Wedding planning is filled with excitement aand expectations, but it can also be an extremely challenging aand stressful time. You have to stay organized, stick to a budget, aand start early enough to allow plenty of time to get everything done. That’s why we created this little planning guide to assist you with a few of the essentials for a successful wedding day:

Six to Twelve Months Ahead

The Dress. When it comes to the wedding dress, you’ll first need to determine the style that best appeals to you. The dress sets the tone for the entire day, aand it should coordinate with everything else. Most bridal shops will only allow you to book a one hour appointment. While an hour is plenty of time to try on dresses, the better idea you have of what you are looking for, the more enjoyable your time in the store will be.

The Cake. When ordering a cake, planning ahead is a must. Many popular cake designs can require weeks of preparation by the bakery. Having a general idea of what you are looking for – including bringing along pictures – will help your baker design the perfect cake for you. You’ll also need to know the number of guests, aand schedule a tasting before settling on a cake. Since it is such a central part of your wedding, consider having a cake designed that complements your overall theme.

Four to Six Months Ahead

The Rings. Considering that you’ll both be wearing them for the rest of your lives, your wedding rings will likely count among your most treasured purchases. If you both enjoy an active lifestyle, you may wish to consider purchasing wedding baands that are secure, robust, aand not easily scratched. A flush or bezel setting for diamond rings is more secure, though a prong setting allows more light to go through the diamond.

The Stationery. For the sake of both convenience aand cost savings, it’s wise to order all of your stationery from the same place, at the same time. It’s important to establish a consistent motif, applying it to each piece. The invitation should reflect the theme of your wedding, whether it’s a black tie affair or a casual beach party. The earlier you order your stationery, the more time you’ll have to proof it, request changes, aand address the outer envelopes.

Two to Four Months Ahead

The Caterer. Caterers have different packages to accommodate every budget, as well as numerous menu options to suit the tastes of your guests. An experienced caterer should embrace the overall vision for your wedding, using their experience to build upon your ideas to help you have the perfect day. It’s a good idea to have a food-tasting session as soon as possible, so that if you don’t like something from the menu, you can request an alternative.

One to Two Months Ahead

The Marriage License. Once you’ve located your marriage license office, call to ask them when you should apply. Licenses are only valid for a certain window of time, aand there could be a short waiting period once you obtain the license. Most states will allow you to simply walk in to apply, though some do require an appointment, so be sure to ask when you call.

These are just a few of the many essentials you need to consider for your wedding day. The accompanying printable wedding planner includes a comprehensive checklist, budget planner, bakery aand catering guide – aand so much more – to help you stay on track aand plan out every detail of your special day.