How Long Does It Take to Plan a Wedding?

Updated on January 10, 2017

A Whole Year?!

Last December, my boyfriend, Tyler, surprised me with a gorgeous ring accompanied by an even more beautiful proposal. We were overjoyed, we were in love... we were engaged! When I asked Tyler when he would like to get married, he responded with, "How about tomorrow?"

While his enthusiasm was endearing, since we didn't plan to elope, it was entirely impractical. However, after taking into account our schedules (we both work in politics, so any time leading up to or immediately following Election Day in November was a no-go) and various other factors, we came to the conclusion that we were staring down the barrel of two extremes: either we were going to have a very short engagement and get married in late spring or early summer of that year, or we would have to wait until the following spring/summer.

The decision was a no-brainer: We set the date for June 14 of this year, and started to spread the news.

With Christmas just around the corner, I received dozens of "wedding" themed gifts. One particular gift that I was incredibly excited to get was The Knot's Ultimate Wedding Planning Guide. I immediately flipped to their checklist to start to take in all of the tasks I would be completing over the next 6 months, only to be slapped in the face by their suggested timeline:

One. Year.

The Facts

A year?! That's twice as long as I had given myself to do this! Surely it can't be the case that people need a full YEAR to plan the wedding of their dreams..... right?

According to an infographic from Wedding Paper Divas, 40% of couples are engaged for 13-18 months before they say "I do."

I just turned 25. My friends are at an age where I'm starting to see pictures of bling on left hands appear more often on my Facebook feed than college keggers (some may say "sad", but true). That being said, once I started to think about this startling figure, I started realizing that for as many diamonds as I had seen pop up over the last year, I had seen significantly fewer invitations to or pictures from actual weddings. After conducting a highly scientific study of my own Facebook friends, I realized that I was, in fact, in the minority... in a big way.

Many of my friends had been (or would be, by the time of their pending nuptials) engaged for well over a year.

How long were you (or would you like to be) engaged before getting married?

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I fully recognize that there are MANY reasons why some couples have longer engagements.

My best friend has already been engaged for over a year and will not walk down the aisle until spring of 2015. This is due to the fact that she is, right now, finishing her last year of law school, will be taking the bar exam this July, and had to push her date back in order to secure the ceremony site of her choice.

These are all valid reasons for a long engagement. However, at the risk of being a little bit controversial, I'm going to lay out some reasons I don't consider quite as valid, and my arguments for why you should re-consider if you're basing your timeline on any of them.

Myth #1: I Just Won't Have Enough Time!

This first section may seem broad, but I think this preoccupation itself is broad. Couples worry that they won't have time to get "things" done, but I fear that this concern is based largely on assumptions and not actual facts. In reality, there are very few things that actually take a lot of time to do. It's all about organization.

I know that when I was planning my wedding, I often felt rushed and worried that I would never have enough time to get everything accomplished.... but guess what? I did- and I didn't have to give up my day job to do it!

There are, undoubtedly, some things that will take time, and will only end up costing you more money if you have to rush them. However, these things are few and far between, and in almost no case can they not be manipulated to fit a shorter time frame.

Securing the venue you want may be your biggest concern, if you think/know that it is a popular location and may be booked solid for months or even YEARS to come. This can be dealt with... but more on that later.

Even if you are planning on DIYing many of the décor for your wedding, with willing bridesmaids ready to pitch in and help, you're only looking at a few weekend sessions of work if you stay on task.

Once you choose and secure your venue (both ceremony and reception, if different), book your vendors, and get your invitations addressed and sent on their way, there really is nothing left to do minus the small details. If you're organized and practical, the BULK of the planning can be done in a very short amount of time. I did mine in less than 4 months for a wedding that is being thrown across the country (back home in New York while I am living in Billings, Montana) for 250+ guests.

Myth #2: I Know I'll Need Time to Find the PERFECT Dress!

Along the same lines as the overall "Time" myth, many brides worry that they'll be indecisive when it comes to picking a dress, or that they'll simply need plenty of time to ensure that the dress is truly THE DRESS.

To many brides, the wedding dress is one of- if not THE- most important aspects of the entire wedding. Little girls dream of silk couture and grow up with the resilience and determination to search high and low until they find the perfect dress.

There are two important distinctions to make here. The first is to consider exactly how long it will take to have the dress made (or altered if you are buying off the rack). The second is how long it will take you to actually find the dress.

The first part of this equation is fairly straightforward, and most bridal salons stick with this same general principle: Anything inside of the 6 month mark is considered a "rush" order. When I walked into Kleinfeld's in New York to find my dress, my intake sheet was already stamped with the red RUSH stamp of doom... and the six month mark had only passed a week prior to my appointment. The professionals take it seriously, but they WILL work with you. Keep that in mind.

Now onto part 2.

Being engaged is all about commitment, right? I know I run the risk of getting some push-back here, but stay with me because I think that my point is an important one to make.

Finding the love of your life is an amazing thing. It means that you are committed to spending the rest of your life with that person, because they make you better when you are with them than you are when you're on your own. Right? It does not, however, mean that on the entire planet, there is not anyone else who could ever make you happy. Of course, you are marrying this person because you believe that they are the best of the best, but think of it this way: there are people who get divorced and later remarried, and there are couples who find each other later in life after losing their first spouse, and they find happiness again.

My point here is not to be cynical, but to encourage brides to look at dress shopping in a similar way. Once you fall in love with your dress, STOP LOOKING. You found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, so you take down your eHarmony profile, right? You stop looking. You've found the right one.

After years of watching way too many bridal shows, and listening to friends' bridesmaid horror stories, apparently there is an epidemic- nay, PANDEMIC- of women who were able to commit to spending the rest of their lives with another human being, but cannot seem to commit to a piece of FABRIC.

There are hundreds of thousands of wedding dresses out there for you to choose from. There will always be other beautiful dresses out there, but when you're lucky enough to find one that makes you feel amazing, do yourself a favor and lock it down. You fell in love with and committed yourself to your fiancé... even though Ryan Gosling is still out there. Apply the same logic to your dress: you should commit to the dress that makes you feel like the beautiful bride that you want to be, even though Vera Wang will still be making dresses (hopefully) for many years to come.

If you do your research (which, with sites like Pinterest now is so painfully easy it's not even funny) and are prepared for your bridal appointment, you will find a dress. You do not need to have a year-long engagement so that you have time to find the perfect dress. Bridal appointments are usually booked for no more than an hour or two. Just how many appointments do you expect to have? Look at pictures. See what catches your eye. Make an appointment and try on similar dresses. If that style doesn't work on your body type, ask your consultant for recommendations. This is what they do every single day-- they're the experts! Know what kind of accoutrements you like, ie: beading, "bling", etc and what you would never dream of having.

If you anticipate that you will be indecisive, set aside one whole weekend, and make three appointments at three different stores. Choose large stores with many many designers. If you truly take the time to prepare, even the most indecisive bride will find a dress, and I guarantee, it will not take you a year.

Myth #3: We Need Time to Save Up Enough Money for the Wedding of Our Dreams!

This next section may come off as harsh to some, but it's only meant to be tough love. It's also a dose of reality that I somewhat wish I had considered when planning my own special day.

Money and budgeting issues are front and center during any wedding planning process. Whether you're lucky enough to have your parents or another family member offer to help you pay for the wedding, or if you and your fiancé are taking on the financial burden yourselves, there are considerations that many couples don't fully explore before diving into planning.

It's all about the money. It always is, just like everything else in life. Everything has a price tag, and even though you may think the price of renting that castle in Scotland is totes unreasonable, it's not going to change. Even weddings with the most extravagant budgets have to compromise, adjust, and sacrifice parts of their original "vision."

I'd like to digress for just a moment. Running the risk, yet again, of sounding like a horrible person who does not love weddings and all things romantic and wonderful, I'm going to give brides a piece of advice that I wish someone had given me... if only just to consider.

I am lucky enough that my parents are paying for my wedding. Now that we're less than two months out, all of the planning is essentially done, and I know this will be the wedding of my dreams, and I could not be more grateful for this extraordinary gift my parents have given my fiancé and I. However, recently, I've been forced to think about all of the expenses that immediately follow the wedding, and how they are truly the things that start to shape your marriage.

Though it is undoubtedly special, your wedding day really is just that: One, single day.

It is a celebration of your life and your future together, but it doesn't determine how happy or successful your life will be from that point moving forward.

If you are receiving help from family to pay for the wedding, would it maybe be even better, once you determine a budget, to thank your parents for their generosity, and propose that, instead of spending all of the money on one night, you might take a certain amount out, set it aside, and put it towards a down payment on a house? Or start a savings account in both of your names? Just a thought...

Getting back to our original conflict...

If you have decided that you need to wait longer to have a wedding because you need time to save up more money to be able to afford the wedding of your dreams... consider that for a moment. Now, maybe you're young, and maybe you're just out of school, and maybe you have student loans, so you think you need to take time to save up to throw a wedding.

Wouldn't it make more sense to be saving for the rest of your life? Instead of working for an extra year to make enough money to pay for that one day, consider throwing an incredible DIY wedding in your parents backyard, or at the beach, invite your friends and family to join you as you celebrate your love and your commitment to each other, and instead, take your hard-earned money and put it towards your future. Trust me, it may not seem like it now, but it is worth it to have the money for your next student loan payment because you sacrificed the photobooth at your wedding.

Myth #4: We NEED That Venue!

In short: no, you don't.

Some people have emotional connections to specific locations; the attended school there, their parents were married there, they ate dinner there once when they were 5 and have dreamed of getting married there ever since. That's all well and good, and if it means that much to you, that I would never discourage you from adding your name to the list and waiting in line for your turn at a particular venue.

However, if you simply fell in love with the pictures on the website and think that you MUST MUST MUST get married there, even if their next available date isn't until 2020... I would encourage you to reconsider for a number of reasons.

First, if you have to wait THAT LONG for a chance to have your reception at a specific location... why would you want to? Doesn't that mean that everyone and their cousin has been there, done it, and attended four weddings there already? Every single wedding hosted there may have been beautiful, but I assure you, it can be just as beautiful somewhere else, and it will be fresh, and new, and uniquely YOU.

I know that sometimes, when you've had the idea for a long time, you feel like it's unfair that other people just HAPPENED to get engaged before you and they stole your idea. I can totally empathize with you there... sort of. The only place I ever envisioned my wedding was at the New York Public Library. I just thought it was so nerdy-chic in a Belle sort of way. Carrie Bradshaw and the first Sex & the City movie ruined THAT dream for me. Even though little 5 year old Amanda had dreamt up that wedding long before the concept of Carrie Bradshaw was ever molded... it would only look like I had copied her, so that plan was out.

Once you've made peace with the fact that your previous "dream" location may not be in the cards, open yourself up to all of the AMAZING possibilities there are out there.

Obviously, there are thousands upon thousands of banquet halls, country clubs, and restaurants that put on fabulous events every year, but if you want to get married in the spring or summer, these are often booked up (because everyone is booking 2 years in advance!), so think outside the box. Find a place that is large enough to accommodate your guests and start making phone calls. There are many places that have and will host private events, but aren't necessarily known for doing so. In fact, in my opinion, places that have done events in the past, but maybe not many weddings, can often be the BEST places to have yours! This means that they're familiar with what it generally takes to host an event (seating, tables, food/catering, lighting, sound system, etc) but you will be amongst the first to have your reception there. This is what Tyler and I were lucky enough to find. I am originally from New York and when he first came out to visit me there, we toured the USS Intrepid- a WWII aircraft carrier that is now a floating museum, permanently docked in the Hudson River on the New York side. When it came time for us to find a venue, I called them, knowing that they had done corporate events in the past, and sure enough, they had my extremely [wedding] popular date of June 14 available, and we will be toasting our "I dos" at sunset on the Hudson.

What is the most important factor for you to consider when planning your wedding?

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When It's Right, It's Right.

Don't ever let anyone (including bossy wedding timelines) tell you that you need a certain amount of time to plan your wedding. If you are organized and stay on top of your planning, everything can absolutely get done and you will not have to settle for second best. Trust yourself, know yourself, and take comfort in the fact that it can be done.






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      Sharonlie17 3 months ago

      Hi Amanda,

      I really liked your article!

      It made me feel a lot better because I had a sutuation quite similar to yours.

      My then fiancé decided to get married at the beginning of last year ( january).

      We absolutely had to do it in my home country because mother could not travel to Canada due to health problems.

      As a matter, my whole extended family had already planned to be present ( after over 15 years) in my home country the summer of the same year as it was my grandmother's wish for all her children to be present around her.

      My husband and I therefore, decided to have the wedding at the same time that the whole family would be reunited. This gave me about 6 months to organize our wedding in my home island in the indian ocean. It was very stressful specially with the distance and time difference.

      Even though I was able to make it in the end ( with the exception of some minor issues), I was completely burnt out and most importantly, I could not thouroughly enjoy the process.

      There is a lot of wisdom and posivity in what you have written; however, I am wondering, would you not have preferred to have more time to organize your big day and enjoy the whole organization process? Because I mean, half of the fun is the preparation right? Since afterall, it is supposed to be the best day in our lives .

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