Ask The Experts: These Are the Things You Absolutely Cannot Leave to the Last Minute When Planning Your Wedding

Planning a wedding is a thrilling journey full of surprises and excitement. But amidst the commotion, it’s easy to overlook the importance of early preparation. Procrastination can set you up for unnecessary stress and last-minute chaos that spoils not just your wedding day but the weeks of blissful engagement leading up to it.
Some tasks must wait until the final stretch, like finalizing the seating chart based on RSVPs or delivering welcome bags to the room block. But most wedding to-dos can and should be addressed long before your wedding week to ensure your big day unfolds seamlessly.
From securing your dream team to creating backup plans, here are eight things you don’t want to delay.

These Are the Things You Absolutely Cannot Leave to the Last Minute When Planning Your Wedding

By Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

photo by  Hamish Irvine – full wedding here 

Booking your venue and vendors

There’s no wedding without a venue and a team of professionals to bring it all together! Booking your venue and building your vendor team is one of the most critical aspects of wedding planning, and it’s best to prioritize this step as soon as possible.
“The wedding industry is filled with highly talented, creative people in small businesses,” says Vijay Goel of Bite Catering Couture. “The creative excellence that comes with it is balanced by the fact that many can only book one event on any given date.”

While the venue is often the most significant selection, consider all your key vendors. If you have specific wedding pros in mind, “make sure you book your favourites as soon as you have set the date,” Goel encourages.
It’s normal for wedding vendors to book 12-18 months in advance. Pushing this step off could mean missing out on your preferred choices, adding unnecessary stress to the planning process.

photo by This and That Photography – full wedding here 

Inviting guests and counting RSVPs

Wedding guests are a fundamental part of your big day, and a final head count impacts many day-of elements. Sending invitations early provides guests with time to make travel arrangements if needed.

With invitations out, you’ll start receiving RSVPs and can determine how many guests you expect to attend. “Everything is dependent on this,” assures Keith Willard of Keith Willard Events. Your guest count influences “how much food will need to be prepared, how many chairs will need to be rented, how many floral centerpieces will need to be created, servers, linen, utensils, glassware, tables, and so on.”

Expect that some will not respond promptly; sending invitations well in advance allows time for follow-ups. This information is crucial for your budget and the smooth execution of your celebration, so don’t dawdle on your invites!
Industry standards recommend sending them six to eight weeks before the wedding, but consider sending them earlier if many of your guests will travel or if you are planning a destination wedding.

photo by Emett Joseph Photography .– full wedding here 

Creating a contingency plan

A rainy day might seem like a wedding nightmare, but let’s face the reality: it’s possible! A solid backup plan is essential to a smooth wedding experience, especially when dealing with unpredictable elements like the weather.

“Know your options for indoor/outdoor, pricing for tents, have a contingency and know how to implement it,” advises wedding planner Penny Haas. “We can control a lot of things in weddings and events, but weather is not one of them. We can prepare, though!”

Having a backup location is only the start of a reliable contingency plan. You also need to coordinate with your vendors to develop a strategy for implementing the plan if the need arises. Hopefully, it doesn’t — but you’ll rest easier knowing that unexpected changes won’t derail your big day!


Selecting menu options

From serving styles to flavour profiles, many couples put a lot of thought into their wedding menu. And while it’s important to consider your options carefully, avoid letting decision paralysis cause delays for your caterer.

“Many couples leave things like late-night bites and specialty cocktails until the end, but you create room for error if you don’t have these menu items confirmed and written in stone,” states Juls Sharpley of Juls Sharpley Events. “Every single thing you are going to serve needs to be selected and confirmed 30 days prior to the wedding.”
Leaving these decisions to the eleventh hour can pose challenges for your caterer, who may be unable to accommodate last-minute changes. Plus, the style of menu you choose will impact various logistical aspects of your wedding.

“The menu style you choose will affect the room set up, the guest count, rentals, staffing, and timing of the event,” Haas adds. “Plated meal service vs. buffet vs. stations are all separate processes, so having a general idea of meals and catering will help you before the big day.”
A bonus advantage: Finalizing your menu selections early allows plenty of time to design and create printed menus that match the rest of your day-of stationery and signage!


Completing necessary paperwork

Between cake tastings and dress fittings, paperwork is probably the least exciting part of wedding planning — but arguably the most important step in getting married!

In particular, forgetting to secure your marriage license could mean hosting a wedding without officially getting married. “Your officiant can marry you in the eyes of their church or synagogue, but without a marriage license, you are not legally married in the eyes of the government,” confirms Amos Gott of Amos Events. That’s a pretty major mishap!
Getting your marriage license is typically a wedding week to-do, but Each & Every Detail’s Wendy Kidd explains that timing depends on where you live.
“Each state has different rules on obtaining a marriage license, and many have a waiting period,” she explains. “Verify your state’s requirements and make sure you leave enough time to schedule your marriage license appointment with your partner.”

In addition to your marriage license, other permits may be necessary depending on your wedding plans. “If you need permits to take your photographs in specific locations on your wedding day, make sure you attain those as early as possible,” stresses wedding photographer Colton Simmons. “In very sought-after locations, those permits go quickly!”
Knowing when these permits become available and securing them as soon as possible will prevent last-minute complications and ensure your wedding day goes as planned. Paperwork may not be sexy, but it is a crucial part of wedding planning, so don’t let it slip through the cracks!

photo by Jordan Roepke Photography. – full wedding here 

Preparing day-of gifts and tips

Many couples forget about tipping their vendors until the final days before their wedding, which can be a shock. To avoid this surprise, add a line for vendor tips when creating your budget so you have a big-picture view of your spending plan.
Make a list of all the vendors involved in your wedding, such as caterers, photographers, florists, and musicians. Then, research the customary tipping amounts for each type and add them to your budget.

In addition to budgeting, Loni Peterson of LP Creative Events recommends preparing vendor tips in advance to keep them off your last-minute to-do list. The same goes for thank-you gifts. “Whether you are writing thank you notes to your I Do Crew and family, or singing praises to your vendor team, select and have ready your thank you notes and cash for tips,” she says.
You don’t want to rush to the store for gift bags and envelopes when you should be soaking in the last few days of your engagement. Set aside cash tips in labeled envelopes, then give them to your wedding planner to distribute on the wedding day.
By organizing your tips and prepping gifts ahead of time, you won’t have to worry about scrambling to find cash or writing thank-you cards on the big day. Instead, you can sit back and enjoy every moment.

photo by Paisley Sunshine Photography – full wedding here 

Writing your vows

If you and your partner intend to share handwritten vows, give yourself ample time to mull over what you want to include and how to deliver it best. Wedding vows are deeply personal, so this is not an area you want to wait and pray for a spark of inspiration!

“Your wedding vows are the most important and memorable part of your ceremony, so if you want to be sure this moment is as beautiful as you have always dreamed it would be, start the prep work early,” agrees Monica Garcia of Story Alley Photography.
Starting early allows you to draft, revise, and perfect your vows, ensuring they are ceremony-ready. It also allows you to memorize and rehearse them, which helps ease day-of jitters.
“Start thinking about your vows about three months before your wedding date,” Garcia suggests. “Jot down every idea and thought that comes to mind about what you might want to say whenever you think of something. Try to finish the first draft of your wedding vows a full month before your wedding date.”

Getting a head start is a great way to prepare for your wedding, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to celebrate your engagement and think about the many reasons you love your partner. And it’s so easy; you can open a new note on your phone and start today!

photo by  Tarren Bailey Photography, LLC – full shoot here 

Checking your passports

For those planning a destination wedding, confirm that your passports are up to date! Otherwise, you may have to postpone your wedding until you can reach your destination.
“Be sure to check your passports for expiration and be aware of your wedding destination’s travel policies regarding passport expiration dates,” reminds Jen Avey of Destination Weddings Travel Group. “For example, to enter Mexico, your passport cannot expire within six months of travel). Passport renewals are currently taking up to 6-8 weeks, and you (nor your VIP guests) want to be unfortunately surprised at the airport.”

Even if you’re planning a local wedding, check your passports if you intend to head on an overseas honeymoon shortly after the wedding. An expired or soon-to-expire passport can lead to last-minute travel disruptions and unwelcome surprises at the airport. While there are ways to expedite the process, it’s best to be proactive and save yourself the stress of potential travel issues.

photo by  Danny Cuevas – full wedding here 


Planning a wedding can seem daunting, but addressing key tasks early can make for a smooth and enjoyable journey to the aisle. Early preparation prevents last-minute stress and paves the way for a memorable wedding day!



Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.




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