When planning an event, you definitely do not want to wait until the last minute. Having a well thought out timeline, or check-list, is the best way to ensure all the details are covered. Certain events take more time to plan than others, so having a schedule will help make sure all the planning particulars are taken care of within plenty of time for the event. The first step is to assign each person helping with the planning the specific tasks they will be in charge of organizing. Be sure to check in with each helper every few weeks to ensure there are no issues that you may need to deal with personally. If you are planning on your own, using a scheduled check-list will be the best way to ensure you do not miss any detail.

The farther in advance you plan, the better. This is especially true when planning an event for popular dates, such as graduation weekends, or around the holidays. The farther in advance that you can book venues, DJs, caterers, photographers, and rental items, the easier it will be for you to ensure you get exactly what you want for your event. To also ensure that guests have plenty of time to plan out their schedules to attend the event, following these general rules will be helpful for you and your guests. For weddings and family reunions, begin planning at least 12 months before the event. For office, holiday, or graduation parties, begin planning about 3-4 months ahead of the event. Other events, such as birthday parties, or back yard barbeques, can be planned 1 to 2 months ahead of time. Below are examples of timelines for planning an event 12 months out, as well as 3-4 months out. Each schedule will give basic ideas as to when specific details should be taken care of for each type of event.

Office/Holiday/Graduation Party 3-4 Month Planning Schedule:

  • 3-4 Months before event: Select the date, decide on a budget, select the theme, create a guest list, and send invitations. (For smaller events, this step can be completed between 2 and 3 months before the event)
  • 2-3 Months: Reserve any rental items, hire any needed staff (bartenders, DJs, caterers, servers, etc.)
  • 1-2 Months: Order cake and flowers if needed, plan menu and grocery list
  • 2-3 weeks: Purchase decorations, plan games/activities, confirm guest list
  • 1 week: Purchase food and drinks, confirm any rental items, create party favors
  • Week of: Set up decorations, gather any last minute supplies, purchase ice


Wedding/Family Reunion 12 Month Planning Schedule:

  • Engagement/Initial Planning: Select the date, decide on a budget, set up the website, start collecting guest addresses/emails
  • 12 Months (or more): Select venue, photographer, caterer, and reserve rental items. For weddings: select bridal party, choose stylists for hair and makeup, and find an officiant
  • 10-11 Months: Decide on décor/theme, finalize guest list, select florist. For weddings: set up registry (be sure to have a link on your wedding website for easy access for guests), order bridal gown and bridesmaid dresses
  • 8-9 Months: Set up hotel blocks for out of town guests. For weddings: select jewelry, purchase or rent men’s attire, have first dress fitting, begin planning honeymoon
  • 6-7 Months: Send out hotel booking information. For weddings: Send save-the-dates, order cake
  • 4-5 Months: Finalize invitation design, organize any needed transportation to and from event location, finalize rental list. For weddings: Purchase rings and shoes, have a dress fitting, research marriage licensing requirements
  • 2-3 Months: Send invitations, finalize music selection or entertainment, confirm any ordered desserts, flowers and/or decorations. For weddings: Finalize dress alterations-have final fitting, have a hair/makeup run through
  • 2 Weeks-1 Month: Finish any DIY projects, confirm guest list (contact guests who have not submitted a RSVP), complete seating chart, give final head count to caterer
  • Week of Event-1 Week: Create “day of” schedule to avoid chaos and confusion, last minute seating adjustments, confirm details of any rental, floral, food or other deliveries, decide who will handle vendor payments and tips. For weddings: Confirm rehearsal details, confirm honeymoon plans


These are only recommendations as to when each detail should be completed during the planning process. Planning ahead, and completing tasks earlier can be a helpful way to avoid headaches as the event approaches. For larger events, the longer you have to plan, the better. Sticking to a schedule, check-list, or general plan will be the best bet for ensuring all the details are covered, and your event is a success.

Thanks for reading and happy event planning!