Contrary to popular practice, putting on a great wedding in six months, three months or even one month is completely possible. While perhaps stress-inducing, (but let’s face it, isn’t all wedding planning?) planning your wedding when time is really short is all about organization and prioritization. And hey, a few friends and family helpers never hurt.
The most important steps to planning a wedding on short notice are to prepare the legal paperwork, set a budget, secure a venue and vendors, choose your wedding party, pick a dress, and establish who your guests will be. The details will come into place as you plan, so don’t worry about them first.
If you have a half year, a quarter of a year, or just 30 days to plan we have the resources for you to help get you successfully on your way to saying “I do.”
Follow our steps below and you’ll be sure to be on the right path to your perfect wedding.
When You Have Six Months to Plan
While most people allow a year to a year and a half to plan a wedding, planning in six months is definitely doable.
In fact, Lea and I planned our first wedding in a little under that. I proposed while we were on vacation in Iceland in January and we had our civil ceremony in Hong Kong that June, including planning international flights for family. I have to say that my wife is a superstar because she then went on to plan our second, and bigger, family wedding the following April.
As long as you stay organized and focused, you’ll have a successful wedding that is as stress-free as possible. Planning a wedding in a shorter period of time may actually be more effecting and reduce stress, as you have less time to overthink the details and second guess your choices.
The first thing you should do when you sit down with your fiancé is to plan a budget. Budgets are extremely important and will allow you to realistically look at what you can and cannot have at your wedding. Budgets also ensure any must-haves (a specific photographer or catering you can’t live without) will be included in your wedding.
Along with setting the price point, decide who will be paying for what, and how much each person is expected to pay. The more detailed your budget the better! Think of every possible thing you’ll have to purchase for the big day and make sure to account for any contributions your family may or may not be making.
Your wedding venue is the next item on your list to tackle. Some extremely sought-after venues may already be booked, but if you are dying to get into a specific place, try opening up your date flexibility. Sometimes popular venues are not booked on Fridays or Sundays, so consider your options carefully. You can also consider venues that are non-traditional, such as a museum, art gallery, or restaurant.
My sister-in-law thought a bit outside the box and booked a local Rugby club for hers and my brother’s wedding reception. As it didn’t normally cater for weddings, they got a bargain and were able to keep to their low budget of $12,000 for the entire wedding day and honeymoon.
Like venues, wedding vendors should be booked as soon as possible. Because your timeline is shorter, stay local to find vendors that are available. Vendors you should be thinking about include music (DJ or live band?), photographers (possibly a videographer too?), florists, caterers, and the person who will make your cake.
You’ll also need to find an officiant in most cases unless working with a venue that actually provides its own. If you are worried about who will actually marry you, check out our article on how to get the best officiant for you and your partner.
There are always more people to reach out to, so don’t be dismayed if the first couple of places are already booked. Remember, it helps if you are not getting married on a Saturday, as most vendors will be booked on this popular day to get hitched.
If you want to have an engagement shoot, it’s important to get one scheduled as soon as you find your photographer. That way you can have the same photographer for your wedding and engagement shoot (although this is not necessary, some people like it for the consistency of style.) You can also use these photos for your save the dates when you send them out.
Once all of your vendors and location established, you can start focusing on your guest list. Look at your budget and determine how many guests it allots. You and your fiancé should plan who you would like to invite, and if you’d like you can show the list to your parents and ask them if there are any additional people they would like to invite.
When your guest list is made, reserve a block of rooms at a hotel for your guests that will need to travel from out of town. Hotel blocks are often available at a discounted price. As an alternative, you could also book a large Airbnb with multiple rooms for your out of town guests.
One of the most fun aspects of planning a wedding is establishing your wedding party. There’s nothing more special than sharing an intimate part of your special day with the men and women who are closest to you. Try looking for dresses or tuxes that are available from popular retailers (not wedding-specific) so the short timeline is not an issue.
Create your wedding website so it is easy for your guests to RSVP and see your registry, maps to the venue, venue details, and dress code. Of course, your love story and a few cute pictures are always a good touch too. After your website is up, send out your save the dates.
Some printing companies will print your guests’ addresses on the envelopes for you, saving you lots of time. As you work on your ‘save the dates’, start designing your wedding invitations and order them quickly so they will come in in plenty of time to mail.
Four months to go…
Hire minor vendors
At about four months until the wedding, start to hire your more minor vendors. These vendors can include hair and makeup, and transportation to and from your wedding to the reception. Of course, hiring a vendor for hair and makeup is optional. You can do it yourself or get a close friend or family member to make you up for the big day.
You should also be getting your wedding bands four months before you say “I do.” If you want a matching set from your engagement ring, shop at the same store your significant other got your engagement ring. Take some time together to visit jewelry stores to find the rings you love.
Also, plan for some hiccups, when Lea took her advice and went with her mother’s suggested private jeweler she actually cried when she saw the ring, and not in a good way. We had to get the ring from somewhere else and luckily we’d left enough time!
Alternatively, you can go now a non-traditional route and not even have wedding rings. Here are 41 real alternatives to wedding bands that we have researched just for you.
After your beautiful bands have been picked out, plan your menu and start cake tasting! Compromise on flavors, you both love. Make sure that you remember to cater to guests with specific dietary needs which you should inquire about on your wedding invitations or during your phone calls confirming attendance. Once cake testing is done, start thinking of where you’ll go on your honeymoon.
To keep the price down, visit somewhere in the United States and take a road trip. Road trips can be a very romantic and great way to bond. Go to a national park together or visit a big city like Las Vegas or Boston.
Of course, if money is no object you will probably find this part of the planning the simplest to sort out. Remember that you can get some great last-minute deals if you are flexible about location and departure dates. Also, if you can plan your wedding for winter rather than summer, you may get some really spectacular deals. See this article we wrote on December weddings.
Sending out invitations
Since your invitations are already ordered, send them out once they arrive. Invitations should be sent around three months in advance so you can plan for who is coming and not. After invitations are sent, you can start to focus on your bachelor and bachelorette parties. Usually the best man and maid of honor plan the parties but make sure you know what day, time, and how long your party will be.
Two months to go…
Around two months before your wedding, order your marriage license. This is a major deal, and there will be no wedding without it! Visit your country clerk to get your marriage license. Also during this time frame, try a hair and makeup trial. This is important whether you’re getting it done professionally or having a friend do it. You want to feel secure that you’ll look your best on your special day!
One month to go…
A month before the big day is the time to confirm all the little details. Make sure all of your vendors know what time they need to be ready. Create a timeline for your wedding day so the vendors, bridal party members, and others heavily involved in the wedding (parents, etc.) know exactly what’s happening when.
All of your RSVP’s should be in at this time, so make a seating chart for the reception to ensure everyone has a place to eat and celebrate. As the month ends and your big day nears, remember to enjoy yourself. It’s natural to feel stressed, so make sure you are communicating your feelings with the people who are close to you. No need to hold anything in! Savor your last few days being someones’ fiancé(e), and let the good times roll!
When You Have Three Months to Plan
Three months to plan a wedding is doable, but you need to be decisive. No hemming and hawing over every specific detail. That being said, you can still have a great wedding that all parties are happy with.
When you have three months to plan, it’s important that the first thing that gets done is the legalities. Make sure you have an appointment with the county clerk to get your license as soon as possible. After the legalities are done, here is a list of everything that should be completed three months before you say “I do.”
- Decide on your guest list
- Choose a date-Book a venue. Look at non-traditional venues such as a backyard, restaurant, or national parks.
- Send out electronic save the dates
- Hire a wedding planner. Although not necessary, in a time crunch a wedding planner can help you manage your stress and get your head on straight.
- Book a photographer and videographer if you’d like professional documentation.
- Figure out your music. Band or DJ?
- Go dress and suit shopping. Shop local to expedite the process.
- Ask your wedding party to purchase their outfits. Many brides have found beautiful dresses on Amazon Prime. We love that 2-day shipping!-Order your wedding cake
If you are going to buy a wedding dress online, then you should check out my article on the pros and cons of doing this.
Two months to go…
Two months before your wedding should be focused on planning details and your honeymoon. This is crunch time, but no need to stress. When planning a wedding in 3 months technically it’s all crunch time! Here’s what we suggest you do in month 2.
- Figure out where you want to go on your honeymoon. If you are traveling overseas make sure your passports are not expired and will not expire in the next four months.
- Send out your wedding invitations. Ask for people to RSVP online so it’s easier and faster to record who’s coming. Set up your wedding website to streamline RSVPs.
- Set the date for your bachelor and bachelorette parties. Your maid of honor and best man should be on this, but you should definitely be in on a date that works best for you.
- Have a hair and makeup trial day –Buy your wedding bands
- Book wedding transport to and from your venue/ reception and accommodations for your out of town guests.
One month to go…
One month before the wedding is an exciting time! You’ll be feeling like a chicken with its head cut off, but this is normal even for brides who plan for years. Don’t panic. Everything will be fine. In the final month, here’s what you should be focused on.
- Make the final alterations to your wedding dress
- Confirm the details of your wedding décor
- Confirm all of your bridesmaids and groomsmen have their outfits ready for the special day
- Taste your cake and finalize the wedding menu.
- Make a seating chart with the guests who have RSVP’d. Call the guests who have not RSVP’d. You don’t want to assume they’re not coming and then not have a seat for them!
Although this may look like a daunting list (and in some ways, it is!) It should be doable if you keep the following tips in mind.
Make quick decisions. You do not have time to be indecisive. You may have to compromise on some details if things are not going precisely your way. If you do have to compromise, don’t let it weigh you down. You don’t have time to be focused on something that didn’t work your way. Move on as quickly as you can.
Hire a wedding planner. This will make your life much more streamlined. Look into wedding planners who have experience planning weddings on a short timeline in order to give you peace of mind. They’ll know exactly what to do and when and will be able to calm your nerves when you’re feeling queasy.
Remember to have fun and relax. Even though every decision might seem like the end of the world, it really isn’t! What you’ll remember most from the day is how wonderful it was to spend time with all of your best friends and loved ones. And of course, how amazing it feels to finally be married to the love of your life.
Planning in One Month… Is it Possible?
In short, yes. Planning a wedding in one month is possible but not for the faint of heart. It’s going to be a jam-packed month, and you are going to have to work quickly, be organized, and you cannot be picky.
Make sure your partner is going to be in the planning with you. If you split the work 50-50, planning a wedding in a month is much more manageable than if you have to do it all alone.
Much like in 6-month and 3-month planning, you must pick a date, have a clear budget, and find a venue very quickly. You cannot be picky about the venue. Try to think of non-traditional venues such as national parks, restaurants, backyards, or local parks. After you have picked out your venue, time to invite your guests.
Make it all legal!
However, your NUMBER ONE task is to get your marriage license as soon as possible! This is often the spanner in the works when it comes to planning a very last minute wedding, so make sure you head on over to the town hall or county court first thing tomorrow morning!
There is no need for ‘save the dates’, instead, send out e-invitations. Ask guests to RSVP as soon as possible and electronically so your process of seeing who’s coming is streamlined.
Once you have invited your guests, get your bridal party together. When planning is done in a month, it’s best to ask your bridesmaids and groomsmen to pick out their own dresses and tuxes. You can request that they match the color theme but having them pick their own outfit will save your time and their money.
Remember to be flexible about your choices. If no videographer or photographer is available, reach out to mutual friends that you know have good camera skills. However, before you ask an amateur, read our article on whether or not to hire a professional videographer.
Look at local smaller vendors who are more likely to be flexible in helping you. Local caterers are the way to go for finding help at short notice.
Ask around to see if you have any connections with someone who would be able to DJ for you. If you know of a local band, you can also ask them if they’ll play at your reception. Being realistic about what you can and can’t have at such a short notice is imperative in making sure you aren’t disappointed on your big day.
If you can’t have music or don’t really want it then your reception isn’t ruined, check out my article on 25 surprisingly fun ways to have a dance-free wedding.
Whether you have 6, 3, or 1 month to plan for your wedding, remember to relax and have fun. Your wedding is really just a giant party that you have the pleasure to plan. There are rare occasions when all of you and your fiancé’s loved ones are in the same area and best yet they’re there to celebrate your love.
Relax, enjoy the whirlwind, and remember that you’re embarking on a new journey as a married couple. This is one of the most exciting times of your life so be sure to enjoy it to the fullest.