Hey, I'm Codi! A western luxury wedding photographer in Northern California. Traveling near and far for love, I'm available for intimate destinations, elopements and more!





Your Free Wedding Planning Checklist

So, you’re going to take the wedding plunge. Congratulations! Yes, we realize it’s a little daunting. So many things to do. Brides are always asking me for advice, so here’s your free wedding planning checklist. Actually, it’s sort of an overall list of things to do. The items range from basic needs to things you might not have thought about. But if all you’re looking for is some visual inspo, check out my Pinterest for some great ideas!

Ready? Let’s go!

First Item on Your Free Wedding Checklist: How much do you want to spend? Whether it’s $1000 or $10,000 you’ll need to decide. Don’t laugh at that $1000, by the way, because we’ve seen brides pull off inexpensive weddings for next to nothing at a national park or at a City Hall. That’s why it’s important to think ahead.

Head Games: Start counting heads because it’s time to decide how many wedding guests you’ll want to invite. Narrow down your numbers early because venues will need to know a headcount. Your ideal location might not be able to accommodate the size of your wedding party, so get that dialed ASAP.

Speaking of venues, you don’t have to get married at a private estate: You could get married in a state park, or at a resort, or maybe even a hotel in another city. Anything is possible and what it cost can vary from next to nothing (parks), to high-dollar resorts that will take care of everything.

Honey-Do: Now’s the time to book your honeymoon. Mention to the booking agent that you’re getting married for special rates and discounts. If you’re going out of the country, be sure to have your passport in order. You might need special inoculations, too.

Flower Power: Don’t put this item on the backburner of your free wedding planning checklist, especially if you’re getting married out of town. Ask for recommendations from friends. A hotel wedding coordinator or a venue owner can be super-helpful, too. Please don’t use Google to find a florist—this can be disastrous. (We’ve seen it first-hand!) Make sure you’re dealing with a professional and not a fly-by-night operation.

You Are What You Eat: There’s nothing wrong with a pot luck. Other ideas that are less expensive are food trucks, or having a Mexican food restaurant cater your dinner. We’ve seen it all from hot-dog stands to barbeque to backyard chefs, and the funny thing is, no one will care what type of food you serve. It’s all about being there for you.

Cheers: Picking what to drink can be simple; Coolers with sodas and beers. Or not so simple; no-host bar. Pick what works best for you and your budget. These days, there are even mobile cocktail vendors. This can be pricy, but it takes the guess work out of what to serve and how much to buy. Plus, it comes with a bartender – win-win!

Fast or Furious: Don’t forget to add ground transportation to your free wedding planning checklist. We recommend booking things like limos and ground transportation early because there is nothing more frustrating than being caught without wheels. If you’re flying out of the states, this is especially important. There’s nothing worse than getting into a sketchy-looking taxi in a foreign country. Your resort or hotel can help you with this.

Coordination is key: Look, we know wedding planners can be expensive, but nobody knows more about getting married; They can be worth their weight in gold because they’ll think of all the little things you might not even know about—like the best travel agency to use, or the best hair and makeup artist in town. It might be worth it to hire a professional because they can ultimately save you money in the long-run.

Vendors: You’ll want a photographer for sure, but will you need a DJ? Or a videographer? Can a friend be your officiant, or do you need to hire someone? Do you need a hairstylist and a makeup artist? Or just makeup? Make these decisions sooner rather than later. The more popular a stylist, the harder to book, so get an early start.

Paper trail: Some brides like programs, some like memorabilia—like a sign with the bride and groom’s name (this can double as a keepsake). There’s no right or wrong way to commemorate your wedding. You can stick to the traditional guest book, or have your guests sign a photograph of the two of you, or print something with your name and wedding date. Anything goes.

Shop ‘til you drop: Of course, one the most important things to do is get your wedding dress shopping out of the way. Try and give yourself lots of time for this. Some dress-makers require 12 months’ notice. Don’t forget about the groom. He’ll need to either buy a tux or rent one and all of that is better done well head of time. And don’t forget about your bridesmaids. Narrow down a style of dress and make sure all your bridesmaids get fitted.

Piece of cake: Our favorite part of any wedding is eating cake! If you have no clue as to what to order, no worries! Most bakeries will make suggestions. Whatever your choice, make an appointment to taste test. If you’ve booked a hotel, talk to their caterer or wedding coordinator.

Last, but not least: Don’t forget about the rehearsal dinner. This can be simple (at a friend’s house) or a little more upscale (restaurant), but be sure to have a firm headcount before booking.

Serving drinks should be considered when using your free wedding planning checklist.

Other Things to Add to Your Free Wedding Checklist

Ceremony: Will it be long? Short? How about those vows? Will you write your own, or pick something on-line?

Décor: If you’re in to Do it Yourself, you’ll need to plan ahead. Order your décor on-line or begin to gather supplies for those cute little vases with candles in the middle that you’ll have to make by hand. If you’re doing your own flowers, be sure to check with a local florist on the availability of the flowers you’ll want. They’ll need to order them from a supplier ahead of time.

Reception: Things to consider for your reception aside from the obvious (music, food, etc.) are fun things like sparklers for when you leave, or a photo booth for your guests. Party favors will also need to be determined, as will a seating arrangement. You could also have some fun things for your guests to do such as a social media backdrop, or games to play while you’re off getting your pictures taken.

Gifts: Don’t forget about gifts for your wedding party. We’ve seen vendors receive thank-you bags, too. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You could even gift a fruit basket or crackers with wine. It’s the thought that counts.

Give thanks: When it’s all said and done, you’ll need to send out thank you cards. Our favorite idea is a wedding photo signed by the bride and groom, but you can create your own card or stationary. Just be sure to include a personal note.

Bride and groom gifts are on our free wedding planning checklist.

We hope you’ve found your free wedding planner checklist helpful. Planning your nuptials should be fun. Your special day should be one to remember. And don’t forget, if you chose me to be your photographer, I’ll provide you with a cool wedding guide that goes over everything.

Good luck and have fun!