This entry is from our Expert Guest series where wedding and honeymoon professionals share their best tips on creating memories that last a lifetime.
It’s a common problem, really. A bride-on-the-fly picks up a wedding workbook or bridal magazine. She quickly flips to the planning guides promised within. She scans the text eagerly, then sighs with disappointment. Looks like the short engagement she’d hoped for can’t be crammed into the 12-18 month timetables listed within. Doesn’t anybody want to actually get married these days? she asks herself, wondering if she should give in, extend her engagement, and stay in pre-marital limbo for two years while planning a huge blowout event.
You Can Complete Wedding Planning In 6 Months Or Less
A word of encouragement if the above scenario sounds familiar: Don’t throw out the bouquet with the bathwater just yet. Believe me, I get it! When confronted by the time constraints and expectations of Traditional Wedding World, it can be easy to lose sight of the heart behind your hurry. But is it impossible to plan a wedding in six months or less? Not even close!
To compensate for your time deficiency, you’ll need the following in your bag of tricks: a clear vision for your Big Day, the ability to make quick decisions under pressure, and a flexibility level that rivals that of an Olympic gymnast. Listed in order from call-the-day-you-get-engaged to give-yourself-a-week-and-then-hop-to-it, here are six standout To-Dos that deserve special attention once you begin the planning process. Just remember: The shorter your engagement, the higher these items should rise on your priority list. (And if you’re really tempting fate—as in, you’re trying to pull off a wedding in two weeks or less—then adhere to this list and forget everything else. Except your fiancé, of course.)
Managing The 6 Big To Dos
1. The Guest List
With your fiancé, decide how many people you’d like to invite to your wedding, plan on about 70 percent of those people showing up, and commence with list-making. A word to the wise bride: Do not delay. So many things stem from the guest list. Namely, more lists. Think engagement parties, bridal showers, invitation orders, catering estimates, chair rentals…the list (see?) goes on.
2. Ceremony and Reception Locations
This should happen so fast it should be like a reflex. Get engaged, book your venues. Breathing can happen later. Having trouble finding an available Saturday evening in the next century or so? Consider saying “I do” to an alternative wedding day and time. If you’re open to hosting your wedding on a Friday or Sunday, or even just slightly adjusting to a Saturday morning, you are likely to find that a whole new world of venue availability opens up before you…and since venues and caterers are ever-anxious to fill empty spots on their calendars, there may be discounts to be scored, too!
When on a tight schedule, it can be helpful to look for reception locations that provide in-house catering. Two birds, one stone—you know how the saying goes.
4. Wedding Gown
Read closely: You do not have time to try on 300+ dresses like your girlfriend who had an 18-month engagement, or those women toting binders full of magazine clippings on TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress. It generally takes six months for a gown to arrive, although there are workarounds to this “traditional” timeframe. Know what you like, place an order, prepare to pay a rush fee, then stop perusing Pinterest. (No, seriously—stop right now.)
If you’re worried about finding a gown quickly, make a proactive phone call to four or five salons in your area and ask if they’ll be hosting a sample sale at any point in the near future. Also up for consideration: buying from online retailers such as Grace Loves Lace, renting a gown from sites like Rent the Runway or Borrowing Magnolia, and off-the-rack shopping.
Save-the-dates, formal invites…as soon as the all-important master guest list has been made, get them ordered. Even if you choose to order online from providers like Minted or Wedding Paper Divas, it will take a few weeks for your invitations to arrive in the mail. Next, you’ll have to address, assemble, stamp, and send them a minimum of 6-8 weeks prior to your wedding date. Note: If the aforementioned two-week scenario is your reality, stick to emailed invitations. Period.
6. Photographer + Videographer
You spent so much time on all the little details. Don’t you want them permanently documented? If your answer is yes, keep in mind that most professional photographers require deposits 90 days in advance of your wedding date. Additionally, photographers who are in high-demand have been known to accept a limited number of gigs each year, with bookings confirmed up to 12 months in advance.
Flexibility is key here, so I highly recommend building an A, B, and C list of creative professionals you would be comfortable working with. All the professionals have their calendars full? Proposition a friend with a fancy Nikon who’s working toward building a professional portfolio and pray for the best. Something’s better than nothing!
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Bio: Karley Kiker is a former speedy bride, current happy wife, and the author of How to Plan Your Wedding in Six Months or Less. She graduated from Pepperdine University in 2011 with a degree in Creative Writing and, to her parents’ great joy, she actually uses it. In addition to running the wedding planning blog ashortengagement.com, she co-owns a boutique creative content + marketing company called Writefully Said with her husband, Taylor. Learn more: ashortengagement.com | On Instagram: @ashortengagement