Your wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here, local wedding experts share essential checklists to help couples prepare as early as possible—so that once the big day arrives, the bride and groom can cherish every moment.

Michelle Moulden

Absolutely IN! 

• Pick a planner: A wedding planner can help you ensure everything runs smoothly, from the big picture down to the small details—all within your budget.

• Select the dress: Your wedding dress, which needs a significant amount of time for shipping and alterations, tends to set a precedent for the rest of the wedding, from colors to theme—modern versus traditional, for example.

• Land a venue: Remember fall is the new June, and everything from venues to vendors book quickly. Locate ceremony and reception spots at least nine to 10 months before the wedding.

• Book a band: Like photographers, bands can book up a year or more in advance. Decide early if you want a string quartet at the ceremony, or a band or DJ at the reception.

• Vie for vendors: To be certain you receive your first choice, book a caterer and florist at least six months in advance.

• Mail the invitations: Send your invitations two months before the big day. And notify vendors of the final head count two weeks before the event.

• Obtain a marriage license: A couple must get their marriage license within 30 days before the wedding.

• Don’t forget the details: A month before the special day, make sure you have toasting flutes and a cake knife and server, a guest book and pen, seating charts and placecards, favors, music selections for special dances, and your ‘something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.’

• Finalize your big day: Two to three weeks before the wedding, finalize plans with vendors—make sure your photographer and entertainment are contracted for the right amount of time, and finish menus and florals, as well as the details of the ceremony, from the order of who will walk down the aisle to readings and music.

Josephine Havlak

Josephine Havlak Photography

• Capture the moment: When it comes to photography, the season you choose will have a big impact.

• Fall for foliage: Fall has the lowest probability for rain, along with cool temperatures, beautiful light and wonderful color for spectacular outdoor photos.

• Walk in a winter wonderland: You can get pictures that you can’t get any other time of year—at sunset, the light shines through the bare tree branches sparkling with ice and it is a winter wonderland.

• Beware of winter travel: If you have a large number of out-of-town guests, winter may not be the best time for your wedding due to potential inclement weather.

• Save the date: During popular times like fall and the week of Christmas to New Year’s, couples need to book a venue and a photographer quickly.

• Timing is everything: Photographers like the sunlight to be low, so it is best to arrange outdoor posed photos for two hours before sunset.

• Location, location, location: Be aware that locations such as Missouri Botanical Garden, Forest Park and the center of Tower Grove Park become wildly popular for outdoor wedding photos in the fall, but all of these places will be available in the winter.

Linda Pilcher

Something Elegant Catering

• Indulge yourself: When it comes to catering, talk about your vision for the wedding’s ambiance, and foods to feature—as well as avoid.

• Be an early bird: Like venues and photography, couples want to save their date on the caterer’s calendar up to a year in advance throughout fall and the holiday season.

• Beware of the budget: Request an estimate of the costs upfront so there won’t be any surprises later.

• Stay in touch: Caterers like to keep in contact with the couple throughout the course of designing the details for the wedding to design a menu to match.

• Crunch the numbers: Give the caterer a ballpark number of guests.

• Eat to your heart’s content: As the date becomes closer, do a tasting and commit to all, or at least a portion, of the menu.

• Count on it: Couples should submit the final head count two weeks before the big day.

More Special Features articles.