How to Plan Your Wedding: When To Do What! (Part I)

So you’re engaged… now what? That’s the beginning of the wedding planning process! A friend of The Wedding Lens recently got engaged and was asking questions about time frames. So here we go!

Because engagements take place for different lengths of time, I’m not going to specify how long before the wedding date you should do each action. But this is generally the ORDER of things. Where possible, I’ve linked to other related blog posts on the topic! (And here’s just a list of things to do for wedding planning, if you just want that) Also, be sure to check out our Cheap Wedding Tips and our Green Wedding Tips, both of which have great ideas to help you out during different stages of the planning process!

First Steps

  1. Create a budget! This means taking a list of everything that you know you’ll have to spend money on and deciding how much you can dedicate to each portion. Check out our Guide to Creating a Wedding Budget — which specifies which costs are fixed and which depend on the number of guests.
  2. Pick the wedding party. This seems early in the process right? True! But the wedding party can help you with the tasks that you’ll have to do. Pick early, they’ll help early!
  3. Divide tasks! After reading the rest of this blog post, you’ll get a full picture of everything there is to do: from marriage license to centerpieces.  Once you have that list, divide up the tasks however you see fit.

Things That Shouldn’t Wait

  1. Marriage license.  Every state has different rules on the time frame needed to apply for a license and to get married. Make sure you know what you need to do before you get too close to your wedding date!
  2. Find a venue, date, and officiant. This is sort of circular because you need the venue and the officiant to be available on the same date. But keep in mind that you may have to pick two venues — one for the ceremony and one for the reception. Just be sure they’re both available on the same date! Here’s how to pick a wedding date. Also, make sure you look at how to find a venue AND the questions you need to ask each venue. With officiants, think about whether you will have a religious officiant or a friend. Find out any state requirements if you want a friend or family member to officiate.
  3. Create the guest list. Sometimes it’s hard to limit the guest list, so consider having A lists, B lists, and C lists. Here are our tips for the guest list. Also, be sure to decide whether you want kids to attend or not.
  4. Themes/Styles/Colors. The earlier you select any themes, styles, or colors, the earlier you can get started with some of the other aspects of planning. After all those three aspects will impact the dress selections, the flowers selections, etc. Here’s some help on how to pick your color scheme.
  5. Wedding dress. The wedding dress should be purchased earlier in the planning process because it might need to be fitted several times. Depending on how long your engagement lasts, this should be done ASAP. Plus the bride will want her dress before the bridesmaids get theirs! Here’s how to choose  the right wedding dress and some ideas for colorful wedding dresses.
  6. Save the Date.  The save-the-date (or STD) should tell guests when & where you’re getting married. When should you send the save-the-dates? It depends on when you’re getting married, but generally, send them as soon as possible. If you are ordering save-the-dates that you want to look similar to your invitations, there are companies that give you package deals. Here is a timeline of when to send save-the-dates and when to send invitations. Here are some creative save the date ideas and how to address the save-the-dates.
  7. Order your online photo album from The Wedding Lens. By ordering your online photo album from The Wedding Lens early, you can start telling your guests where to upload photos AND you can include your engagement photos in the album or any other older photos to share your memories with your guests.
  8. Wedding website. Obviously put as much information on here as you can, but here’s what to include on your wedding website.
  9. Find vendors. This means finding vendors for everything you might want. Here is how to find the right vendors for you (and each category that follows links to a blog post that will help you narrow down what will be best for you in that area). Photographer (engagement photos and day of), videographer, florist (selecting flowers), caterer, DJ/band/music, bakery, wedding planner or day-of coordinator. Any other kind of vendors you might want (eg if you want to have wedding entertainment such as a photo booth, cigar bar, or silhouette artist) can usually wait a bit longer in the planning process.

Stuff That Can Wait a Little Bit

  1. Invitations! What goes inside, when to send, how to tell your guests that no kids can come, RSVP cards. Remember, there are specific rules on how to address invitations, so make sure you check those out (yes, there will be a blog post coming!)
  2. Attire: Groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen. Here’s everything related to helping you select wedding attire!
  3. Hair & makeup for the bride and bridesmaids, if you would like.
  4. Rings! Dont forget you both need to exchange rings on the day of the wedding. Here are some green tips on picking the rings.
  5. Decorating: flower arrangement (or alternatives to flower bouquets), centerpieces, plates/napkins/glassware, guestbook, favors, place cards, menu cards, cake toppers, chair rentals/chair covers, other entertainment)
  6. Guest-related: Accomodations, transportation, and out of town bags!
  7. Get your online wedding photo album from The Wedding Lens. If you haven’t done it yet, now is the perfect time in the planning process to get your online wedding photo album from The Wedding Lens! When you share the information on accomodations & transporation with your guests, you can also share the link to the album and remind people to bring their digital cameras to your wedding. Plus people can start uploading old and new memories of you & your fiance(e)!
  8. Menu planning: buffet vs sit-down meal; alcohol – open bar, soft bar, signature drinks. Here are all things food & drink related to help guide you through this!

Final Steps

  1. RSVPs
  2. Ceremony planning: walking down the aisle, vows, readings — and whatever else you want to take place.
  3. Seating chart: who will sit where during the reception? Here’s how to create a seating chart!
  4. Music (song) selections for band or DJ, both during the ceremony and reception.
  5. Remind your guests to bring their cameras to your wedding day so they can capture memories for your online photo album.
  6. Planning the timeline: This means planning the timeline of who arrives where at what time, what order things occur, and who transports what where. It’s meant to be distributed so that everyone is on the same page about what’s going on.
  7. Programs: This lets your guests know what is going to happen & when! Here’s the information on writing your programs.

So that’s everything you have to do…. Next blog post will cover what comes up on the day of and any other last minute things and miscellaneous things you should be aware of! (Like gift registry, thank you cards, wedding insurance, things people forget, staying calm…. all coming up!) 

Good luck! Remember, if you have questions – email me!

~ Natasha

Creative Save-the-Dates!

A few days ago, one of the morning shows featured a Save-The-Date video that had “gone viral.” How funny to see your Save-The-Date on tv, when it’s supposed to only save-the-date for your friends and family! Anyway, it was such a clever video, it got me thinking about all the creative ways you can let people know that they should save that date for your wedding!

Save the Date with a personalized photo! This photo is from The Wedding Lens!

Remember: always include your names, the date, and the location on the STD. If possible, include your wedding website on there too so couples can be updated as needed.

1. Video: As I mentioned above, try sending out a video that you make at home. The one I saw on the morning show went WAY farther than you need to, so don’t use that as an example. (The STD was done was a movie trailer!) Consider just having you & your significant other talking in the camera. Or hold up signs. Or show photos of your favorite spots and include a shot of a card with the STD information on it.

2. One site suggests doing something creative (like using Scrabble letters to spell out the STD information) and then take a photo. Use that as a card that you can mail out.

3. Postcards! There are two ways to do this. a) One way is that you can create your own postcard. Use a photo of yourselves and insert the STD information. Or just provide the STD information. b) The second way is to use regular postcards (perhaps of the location of your wedding?) and write the STD information as the message on the back of the postcard.

4. Take photobooth photos together, while holding the Save the Date information. Then you can either affix it to a postcard, create a postcard from the photos, OR just scan it if you want to send digital STDs.

5. Go digital! In our continuing effort to encourate people to be more eco-friendly with wedding planning, try sending electronic Save-The-Dates! You can do any of the things above and email them. It even saves you postage!

Looking for more information on STDs? Check out our posts on How to Address Save the Dates, When to Send Save-The-Dates and Invitations, More Save the Date Ideas!

Do you have any creative Save-The-Date ideas you would like to share?

~ Natasha

How to Address Save the Dates!

Save the Dates are more casual than the formal invitation — and this, my friends, is always true. STDs (as they’re known) are not traditional, so there’s no formal etiquette for how to go about saving said date. The idea is just that you want to give people a heads up about the upcoming wedding so that they can make plans and arrangements to be there! For that reason, it’s also great if you can send out STDs as early as possible.

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Who to address it to

I just received a Save the Date in the mail that only has my name on it. It made me wonder — does that mean my name will be the only one on the invitation? Hm.

Rest assured there is no requirement for this! The STD need not say “and guest” or name the specific person whose name will appear on the invitation. So my significant other may very well be invited to the actual wedding, but they don’t know him (yet) so he’s not on the STD.

And remember, because it’s not formal, you don’t need to worry about the whole “Dr. and Mr. Joan Clever.” Just address it as you would a letter.

What should the STD say?

Just to be clear, it should specify YOUR NAMES (seems rather straight-forward), the date of the wedding, and city & state of the wedding. It should also say “invitation to follow” just so people realize that this isn’t the formal invitation.

You can also include information for your wedding website so people can find out more as the date approaches! This is helpful if you will post the accomodations on the site.

What should it look like?

Here are some ideas for creative STDs. Remember, there’s no wrong way to STD!

Good luck!

~ Natasha

Wedding Question: Save the Dates with Response & Travel Info

As you know, we accept wedding questions here and via email! Here’s the latest:

I’m going to send out Save the Dates for my destination wedding. In the save the dates I want to send out a little questionare asking who is coming, who is not coming, and who might come. I am also working with a travel agent so I would want to include her in it so people can use her for airfare. So, I would also need to know which airport people would be flying out of. How would I word all of this without sounding crazy? Would I include this along with a stamped envelope in all of the save the dates?

Wow! That’s a lot of information for a “save the date!” There’s a few things you can do with this, so I’ll give you a few ideas and options…. with two quick caveats.

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

First, a “save the date” typically does not include response information; that’s usually saved for an invitation. But I can completely understand why you might want a tentative head count. Just beware that people will change their minds, especially if your wedding is far away.

Second, I hope you know that it isn’t your responsibility to book travel for everyone. Of course, you can give people the travel agent’s name, but don’t book everything for everyone, especially because each person’s schedule will be vastly different, even if they are coming from the same city.

With that in mind, here are some ideas!

Idea #1: A Save the Date, your email address for a response (yes, no, maybe), and the travel agent’s phone number. So, something like:

“Save the Date! Mary and David are getting married on June 5, 2010 in Santa Barbara, California! Please let us know if you can celebrate with us or if you won’t be able to (or if you’re just not sure yet!): For travel arrangements, contact Judy the Travel Agent at 123-456-7890.”

Idea #2: A Save the Date, your email address for a response and travel info (if you want to book everything).

“Save the Date! Mary and David are getting married on June 5, 2010 in Santa Barbara, California! Please let us know if you can celebrate with us or if you won’t be able to (or if you’re just not sure yet!). And let us know where you’re coming from so we can help with your travel arrangements!”

Idea #3: Save the Date with travel agent’s phone number, and a response card. So you would have two things:

“Save the Date! Mary and David are getting married on June 5, 2010 in Santa Barbara, California! For travel arrangements, contact Judy the Travel Agent at 123-456-7890.”

Then, you’d include a separate response card:

“We know your plans might change, but let us know if you think you will be able to celebrate with us! __Yes ___No ___Unsure right now.”

Idea#4: Save the Date with Response Card that gives you the travel info:

“Save the Date! Mary and David are getting married on June 5, 2010 in Santa Barbara, California! Please send back the enclosed response card ASAP so we can help with your travel plans!”

And a reponse card:

“We know your plans might change, but let us know if you think you will be able to celebrate with us! __Yes __No __Unsure right now. We would like to help you with travel arrangements by working with Judy the Travel Agent. Which airport would you be flying out of if you can attend? ___. Thanks! We look forward to celebrating with you next June!”

Remember, if you include a response card, be sure that it is addressed and stamped!

Good luck!

~ Natasha

Want to share pictures of your save the dates, along with photos of all your wedding festivities? Check out online photo albums! Have wedding questions? Email me!

When To Send Save-The-Dates & Invitations

A friend recently received an invitation to a wedding that’s taking place in about 6 weeks. He had forgotten about the save-the-date since it was sent out over a year prior.  Yikes! But it prompted him to ask when these things should be sent out! And here we are…

There are different takes on when to send what — and a lot of it has to do with how much time you have between your engagement and the wedding. For example, if you only have 6 months, then your time frame might be different than if you’re engaged for two years before getting married.


The STD is intended to give your guests enough time to ask for time off work, make any travel arrangements, and (perhaps) budget for their expenses. Obviously if you’re doing a destination wedding, then you should send out the STDs earlier than otherwise.

One site recommends sending the STDs out 4 months before the wedding. That seems a little quick for your guests to plan — though understandable if you are planning to get married quickly.

It’s more ideal if you send the STDs 6 months to 1 year before the wedding so people can plan to be there.

With that in mind, send them as soon as you know the date & location of the wedding. And be sure you send them to the people you KNOW you are inviting! After all, etiquette requires that all people who receive an STD also receive an invitation.

Tip: Once you pick the date, send an email or call the people you really want there so that they have the most notice to plan to be there. It will give you leeway to send the STDs a little later — or to avoid sending them out at all.


The timing for when to send invitations is important because you need to know who is coming! Generally, your venue and catering companies will need to know — and you will need to finish placecards, seating arrangements, etc. 

Because of this, the general rule seems to be that you should send invitations two months before the wedding. Some sites say 6-8 weeks. But that should be your general time frame.

Then you can get responses back about 4 weeks before the wedding — so you can finish up the last bits of planning.  And, just in case you dont hear back from everyone, you have time to track them down & get their responses.

Printing STDs and Invitations

If you choose to print STDs and invitations (as opposed to using an online method), keep in mind how long printing will take. The most formal of invitations will take about 2 months to print, so keep that in mind!

If you’re looking for help on what STDs should say OR some creative ways to do STDs (that don’t require 2 months of printing), look HERE!

And if you’re looking for help on how your invitation should look, you can see real invitation photos here.

Sample Timeframe 

8-14 months before wedding: order STDs (if doing formal printed ones; other forms of STDs – like magnets – might take less time to print)

6-12 months before wedding: send out STDs

4 months before wedding: order invitations

2 months before wedding: send out invitations

1 month before wedding: receive RSVPs

Good luck!

~ Natasha

How to Pick a Wedding Date

You’re getting married! Yay! When?

As if that’s not enough to consider, you want to make sure that high priority friends or family can make that date. That’s maybe the hardest part. Here’s what you should think about in terms of THAT part of it:

  • The only people who have to show up are you & the person you are marrying.
  • Someone you care about won’t be able to make it, regardless of the date you pick. That said, it might be nice if you don’t pick the SAME date another friend is getting married!

Some people have interesting “rules” to follow about picking a date. I’ll list some here, but let me know what you think!

One blog I read said not to pick New Years Eve – for perhaps obvious reasons. But my boyfriend went to a wedding on NYE one year and said it was great. First of all, it gave him something to do. Second, it was fun! Third, everyone could come – and stay late – because of the holiday on New Years Day!

How are you picking your wedding date?

~ Natasha


So you’re getting married and you want your friends and family to come, right?  Well, they have to know 1) that they’re invited and 2) when it is! This is where a save-the-date (STD) comes in. 

When do you send them? As soon as possible! I have a friend who didn’t send out an STD until a couple months before the wedding – which made it really difficult for her friends and family to plan to be there.

Here are a few ideas for STDs – because it really doesn’t matter HOW it comes, so long as it comes!

Do you have creative ideas for STDs? Let us know!

~ Natasha