By Daniel W.K. Lee
Originally published on Advocate.com July 01 2013 4:00 AM ET
16-12 MONTHS TO GO
Create a wedding binder
Centralize all of your wedding inspirations — from floral arrangements to menu options — as well as guest lists, contacts, and budget info in one place to reduce scrambling when looking for essential details later. Chances are if you’re organized, your wedding will be too.
Build a budget
Though it’s likely the most dreaded part of the planning process, unless you’re swimming in gold coins like Scrooge McDuck, a budget is fundamental to keeping the wedding affordable. On prioritizing expenses, Brad Malow, a real estate agent and founder of BuyingNYC.com, who married his husband last year, notes, “You will want to sit down with your partner before getting anyone else involved and discuss why you’re having this wedding and how you both envision the day. For example, we weren’t keen on a big flowery event but wanted the most amazing food. Right off the bat, we started to gauge the areas where we were OK spending more money.”
Hire a wedding planner, if you like
There are many good reasons to hire a planner, but above all, finding a planner who is willing to advocate or “come out” on your behalf to vendors is critical, says Bernadette Coveney Smith, whose company, 14 Stories, specializes in planning same-sex weddings. She emphasizes the importance of finding a planner who is open-minded and isn’t bound by preconceived ideas of what happens at a “real wedding.”
Name your party and people
Maid/matron/man of honor, best man/woman/person, bridesmaids, groomsmen — decide on your wedding party sooner rather than later to get all of the wonder and chatter out of the way. Make your guest list (remember your budget!) and book an officiant.
Reserve your dates and venues
Will you need different locations (and days?) for the ceremony, reception, or other rituals? Have you considered travel logistics between sites? If you and your betrothed have decided to have a destination wedding, it’s considerate to let your guests know far in advance so they can make proper arrangements.
8 MONTHS TO GO
Hire the photographer & videographer
Even if their names come recommended to you, review their portfolios and reels to confirm that what you see is what you like. Make sure they are willing to get the shots you want.
It is your duty to test-drive the entertainment you want at your wedding, so attend band gigs, DJ parties, etc. before hiring the talent. If you intend to have more unorthodox acts, you will need to double-check with your venue to make sure that they can accommodate production needs.
Choose the caterers
Maybe your wife- or husband-to-be’s family is entirely vegan, while your own thinks the parsley garnishing a steak is enough vegetable on the plate. Hire a caterer that can address your menu needs to your satisfaction.
After all that hair-pulling deliberation, now’s the time to purchase the wedding dress(es), suits, or tuxedos. Get any custom-made pieces started, especially if your wedding has multiple rituals and requires different garments. Schedule several fittings, with the last one a month before the big day.
Arrange multiple accommodations at different budgets to give your guests options — the closer to the reception and ceremony venues, the better. David Lopez, general manager of the Out NYC, a gay hotel in New York, has the following booking tip: “The best deals come from picking up your phone and booking with us directly instead of doing it online.”
6 MONTHS TO GO
Send save-the-date cards
Kerry Amidon of OutVite.com, an online supplier of customized invitations, announcements, stationery, and holiday cards for the LGBT community, notes that save-the-date cards can be sent “six months to a year before the wedding date, and are invaluable if you plan to invite long-distance guests or if your wedding is planned for a popular vacation time.”
Finalize the florist and flowers
“Bring pictures of the look you want to achieve,” recommends lesbian florist Jessy Wolvek of Fleurs NYC. That said, flowers are seasonal, so don’t expect peonies (which bloom in spring) for a fall wedding. And if your budget is about the essentials, Wolvek says you need “two arrangements for the ceremony that can be reused for the dinner, personal flowers for the wedding party, centerpieces for the tables, a large piece for your escort cards that should be used in the cocktail hour, and only votive candles on the cocktail tables. No one sees small pieces in a large room — better to use a large piece during cocktails with tons of candlelight.”
Begin honeymoon preparations
Before you make your honeymoon destination wish list, is your passport is up-to-date? After you’ve made your short list, research visa requirements and recommended immunizations.
Hire transportation (limos, town cars, etc.), address lighting needs and extra seating, book outdoor toilets and other equipment if necessary.
3 MONTHS TO GO
Order the wedding cake
The biggest mistake couples can make with their wedding cake is not allowing enough time to get their dream confection created, says gay pastry chef Benny Rivera, owner of New York’s City Cakes. “There are certain designs that will require several days and even weeks of handmade sugar work,” he says. And don’t be afraid to buck tradition — Rivera notes that many of the gay wedding cakes he has done have not been the traditional pretty white cake: “Most of them are based on an idea the couple presents. Sometimes it reflects how they met, the places they have been, what represents them, or even makes fun of them.”
Choose hair and makeup
Make appointments with all of your candidates and document the results with a digital camera. Decide which was best while considering your budget, and book them.
Create a day-of event schedule
Once you’ve finalized all of the elements of your ceremony and reception, including details like who is giving which toast and when the wedding cake will be cut, give a copy of this first-draft schedule to all vendors so they get an idea of what the day is going to look like, and make adjustments according to their feedback.
This will allow sufficient time for sizing and engraving.
Send out invitations
“Invitations should be mailed three months in advance, and the RSVP date is usually set one month prior to the event date,” says Amidon. Moreover, coordinating stationery elements with the wedding décor is the trend: “With a color scheme, a repeating motif, or theme carried through from the save-the-date to the thank-you notes, each wedding should be unique and the stationery should reflect the couple and, in effect, brand their event. Recently, we have seen this branding extend to the event décor as wall art, pillows and tabletop accessories, [which] adds to the mood of the day.”
2 MONTHS TO GO
Follow up with vendors
Have a walk-through with photographer and discuss the desired shots; deliver wish list of songs to your band or DJ.
1 MONTH TO GO
Confirm guest status
Review RSVPs and call those who have yet to respond.
Procure marriage license
Depending on where you live, this may or may not be necessary, but if you are applying for one, get multiple copies!
Draw the table layout on a large poster board and write names on small sticky notes so you can rearrange people at will until the arrangement is satisfactory.
Purchase wedding party gifts
Give these ample thought, consideration and time, especially if you are getting anything personalized. Present them at the rehearsal dinner.
1 WEEK OR LESS TO GO
Touch base with vendors
Follow up with all vendors, particularly on arrival times for hair and makeup artists; send final guest list to caterer. Reconfirm! Reconfirm! Reconfirm!
Arrange final vendor payments
Cut checks and place tips in separate envelopes for each vendor. Try to pay as many vendors as you can before the day of the wedding, so money is the last thing you need to think about.
Delegate wedding day tasks
Put your wedding party to use! Assign different members as point people for each vendor; this way, all of the pressure is not on any one person.
Make a wedding party cheat sheet
Create and distribute a contact list for everyone in the wedding party that includes their delegated day-of tasks so everyone knows who can address which concerns.
THE BIG DAY
Enjoy! You worked hard for this! Congrats!