How Long Does it Take to Plan a Wedding?

From custom engagement announcements to picking your perfect venue to walking down the aisle in your dream dress, you’ll put in the work to make your wedding everything you pictured. But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Understanding your how long it takes to plan a wedding can help keep you organized and stress-free all the way through the big day. We don’t want you to miss a thing.

When Should You Start Planning Your Wedding?

Giving yourself plenty of time to plan a wedding is ideal: Most experts recommend starting preparations at least a year in advance. Starting early means that you’ll have more time to tailor fit everything to match your wishlist as well as dealing with any issues that come your way. Considering the average engagement in the United States usually lasts between a year and a year and a half, plans beginning with this timeline are extremely common. The further away your wedding, the easier it will be to plan a destination honeymoon, to pick a popular venue, and even grow your budget for the big day. And better yet, giving yourself extra time will help cut down on stress and enable you to enjoy all the little steps that come with planning a wedding.

One Year+ in Advance

First Steps to Plan a Wedding with Plenty of Time

  1. The best way to start off your planning on the right foot is to settle on a budget. A carefully constructed and agreed upon budget will help you plan the event of your dreams without getting in over your head. A good starting point is to prioritize a list starting with what is most important to you. That can be anything from a sentimental location for the ceremony to having a personalized cocktail list.
  2. Consider the big picture while the day still seems far off: How big is your wedding party? What theme resonates best with you? Will you get a wedding planner? What month did you always picture exchanging vows in? Keep the ideas together in a wedding planning binder and have fun with the early brainstorming.
  3. Committing to a venue and wedding date early is often needed before starting other plans. After you do that, you can start on other exciting engagement activities. Planning an engagement shoot with your new fiancé can be both a special way to make memories with your significant other and you can use those photos to send out your announcements or save the dates.

  Wedding Invitation and Photo book Theme Ideas after planning a wedding

So You’re Midway through your Timeline

Now that you’ve established a clear vision for your wedding day, start sampling different vendors, caterers, and suppliers to help you make that vision a reality. Committing to these early will help keep costs down and since you’ve had so much time to plan and explore options, you’ll know that you’re happy with your choices.

With a theme in place, pick your decor, centerpieces, and all the other pieces that will accomplish that look. Don’t forget behind-the-scenes details like your music list, making transportation plans, and giving roles to members of your family and wedding party. These are key elements that will streamline your wedding day.

Tips for the End Stages of Wedding Planning

  1. A simple day-of checklist and solid wedding timeline can streamline the final preparations before you say “I Do.” Don’t be afraid to create one with your wedding planner if you have one, or with your fiancé and wedding party.
  2. Conducting a final check-in with vendors and anyone with a special role in your wedding will ensure that everyone is on the same page. Also, completing as many final payments and other post-nuptial tasks will help you to enjoy your wedding and honeymoon without the stress of additional responsibilities.

Six Months in Advance

Planning a Wedding in Half the Time

Wedding planning processes can be streamlined by new technology more and more often, so it’s becoming common for couples to say “I Do” after only six months of organizing. There are additional benefits that come with this expedited timeline: Since there is less time between the proposal and walking down the aisle you and your fiancé, friends, and family are more likely to stay excited all the way through the process. This energy will keep you going in the upcoming plans, even when the pressure of the timeline sets in.

Useful Tips for Planning a Six Month Timeline

  1. A shorter planning period likely means that your big day won’t feel so far away and that the initial stages of organizing won’t be as abstract. You’ll want to sit down and make a solid plan of your wedding theme, location, and guest list right in the beginning. Committing to these elements early means that you’ll be able to dive into the details and get more done with plenty of time.
  2. No matter how much time you have to plan your wedding, it’s important to give your guests plenty of notice. Make sure to let your guests know well in advance if they’re invited – especially if your wedding is farther away. Ordering your wedding invitations sooner is also a great way to push yourself to commit to a theme so that you can continue the planning momentum. Be sure to check out our resource on the cost of wedding invitations to help you keep your budget on track.
  3. Take advantage of new technology such as this online planner by Trello which can help cut down on wasted time and keep every wedding detail just a click away. Using a digital planner enables you to keep track of tasks and deadlines on your own and stay in control of your timeline.
  4. There are many ways to both help save time and tick each box on your wedding timeline checklist. For example, instead of creating your perfect dress from scratch, consider finding something that only needs a few alterations or even modifying a dress passed on through the family. You can also ask friends and family to contribute a skill or gift that ties into the big event; sometimes a woodworking uncle can work magic on venue decorations.

A handmade wood sign at a wedding reception made after planning a wedding

Three Months In Advance

Planning a Wedding on Short Notice

There are many reasons to plan a wedding within three months or less on the timeline, and none of them mean that you have to settle for a celebration that doesn’t meet your expectations. Many couples choose a shorter wedding planning schedule when they’re eager to start a family, move, or compensate for a narrow window to have all of their loved ones together. No matter the case, three months is plenty of time to put together an event that will make memories last a lifetime.

Essential Tips for Planning a Last Minute Wedding

  1. First: Don’t panic. Instead, get help to start planning. One way to cut down on the burden of planning a wedding on a deadline is to use digital tools such as WeddingHappy that act as your personal wedding planner and unofficial de-stressor. Tools like this can be shared with wedding parties and partners, and can plan the organization so you can get things done. With a helpful platform you can focus on what matters throughout your shorter timespan and stay productive.
  2. Priority is key: sit down with your partner and determine the things that you both care the most about. This will give you an idea on what projects to start on first, and ensure that the folk band you and your partner love makes the cut.
  3. Think carefully about your guest list. Including only the people you need cuts down on costs and scale. The more guests you invite, the bigger the venue needed and larger venues can be more difficult to book on short notice. Also, there might be more last-minute changes to your plans as some guests may not be able to take time off work or fly in if they live far away.
  4. Research is a great strategy to make sure you’re not wasting your time or money on any elements of a last minute wedding. For instance, Uber Events enables you to make sure everyone safely gets to where they need to be on the day of, but doesn’t charge for unused rides by guests. It’s also a great alternative to unexpected parking issues or concerns about drunk driving. Crowdsourcing (such as Facebook recommendations) can also be a great way to get the best advice on short notice.
  5. Don’t underestimate the helpfulness of your loved ones! Ask if instead of buying gifts that friends and family contribute towards the ceremony, reception, or other wedding elements either monetarily or through useful skills. Helpful hobbies include things like event photography or calligraphy. Not only is this a great way to save on last-minute costs and get everything accomplished, but it’s also a great way to make the big day even more meaningful.

Destination Wedding

How Long Does it Take to Plan a Destination Wedding?

The average length of time that couples plan their destination wedding is around a year and a half, with wedding planners claiming that anytime before two years is best to get a head start on organizing your special day abroad. Planning a destination wedding is dependent on things like destination season, guests having to make travel plans, and availability of certain venues. Giving yourself plenty of time to nail out those details is key to enjoying a stress-free walk down the aisle in the Bahamas.

Couple on the beach at their destination wedding after planning their wedding

Steps to Plan a Destination Wedding

  1. Consult with a destination wedding planning company or venues abroad to find your dream location for your nuptials. Locking down a venue and destination will give you an engagement timeline to get everything else ready. Make sure to consider factors such as how many people you expect to invite, how you expect guests to travel, and what the weather might be like in order to avoid any hiccups down the road.
  2. Your destination wedding may require a scouting trip in order to make sure your chosen vendors and venue have everything you want. A rooftop setting may look interesting in pictures but feels like magic once you’re there. Vice versa, a small outdoor venue may look beautiful on the website, but only when you visit do you realize it’s right next to a noisy highway.
  3. Once you have the location and date nailed down, be sure to give your invited guests as much notice as possible. Sending those tropical themed wedding invitations at least six months in advance will give your loved ones enough time to request work off and buy their tickets to Fiji for your special day.
  4. After the invites go out, your wedding will follow a more normal pattern and you can use this destination wedding checklist to determine exactly what else needs to get done before you arrive at the airport.

The Takeaway

In all, it takes varying lengths of time to plan a wedding, with each couple’s celebration as unique as the next. The most important thing is that you feel organized and stress-free so you can enjoy your wedding plans like you’re meant to.