We’ve all had that nightmare – the one where you’re about to walk down the aisle and you realise you don’t have your dress – or your groom! Weddings are very hard work, and no matter what kind of wedding you’re having, there’s a lot to remember. If you’re having a totally hand-made wedding at a blank canvas venue, there’s everything to remember.
About a month beforehand that nagging “what have I forgotten?” feeling kicks in – you become convinced you’ll show up on the day to find nobody has any cutlery, there’s no toilet paper, you’ve left your something blue at home, or that something absolutely essential is missing. In fact, I’ll let you in on a secret: we… *hangs head in shame* forgot to get wedding rings. That situation has now been rectified, but those are the kind of big whoopsies you really do want to avoid! So how on earth do you make sure that you haven’t forgotten something?
Detailed weddings take a lot of thought – image © Cotton Candy Wedding Photography
How to make a wedding check list
A check list is absolutely essential. You can’t possibly expect to store everything in your head! So here’s our step-by-step guide to making a fool-proof check-list for the final four weeks of your wedding planning. Ask yourself the following questions at each turn and you’re much more likely to turn up prepared – and if I’ve forgotten anything please do yell at me and I’ll include it.
Start by going through each part of the wedding in your head. I mean each and every part from before the wedding to the very last dance. There are lots of little things you may have imagined you’ll have – that doesn’t mean you’ll have them – we have so many “we’ll deal with it later” items that suddenly we need to source:
Pre-wedding beauty and grooming
♥ This may sound odd, but think of each body part from head to toe – for example – start with your hair… had you always imagined you’d have it dyed, deep conditioned, cut or anything else before your wedding? What about your eyebrows? Did you want to wax or thread them? Did you intend to have your legs waxed? Have you always dreamed of a pre-wedding facial? Sometimes we just assume things will happen before our wedding day and we forget to schedule them in at the last minute. You don’t need treatments to look beautiful – but if you have your heart set on them, figure out exactly how long before the wedding you need to schedule each treatment and get on that early before things book up.
Top tip – if you’re having a treatment you’ve never had before, make sure you test it a reasonable amount of time before the wedding. That expensive face mask you’ve been saving could cause your skin to flare up – if that’s the case you want to find out sooner rather than later. The day before your wedding is not the time to dye your hair for the first time, have your first ever fake tan or any other beauty treatments that have the potential to go wrong.
♥ Is all the legal paperwork sorted? Your registry office / religious officiant should guide you through this process, but if you’re changing your name and going on honeymoon straight after your wedding, you’ll need to apply for a new passport in advance of the wedding and if you’re travelling to the States you may need to wait a few days.
♥ Check your contracts for final payment dates for all of your suppliers so you know exactly when you need to hand over your cash.
♥ Make sure your electrical equipment is PAT tested (if the venue requires it) that you have wedding insurance, that your band has public liability insurance etc.
♥ Make a list of all your suppliers and guests and their contact details, as well as a list of back-up local suppliers should any disasters occur on the day.
♥ Are you having any hymns or readings that your guests need to join in as part of your ceremony? Are you having a religious ceremony that your non-religious guests might not be able to follow? You may well need to make a little brochure or hand out (or have your stationer make one) that explains things to them.
♥ Do you have two separate places for the bridal party and the groom and groomsmen/ushers to get ready?
♥ If you’re having a registrar, you’ll need to meet them half an hour before the wedding at your venue – will you be able to do so without being seen? You’ll need to organise the ushers to divert guests as you arrive. If you’re not having wedding cars, make sure you have a taxi booked far enough in advance and a back-up car to take you should it arrive late – account for everyone, not just you!
♥ Do you have an emergency kit? Here’s everything you could ever need in one blog post!
♥ Make sure you work out a schedule with your hair and make-up artists before the big day – especially if you have a lot of bridesmaids to cater for! They may need to arrive earlier than you might expect.
♥ Who will the photographer be taking pictures of? If you only have one photographer they may need to run back and forward between two places or you might prefer them to just take preparation pictures of the bride.
♥ Make sure everything you need to get ready is delivered to the right address and that it’s accounted for – for example the bouquets will need to be easy to find before the ceremony.
♥ If you have people styling the venue for you, work out a proper styling schedule and plan area by area beforehand and that they have everything they need.
Don’t forget your bouquet – image © Carolyn Scott Photography full feature here
It’s important to have a short ceremony rehearsal in the days preceding the wedding to make sure you haven’t left anything out and that everyone knows what’s happening – but here’s a quick list of things to think about:
♥ In which order will you be walking down the aisle? Make sure everyone knows where they’re supposed to be – and that you know your cue to enter.
♥ Are you having ceremony music? If so do you need another amplifier? A laptop? A CD player? A musician? Sometimes we assume we’re walking down the aisle to a certain song but forget to organise how that’s actually happening. If so that equipment may need to be tested and accounted for.
♥ Which decorations will you use for the ceremony area? Can flowers be moved from the ceremony to the reception? Is there an area of the room you’ve always wanted to cover or decorate? Now is the time to mentally look around the room and think about what you may have forgotten.
♥ It’s assumed the best man will have the rings – make sure someone gives them to him and that he keeps hold of them! (Oh and it’s helpful to get rings in the first place too – *blush*)
♥ If you’re having a civil ceremony, you’ll need a table, possibly some extras like a jug of water and glasses and some chairs for the registrar and the signing of the register. It’s always good to check with your venue and with the registry office exactly what they’re expecting.
♥ Are you having a religious ceremony or blessing? Do you need anything extra for that? For example, for our quasi-Jewish wedding, John and I will need a chuppah (canopy), a ketubah (marriage contract) a well-wrapped glass to smash, the knowledge of how to safely wrap said glass!
♥ If you need to move things around or clear areas, are there people available to do that and have they been briefed?
♥ Every area ask yourself if there’s enough of everything for everyone – chairs / tables / glasses etc.
♥ Have you got platforms for everything – for example, a table for the cake, a table for drinks etc. make sure you account for everything that needs to be elevated.
♥ Is there someone to gather the necessary family members and friends for formal photos?
♥ Do you have a list of must-have shots for the photographer?
Timings / arrivals and access
♥ Do you have a list of when all your suppliers arrive? For example our band arrives towards the evening – how can we clear the space for them to set up? Who will show them where to go? Who should they contact?
♥ If you’re having something big and heavy like a marquee or a photo booth, make sure they have access to the area they need to get to – at least as close as you can. A venue visit with vendors is always useful.
♥ I’ve written a whole separate article on what to do if you’re self catering your wedding, but even if you’re not it’s worth going through a check list with your caterers and venue to make sure nothing has been forgotten.
♥ It’s really helped me to box up my decorations room by room – that way when we get there, everything’s ready to go and in order so it will speed up the whole process of dressing the venue.
♥ Do you have any decorations that need to be hung high? Do you have a large ladder / someone experienced / a pulley for things like bunting and string lights?
♥ After the party, someone will need to be on hand to clear up! Make sure it’s not you – no bride should have to clean the mess up the morning after!
Because each wedding is so unique you’ll really need to make your own list, but I hope this helps in getting you started! If you’re well organised and you think everything through there’s no reason to worry! Good luck!