Part 2: The Ultimate Month-by-Month Wedding Planning Checklist (5 – 1 Months Out)

How to Organize Your Wedding To-Do List and Make it a Memorable Journey Instead of a Daunting Task

5 Months Out

  • Book transportation for your guests
      • Some California wedding venues have parking, others do not. Hint: we have lots of parking at Mountain House Estate. But another question to ask yourself is, do you and your guests plan on drinking? If your answer is yes, you may consider booking transportation for some or all of your guests as a courtesy. Not only is it safer, but your guests will arrive in style (and on time!).
  • Book the newlywed’s transportation
      • Now that your guest’s transportation is accounted for, it’s time to think about the two of you. How do you want to drive off into the sunset? Maybe a limousine, classic car, or a tandem bicycle (if that’s your style). Find transportation that matches your style and budget. Hint: ask your wedding planner or California wedding venue!
  • Book your honeymoon
      • If you’re planning your honeymoon together, now is the time to start. You need to be on the same page about your budget, timeline, travel arrangements and a loose (or rigid if that’s your style) itinerary. We prefer a more relaxed timeline, as long as you both have voiced your “must-haves” and “must-do’s”.  Do you want to visit Thailand’s beaches or Dublin’s main attractions? It is important to be on the same page!
  • Buy or rent the grooms tuxedo
      • Based on how formal or informal your wedding is, the groom will either walk down in a tuxedo or a suit (or whatever his style). 
  • Select the groomsmen attire and schedule fittings
    • Whether you or your hubby are wrangling in and styling all the groomsmen, you’ll need to decide on the style and if everyone is going to match. Relax, you’ve got this.

4 Months Out

  • Begin premarital counseling (and thank us later)
      • Wedding counseling is legit. Therapy is more widely accepted and considered “normal” by societal standards. Wedding planning can be stressful and counseling is here to help. But whether you’re experiencing any new (or old) issues or not, counseling is a great way to prepare yourself for your wedding and future together.
  • Have your final tasting with your caterer
      • Pro tip: bring your wedding planner along with you for your final tasting. They might be able to pay closer attention to the finer details if you’re all heart-eyed or even stressed out from decision-making. 
  • Select your wedding cake
      • Your caterer may provide the wedding cake, but if they don’t or if you have something else in mind that they don’t provide, find a reputable baker. Settle on a look and flavor that both you and your significant other love.
  • Buy wedding bands
    • Your fiance might not even know what wedding bands are. If you budgeted for these, start looking at some together and find a pair that matches your preferences.

3 Months Out

  • Do your hair and makeup trial
      • You want to make sure that your look is perfected for your day. Pro tip: bring your photographer or take photos to see how well your look photographs. 
  • Order (and Send) your Wedding Invitations
      • Make sure you order more invitations than you think you need to account for any mistakes. Make your RSVP system easy for guests and double-check all addresses and names for spelling. Once that hard part is over with and you have the invitations, assemble them and mail them out. 
  • Create your wedding menu/finalize your food
      • Now that you know your wedding caterer’s style from your final tasting, you’re ready to finalize your menu. Whether you’re picking out every little detail or leaving it up to the caterer, now is the time to give your final stamp of approval.
  • Brainstorm guest favors and gift bags
      • It’s not necessary to make favors or gifts. A lot of wedding couples use their photo booth (see next bullet below) as a way for guests to print or save photos as their wedding favors. But if you do want to go above and beyond for your guests, start planning your favors or gift bags now so that you have time to purchase and assemble them without feeling rushed.
  • Book your photo booth rental
    • Many wedding receptions these days have a photo booth. While some California wedding venues, wedding DJs or other wedding vendors may have one, start your research or ask your wedding planner to book a photo booth that matches your style. Note: there are tons of different photo booths now, from ones you carry around to mirrors that take your selfie. Make sure to ask Mountain House Estate about it’s built in photobooth, it’s a fun option that blends the selfie craze with photobooth fun.

2 Months Out

  • Begin brainstorming your vows
      • We put together some wedding vow ideas here and here. Start thinking about what you want to say and more importantly, what you’re comfortable reading out loud in front of your guests. Hint: don’t surprise your fiance with someone that might be potentially embarrassing or shocking for them to hear.
  • Meet with the officiant 
      • Your officiant will help you set the tone for your ceremony. Make sure you’re on the same page as far as expectations. Pro tip: invite them to your rehearsal dinner so they can do a run-through with you.
  • Start crafting any DIY items if your planner isn’t (and if you have any)
      • If you decide to get crafty, don’t wait until the last minute to make your DIY items. That way, if it doesn’t go as planned or you need more materials, you aren’t rushing.  Consider where you should store the items you create, and how they will get to, and from, the wedding venue on the day of your wedding.
  • Send our rehearsal dinner invitations (or send them out in month 3 with wedding invitations)
      • They don’t need to look exactly like your wedding invitations but should look similar. Like your eyebrows: sisters, not twins!  Want to reduce the stress at your rehearsal?  Let people not involved in the actual rehearsal meet you at the dinner location.  Too many cooks in the kitchen tend to stress out the couple and wedding planner.
  • Get your first fitting for your wedding dress
      • Make sure that if any last-minute alterations need to be made, your first fitting is at least 2 months out to allow time for those.
  • Pick up your marriage licenses
  • Buy wedding party gifts
      • If you decided on wedding favors or gifts, buy them now!
  • Do a mock-up with your florist
      • Finalize your reception table setup, centerpiece, and bouquet.
  • Get your song selections to your DJ
      • Any must-haves (or DO NOT PLAY’s) should be submitted to your DJ so that they have time to plan your ceremony and reception music.  Talk to your DJ about requests from the wedding guests, should he play them or not?  What if they are on the ‘do not play’ list?  It’s best to have this covered upfront.
  • Buy all of your small items
    • We’re talkin’ Welcome sign, Guest Book, dancing shoes, garter, toasting flutes, table numbers, cake topper, cake stand, cake knife, guest book, card box, ring-bearer accessories, flower-girl accessories, a cute hanger for your dress, and a garter. Just to name a few. 

1 Month Out

  • Assemble gift bag
    • Get a plan together and maybe some girlfriends to help so that it’s fun, not frustrating.
  • Pay all vendors
    • Don’t let them chase you down! Make sure you meet their payment requirements.
  • Create a seating char
    • If your California wedding venues have Allseated, creating your seating chart should be less of a pain. We do, and you can read about how to use it here.
  • Do a final venue walkthrough
    • Speaking of California wedding venues, when you’re doing your final venue walkthrough, bring your wedding planner and finalize the overall day and any details.
  • Put cash in envelopes for your vendor tips
    • If you plan on tipping any wedding vendors, hand these to your wedding planner to hand out.
  • Break-in your wedding heels (or shoes)
    • You don’t want to rub blisters on your feet on the day of your wedding. Not fun on the dance floor!

Click here to read part 3 to learn about what you should plan on the final week before your wedding, the night before and day of your wedding, and after your wedding

john mountain house estate

About the Author, John Alden

John Alden is a Wine Country Wedding expert and the owner of Mountain House Estate, a Northern California wedding venue located in Cloverdale, Sonoma County. Over the past 5 years, John has tirelessly worked to keep the property in pristine condition and has unmatched expertise about wine country weddings. In his free time, he enjoys working on classic cars in his garage.