1/26 {Real Bride: Emily} A Wedding Checklist For The Scatterbrained Bride

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Do you often feel like you’re forgetting something? Well that kind of describes my wedding planning experience, in a nutshell – a long, jerky highway of mental checkpoints, like: “Did I send X and Y wedding invitations?” or “What am I supposed to be doing right now?” or “Was I surfing Pinterest for a reason?”

I frequently feel like I’m totally omitting essential elements of the wedding like RINGS, or CAKE, or a MARRIAGE LICENSE (That last one is more essential than most). And despite having two degrees in WRITING, I still don’t jot down notes or leave myself little reminders everywhere. Or read contracts, for that matter! That’s all on my fiance John.

So while wedding planning has been totally fun, it’s also been just a a teensy bit stressful for me AT ALL TIMES. In order to deter this steady undercurrent of mild mental anguish, I’ve made a very extensive (yet surprisingly basic) wedding checklist. It seems almost too basic to merit posting, but I just KNOW there are other brides like me out there who could totally use this.

These are the things you need to get married. I’ve put an asterisk by the things that are legally necessary.

I'm hungry for braaaaaaaiiiiiiiinnn...cake.

A Groom/Partner* – don’t leave them in the car! You are legally required to have “two consenting people” of “sufficient mental capacity”. Legally, you don’t even have to like each other that much, you just have to be OK with the idea of marriage…

The Date – it’s an abstract concept, but it’s the first thing you have to get nailed down, along with finding…

The Venue – whether it’s a courthouse, an old railroad station, a Scottish castle, or the great outdoors!

The Dress – SQUEE! Now move on to…

The Invitations – even if you’re just sending an e-vite, you should probably let people know where this shindig is happening, and not just rely on word of mouth…or facebook.

A Wedding Party – made up of your nearest and dearest! Let those people know well in advance that they are expected to stand up for you on your big day. AND that they’ll be required to NOT look, you know, how they do in everyday life.

A Caterer – is someone you’ll definitely want to get in touch with SOON if you want to serve people food (and maybe BOOZE?), and not just…

The Cake – which is ok too! Be warned, not all caterers do wedding cakes. And not all cakeries do catering…

A Photographer – couples on a serious budget can just buy a few hours of their time, or just rely on their friends to provide the lasting memories. Couples who are DEADLY SERIOUS about photography should splurge here, and maybe even pony up for…

A Videographer – a lot of newlyweds say they regret NOT getting one of these. I’m just putting that out there.

The Flowers – are another prime opportunity to scale back and save a little cash. If you’re getting married on a beach, or in a garden, why bother? Just spring for some nice bouquets. But if big ol’ blossoms are totally your thing, go crazy. I myself am partial to anemones. Thanks, Pinterest!

The Officiant* – is absolutely necessary to the wedding ceremony. THOUGH there are a few states where you don’t need one. But odds are, you don’t live in one of those states. If you don’t have a preferred preacher, pastor, or yogi, there are all manner of lovely people who are professional wedding officiants. Also, basically ANYONE can become an ordained minister online (EDIT: though according to our resident wedding planner Liz, it might not be legal to have them officiate a wedding in your state)

Music – is easy enough – just bring your iPod! Always imagined yourself being serenaded by a string quartet? Be prepared to line a poor musician’s pocket with some serious coin.

The Rings – could easily be forgotten somewhere by someone at any point during the wedding day. A fact which terrifies me.

The Marriage License* – FYI, you can’t get one of these bad boys day-of. Don’t wait till the Friday before your wedding, either. Take care of this several days if not several weeks before. You don’t have to sign it until your wedding day. (EDIT: Liz rings in again – apparently some officiants CAN issue a marriage license day-of…for a price.)

Witnesses* – are those people you sent wedding invitations to. You did remember to send them invitations, didn’t you?! Fortunately, you usually only need two people to show for this whole thing to be legit.

I STILL feel like I’m forgetting something? If so, PLEASE let me know, brides!

 – Emily 

  • Devon

    A DJ or Band!!!

    • HA! You're right! I'm adding that to the post right now. 🙂

  • emily

    omg thank you. i have to attitude right now of I MUST BUY ALL THE THINGS! this gets all those things in order!

  • lizcharm

    Emily, "A Groom/Partner* – don’t leave them in the car!" is pretty much my favorite thing I've read this week. That being said, the only thing I have to add is that you can find an officiant who can also issue your marriage license, but it's a bit more expensive. Either way, find out what the time frame on getting that done. Getting ordained online is open to anyone, but it might not be legal in your state, or you'll have to register with the state, so check. Can you tell I just finished writing a whole book chapter on this last night? 🙂

    • Liz, I totally should've queried you beforehand! That's totally useful info. 🙂

    • Karen

      I live in WI… you have about a 7-14 day window before you wedding to get a marriage license (not 15 days before, not 6 days before!). If you screw the timing up, you won't be official on your big day. Check out your state's laws on the marriage license!

  • lizcharm

    The way this week is going, odds are I wouldn't have remembered to mention it! Which proves your point. 🙂

  • Victoria

    We actually did forget my wedding ring (in the trunk of the car!) and only realized that it was missing once my husband's ring had been passed around the room for a ring warming ceremony. It arrived with my sister, who was standing next to me, and she asked out loud where mine was. We used my engagement ring for the ring exchange. 🙂

  • Hair and make up professionals to get you looking fabulous!

  • I remember when we were planning our wedding – a short 4-months after we got engaged and I was stressed out all the time (to the point of finally saying, "this dissertation is going to have to WAIT, because I can only have one major project in my life right now and its this wedding!). Having a checklist made a HUGE difference, because then when I woke up at 4 in the morning worrying, I could just add to my list and (sometimes) go back to sleep. In the end, the stress was worth it, as we had a few days of relaxed fun and preparation with our friends and family before the big day (now when they locked my keys in my car on the wedding morning, making us late for photos, that was less relaxed and fun, but we survived).

  • great list! in Maine, where i'm one of those professional wedding officiants, you can get the marriage license the day of, assuming a town office is open and there's someone there who can issue the license. one warning though: the marriage license, in Maine anyway, is only good for 90 days, so don't get it too far in advance!

  • Jess

    you forgot groom's clothes! you want him to look smokin'!

  • jess

    also vows (if you want to write them) and to choose ceremony music, what you enter to and exit to?

  • coco


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  • Heather

    Hey ladies try the not.com it gives u a free website that helps with everything budget, guest list, ides, dress, gifts for ur bridesmaids and groomsmen- most of the things are reasonably priced it has been a life saver for this bride.

  • Heather

    Thats theknot.com stupid spell ck changed it before I realized it 🙂 .

  • All good info.