with your fiancé.

This wedding planning timeline is also unique, in that not only will it not tell you that you absolutely need to organise a troupe of {Brazilian dancers/wall to wall flowers/donkeys carrying Champagne/insert wedding vendor here} to celebrate, but it's a timeline to take at your own pace. You may start this with 12 months or 12 days to go, it is your wedding so it is up to you!

  • Start a wedding budget: discuss with your future spouse how much you both feel want to put towards your Big Day. If your families wish to contribute, do you feel comfortable doing so? Do you need to save for some time to plan your 'dream' day, are you happy spending less but doing more of the organising/DIY yourself, or do you just want a simple, small ceremony with some drinks to follow? I suggest considering what your wedding priorities are too.
  • Draft your guest list: this will really tie into your budget and choice of wedding venue, though you don't need to finalise anything early. As you start researching and planning, you may completely change your mind about how many guests to have or even what type of wedding you want, so don't be in too much of a hurry.
  • Find a couple of rough dates: If you have your heart set on a summer wedding, for instance, are you going to plan in time for the upcoming summer, or are you happy to wait another year? Work out with your fiance a couple of rough (but flexible) suitable dates, so that when you talk to venues, you know when you're thinking about.
  • Begin visiting wedding venues (online or in person): Once you have a roughly suitable date and an idea of your guest list and budget, you can begin enquiring with wedding venues in your chosen location. See Top Australian Wedding Venues for inspiration and ideas, and see How to Find a Wedding Venue. Choosing your wedding venue (and paying a deposit) will probably be the biggest decision you have to make in the entire wedding planning process, and may determine your theme and style and even your guest list. 
  • Before you actually book your wedding venue, take a moment to breathe and revisit your wedding priorities. Does this venue tick all the boxes and fit comfortably with your budget - are you absolutely certain it's 'The One'? Consider using the Wedding Planning Pack which provides a list of all the questions you need to discuss with your venue before booking (available in a bundle with the little white book wedding planner).

Once you've Booked Your Wedding Venue

As with booking your wedding venue, the rest of your wedding planning timeline will vary greatly according to where you are, when you're planning and how elaborate a wedding you're planning, but once you've booked your wedding venue, you won't want to wait too long to secure a few important vendors.

  • Choosing your wedding celebrant: The only truly 'necessary' vendor at your wedding is your celebrant - the person you choose to conduct your wedding ceremony and officially marry you. If you have chosen a religious venue, this decision may be easy, but for others, you can browse Australian Marriage Celebrants Inc or Same-Sex Celebrant listings.
  • Wedding vendors to book beyond the celebrant are completely at your discretion. The majority of couples marrying in Australia have have a Wedding Photographer, Caterer and some kind of entertainment, though the options are pretty endless! Depending on your choice of venue, you may already have all furniture/lighting, catering and staff, whereas if it's a DIY/dry-hire venue you'll have to organise everything yourself. See Marquee Wedding Planning.
  • The most important vendors to book first are those who can only do one wedding per day, i.e. those that spend the day with you: Photographer/Videographers, Caterers, Hair and Make-up Artists and Entertainers. For vendors who you're going to spend a lot of time with, or have very personal interactions, you may also wish to meet with them prior to booking. Consider Wedding Catering Options.
  • Think about your styling options - theme colours, decor, florals, etc - you may wish to turn to Pinterest for options, or browse wedding inspo on instagram.

Of course, the wedding planner book has a lot more detail on your wedding planning checklists, so think of this as a simple and stress-free way to begin.

A little later... (after you've patted your expert wedding-planning self on the back)

You've already achieved so much, honestly. Booking your wedding venue and choosing your most vital wedding vendors is no mean feat, so feel free to sleep for a week or a month, celebrate again, and relax a little while. If you're using the little white book, you'll have inserted your wedding date into the calendar and begun using the diary part, which will step you through each day, week and month to your wedding (i.e. it's impossible to miss a thing). If not, your next wedding planning timeline begins here:

  • If you haven't already, decide whether or not to have a Bridal Party. Some couples choose a Best Man and Maid of Honour (or Best Woman and Man of Honour) while others will have 3-10 a side). If you're having a small wedding, you may wish to have a smaller (or no) bridal party. See How to Choose Your Bridal Party and don't underestimate their impact on the budget. Consider What should your Bridal Party pay for?
  • Decide whether to have an Engagement Party
  • Start thinking about what you'd like to wear. If you purchase a wedding dress off-the-rack, you may still need to make time allowance for alterations, and if the dress is made-to-order, or custom, you may need to allow up to 6 months or more.
  • The all-important (or not at all important) details. Depending on who you are and what's important to you, you may wish to organise any or all of the following: Decor and Styling/Florist, Fancy Lighting or a Neon Sign, Bridal Party Attire and Bouquets, Wedding Cake or Dessert Station, Wedding Invitation Designer or Calligrapher, Caravan Bar, Selfie Station, Dance Lessons, Wedding Alpacas yes, really (essential, obvs), DJ, Band, Hireage, Acccommodation, Food Trucks, Wedding Favours, Transport, etc etc - OR... you may decide you don't need any of those things. 
  • For each of the wedding elements you select, I suggest you get in touch with each of them and work them into your wedding budget one at a time, in order of their importance to you. As you work your way through, you may even decide that you don't need to have all of them.
  • Even if you're booking wedding vendors a week out, you can usually find someone, so how far in advance you need to get in touch with vendors depends on your preferences, how fussy you're feeling and the level of demand depending on day and season. While you don't need to be in a hurry, it may certainly help your stress levels if you get onto each vendor sooner than later (and then you can enjoy your wedding countdown.

Once the Wedding Vendors are Booked

  • Before sending your wedding invitations, consider your choice of wedding gift. Would you like a contribution towards an experience, a traditional wedding registry, or something else entirely?
  • Revisit your wedding guest and budget, consider if everything works with your venue and plans. 
  • Even if you're choosing to DIY or use an online option like Paperless Post rather than sending save the dates, do your guests a favour and give them as much notice as you can about your upcoming nuptials, to allow them time to make plans, especially if they're visiting from out of State or beyond Australia. You may also wish to organise signage for the Big Day, if guests are likely to need direction about where to go, where to sit, and what their on-the-day timeline is.
  • If you have a bridal party, consider delegating some smaller jobs to them - will one of them assist you with choosing suitable attire for them, are there any little DIY projects they might contribute to, or some tasks in the lead up to the wedding? You may wish to have a Hens Party/Bridal Shower or Bachelor, which the Maid of Honour or Best Man usually organises with the Bridal Parties.
  • Start thinking about your speeches and vows. Hard to write, and even harder to write in a rush - so take notes throughout your engagement (the little white book is perfect for this and will prompt you to do so - just one reason it's been voted the best wedding planner book); ask those friends and family you'd like to speak to prepare too, and work on your vows with your future spouse.
  • Cake tasting, yum! If you're choosing to have a wedding cake, don't delay to enjoy the most delicious job of all, cake tasting. Take your fiance, or order wedding cake sampler boxes, and dig in. Even if you're not sure whether you wish to have a wedding cake, this might be a task worth enjoying.
  • Ensure your future spouse is also looking into his/her attire. Grooms in particular often leave this til the last minute, which is not ideal if they want a nicely fitted suit.
  • Consider your honeymoon, including passports and visas where necessary.
  • Once your guest list is set, confirm your catering, including food, drinks, desserts and platters.
  • Think about your entertainment - if you've booked a musician, will you be providing 'Play/Do Not Play lists', or if not, do you need to organise Music yourself?

The Final Wedding Countdown

  • Buy wedding rings
  • Schedule hair and makeup trials
  • Choose your underwear and shoes and take to your final dress fitting
  • Make your day-before and on-the-day plan
  • Organise the order of service including any readings or speeches
  • Check in with your vendors to ensure they're all on the same page (and share the on-the-day plan
  • Chase any RSVPs, finalise your seating plan and provide to stationer/designer
  • Revisit your vows
  • Have any spa/hair/beauty treatments a few days in advance
  • Clean your engagement ring
  • Have an early night