Making the arrangements
If you’re planning a large wedding, give yourself at least 6 months of preparation time to assure getting your first choice of sites and to complete all details without a last-minute panic. Even more time may be necessary if you’re getting married in or near a large city or during a busy month, such as June. Make sure that the services you choose are reliable by asking friends for recommendations or by getting references.
Here is a schedule for the major preparations for a large, traditional wedding. For a small or simpler affair, some steps can be eliminated.
Six months to a year in advance Both families should meet and discuss the wedding budget, the time of day, and the wedding style and color scheme. It’s traditional for the bride’s family to pay most wedding expenses, except for the following: the bride’s rings, the marriage license, gifts to the ushers, the clergyman’s fee, and the wedding trip. Often these days the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal dinner as well. Other arrangements might be appropriate. depending on how old the wedding couple is and the financial means of each family.
Decide on the number of guests. Allocate them equally to each family, unless the groom’s family and friends live at some distance (many on his list would receive announcements instead of invitations). Both families should compile lists and divide them into three parts: people to be invited to the ceremony only, those to be invited to the ceremony and reception, and those to be sent announcements. The lists should include full names and information about which family members are being invited; children over age 18 receive a separate invitation. Index cards are a good way to organize the names.
Speak to a clergyman or judge; begin any premarital religious counseling. Reserve the wedding and reception places. If the reception is to be catered separately, arrange for a caterer. Choose and order a bridal dress. Ask one or more wedding attendants to help choose their gowns.
Select china, silver, and household accessories. If you wish. arrange for a bridal registry at a department store.
Four months in advance
Order engraved invitations. These are the only proper type unless the wedding is small and informal. Then the invitations can be issued by handwritten notes, Mailgrams, or the telephone. Consult a book of etiquette for the correct wording for formal wedding and reception invitations.
Engage a photographer.
Plan music for the wedding: make sure your choices are in compliance with those of the wedding place. Arrange for reception music.
Three months in advance
Complete the guest lists. When the invitations arrive, address them by hand in black ink. Write out all names and addresses in full; the only permissible abbreviations are Mr.. Mrs., Dr., and Jr. If there are inside envelopes, write titles and surnames on them: Dr. and Mrs. Dwyer, Miss (or Ms.) Ryan, The Messrs. Huber (brothers), The Misses Drescher (sisters). If you are inviting a family, this is the place to include the children’s names (underneath the parents): Mr. and Mrs. French, Alice and Susan. Insert the inside envelope facing the outer flap. Order attendants’ dresses; check on the arrival of the bridal dress.
Select flowers and arrangements for the wedding and reception.
Six weeks to a month in advance
Mail your invitations. Order rings; select gifts for the attendants.
Arrange lodging for out-of-town guests and attendants.
Have final alterations made on the bride’s and attendants’ dresses. Plan the rehearsal dinner.
Arrange for announcements in the newspapers.
Write thank-you notes for any gifts that have arrived. It is proper these days for the groom as well as the bride to write these acknowledgments.
Two weeks in advance
Obtain the marriage license.
Begin addressing announcements to be mailed on your wedding day. Arrange for the bridal party’s transportation to the church and reception. Arrange a time for the wedding rehearsal: inform the wedding party.
One week in advance
Total all positive responses to wedding invitations; give a final estimate of reception guests to the caterer. Check final details with the photographer, florist, musicians, and any other service people.