How To Plan A Wedding For A Short Engagement

When you know, you know, right? If you’re ready to get married like, NOW, then why bother with the traditional months-long wedding planning timeline? With a little creativity, flexibility, and focus, you can pull off a spectacular wedding that no one would guess came together fast. Shutterfly’s wedding planning resources offer all the essentials you need to make your wedding a success — even with a short engagement. And the best part is, you can do so much of the prep yourself, which is a huge time (and money) savings.

Even quickly planned weddings require a few traditional basics, such as invitations, save the date cards, and thank you cards. With our time-saving ideas, you can personalize your wedding stationery and all your other wedding staples super fast. This guide shows how to plan a wedding for a short engagement for brides and grooms on an accelerated timeline. For a to-do list you can take anywhere, download our Short Engagement Wedding Checklist for easy-peasy planning.

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Save the Date Cards and Monthly Planners

Save the date wedding invitation card with engage couple

Once you’ve decided to get married soon, settle on the date for the ceremony. Since the wedding is coming up quickly, you want to send out your save the date notices as soon as possible. On a four- or eight-month timeline, you want to send your save the dates as soon as you book your venue.  One fun way to remind your guests of your impending nuptials is to send a save the date magnet which sticks to the refrigerator. Trust us, everyone will remember since they’ll see the magnet every time they visit the fridge. Since it’s a much shorter engagement, you can also send save the dates electronically and save your big news for your wedding invitations.

When you’re planning a wedding, keeping track of the details on random pieces of paper won’t cut it. And you don’t want to keep all your wedding planning notes on your phone in case anything happens to it. Instead, choose one of our monthly planners to keep all of your inspiration and ideas in. A monthly planner is a key organizational tool that wedding pros swear by because every single thing, including invitation samples, receipts, and your middle-of-the-night musings goes into it — and you’ll always know where to look for your wedding planning notes. From your inspiration and wedding dress ideas to the honeymoon, your wedding planner should contain everything needed to make your dream day happen. Include an itemized budget sheet, vendor sheet, wedding checklist and guest list and keep it handy to make note of any changes. We suggest personalizing your planner with photos, quotes, or inspirational messages to make it special.

When planning a wedding, the most important task on your list is to set your budget. Keep both an overall budget sheet of your wedding and an itemized list where you write your budget, the estimate given by vendors and the actual cost. A smart way of keeping track of sensitive financial information is with personal journals or notebooks that you can keep safe and secure. Having an itemized list with a budget and actual costs can also help you visualize where you can adjust your budget and allocate funds elsewhere. For example, if you budgeted $2,000 for food but your vendor is giving you a final price of $1,500, you now have some extra cash to spend on something else.

Wedding Invitation Inspiration

Wedding stationery with eucalyptus leaves and bowls


Honing in on the inspiration for your wedding colors and theme will make it a lot easier to finalize wedding details quickly. Establish your theme, color scheme and florals as early as possible to create your mood board. Make sure to keep a physical copy in your planner and one in your phone to easily pull when you’re discussing details with your vendors, venue coordinator or wedding planner.

Once you have your wedding celebration decor ideas, you can begin to create a guest list. Before you start your guest list, set a limit with your partner and stick to it. Keep in mind that the more guests you invite, the more you’ll have to pay. More guests usually stretch out your timeline as well––you’ll have to spend more hours on the menu, seating chart and potential travel arrangements.

Once you decide on a number, start listing the guests you can’t possibly envision your wedding without. As much as we all love to please everyone, keep in mind that this is a celebration of two. It’s okay to invite only those that will make your day special.

Planning Wedding Ceremony Details

Wedding invitations with flowers and greenery.

When short on time and money, it’s better to pick a date range, month or season in which you want your wedding to take place. Being flexible will help cut down stress and make it easier for you to find a good venue and available vendors. If you have four to six months to plan a wedding, try to pick your ideal date(s) within the first week of your planning process. If your timeline to get married is even shorter, you can learn how to make an elopement wedding special here.

Start calling, emailing and setting appointments with potential venues as early as possible. You can typically find hourly/daily rates and an availability calendar on each venue’s website. Before contacting a venue, browse through their website or review pages to get an idea of their costs. This will help you cut time by only looking at the venues that will work within your budget and timeline.

When meeting with a venue coordinator, ask about their curfew, potential taxes and additional fees, payment plans, noise and cooking restrictions as well as their policy on bringing outside vendors. Some venues only work with their preferred list of vendors which can quickly put you outside your budget.

With a short timeline, you want to lock down your vendors about four to six months prior. Book catering, music, photography and videography, hair and makeup, a florist and baker. Keep copies of any estimates you receive in your binder as well as their contact information and expected arrival time.

The Dress, Wedding Attire, and Rings

Wedding stationery suite with invitation, enclosure cards, ribbons, and lavender

Custom wedding dresses usually require you to place your order nine to 12 months in advance, as they can take a while to arrive and you might need to have some alterations done. When you’re short on time, shop for a dress in your size that’s ready to take home. Once you make your purchase, try it on with your shoes to make sure you don’t need any alterations.

Shop for tux and bridal party attire as well. Keeping an open mind will help you and your bridal party find budget-friendly outfits quickly.

Choose a design with your partner and place your order no later than four months before the wedding. This will give you time to make any adjustments on sizes and engravings. When placing your order, double check your selection and grammar to avoid any errors. Remember to choose rings you’re both comfortable wearing for a lifetime.

Establish your final count and guest list about one to two months before your wedding. At this time, you will want to check all of your guests’ addresses so your invitations get to the right place. Be sure to re-send your count to your venue and vendors in case they need to make any adjustments.

Once you’ve got everyone’s address labels and invitations, mail them out one to two months prior. Set up an RSVP process—whether it’s an email or a website, make sure it’s included at the bottom of your invitations. For a destination wedding, it’s always a good idea to include a suggested itinerary. This can help your guests choose a hotel near your venue and arrange travel to and from the destination.

With most of your RSVPs in, set a time with your partner to discuss how you’d like your guests to be seated at your wedding about a month prior. Although it’s custom to have families on separate sides of the venue, more and more couples are choosing to mix the tables to encourage family members to get to know each other.

Tips To Save Money

      • Make A Few DIYs. Anything custom-made can quickly add up your wedding costs so think about making some of your celebration decor yourself. Planning a wedding can be quite stressful so keep your list of DIYs realistic and relatively simple. Whether it’s the centerpieces or a guest board, don’t forget to practice with one item to make sure you like the end result.
      • Buy Seasonal Flowers. Save money by sticking to what’s available. Provide your florist with your color scheme and theme and ask them to give you seasonal and budget-friendly options that complement your selections.  
      • Pick A Date Outside Of Peak Season. June through September tend to be the busiest months for wedding planners, venues and vendors so naturally, prices will rise with so much demand. Picking a date in a slow month will not only allow for more flexibility but can give you more bargaining power with your vendors. Many venues also provide discounted rates or free additional hours when you book outside of peak season.
      • Plan A Backyard Wedding. With so many possibilities, outdoor weddings can be just as enchanting as big ballroom receptions. Save a good amount of cash by planning something in your own backyard or ask a relative to let you use their space. Make sure you check for any necessary permits to host an event with your local government agency.

      • Plan A Micro Wedding. The bigger the wedding, the higher the cost, so if you’re looking to save money, consider planning a tiny, intimate wedding. Inviting only a few friends and family or planning an elopement with a dinner afterwards can help you save money for other things like your honeymoon or even a down payment on a house.

Tips To Save Time

Wedding invitation tri-fold with bride and groom.

      • Hire A Wedding Planner. Although it’s not the most budget-friendly option, hiring a wedding planner can pay off when it comes to time and stress. They’ll handle most of your wedding details and arrange everything with your specifications.
      • Stick To A Short Guest List. A long list of guests usually requires more time and planning. If you want to save time, stick to no more than 50 guests. It will make your venue search much easier and vendors can easily accommodate clients with short notice when they’re dealing with a small guest list.
      • Keep An Open Mind. When you’re trying to pull off a wedding in a few short months, it’s important to understand that you won’t always get your first choice of venue, photographer, makeup artist or music. Many vendors can be booked a year in advance so if one of your favorites is booked, ask them for recommendations. They can usually point you to others who deliver similar quality or style of work.  
      • Delegate Tasks. It’s okay to ask for help on your wedding day. Before asking friends and family members, think about how much they can handle and whether or not you can count on them. Even though everyone is typically willing to help, you want to assign tasks that they’ll be able to deliver on.
      • Shop Sample Sales. Anything custom, whether it’s a tux, bridal gown or bridal party attire, will require several months to order and alter. To skip waiting on an order, shop sample sales and take your garments straight to alterations if necessary.

Closing Thoughts

To save time, it’s important to be quick and decisive. Choose your colors, flowers, attire and menu and trust that your wedding will look beautiful with what you’ve chosen. It’s okay to change your mind and make additions but always keep your timeline in the back of your mind. When switching things around, ask your vendors if it will affect delivery in any way.

If you recently got engaged and don’t want to wait a year for your wedding day, this guide covers everything you need to make your big day come true. Remember to be creative, keep an open mind and ask for help. After your wedding, don’t forget to send thank you cards to all of those who helped make your day possible and celebrated your union.

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