The ideal time line 12-16 MONTHS BEFORE • Start a wedding folder or binder. Begin leafing through bridal, life- style, fashion, gardening, design and food magazines for inspiration. • Work out your budget. Deter- mine how much you have to spend, based on your families’ contributions and your own. • Pick your wedding party. As soon as you’re engaged, people will start wondering who’s in. • Start the guest list. Make a head count database to use throughout your planning process, with columns for contact info, RSVPs, gifts and any other relevant information. • Hire a planner, if desired. A planner or a coordinator for the day of will have relationships with — and insights about — vendors. • Reserve your date and venues. Decide whether to have separate locations for the ceremony and the reception, factoring in travel time between the two places. • Book your officiant. • Research photographers, bands, florists and caterers. Keep their con- tact information in your binder. • Throw an engagement party, if you wish. But remember that your invitees should be on your wedding guest list as well. • Hire the photographer and vid- eographer. No need to talk specifics yet, but be sure that the people you hire are open to doing the shots that you want. • Book the entertainment. Attend gigs of potential acts to see how they perform in front of audiences, then reserve your favorite. • Meet caterers. If your wedding venue doesn’t offer its own catering service, look for one and hire the service this month or early next. • Purchase a dress. You’ll need to schedule time for at least three fittings. Veil shopping can be post- poned for another two or three months. Remember you want the dress to arrive in plenty of time for alterations and bridal portraits. • Reserve a block of hotel rooms for out-of-town guests. Pick three hotels at different price points close to the reception venue. • Register. Sign up at a minimum of three retailers. • Launch a wedding website. Cre- ate your personal page through a free provider such as weddingchan- nel.com. Note the date of the wed- ding, travel information and accom- modations. Then send the link to invitees. • Select and purchase invitations. Hire a calligrapher, if desired. Ad- dressing cards is time-consuming, so you will need to budget accordingly. • Start planning a honeymoon. Make sure that your passports are up-to-date and schedule doctors’ appointments for any shots you may need. • Shop for bridesmaids’ dresses. Allow at least six months for the dresses to be ordered and sized. • Meet with the officiant. Map out the ceremony and confirm that you have all the official documents for the wedding. (These vary by county and religion.) • Send save-the-date cards to let people know when the wedding is so they can make arrangements to attend. • Reserve structural electrical necessities. Book portable toilets for outdoor events, extra chairs if you need them, lighting components and so on. • Book a florist. Florists can serve multiple clients on one day, which is why you can wait a little longer to engage one. Plus, at this point, you’ll be firm on what your wedding palette will be. • Arrange transportation. Con- sider limos, minibuses, trolleys and town cars. But know that low-to-the- ground limos can make entries and exits dicey if you’re wearing a fitted gown. • Start composing a day-of timeline. Draw up a schedule of the event and slot in each component (the cake-cutting, first dance, etc.) EIGHT TO 10 MONTHS BEFORE SEVEN TO SIX MONTHS BEFORE FIVE TO FOUR MONTHS BEFORE • Select and order the cake. Some bakers require a long lead time. At- tend several tastings before commit- ting to any baker. • Send your guest list to the host of the shower. Provided you, ahem, know about the shower. • Schedule hair and makeup art- ists. Make a few appointments with local experts to try them out. Snap a 6 Dream Weddings photo at each so you can compare results. • Send your guest list to the host of the shower. Provided you, ahem, know about the shower.