How to Plan a Wedding in 9 Months

outdoor wedding ceremony set up at lake tahoe
Photo: Ryan Ray

Though many couples spend approximately a year planning their weddings, putting together a chic, stylish event in just 9 months is entirely doable—and doesn't require sacrificing your vision of a dream celebration.

If you're currently on this journey, you're likely looking for an exact timeline to follow—one that will help you make every decision, from when to shop for a dress and book a band to when to finalize your big-day menu and sign every contract.

That's where our experts come in: From which vendors to book first to when you need to finalize your day-of schedule, Ko and wedding planner Chanda Daniels offer this foolproof guide for planning a personal, memorable wedding in just 9 months.

01 of 09

9 Months Out

large white building wedding venue surrounded by trees
Abby Jiu

The first three months of the planning process, says wedding planner Chanda Daniels, are what she calls "the discovery phase." "During this phase, it's all about defining your wedding-day experience," she says. Use the first four weeks to key in on the essentials: your budget, guest list, venue, date, and overall aesthetic.

Once you know what you want your day to look like, a full-service planner can help you bring it all together; with a short timeframe, you're benefiting from their experience, instead of starting from scratch yourself. "Your wedding planner will be able to help you define your wedding day investment—they will help you clarify your vision, and, from that, help you curate your team," says Daniels. "In the timeframe you have to plan, it's critical you secure the creatives that match your style!"

02 of 09

8 Months Out

wedding ceremony arch with flowers up the sides and a cross on top
Rebecca Yale Photography

Once you have your venue booked, work on confirming the other major vendors: caterer, photographer, florist, stationer, musicians, videographer. "Don't wait on your videographer," says Elizabeth Ko of Summer Newman Events. "The good ones are booking up just as quickly as the photographers."

If you decide to send save-the-dates, you should have these finalized and sent as soon as possible; this is also the ideal time to invite friends and family to join your bridal party. Brides and grooms planning to wear a custom wedding dresses or suits should select and order their fashions as early as possible, says Ko—and don't forget to choose accommodations for your out-of-town guests. "Room blocks are very important and should be done early in the planning process," she says.

03 of 09

6 to 7 Months Out

bride with bridesmaids
Shanell Photography

Once you have your attire confirmed, prioritize your attendants'. "Bridesmaids dresses are taking a lot longer to be made, so start early," says Ko. "Custom tuxedos for groomsmen will have to be ordered early, as well."

Then, rely on your inspiration boards to select the rest of your team. "Finalize the design and overall feel for your wedding, so you can start booking the vendors that contribute to your design rentals, including tableware, linens, and lighting," says Ko.

04 of 09

4 to 5 Months Out

wedding couple getting off trolley
Lisa Ziesing for Abby Jiu Photography

During the next phase of planning, expect to refine and finalize many of your design choices, from plates and chairs to stationery and transportation. "If any vendor is not booked, you want to push to get them booked at this point," says Ko.

Then, focus on other details you can cross off your list before the final rush period: Choose your accessories, organize supplies for any DIY projects you've taken on, confirm your honeymoon plans, and finish your registry.

05 of 09

3 Months Out

wedding invitation suite with pink and green accents
Rebecca Yale Photography

At three months, says Daniels, "the key milestone is sending out your invitations! Make sure you don't send them out too early." Getting your invites mailed at this point in time allows you to set an RSVP date of one month before your big day, which gives you ample time to track down late responses before setting your final numbers.

06 of 09

2 Months Out

three-tiered white wedding cake on pedestal with flowers
Kismet Visuals

During the last two months of wedding planning, says Daniels, "it's all about the final details and timelines." If you haven't approved your floral designs, tablescape, ceremony set-up, menu, and cake, expect to tackle those items now.

07 of 09

1 Month Out

wedding seating chart with floral arrangements
Michelle Lange Photography

When your RSVPs are in, you can move forward with completing tasks specific to your guest list: Create place cards, escort cards, and custom menus; a seating chart or escort display; welcome bags; and rehearsal dinner and morning-after brunch guest lists.

Finish the final details of your ceremony, from song choices to handpicked readings—then order gifts for your bridal party. And, if you've put off writing your vows, it's time to get started.

08 of 09

2 Weeks Out

wedding food on white plate with pastel blue tablecloth
Anya Kernes

The last 14 days before your wedding will include confirming big-impact items—like flowers, playlists, and menus—as well as attending final attire fittings, making deposits, and delivering catering numbers. "When giving your final catering numbers, don't forget to count your wedding day creatives," reminds Daniels.

09 of 09

1 Week Out

vintage family couple photos display in white bookcase
Ryan Ray

The majority of your plans should be finalized before your wedding week, though you may need to field last-minute changes (like making tweaks to the seating chart when a guest falls ill or finding replacement menu items when your farm-to-table harvest doesn't go as planned).

If you've taken on any DIY projects—from framed family photos to your own guest book—plan to drop these with your planner or venue in the days before your big day. And don't forget the most important item on your to-do list: Enjoying your wedding weekend with your family, friends, and brand-new spouse.

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