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November 30, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Sweet Beginning, Engagement, & Wedding Tips

A blog series to help every couple on their adventure to marriage.

By | Crystal Horton Photography

Woohoo. You're getting married. You're getting married. You're getting married. You need to start somewhere. The best place is with a check list. You could make a check list from scratch. You could get one from your friend. But, if you didn't get the list from someone in the wedding industry, you could miss a crucial piece.

By the way, it is never too early to start planning your wedding. The early bird catches the worm. No that doesn’t mean you have to get up at 4am. haha!

This is one of my top posts. I have several in the “How to Have a Smooth Wedding Day” series. If you have followed me, you know why a checklist is beneficial.

wedding bouquet with the bridewedding bouquet with the bride

Where to Begin?

First of all, how far from your wedding are you? I mean, how long is your engagement? Here is my bit of comedy on where to start.


2 Month Engagement…umm; best of luck?

  • This isn’t an ideal situation. (but it is do-able)

  • You will have some stress and that's okay. You could also feel pressed for time and money if you are looking at a large wedding.

  • Consider adjusting your wedding to be a Micro Wedding.

  • You really need this information I am sharing with you.


6 Month Engagement…Not bad

  • It will be a challenge. I've seen a few spectacular weddings.

  • You should have enough time to find 'okay' quality professionals.

  • A year is better. Here's why.


12+ Month Engagement…Now We’re talking!!

  • The average couple allows 12 months or more to plan and PAY OFF their entire wedding!

  • 12+ months of budgeting makes a wedding more enjoyable.

  • Small to almost no interest to pay off wedding aspects.

  • More experienced professionals available for interview and hire.


Let’s get serious

Weddings are fun but you need to take it serious. You will invest $3,000 or even $13,000. Money is nothing to joke about. So, the very first thing you need to decide is what is most important to you. Like the dress, the dj, or the photographer. The second most important thing, how soon you want to book that important item. Some people book their number one professional immediately, usually the venue and photographer.


Tip* Booking venue first allows for you to give the other professionals a solidified date. Some pros won't book you if you don't have a venue booked. They don't want you to change your date to one they don't have open for you.


When you read this list, feel free to rearrange it. Again putting high priority vendors/professionals first. Then book them! Give them a retainer and get a contract. You don’t want to miss out on a good quality.


Personal Experience. I missed booking my first desired photographer because the woman in front of me booked him first. I still got one of his photographer, but I didn't get him.


Now let’s write!

Below is the list. Black bullet points need your primary focus for organizing. Indented bullet points are extra thoughts, notes, and optional to write down.

FINAL NOTE: If you seek ambition, put these dates in your cell phone calendar or planner. It might take a little longer, but it saves you from having to do it later. It's what I did.


12 Months (till wedding date)

  • Choose a Wedding Date. If you haven't done this, do it now. Many pros won't book you unless you have a solid wedding date.

    • Avoid birthdays, or big holiday's. Simple good rule of thumb.

    • This may change when you find your favorite venue, but at least pick one.

  • Choose attend a bridal expo. Write down three but attend at least 2.

    • Get a feel for How Many couples you’re up against when booking pros. If you don't book them, someone else will.

  • Set a Budget for Wedding (& Honeymoon)

    • We all wish we had a lottery budget but sometimes we don't. Decide “A” number to start with. Choose 5k, 10k, 13k, 17k, 21k, 28k, 32k; It’s up to you and your soon-to-be spouse.

    • Oh, make sure your S.O. agrees with this number since “what’s yours is mine” starts now.

  • Tip* if you have smart finances, and you have your own account, sweet. You can take your extra dollars and spend it where you want. buy and extra gift. cool. or continue to get your morning coffee. yumm.

  • Write a general Guest List.

    • No need to get addresses yet. Stick with names and +1.

    • 50 people? 80 people? 120 people? 200 people? 250 people?

    • ***You need this number for most of your venues & caterers

  • Rank your vendors

    • Who/What is most important? write numbers next to them so you remember. Every pro thinks they are number one on your list.

    • Reserve your vendors. (or at least start interviewing your highest needs.)


10 Months (till wedding)

  • Pay a Deposit. Get a receipt and contract!

    • Reception Venue

    • Ceremony Venue

    • Photographer

    • Caterer/Food

    • DJ/Musicians

    • Florist

    • Planner

    • Experienced Hair & Makeup Artist

  • Research Wedding Gown styles

    • Schedule at least 1 or 2 fittings for fun. Try on designs you might not like.


8 Months (till wedding)

  • Ask Brides Maids and Groomsmen.

  • Go Dress Shopping

    • Buy your gown

    • You need time for alterations or any hiccups/issues

  • Build a Gift Registry

    • Popular ideas: Amazon, Bath & Body, Target, Macy's, Lowes, Local Mall,

  • Hire remaining vendors/professionals you have left to book

  • Complete Guest list. Get addresses.

  • Schedule Cake Tastings (BEST PART EVER!!)

    • If the fiance didn't like wedding planning, they will love this. Book several, even if you don't think you will book them. You never know.


7 Months

  • Hire the Cake Baker

  • Schedule Bridal Shower(s) Date(s)

    • Schedule a lunch with family and friends to start planning and solidify details.

  • Get Mom(s) dresses

    • If reluctant, make them go. Tell them you would like to see them in a new outfit they haven't worn.

  • Final decision about your centerpieces and decoration

    • Sometimes you can find holiday deals at craft stores!\

    • Think about watching deals.

    • check out social media and garage sales. You can find unused items for half price.

  • Book your Engagement Photography session (if you have one)


6 Months

  • Check your Budget.

    • Need More? Are you on target? I had a binder I kept everything in.

  • Mail Out Save the Dates! (Especially for out of town guests or Destination Weddings!)

  • Schedule Bachelorette/Bachelor Party weekends

    • I will keep saying it, "Don't do this the weekend before!" Do it two so there is time to recovery.


5 Months

  • Research, meet, and email Hair & Makeup Artists

  • Research Honeymoon

  • Book hotel Accommodations for all guests.

    • Add the details in your invitation pack

    • offer to all guests. some guests will go heavy on the drinks and not want to drive.

  • Start a Skin & Hair regiment

    • Anything you can do before your wedding will help your photographer. The better "real life" is, the better your memories will be.


4 Months

  • Book Rehearsal Dinner Reservations

    • Book morning after brunch if needed

  • Book Your Makeup & Hair Artist

  • Decide on Wedding Day Transportation

    • Do you have the budget for a limo? want to rent a nice expensive convertible?

  • Get Wedding Dress Alterations!

    • You do not need to go through the bridal shop. I didn't and I saved over $700 on alterations!

  • Book Honeymoon flight/hotel/resort

  • Order Invitations & Thank You Cards

  • Do Maid’s dresses need alterations?

    • Get those in asap!

    • Try to get everyone to the same shop so they are all the same.


3 Months

  • Get details about Marriage License

    • Where do you have to go to get it? No one told me about it and I had to rush to get it.

  • Early mail out for Invitations

    • If you didn't send save the dates, mail invitations now

  • Select Groomsmen Attire

    • Buy/rent this if customized

    • Consider buy him a tux from like Men's Warehouse.

  • Decide on music for ceremony/reception

    • Set up a meeting with your DJ/Musicians

  • Confirm vendors, vendor’s contracts, and location of wedding!!

    • If you don't have a planner, you NEED to do this now. This is the last chance to get a decent pro if one falls through.


2 Months

  • Decide on a Thank You favors for guests

  • Mail Invitations (Last chance)

  • Get all RSVP’s by 30 days prior at the latest.

  • Design a Wedding Day Itinerary

    • 1 min of planning, saves 10 min of stress and execution

  • Final Dress Fitting


4 Weeks (1 Month)

  • Deliver final head count to Caterer/venue

  • Makeup & Hair Trial Run

    • Can book earlier like when you do your engagement photographs.

  • Create a Rain Plan! (Trust me it’s worth it!)

  • Give final Wedding Itinerary to all important people and vendors

    • Give a copy to all vendors. Church, Reception, Caterer, Photographer, DJ, Hair & Makeup, Baker, ect

  • Confirm Honeymoon bookings and flights


3-2 Weeks

  • Get Marriage License

  • Create Seating Arrangements

  • Get yourself wedding ready

    • Want sun kissed tan?

    • Freshen hair. Dying hair? Highlights?

    • Start a skin treatment

    • Teeth whitening and skin tanning


WEEK OF (WooHoo You made it!)

  • Create a Day of Checklist (Items you can’t forget!)

  • Get dressed steamed or pick up from alterations

  • Pick up groom’s attire (& groomsmen’s attire)

  • Get nails done and unwanted hair waxed

  • Box/Pack all wedding day items (or give to planner in advance)

  • Final Confirmation with all vendors on time and location!

  • Pack for Honeymoon



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If you are serious about the quality of your wedding photographs, send me your questions, or date. I only accept 30 weddings each year.

What makes me a different kind of wedding photographer? Let me share the intimate details of how losing my job in the middle of planning my wedding, defined me as a photographer. Focused on not just stunning images, but the experience of a lifetime for you.

You know 30 weddings a year is not many. But, that is because I give more than digital downloads. I deliver an unforgettable experience. Pick the perfect wedding photography package and experience from one of my specially designed packages. 



Crystal Horton Photography

1729 Red Clover Dr., Lebanon, Ohio 45036 


[email protected]

Captivating Wedding Photography in Dayton, Cincinnati, and Ohio Tristate





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