Firstly we are thrilled to congratulate you on your engagement! These are exciting times and your stomach is probably filled with that butterfly feeling. As you probably have noticed by now, some of those butterflies are also due to some anxiety about everything that needs to be done. We want to keep your love-flutters afloat and help settle those nerves. Here we bring to you our step-by-step wedding checklist on what needs to be done and when, making sure you don’t miss a single detail.
12-9 Months Before Your Wedding Day
Work out your Budget
Sticking to a budget is an absolute must. Discuss what you want from your wedding and how large a celebration you want to have. Then discuss with your parents what contribution they would be willing to make and then what your remaining contribution will be and get to a final number.
Your venue will take up the largest portion of your budget. Other bigger expenditures being your catering, photographer and videographer, flowers and your wedding attire. Decide which aspects of your wedding are non-negotiable for you as a couple, and be open to negotiating on the rest. Ultimately you don’t want to dig into your investments and you don’t want to start your marriage in debt. There will be many costs you didn’t think of, so make use of an Ultimate Wedding Budget Tool to keep a clear picture of every detail.
Also read our TopTip blog post about Wedding Budgeting.
Draw up your guest list
Drawing up your guest list can be both exciting and daunting. You naturally want to invite just about everyone you and your partner know but unfortunately your budget and venue space will restrict your number of guests.
It is best to do this at the start of your planning journey and keep working on your list, but after establishing your budget. Consider this: Would you prefer a family friendly wedding with all the kids or a more sophisticated adult only celebration? Are you having a Destination Wedding in the Western Cape? That might greatly affect your guest list. Your guests will be the people you share this beautiful day with and they should have importance to either partner or even better – importance to both.
Decide on Wedding Party
Choosing who will be your bridesmaids and groomsmen will depend on what you will expect from them and how large a role they will play in your planning and on the big day. Do you want a very involved wedding party? Or do you want your wedding party to arrive on the big day to offer support and deliver their best toasts? That way they will be blown away along with your guests upon arrival. Remember to take your time with this choice.
Book your Wedding Planner
Know when to ask for help. With busy work schedules, tons to get done and still wanting to have a life for the foreseeable future, it would be a good idea to invest in a wedding planner. Depending on your needs and of course your budget. You can make use of a planner that only oversees certain tasks, an on the day coordinator to make your day go smoothly or a planner that is there helping you from start to finish, guiding your choices to make your budget work for you.
Besides your budget, it’s important to keep in mind that you need a planner whose personality suits you as a couple, one that understands your style and importantly a planner with experience that you can rely on.
Booking your Venue
Booking a venue 12 to 9 months before your wedding means your search will have to start even earlier. Your venue will take a large portion of your budget, so this might be an unnerving choice to make.
Once you have found your ideal venue, it will be much easier to turn it into your envisioned perfect day. There will be conditions that will nudge your decision towards the right place. What is the capacity of the venue, are they available on your preferred date? Most venues offer detailed wedding packages, which will let you know everything that is incuded and excluded.
Engagement Shoot (optional)
This is a totally optional choice. Some of you might love to have a few professional shots taken while other couples may be more camera-shy and avoid this option. However, these photos would be a stunning announcement and perfect for your wedding website – (not to worry we will get to your Wedding Website in a moment.)
Pro tip – have this be your trial shoot with the photographer you might have in mind for your wedding. Perfect! You get to see what your photographer can do and whether you will be comfortable with their presence on your wedding day.
Send out Save the Dates
By now you should have your finalised Guest List, Wedding Date and Venue. This is all you really need to send out your Save the Dates, whether you are having a local- or destination wedding. And now that just about everyone (including grandparents) have smartphones, you can post these instantly and easily on your Wedding Website. Save the Dates are an opportunity to be a bit creative and fun, but make sure those details are clear – especially with a Destination Wedding!
Create your Wedding Website
Now that we have mentioned some of the things to include on your Wedding Website we should get around to actually creating it.
Wedding websites are an excellent tool for your guests to stay updated with everything they need to know.
You should make this personal and unique to you as a couple, customise it with your wedding style/theme, customise the fonts and display your engagement photos. It’s important to keep updating it as your big day is coming up.
Book your Photographer and Videographer
After your wedding is over, the photos and video will be your memories to treasure and share. A professional photographer and videographer might take a considerable portion of your budget, but those photo albums and videos will be priceless to you and your families. It is worth the investment.
Do your research and make sure the photographer blends with your style. Photography is an art and not every artist’s style is necessarily a fit for you. You and your partner will need to be comfortable with your photographer – they will be there for every intimate moment of your day, and photos will, unfortunately, display your discomfort.
Consider a Wedding Videographer to capture the I Do’s, the laughter, the toasts and the celebration. These will be moments you want to relive. The same rules apply to choosing a videographer as to a photographer for your day. Photographers and videographers experienced with weddings are the way to go.
Start Looking at Wedding Dresses
Undeniably the moment every bride has been waiting for! You might already have your perfect dress designed in your head. You might have a Pinterest album crammed with wedding dresses you adore. You might have no idea what you want, not to worry.
Every bride has a style and of course, every bride has something to flaunt and perhaps some parts they’d rather conceal a little. A good design and fit is paramount. You will be in your dress all day, so it has to be comfortable to dance and move in. However, unlike every other day of your life it won’t be a comfort vs style battle. Have both!
8-6 Months Before Your Wedding Day
Book Flights and Accommodation (Wedding Party and Guests)
Establishing the travel arrangements and accommodation early for a Destination Wedding is crucial. Making sure everyone has the correct travel documents and meeting all the requirements will ensure your guests can make it to your big day.
Booking your flights and accommodation for a local wedding is necessary to make sure your wedding party and guests make it to your day, as well as having accommodation to safely stay after a night of celebration for those who won’t be driving home.
Get ahead and research the area near your venue and find hotels to make block bookings at a discount. Airlines also offer discounted prices on groups. See our Top Travel and Honeymoon Companies.
Start Looking at Honeymoon Destinations
They say the wedding is for your loved ones, and your honeymoon is for you. Out of all the planning, this is a choice for you and your partner alone. You don’t have to take anyone else into consideration. This means you can get truly excited together about all your options! Some destinations offer exploration and romantic seclusion for the adventurous. Others offer luxury and leisure. And words will never do picturesque destinations justice, so take a look at our Top 10 Honeymoon Destinations.
Discuss your Style and Book a Florist
The internet is your best friend when establishing a style for the floral design at your wedding. Let your imagination go wild, with beautiful arches, hanging installations or natural materials and grasses combined with flowers. It’s best to meet your potential florist prepared with what you have in mind for your colours and style, using pictures saves you from needing to learn all the floral jargon. They can offer good advice on style choices and guide you through what you can achieve with your budget.
Book a Hiring Company (for any extras not included with your Venue)
Once you have booked your venue and your caterer you will have a clearer picture of what is still needed. This could include tables and chairs, linen, dinnerware, barware, furniture, structures, a dance floor and some kitchen equipment required by your caterer. This all depends on the size and complexity of your wedding and what items your venue includes.
Consult with your various suppliers; like your florist, caterer, venue, DJ / live band to ensure you have included all hiring items. Having an outdoor cocktail hour or reception?
Finalise your Wedding Dress and Grooms Suit
Now that you have picked your dress, make sure alterations have been taken into consideration with the time that there is left. You want it to be absolutely perfect. Complete your bridal ensemble with veil, shoes, jewelry and any other chosen accessories – follow your designer’s advice on what goes with the tones of your dress.
The Groom, will it be a suit or a tuxedo? A well-tailored suit could be what the groom prefers and would also be appropriate for a more informal wedding. While a tuxedo would set the groom apart from the groomsmen and guests and is a must for a formal wedding. This is the one occasion where a tuxedo will not look out of place. Keeping the bride’s dress in mind, after all this needs to be a well-put-together picture as a couple.
Arrange Bridesmaids and Groomsmen Attire
After the bride has finalised her dress the bridesmaid’s dresses can be picked. They have to create an aesthetically cohesive picture alongside the bride and within the wedding, it will set them apart from the guests. This can lead to a struggle when you have 5 bridesmaids each having a different body shape and preferences. We know you want to avoid having this be a challenge and instead leave your bridesmaids feeling comfortable and beautiful!
Groomsmen suits need to match the formality of your wedding. As with bridesmaids each groomsman will have a different body shape and style preference. They need not match for a more informal wedding, belts and ties are an excellent way to show their personality. While more formal weddings would call on a more uniformed look.
Book your Marriage Officiant
Whether you are having a religious or a secular ceremony, you will need someone to officiate your marriage. Whoever you choose, they will play a very important role on your big day and lead the whole ceremony. It will be important to have an officiant that matches well with you as a couple, who is comfortable with public speaking and preferably someone who has experience.
In a religious ceremony you will be limited to the type of officiant you can choose however not limited to a single person. With a secular ceremony you will not be restricted to any particular officiant, and will have other options available to you.
Book your Hair and Make Up Artist
For most brides-to-be this is a very personal decision – to pick just the right artist who understands you, your vision and your style. Someone who will spend quite a few intimate hours with you and your bridal party on your wedding day. Take your time, do your research to ensure you make the right match. Book hair and make up for your bridesmaids and moms too (give them the option to have their hair and make up done on the day).
Get all your Paperwork in Order
There is quite a lot of paperwork that will go into your wedding day. There will be deposits and contracts with your suppliers to get in order. Along with paperwork regarding your venue.
You will also need to register your marriage in advance, which will then be made official on the day. You will also have further legalities to take care of and they come at a fee. There are different sets of rules regarding internationals having a Destination Wedding, and along with them there are VISAs and passports to acquire well in advance.
Book your Caterer (If not included with Venue)
Plenty of your guests are looking forward to a spectacular meal and you naturally would not want to disappoint.
Your wedding caterer will not simply cook the food. Depending on your caterer it could include coordinating rentals required, providing well-trained waitering staff, serving and cleanup. You need to do your due diligence when choosing a caterer.
Decide on your budget and serving style first. Full-service meal or perhaps food stations. Speak to your caterer about your budget and serving preference, amount of guests and culinary preferences. You can leave it in their professional hands to create a menu perfectly suited for you.
Book Bar and Staff (if not included with Venue)
Most couples planning a wedding often have this one vital question from guests; “Will it be an open bar?” Now while everyone enjoys a good lively celebration, bar options are again down to your preference as a couple and the formality of your wedding. Considering the many options from cocktail lounges, to wine options, to mixologists – and many more, you can really have fun with these choices. There are also plenty of arrangements you might not be aware of so communication between the venue and suppliers are critical to have your day go off problem-free with everything that is needed on hand.
5-2 Months Before Your Wedding Day
Find your Stationery Designer
Some ambitious brides might consider DIY’ing this. And as money-saving and personalised this thought may seem, unless you are a graphic designer with a lot of available time this might not be a wise choice. Let a professional take care of it. Not only will they help with the design choices and process they handle the stress for you. As well as the details you may miss, wedding stationery is so much more than just save the dates and invitations. Your designer needs to suit your aesthetic and getting along well with them will naturally take care of trust and communication. With their wealth of knowledge, you can sit back a little as they introduce you to all the exciting options. From the style, to paper and so much more!
Finalise your Gift Registry (optional)
Some couples may opt for a gift registry. This mostly ensures that your loved ones don’t purchase duplicate gifts, or you and your partner could end up with 10 sheet sets or 5 french presses. You can create an in-store registry or an online one, and your wedding website would be the acceptable place to display it. Think home decor or kitchenware to set you and your partner up for your life together. Providing a price range that your guests can choose from according to their pockets.
Design and Send out your Formal Invitations
Working with your stationery designer create your formal invites and get them sent. If you are having a destination wedding it would be better to do this sooner than a local wedding. Your designer will help choose options that represent you well as a couple. Remember most of your guests will save this invite as a keepsake of your big day, so make it memorable and beautiful. It will provide all the details of your wedding, including the dress code and whether you are having an adult-only ceremony. As well as a separate RSVP card to send back. Remember to add an option here for your guests to mention any dietary requirements – and when you receive them back you have an accurate headcount and dietary outlines to hand over to your caterer. Many couples choose to go “paperless” and send out e-vites and create wedding website – especially if they plan a destination wedding.
Finalise your Menu
When finalising your menu with your caterer there are a few other things to keep in mind other than your budget. Consider your guests, some of your guests might be adventurous foodies while others are more reserved and traditional in taste. Consider having a cocktail hour with canapés, providing some variety and a bite to have alongside the first libations. Also, consider the season, seasonal ingredients ensure both freshness and affordability.
Book your Cake
You and your partner may already have a general idea of what you like and dislike. The cake cutting is a memorable moment on your wedding day and you want it to not only look jaw-dropping upon reveal but also taste delicious. It should fit with the style and size of your wedding.
Make sure to book your cake in advance to avoid disappointment and rush charges. Go to your consultation prepared with pictures of what you had in mind and what the budget constraints are. They will guide your choices, from design to flavour to decor possibilities. Add a beautiful stand and toppers for a truly impressive wedding cake. There are so many exciting options!
Do your Hair and Make Up Trial
Take care to book your hair and make up trial as soon as you know what you will be wearing. This will be the moment you get a real glimpse into how beautiful you will look and feel on your big day. Go armed with photos of what you’d like, a picture of your dress and if you can take your veil along. Turn it into a photoshoot, not only will it be fun but it will prove to be helpful to have a visual indicator.
If you are having a destination wedding arrange a trial in advance for when you arrive at your destination before your wedding day. Even if it’s a week or a couple of days before the wedding this is important to do to ensure that your artist and you have made all the important decisions, discussed a timeline and all other arrangements before the big day.
If a trial is not possible have your “home” stylist document step by step instructions and photos for your look down to every last hairpin to make sure your destination stylist gets it right on the day.
Arrange Bridal Shower and Bachelorette
To keep this a surprise and follow tradition have your bridesmaids take the brunt of this planning but coordinate it along with your maid of honour. Decide on a budget, date and a location that works for all your besties and the ladies of your families. Consider having your Bridal Shower in the morning and your Bachelorette later that evening. That way you can have a relaxing Champagne Brunch in the Winelands with all the ladies and then have a more daring hen night with your bridesmaids that evening. Every bride is different and whether you are tame or a bit on the wild side your maid of honour knows you well enough to anticipate what you love and would rather leave. There are so many locations and activities around Cape Town, only your imagination will limit you!
Finalise and Buy Rings
Your engagement ring is what started your planning journey, and now you and your partner get to decide on your wedding rings! These days you have just plenty more options, in stones, designs and metals. So this needs to suit your style and lifestyle, keeping in mind that you want to wear this piece for the next few decades. Or until you exchange it for a new piece on a special anniversary! You might want a ring that you wear alongside your engagement ring, but it need not match your engagement ring and it need not match your partner’s ring. You can involve each other in this choice.
Book your Honeymoon
While looking for a Honeymoon Destination relying solely on online searches will serve you well. But when booking your honeymoon it is a wise choice to involve a travel professional. They can help you pick the perfect destination, do all the planning and research and provide you with service while on your trip. Have a look at our Top Travel and Honeymoon Companies. Travel companies can also ensure you have all your correct documents and bookings arranged on time and correctly and make sure you are well aware of any hidden costs.
Finalise your Guest List and Dietary Requirements
By now you have hopefully received all your RSVPS, making this a reasonably smooth exercise. Work through your RSVPS and compile a tallied dietary requirement list for your caterer. You also can indicate these meals on your guests’ table place cards with (V) for Vegan or (G F) for Gluten Free, to ensure these guests are served their required meals without confusion.
You may want to ask your caterer for a list of all the ingredients they will be using, in the event one of your guests may need to check there aren’t any hidden ingredients that may cause them harm.
Book Musicians and DJ (and any other entertainment)
You may want to book live musicians for your ceremony. Make sure they suit your wedding style. Going with Wedding Musicians would be a good choice as they have experience with weddings and know the do’s and don’ts with decorum and dress. Go see them perform ahead of time if you can and make sure they are able to handle some variety.
A professional Wedding DJ can make your wedding day unforgettable. “That was the best wedding I have ever had the pleasure of attending” : is what you want to hear from every guest. A professional can read a crowd and adjust according to your guests with a large variety of genres from all the ages, for all ages. You may also consider having your DJ announce your first dance and the cake cutting. They will be there for the whole event so again it will be good to have someone you and your partner click with well.
If you have the budget and venue space consider hiring other Wedding Entertainment or Live Band. Keeping your guests from growing bored and providing unexpected moments. There are many great entertainers around Cape Town – which is undeniably the artistic hub of South Africa. From fire dancers, harp players and marimba bands to other more out of the box entertainment options. No matter how acquired your taste as a couple, there is something for you!
Book AV Company (if needed)
You may consider booking an Audio Visual Company for your wedding. They can bring in display screens, beautiful customised lighting solutions and take care of your audio needs. Consider booking a separate company specialising in these solutions in the event that these needs can not be met by your venue, decor and DJ. These companies specialise in setting an atmosphere and mood for your specific needs and may well be worth it.
Book Private Dance Lessons
Your opening dance on your wedding night is one of the highlights of the wedding reception, don’t let this moment fall flat! A few lessons with a dance instructor will help you make this a very special moment for you and your guests. Weekly dance lessons are also a great way to connect and focus on just the two of you in the lead up to the wedding day.
Create a Wedding Day Timeline
There is a standard flow of events on your big day. And these will be altered according to your specific requirements. Taking into consideration that your photographer needs to be there to capture every moment, giving them plenty of your scheduled time to capture all the moments is crucial, leading from getting your hair and makeup done through to the ceremony, scenic shots of the newlyweds after the ceremony and into the reception. Your planner will know exactly how to create this timeline with you to make everything flow smoothly; from arrival to your grand exit.
Book Wedding Day Transport needed (Couple and Guests)
Did you have the romantic picture in mind of a grand entrance in a vintage car. Perhaps the fairytale horse and carriage? Riding on a Vespa and waving“Ciao!”? There are many options. You could also perhaps consider coordinated rides for your Wedding Party to arrive in to match your style.
If you are having a destination you should definitely arrange transport from the hotel to the venue. If you made a block booking at a hotel they may offer a shuttle service for your guests. And be sure to make arrangements for transport back to the hotel from the venue.
You may also need to consider transport from the airport to the hotel, be sure to keep your guests posted on your Wedding Website!
Book Spa Treatments
Now that the planning is nearing an end you can book yourself some spa treatments to relax before the big day and of course look your very best. Going for a facial, mani and pedi, and a wax to look your best on the big day, why not book a few extras?
Book a couples full body massage for the two of you, to unwind a day or two before your wedding. There are many world-class spas in Cape Town and the surrounding areas, it will be a breeze to find one that suits your needs.
1 Month Before Your Wedding Day
Finalise On the Day Stationery
Besides your invitations and RSVPs you will need on the day wedding stationery. Your stationery designer will make sure you don’t miss any details, and will also help keep everything within budget. From your ceremony booklet to your wedding programme. A welcoming sign to welcome your guests at your reception, seating and table plan, place cards and the list goes on. So many aspects to cover and of course a consistent style will complete the picture.
Arrange Guest Favours (optional)
Guest favours are both a lovely gesture and a momento, if your budget allows for it. It is a great way to thank guests for sharing in this big event with you and your partner. There are tons of ideas out there, and some have become a tad over done, so pick something that represents you as a couple as well as an item that won’t just sit in the back of your guests’ cupboards.
Arrange Wedding Party Gifts (optional)
A thank you gift for your Wedding Party is not a must but a kind gesture. Afterall your bridesmaids offered you support and arranged your bridal shower and bachelorette, probably footing a lot of the bill. Perhaps a personalised bathrobe, scented candles; anything to pamper them and make them feel feminine and beautiful. Don’t forget about the groomsmen, consider a whisky tumbler, a sleek pocket flask – essentially anything to aid in unwinding them after all the support.
Meet with Photographer and Videographer (if possible)
If you can, do! Meeting in person makes communicating ideas better and faster with no pauses between emails. Get clarity on what you want from them and ask them how they will operate during your big day. Come prepared with a list of questions to make good use of your consultation time.
Compile list of Family and Bridal Party Photos
Planning ahead just makes everything run smoother on the day. Consider the configuration of how many photos you want of whom and where. Making this list and handing it to your photographer gives them a clear plan on what they need to fulfill and also gives them an indication of fees to charge. And your on the day coordinator or your wedding planner also needs to get a copy of this list to incorporate the time needed for all the photos within your timeline.
Decide on your Special Songs
Two most important choices – Your ceremony walk-in and your first dance songs.
Your walk-in song will be the moment when the day’s events really settle in for you. Your wedding day is finally here! Important choice so take your time, you want it to build the suspense and be romantic and emotional as you walk towards your partner.
And your first dance song will forever be “Your song” as a couple. Some couples already immediately have one in mind from their first date or kiss. And others may need to take time on choosing their perfect song.
Finalise all Payments
Finalise all your suppliers and vendors fees along with any outstanding charges. Your planner would have kept a record of all things financial. There are often restrictions on payment, very few suppliers accept credit cards and if you are having a destination wedding there could be more complications. We will do a more indepth piece and unpack this for you soon.
2 Weeks Before Your Wedding Day
Write your Vows and Toasts
Your wedding vows will be a beautiful intimate moment during your ceremony. When expressing your love and commitment to one another you might opt to follow traditional vows as discussed with your wedding officiant. Or express this in your own words. It should suit the two of you and how special your relationship is. Surround yourself with memories of all the times you’ve had together for inspiration.
You might also want to prepare a toast to thank your parents, guests and everyone else involved for making the day possible and for being a part of your journey.
Brief your MC
Whomever you choose to MC your wedding make sure they are comfortable with speaking publicly and are well informed on the day’s timeline. They will be the guiding voice for your guests on what is happening when.
Pick Up Dress and Suit
Final Meeting with Planner
This is an important final meeting for you as a couple, ask all your last lingering questions. Make sure you are in the loop with every last detail and verify with your planner that you can now breathe and that it is in their expert hands.
1 Week Before
You have made it to the final week before your Wedding Day! Congratulations on all the hard work you have put in and we are sure you can no longer wait for the day to arrive. Here are the last few things you should get done this week:
Ensure Service Providers receive detailed Timeline and Floor Plan
Pick up On the Day Stationery
Rehearsal Dinner (optional)
Now go have your spa treatments, unwind with your partner and look forward to the start of a new beginning!
We hope that you have found this article valuable. Click below to download a printable version of The Ultimate Wedding Checklist.