The decision to get married is one of the most important choices most people make in life. Some couples spend years planning their future together while others see no reason to wait any longer and jump right in with no regrets.
There are no set rules when it comes to the length of the engagement, but it’s important to remember that the bigger and more complex the wedding is, the more time it takes to plan. There are a lot of things that need to be coordinated, so it makes sense to begin booking as early as possible.
According to The Knot, the average engagement period is around 14 months – or a little over a year. Some people take longer, but for couples hoping to tie the knot on a particular date or those who have another reason to expedite the process, the limited time available for planning can be a problem.
If your anticipated wedding date is only a few months away, never fear! It is possible to pull off a dream wedding if you’re short on time. Here are some things to keep in mind as the big day quickly approaches.
#1 – Don’t panic!
If you are planning a short engagement, you need to act fast, but not too fast. Rushed planning often leads to mistakes, so taking the proper steps can help you minimize problems. Nearly everyone encounters some sort of scheduling snags when planning a wedding, so you’ll not only need to act quickly, but you’ll also have less time to make decisions and analyze alternatives.
#2 – Set a realistic budget
One of the biggest mistakes people make when planning weddings is underbudgeting. Since many people only plan one wedding in their lives, it’s easy to underestimate just how much things actually cost, and expenditures add up quick. On top of that, many vendors may charge more if you try to book on short notice – if they’re even still available – because it will require extra work on their part. It’s important to keep that in mind and temper expectations accordingly. This may be the biggest day of your life, but it’s up to you to decide how much of a financial burden you’re willing to take on to make that happen. It’s not hard to rack up some serious debt if you don’t stick to your budget, and that’s not a fun way to begin your new life as a couple.
#3 – Cover the basics
If you don’t already have the date set, now is the time to do that. The more flexibility you have here, the better. If you’re planning a quick engagement, it’s important to keep in mind that the more people you want to invite, the more schedules you’ll potentially have to work around. Flexible dates will also open up more options when it comes to venues and vendors.
In addition to picking a date, it’s now time to ask your attendants, find a venue, and a caterer. If you don’t know who to hire, ask friends or look online to see if there is a wedding network in the area. Another great option is calling your local florist because they often have close relationships with many vendors who will be able to offer suggestions.
Once you have the venue secured you can begin booking vendors such as the florist, officiant and, musicians. The next step is to pick out a dress because they can often take up to three months to arrive. If your engagement is brief, you might have to pick something off the rack and have it altered.
#4 – Choose the right vendors
Make sure to do your homework, ask friends and co-workers for suggestions. Once you have a few possibilities, check out their websites and social media to determine if their vibe and price point would be a good fit for your wedding style and budget.
Call each vendor you would like to potentially work with and find out first and foremost if they are available for your wedding day. If they are, set up a consultation as soon as possible. If they are not available ask them for a reference.
Make sure to review examples of the vendor’s work during your consultation. This will help you have an overall sense of what the vendor’s capabilities are. Be sure to ask, “What will you need from me prior, during, and after my wedding?” Lastly, find out who will be the person providing the service on the day of your wedding.
Now is also a good time to order your invitations, notify any out of town guests of the event, and book the honeymoon.
#5 – Dive into the details
Now that you have a date set in stone and a venue secured – and have also booked caterers, musicians, and officiants – it’s time to pay attention to the small details because they make a big difference when it comes to making your big day exceptional.
Remember that renting equipment doesn’t just include tables and chairs for your reception. You can also rent silk plants, candelabras, and ceremony extras like arches, for example.
Make sure that you choose a reputable company to assist you with equipment rental. Just like the other vendors you are contracting with, it is important to find a company that is known for the quality of their equipment and the reliability of their staff. Ask those closest to you for recommendations in addition to referrals from your florist or local wedding network.
To save time and potential headaches with this step, a good idea is to create a “wish list” of what you would like to reserve. Refer to your other vendor contracts for what they do and don’t provide as a starting place.
You should also be ready to pay a deposit and remember that this is traditionally one-third of the total package price. Also, be prepared to spend a chunk time – because now is the time to really focus on your bridal vision and get creative. Be ready to ask a lot of questions.
At this point you should also begin sending invitations, setting up wedding registries, picking out wedding bands and renting groom and attendants attire. Remember that out-of-town attendants will need to get fitted prior to the ceremony date and have their measurements sent to the shop you will be renting from.
#6 – Choose a photographer
One of the pivotal decisions that must be made by a bride and groom when planning their special day is the photographer. This is a very personal choice, especially when you consider this person will be hanging around you and your guests for a whole day. It’s important to be sure you like their photography style and are comfortable with their packages and pricing. Review full wedding albums and not just their highlight reels and ask a lot of questions if there are things you don’t understand.
Ultimately photographers are vendors you hire, so like the other companies you have contracted with, we suggest getting personal recommendations and check out local vendor sites.
Don’t forget to ask about:
- Shooting fee
- What is in each package
- Additional costs like special effects or an engagement shoot
- Your rights: In most contracts, photographers own the rights to all photos they take. If you want to order photos from another source you’ll probably have to buy the rights to the images.
- Post wedding details: How long does it take to get proofs of your images? How many images should you expect? When are the photos retouched? Is that prior to getting your proofs or after selecting your images?
At this point in the planning process, you should also be reserving transportation, picking music, buying your attendant gifts and reserving a suite for your wedding night.
#7 – Piecing it all together
Now you’re in the final stretch, and it’s time to take care of things such as writing vows and determining what readings you will have in your ceremony and who will read them. This is also the time that you should be finalizing your menu, going for your final dress fitting, and attempting a dry-run of makeup and hair.
While you’re at it, get blood tests (if required by state) and a marriage license. It’s also a good time to make a seating chart and book house/pet sitter for the honeymoon.
#8 – The big day!
Even if you have done all the work yourself up until this point, it might be wise to hire a “day-of” wedding coordinator or enlist a trusted family member to handle any last-minute issues that arise because you’ll be too busy with other things to put out fires.
Just remember – there will be fires! In fact, you can almost count on some last-minute issues popping up on your big day – it happens to everyone.
The most important thing you can do is not let those things stress you out or take your focus off one of the most important days of your life. This day is all about you and your loved ones, but now is not the day for you to try to make everyone happy.
Thanks to your careful planning, everything will be fine and people will have fun! The day will be a blur and will be over before you know it, so make sure to take some time to enjoy it while you’re in the moment. Remember, your honeymoon is right around the corner!