How to plan a wedding

With so many steps to take in planning your dream wedding, including touring the best wedding venues in the state, finding unique venues, searching for the best wedding vendors, and of course, finding your ideal wedding dress and wedding rings, you’re likely wondering how long it takes to plan a wedding. According to the wedding industry survey company, the average couple spends 14 months planning their Big Day.

That survey reveals that couples are tackling the biggest, most important tasks of their wedding plans very soon after their engagement, starting their research right away via talking to other engaged wedding couples about their favorite outdoor garden wedding venues, elegant wedding venues, wedding professionals and wedding details. They’re also searching Pinterest and top wedding blogs to get inspiration for their wedding day vision.

Here are the first, essential wedding planning steps completed at the 10 to 12 month mark:

  • Booking the wedding venue
  • Arranging wedding catering at their banquet hall
  • Booking their wedding coordinator
  • Booking their wedding photographer
  • Booking their wedding videographer
  • Booking their wedding entertainers
  • Buying the wedding gown
  • Buying the wedding rings
  • Arranging their wedding rentals

The rest of the wedding details are planned at various stages in a couple’s wedding timeline.

One of the key factors in our Northern New Jersey wedding couples’ planning is the time of year when they became engaged – such as during the peak engagement season of Thanksgiving through Valentine’s Day – and the amount of time until the season during which they’d like their wedding to take place. For instance, if a couple becomes engaged on Valentine’s Day and they would like a fall season outdoor wedding,  their planning time may be just eight months until October. They may not wish to wait 20 months until the next year’s fall season. So they’re among the many couples planning in less than a year, often with a wedding coordinator’s help to time their wedding planning tasks perfectly.

We also meet many couples during their wedding venue visits whose jobs determine when their wedding will be, and how much time they will spend planning it. Teachers may wish to marry, and take their honeymoons during the summer when they’re off from school, and accountants may wish to marry outside of busy tax season. So they might find themselves considering a wedding date just six months away, rather than waiting a very long time to get married.

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Couples might also plan their wedding dates to coincide with the best season at their desired honeymoon location.

There are advantages to both long-term wedding planning and short-term. Planning with more than a year’s advance timing could allow the couple to lock in current banquet hall prices before the next calendar year’s price increases launch. They might save on their wedding budget by booking their romantic wedding venue now, rather than months from now.

Savings are also available for couples who plan their weddings with less than six months advance notice, since some top wedding vendors offer price breaks on ‘open’ wedding dates just a few months away. It can be challenging to plan all the beautiful details of a formal wedding or outdoor wedding in just a few months’ time, but with an organized, efficient plan, great wedding vendors and the help of experienced professionals at the best wedding venues, it can be done well…without rushing and making hasty, expensive decisions, or forgetting to make certain arrangements.

So the answer to the question is: wedding couples custom-select the amount of time they’ll spend planning their wedding. Some of our wedding couples say they were glad they planned in just a few months’ time, since it kept them from over-thinking their details, or getting impatient for the big day to arrive. They were glad to tackle more of the essential wedding details in a shorter period of time, and experienced less wedding stress than other couples they knew. They simply created a plan that worked best for them, and they were happy to get to the altar quickly, reaching their goal of being married, not just getting married.

1. Be decisive.

With such a short timeline, you won’t have the luxury of scouring the depths of Pinterest or changing direction with every new wedding inspiration you find. It’s best to start planning with a clear big-picture vision of your wedding day, which is why we highly recommend making a wedding mood board before you do anything else. You immediately narrow your focus, which will be a huge time-saver in the long run. To save even more time and reduce stress, intentionally limit your options. Don’t try to choose between 50 different floral design options or 10 different hairstyles. Consult your mood board, pick 2-3 options that match the vibe, and choose your favorite. You know what you love, so don’t second-guess yourself! Once you make a decision, cross it off your list forever and move on to the next decision.

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photo by Vic Bonvinci Photography

2. Stay on top of your emails.

This one is probably a no-brainer, but we think it’s important enough to reiterate. Your vendors will already be working with a short turnaround time, so don’t make them wait a week for a decision or an answer to a question. Refresh your inbox often and either respond immediately or mark wedding-related emails “Unread” until you can get back to them so they don’t get lost. Make your goal to respond to every email within 1-2 days. This will keep you and your vendors on schedule and will increase your chances of nailing down goods and services that are likely to book quickly, such as venues and planners.

photo by Kay + Bee

3. Choose your wedding date based on venue availability.

A lot of venues book up a year (or more) in advance, so your #1 priority should be to book a venue ASAP! With a short engagement, you’ll likely have limited options, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a great space for your celebration. One way to open up your options is to keep your wedding date flexible. Rather than contact venues for specific dates, ask what dates they do have available in the timeframe you’d prefer. That includes being open to non-traditional days, like Friday or Sunday. Make a list of your favorite venues — and maybe some unconventional ones to expand your options — and contact them from the top down. Once you find an available date that works for you and your fiancé, book it and stop your search. Remember, being decisive is key!

photo by Noelle Johnson

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and delegate tasks.

Let’s be honest, nobody expects a couple to cross off everything on their to-do list themselves, and that’s even more true for couples who are having a short engagement. You have a tribe of friends and family that want your day to be perfect, so it just makes sense to turn to them for help. If you’re a DIY bride, plan several craft nights with your girlfriends to help you knock out those creative details. If you know artists, bakers, or other creatives, ask if they want to contribute their skills so you have fewer outside vendors to book. Looking for more ideas? Check out these helpful tips for how and what to delegate to friends and family. Once you start delegating, you’ll want an easy way to keep track of everything. Create a shared spreadsheet on Google Drive and ask each person to update it regularly. That way you (or your maid of honor) can make sure everything gets done without having to constantly check in with each person individually.

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photo by Lauren Scotti

5. Buy your dress off the rack or online.

There are so many great alternatives to custom wedding dresses these days! Online favorites like BHLDN and Nordstrom provide gorgeous options that can be at your house within a week or two. If you’re looking for something a little more unique or less expensive, we’ve also found dozens of online shops with bridesmaids dresses pretty enough to get married in and wedding dresses under $200. If online shopping isn’t your thing, most bridal boutiques do offer off-the-rack options but they are likely to be more limited. We recommend contacting the boutique to find out if their inventory aligns with what you’re looking for before making an appointment. Whether buying online or off the rack, don’t forget to take into account alterations and avoid buying a dress that will need extensive changes made.

Looking for more stress-free and efficient wedding planning tips? We’ve got you covered:

The Most Important Questions to Ask Before You Start Wedding Planning

Use This Wedding Décor Checklist to Help You Nail Every Detail

How Not to Get Sucked Into a Pinterest Wedding

6 Stress-Reducing Wedding Planning Tips

Pro Trips for Creating Your Wedding Reception Seating Chart

5 Clever Ways to Repurpose Your Wedding Decor from Ceremony to Reception

Don’t Forget to Tie Up Loose Ends with This Post-Wedding Checklist

Do you have any tips for planning a wedding in six months or less? Let us know in the comments!

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