There is no standard answer to this question; if you ask Google “how long does it take to plan a wedding?” the search engine’s answer is six months. The truth is somewhere in the middle: wedding planning can be done in a short amount of time or as long as years depending on your schedule as a couple.
More important than the amount of time you have is the amount you can accomplish; wedding planning is a process that does take time. Once you get through the initial excitement of your engagement, it’s time to jump in and kick start your wedding planning.
Where to start
Before you go dress shopping, before you order your cake, sit down with your fiancé (and any other family members involved with the wedding planning) and discuss your vision, style, budget, options and needs. Even if your fiancé seems uninterested in wedding planning, find out if he or she has any preferences for your big day. If your parents or other family members have expressed interest in helping pay for your big day, talk to them now and find out how much they are offering, or what expenses they want to cover. Set your budget higher than you expect—incidental costs often come in higher than you anticipate.
Next set a date, which can be three months or three years out—again it’s all dependent on your schedule as a couple. Setting a date does not mean focusing on a single day, though you can if you want to get married on an anniversary, holiday, birthday, or other special day.
If you are on a time crunch, consider holding your wedding on a non-traditional day, such as a Thursday, Friday or Sunday, when wedding halls, caterers, photographers and other wedding vendors tend to be available. Also try to choose wedding venues where many of the details are set, such as a venue where the wait staff and coat check is included. Schedule appointments with potential wedding venues so you can narrow down your options.
For couples who have longer to plan their wedding, start with a date, month and year, or series of dates. Set in stone the major details of your wedding: wedding venue, date, and any specific vendors you want on your special day. Contact venues to find out what dates they have available, and make appointments with the halls to view your options.
Decide who is going to take your wedding planning from there
Some couples want to handle every step, every detail of their wedding planning. If that’s who you are as a couple, set a schedule of tasks that need to be done as your selected date draws near. If you are splitting up the wedding planning to-do’s before you say I do, be very clear about who is doing what and what deadlines need to be met.
If you as a couple don’t have the time, have a lot of professional obligations, or just feel overwhelmed by all the wedding planning, look for a wedding planner or a wedding venue with event planners on staff. An event planner can book your important details, such as your wedding venue and food, and coordinate all the small details so your wedding matches your vision, no matter how long or how short of a time you have for wedding planning.
Enjoy the results
Wedding planning is a labor of love so keep your eye on the goal: a memorable wedding that fits the two of you as a couple. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask your wedding venue staff, wedding planner, friends and family. Wedding planning is a team effort, and the result, your special day, is worth the effort.