It’s a common myth portrayed by stressed brides and well meaning (but perhaps overbearing) mother-in-laws that you need at least a year to plan your wedding. So let us be the first to say it here: you don’t! Planning a wedding in three months (or less) is entirely possible. Believe us, we’ve seen it done, and done well.
What we will say is that, as with any large undertaking, there’s always a trade-off, with pros and cons to both. Whilst having 12 months to plan a wedding gives you the chance to spread it all out over many months – everything from decision making, to costs – you could be looking at a year of prolonged indecision. Or, 12 long months of intense focus. What’s more, like many engaged couples, you could find yourselves just three months out from the big day and realise you’ve done a little too much dreaming and maybe not enough doing, thus leaving you with a full-on few months at the end anyway.
Whereas if you’re game enough to take on the challenge of planning a wedding on the fly, sure it’ll be more intense, stressful, and time consuming for those 12 weeks; you’ll need to be ready for action, have your decision-making brain switched on, and be prepared for costs due mostly up-front or shortly thereafter. But after that you’ll have the rest of the year to relax in newly wedded bliss!
So whatever your reasons may be for marrying quickly – whether a sudden surprise engagement or a determined “let’s just do it now!” mindset – pour yourself a glass of bubbles and get ready to start taking notes.
Here’s our guide to planning a wedding in three months or less.
- Think about what you want
Stop right there; don’t open Pinterest just yet. Before you do anything else, pause and write out what your wedding looks like to you and make sure both of you are on the same page. Before you do much else, the two of you should talk about what’s important to you. You might find that whilst your fiancé doesn’t have an opinion on flowers or the wedding cake, he really wants to incorporate his family’s Scottish tartan.So consider whether you both envisage having a traditional or non-traditional wedding, whether you’ve always dreamed of having a small “intimate” wedding of 40 guests or a large formal gathering, an indoor or outdoor wedding, and whether you’d like a church ceremony first, or venue that can host both the ceremony and the reception. Think about if you want it to be a festival style celebration or a modern affair in a low-key building, if you’d like it to be morning or afternoon, a cosy event in your family home or even a destination wedding.
- Assess the time scale
Review the timescale, take into account the season, and tweak the vision you’ve both just agreed on to fit that timeline.For example, if it’s January and you’re getting married in 6 weeks, then realistically speaking, an outdoor festival-style wedding is probably not going to be possible in the middle of winter. So now is the time, before you go into full-on wedding mode, to assess what from your vision is most important to you.
A word of warning, be prepared to make compromises. We’re not saying you can’t have your dream wedding, but be ready to adapt if need be. Planning a wedding in six weeks will undoubtedly throw you a few hurdles, so whilst the key to successful wedding planning is in the details, don’t get too hung up on the little things. Take our advice, lock in your non-negotiables, and be open-minded with everything else.
- Review your budget
Ultimately, your budget will determine your vision, and how doable it is to plan and execute a wedding in three months. Yes, it’s hard to put a price tag on things so early in the game, especially when you haven’t even received quotes, confirmed guest numbers, tried on dresses or reviewed catering options. But knowing what your budget is, how cash-ready you are in the short-term, and who you might be able to lean on, will help you to make timely decisions necessary to proceed in the planning process.Tip: set a figure, leave a little bit of a buffer, and try not to go over it. As you proceed through the wedding planning stages, if something doesn’t work into your budget, say no and move along. Unfortunately, you don’t have time for “what if” and “if only.”
- Make a plan and follow it
Unless your day job is an event planner, chances are you’re going to feel overwhelmed at the thought of planning a wedding in such a short amount of time. So make a list of all the things you need to do, or use a free wedding planning tool (such as WeddingWire.co.uk) and customise it to suit your wedding. Prioritise your list in order of importance (budget, dates, registrar, venue, guest list, invitations, dress etc) making sure that all the big things that form the bones of the day are not forgotten. Only once you’ve got that sorted, can you afford to delve into things like decorations, bridesmaid gifts, and wedding favours.With that being said, you’re going to need to embrace the notion of multi-tasking.
When you have 12 months or more up your sleeve to plan a wedding you can afford to be less focused at times, you can jump tasks and allow yourself to get distracted; for example you can spend weeks caught up in the texture of invitation paper. With three months, you simply don’t have any time to waste. When you’re doing it all on a quick time frame, you’ll need to take on tasks simultaneously, make snap decisions, prioritise the important things, and block out all other non-essential tasks in the moment. The catch here is that there will be three or four equally important things requiring your attention at the same time.
- Give notice and secure your registrar
Perhaps more important than locking in your dream wedding venue, adhering to the regulations regarding marriage is crucial. Whether you want to have a religious, civil or humanist ceremony, if you intend to make it legal on the day then you’ll need to follow the required process. You’ll need to give notice of your intention to marry (usually a minimum four weeks), and you’ll be assigned a registrar for the area or region in which you intend to marry. Ensuring the approval and availability of the registrar for your chosen date will be a key step before anything else. Keep in mind that if you’re booking an off-season winter wedding, you’re probably going to have an easier time securing a registrar.
- Venue search & guest list
When it comes to finding your wedding venue, you’ll likely need to work on this step at the same time as thinking about your guest list. It can feel a bit like chicken and the egg at this stage as it seems impossible to commit to a venue without knowing numbers and how many people it needs to accommodate, and at the same time you can’t send out invitations and confirm guests without having a date and a venue in place.The other tricky thing is that in such a short time frame, you’ll be wondering if there is any point in sending out both ‘Save the Date’ cards as well as official invitations. And if you’re wanting to keep things as traditional as possible, despite the quick turnaround from wedding planning to wedding day, you may not be able to rely upon the convenience of modern methods like emailing, phone calls and mass text invites.
To get around this, our advice is to have a number in mind (for example an intimate group of 40 guests), and an ideal or preferred date or weekend, giving yourself a three day window of Friday through Sunday, for example, remembering your commitment to being flexible, and then start looking at venues.
Put together a master list of venues you like in your preferred area or location. Now cancel out any that can’t cater to your numbers (bearing in mind most venues will be able to easily cater to blocks of 60, or 100, or 100+ guests). With that being said, don’t be too quick to rule out venues that require larger numbers, some may be willing to accept smaller numbers if they’ve got a free date (especially if you’re booking last minute or setting dates over the winter period). Once you’ve got your shortlist of venues, cancel out any venues that don’t have availability on any of your dates. From here, you should be left with a few venues to choose from. Next, review your budget and go with the venue that feels the best natural fit.
The second you’ve got your venue locked in, send out your guest invitations. Do a ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’ by prepping them in advance so that all you need to do is enter the venue details and date. At this point, you have permission to be a bit cheeky with your RSVPs; ask for guests to confirm asap or risk missing out.
- Choose a wedding theme & stick with it
For a beautiful aesthetic, it needs to be cohesive. And if you’re tying the knot in just a few months, you don’t have time to be changing your mind and mixing too many elements. A good theme will help you pick colour palettes, materials, textures, styles, and set a guide for everything from the food you serve to your order of service and even your wedding band. If Pinterest is helpful for you, now is the time to perhaps spend a few minutes on it. But don’t get distracted, and stick to your plan. Remember the more you deviate from your theme, the messier it will look. So you need to be cut throat with your decisions, and if it’s not on theme, then it’s out. As harsh as it is, now is not the time to be indulging your grandma’s preference for sparkly doilies unless they are also yours.
- Recruit help
Too many cooks in the kitchen will brew disaster, so choose your help wisely. But to pull this off, you’re absolutely going to need support. Assign tasks carefully by considering the skill sets and time availability of your friends and family, and tick tasks off your list as soon as you can.To help you successfully plan your wedding in such a short amount of time, it’s a great idea to look for a wedding venue that offers wedding planning help, or one that has a team of staff dedicated to ‘producing’ the wedding on the day. And with limited time on your side, opt for venues that are mostly ‘dressed’ (such as purpose-built wedding venues). This will mean that if you choose to do nothing in the way of decor except to turn up with your entourage, the venue and wedding will look beautiful.
- Source your suppliers
Reach out for recommendations on suppliers and ask your venue who they often work with. Tapping into the venue’s recommended suppliers will mean they’re already familiar with the location and the rooms, helping you avoid endless hours on the phone arranging logistical details, and allowing your suppliers to get on with things without too much guidance.
- Your dress
So we’ve been very practical until now, covering the logistics of who, what, when, and where. Now that that’s organised, sorting your wedding dress and the groom’s suit is crucial given the time frame.
Many boutiques will tell you it’s a minimum 3 to 4 months wait for your dress. Friends and family will advise you to buy off the rack – which let’s be honest, may be completely underwhelming and enough to burst your newly-engaged bubble. Don’t panic, it is entirely possible to get your dream dress!
Firstly, make at least three or four appointments at bridal boutiques. Now’s the time to embrace your inner diva because omg, congratulations, you’re engaged and you’re getting married in no time at all! Sure, if you see too many dresses you’ll be overwhelmed (and don’t forget, you’ve committed to making the right decision in a timely manner), but if you don’t try on enough dresses, you won’t be able to find out whether what you’ve been picturing in your mind looks as good in real life.
Secondly, be up front and open with the boutiques. Tell them your time frame and allow them their moment to respond with the expected, “This March, like in six weeks you mean, not March [insert the following year]?” Then as boldly as you can whilst in various stages of undress in the change room, follow up with, “So what can do you do for me?”
Often boutiques will have a selection of dresses in various sample sizes they’re willing to part with. It’s going to need a little nip and tuck but it’ll be more special than a department store, off-the-rack buy and cheaper than a custom made designer purchase.
The same applies for the men. Decide if you’re buying or hiring, get fitted immediately, and make your timeline known. It they can’t do it, move on to someone who can. Lastly, be prepared to round everyone up. When it comes to your maids and the groomsmen, trying to get their attire sorted can feel a bit like rounding up chickens. You’ll flap your wings and they’ll spiral off in separate directions. Puff yourself up like the wedding boss you are and lay down the law – give them a time and a date for fitting and collection and threaten to do the long weekend in Ibiza for the “do’s” without them.
Regardless of whether you’re using a dedicated wedding planner or doing it all yourself, planning a wedding in three months or less will be all consuming, but it’s definitely possible (especially if you’re setting dates for the winter season). Chances are you’ll be spending almost all of your free time in wedding planning mode, and there will be times when one of you will feel ‘over it’. There will also be scenarios (likely caused by family, money, or both) that may bring you at odds with each other. Stay calm and be patient with each other. And even in your plan, incorporate a way to deal with the stress. Schedule in evening walks or breakfast times together. Set rules, like no wedding plan talk in the bedroom. Don’t forget your reasons for wanting to get married in the first place! Make time to be together as a couple, to celebrate and enjoy your engagement. And remember that in just a few short weeks you’ll have planned and cherished your dream wedding day and you’ll both be on your way to living happily ever after with your one true love.