The most up-to-date wedding planning timeline and wedding checklist for newly engaged couples in 2021!
Once you’ve had time to celebrate your engagement, it’s time to start wedding planning! Beginning the wedding planning process is often the first marital test for a newly engaged couple. From creating a wedding budget, to navigating family dynamics, to prioritizing each other’s wants and needs–couples have the opportunity to practice many of the relationship-building skills that will be invaluable in their next stage of life as a married couple.
Engaged couples who start wedding planning in 2021 have unique wedding planning questions that many previous couples didn’t need to consider. For example, how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected wedding planning timelines?
While COVID has had an impact on the wedding industry, couples still have a lot of control over the type of wedding they want to plan. Some couples are planning long, thought-out engagements, while others are taking a faster approach and skipping many of the traditional steps to get to the altar.
In this article, we’ll provide our suggestions for a wedding planning timeline and checklist for engaged couples starting to plan their weddings in 2021, including when to book a wedding venue, vendors, and take care of all of those wedding planning details. However, we always suggest tailoring your wedding planning timeline based on your needs as a couple. When in doubt, a professional wedding planner can help create a customized wedding timeline for your specific wedding vision, so you can decide when and how to get all of those important decisions checked off of your wedding planning to-do list!
While selecting a wedding date has always been an important first task, this step has become a bit more challenging for couples starting to plan their weddings in 2021. Many weddings that were originally planned for 2020 were pushed back to 2021 and 2022 due to COVID-19. This has made open dates at some of the most popular wedding venues even harder to find.
So with that in mind, when do you book a wedding venue? “Couples should book their venue as soon as possible after the proposal. Because of the quantity of reschedules and postponements, many venues have really limited availability for the upcoming year,” says Shannon Tarrant, Co-Founder of Wedding Venue Map.
We recommend considering a non-traditional day of the week for your wedding, such as a Thursday, Friday, Sunday, or Monday! Off-peak days of the week are a great way to open up availability at your dream venue during some of the most popular times of year, such as the Nights of Lights holiday season here in St. Augustine. Not only that, choosing a lower demand day often means that you can save money across the board on your wedding venue and wedding vendors. (Hello extra cash in the budget for that open bar!)
Hosting your wedding on a Thursday, Friday, Sunday, or Monday means that your guests can also take advantage of a long weekend for what everyone needs in 2021: a much-needed vacation! Bride Daphne Durmaz was married on a Thursday. She says, “having the wedding on a Thursday allowed the guests to spend the remainder of their long weekend trip exploring their beautiful surroundings.”
At the Lightner Museum, we are offering an inclusive Intimate Wedding Package tailored for weddings on Fridays and Sundays in 2021 and 2022. This package has all of the amazing venue benefits of a custom Saturday wedding, but with services from some of our top vendors included…all at a reduced rate!
Check out these blog posts with more helpful tips for selecting your wedding venue and questions to ask on your wedding venue tour!
In addition to booking their wedding venue, couples should also book their wedding planner at the beginning of the wedding planning process.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, hiring a wedding planner was considered an added perk to help take the stress out of wedding planning. Many of our couples who went through the process of planning a wedding in 2020 will tell you how essential having a wedding coordinator was to staying sane during an already stressful time. You want a wedding coordinator by your side to help you navigate communication with vendors, help you create a realistic wedding budget, keep your wedding planning timeline on track, and deal with any unexpected surprises that might pop up during the wedding planning process.
“We booked our wedding venue, the Lightner Museum, and were given a list of approved wedding planners to select from. Lindsay and her team were, of course, on the list and when touring the venue, the Lightner staff kept referencing her as the queen of all things Lightner. SO accurate!
‘I came into wedding planning having event planning experience, but I knew weddings were in a league of their own and I needed support. At first, my husband and I were leaning towards their day-of package but when we realized the type of support we’d receive in their advisory package, we knew that was the perfect option for us. Lindsay and her team were incredibly responsive to the many, MANY questions we had leading up to the big day and always gave you their time and attention. Never did we feel like we were being rushed to end a phone call with a vendor or needed to make a decision, asap. We were guided throughout the entire planning process from securing vendors to managing communication with our guests and everything in between. We talked through every detail with their team on more than one occasion to make sure everything was just right, and they didn’t disappoint! In fact, they exceeded expectations and made some special requests happen that we didn’t think were possible. This is a testament to who they are and how much they care about their clients.
‘They go above and beyond and we’ll never forget how amazing it felt to fully enjoy November 21, 2020, knowing Lindsay and her team were right by our side. You honestly can’t ask for more when it comes to planning one of the most special days of your life in the midst of a pandemic! Thank you, Coastal Celebrations!!”
Emma Betz, Wedding Planner and Event Coordinator at Coastal Celebrations shared this advice:
Our timelines as planners are the master timelines. With this being said, we reach out to every vendor to ensure that everyone’s timeline matches up! This helps not only your vendors, but it also helps our clients visualize their day.
Your planner knows what they are doing! Let them communicate with vendors and worry about the little details so you can enjoy your day! (That’s why you hired them!)
During the early stages of wedding planning, you will also want to select a majority of your primary wedding vendors, including a caterer, photographer, videographer, and decorator/florist. The style, level of service, and options for these wedding vendor categories can vary widely, along with their availability.
Often, couples and their families have a specific idea of what is most important to them when choosing these essential vendors. We recommend booking them in order of importance, as early as possible, to ensure that they are available for your wedding day. Many venues have a preferred vendor list that they request that you choose from, so be sure to obtain this information early on in the wedding planning journey.
Another important to-do is to say ‘yes’ to your dream wedding dress! Wedding dresses can take up to eight to nine months to be designed and delivered. In addition to this, you will need about two months to start alterations. Be sure to contact your local bridal shop to learn more about their specific delivery dates, and how they may have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
When it comes to save-the-dates, you can never give too much notice. Consider sending them out anywhere from six to eight months in advance. If you’re having a destination wedding or if your wedding falls on a holiday, send your save-the-dates even earlier, with at least ten months’ notice. This will give your guests extra time to plan their travel and accommodations. This is a great time to start thinking about ordering your formal wedding invitations as well!
Don’t be shy when it comes to completing your wedding registry. It’s actually a convenience for your guests, as it makes shopping easier for them. We recommend choosing a minimum of two retailers. Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Amazon, and Zola are all great registry options!
Sometimes it can be tough to agree on bridesmaids’ dresses and outfits that suit all body types. This can take time and several visits before anything is decided upon. You’ll want to choose outfits with plenty of time in advance for your bridal party to get accessories and alterations.
Don’t have anyone in mind to officiate your wedding? This is a great time to review the ceremony plans, religious and non-religious traditions, and arrange for any necessary documentation. Don’t forget to discuss custom or pre-written vows.
Many specialty wedding cake designers require long lead times. If you are meeting with your cake designer in person, bring photos and inspiring ideas to your appointment. Some bakeries have been offering Zoom meetings or communicating digitally with couples who are unable to meet in person. Make sure to ask about cake tasting options! Depending on when you will be in town, the bakery can help you figure out the best time to plan your tasting.
Just like wedding venues, popular rehearsal dinner locations can also book up well in advance. Traditionally, the groom’s family are the hosts of the rehearsal dinner. However, modern times mean that other relatives, friends, or even the couple can take on the job of planning the rehearsal.
When it comes time to plan your rehearsal dinner in St. Augustine, The Treasury Venue Collection has got you covered! If you aren’t already hosting your wedding at the Lightner Museum, we offer rehearsal dinners on Mondays through Thursdays, 6 months or less away. If you are hosting your wedding at the Lightner already, our sister property, the Ximenez-Fatio House is an excellent option for rehearsal dinners!
Wedding invitations should be sent out at least 4 months before the wedding. For destination weddings and international guests, we recommend up to six months in advance. You want to include plenty of extra time to receive those late RSVPs and leave some wiggle room for those who need a little more time to make arrangements. Your vendor team will thank you for having a solid number before the wedding!
Many couples are including information about how they and their vendors are approaching COVID-19 precautions in their wedding invitations, or directing guests to their wedding website for more information. It’s important to set expectations for your guests so they can decide if they feel comfortable attending the wedding. For those who are unable to attend, you may also want to look into options for live streaming the wedding ceremony!
If you are planning on doing wedding favors, 4 to 6 months before the wedding is a good time to check this off your to-do list. Personalized gifts like koozies for the bar and sweet treats at the table are always a fun way to surprise and delight your guests! Some couples have opted to forgo favors and contribute to an important cause that they would like to support. It’s also traditional for the couple to give a gift to their bridesmaids and groomsmen. Etsy.com has a wonderful variety of creative gift ideas!
Several months before your wedding, you’ll want to coordinate with your venue, caterer, and potentially your cake designer to do your tastings. Tastings not only offer the opportunity to sample your wedding menu and drink selections; they also allow you time with your vendors to discuss other important planning details and ask questions. These meetings are usually a lot of fun and very productive! With that being said, it’s important that the most important wedding day decision-makers are involved in these meetings.
The Lightner Museum offers complimentary bar tastings for our couples to sample their bar selections and add signature cocktails and specialty bars!
Researching how to obtain your marriage license is one part of the process you don’t want to forget! You typically have to file your marriage license application in the county in which you’ll be getting married, and different states and counties have unique laws and requirements. Make sure you know where to go, what to bring, the cost, and how long the process takes. This website provides some helpful information if you are getting married in the state of Florida. If you’re having a destination wedding, be sure to research those laws and requirements as well.
Creating a seating chart for your wedding reception can be a time-consuming part of the planning process. If you hire a wedding planner, part of their services may include helping you create a wedding venue floor plan and seating chart. Your wedding venue should also be able to give you recommendations for table arrangements that have worked well at past weddings. If you are planning your wedding at the Lightner Museum, make sure to ask your event manager about our tools for assisting you with your wedding floor plan and seating chart.
At 3 months out, we recommend sending an email out to all of your vendors to confirm all of the decisions that you have made with them up to that point. You should also review your ceremony and reception timeline as well as finalize all payment plans and schedules. Your wedding planner will typically create a schedule of vendor delivery and setup times at your venue, along with contact information for all of your vendors.
It’s time for your alterations! Standard wedding dress alterations will begin about 8 weeks before your wedding. Remember to bring your wedding-day shoes and all accessories to your appointment!
Help your stylists get an idea of what you want for your wedding by researching any hairstyles or makeup looks in advance. Try looking on Pinterest, Instagram, or Google for hair and makeup for inspiration!
Write out any final vendor checks in advance. Talk to your wedding planner or a designated individual who will handle any final payments and tips at the end of the reception.
Most venues and vendors ask that you submit your final guest counts two to three weeks prior to the wedding date. Make sure to follow up on any of those missing RSVPs so there aren’t any unexpected surprises on the day of your wedding.
If possible, try to take some additional time off the week before the wedding, especially if you are traveling. Take that time to enjoy time with your family and friends. It’s rare that you’ll have so many people that you love all in one place! We recommend planning out opportunities for guests to meet one another prior to the wedding day, such as a welcome party. The more comfortable guests are with each other, the more fun the wedding day will be!
Head to your venue with your bridal party, ceremony readers, immediate family, and your officiant at the ceremony site to rehearse. Get familiar with the venue, and iron out any last-minute details. This is also the perfect time to give any bridal party or family gifts!
Your big day is here! You’re married! Congratulations! Don’t forget to relax and enjoy the moment. Months and years of planning have led up to this moment!
As a newly engaged couple, your wedding planning timeline in 2021 is going to be unlike any other year. Tatiana Rivera, Owner of GAD Artistry says, “If you find that you love specific vendors’ style, lock them down! The couples in 2020 have moved into 2021, so the vendors you want will be in high demand! If they are the right fit and they have availability, snap them up!” Be diligent and check things off at the appropriate times, but don’t forget to have fun!
Stay tuned as we continue to share more wedding planning tips and all wedding-related information for couples to be!
Related: Read How to plan a wedding at the Lightner Museum here!
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