Once you get over the excitement and pure joy of your engagement, reality sets in and you start to think about wedding plans. Planning a wedding is a very involved process and can soon start to snowball out of control. However, if you have a good handle on how long it takes to plan a wedding and what is involved, you can maintain control of this untamed monster.
Setting timelines for each task allows you to work backwards and make sure you have enough time to get everything finished. As a rule, you’re realistically looking at a good 12 months and about 200 to 500 hours of your time depending on how involved your wedding plans become. Instead of diving straight in, though, use our helpful checklist to set some key dates and begin having fun.
How much time can you commit?
This is the first important question you need to ask yourself. If both you and your fiancé work full-time, your life just got a whole lot busier with a wedding to plan. Because you’ll be limited on how much time you can commit to planning each day, you’ll need to give yourself more time, or invest in a wedding planner as soon as possible. The busier your life, the further out you should begin your planning. If one of you has a more flexible schedule, your life is going to be a lot easier during the hectic time ahead.
How much have you saved?
We hate to bring the B word up so early in the game, but your budget actually influences your timelines. If you’ve been saving up for this day since you first met, or your family has since the day you were born, you don’t have to factor in additional time to start putting money aside to cover the costs. If you’re like most couples today, you’ll need some time to start saving so your wedding doesn’t put you into debt right as you start your lives together. Don’t depend too much on guests covering the costs either, unless your cultural background makes this a given.
How complicated is your ideal wedding?
If your ideal wedding is close friends and family, a ceremony, and a nice dinner, then planning won’t take too much time. However, if you have to have it all with complicated guest lists, major entertainment, a specific dress or venue, or have dreamed of a destination wedding, then all of these things add more time to planning. List all the elements that will create your best-case scenario wedding and you’ll get a better idea of all the things you need to book, plan, design, price out, make, shop for, and so on.
How flexible are you?
We’re not talking yoga moves here. Instead, it’s all about how flexible you’ll be when choosing and committing to all the elements of your wedding. Do you have to be married at the same church or venue as your parents, or are you open to suggestions? Do you have to shop for a dress, or do you plan to wear your mom’s, BFF’s, or mother in law’s? For every element you can’t bend on, you can add on more time. You’ll be faced with potentially longer wait times for popular spots, or even the reverse where you have to take an earlier date because a cancellation comes up. Either way, flexible couples tend to have an easier time planning their weddings.
Do you have any bride and groom helpers?
Planning a wedding is much like taking on a major project at work. If you have a lot of support, the job becomes much easier as you can delegate. If you’re on your own, you are spread much thinner and therefore it will take more time. If you can enlist dependable help, you can reduce your timeline.
How’s your pace?
If you are the kind of person who takes forever to complete tasks, you’ll need more time. If you tend to be quicker, you can reduce your time. However, also consider how you prefer to work. Do you want to feel more relaxed and reduce the pressure, or do you thrive under pressure? These things all factor in to create your ideal schedule.
Pencil in Your Schedule
The final step in planning your schedule is to look at the key steps involved in the wedding. This allows you to look at how much time you think you have based on your ideal date, and work back to see if that date is realistic. For the average 12 month wedding plan, you can pencil the following tasks into your schedule:
- 12-10 months: This is the time to choose your wedding date. This takes some effort because you might want to check available wedding venues, your ideal photographer, the place for your ceremony, and even check in with key people in your lives for their availability. With all these things considered, you should be able to choose a date. You also need to pin down your budget, so you know which venues are within your reach. If need be, this is also the time to start the wedding savings account.
- 8-10 months: At this stage, you have the date you need to book your vendors, such as your cake designer, florists, entertainers, etc. You also want to finalize your wedding party so you can ask if they are willing to step up on your special day.
- 6-8 months: Although the wedding is still months away, this is the time to start looking for your wedding dress. You also have to nail down your guest list so you can send out your save the dates. You should also research and book your honeymoon.
- 4-6 months: Today, a wedding website provides all the information your guests need for your wedding. Aim to do this at least four months out to save yourself from fielding endless questions. Now is the time to finalize your cake and menu, with a lot of tasting to make sure you are happy with your choice. If your hair stylist is in high demand, make sure you set up an appointment so you don’t have to settle for someone you don’t know on such an important day.
- 2-4 months: Since you’ve sent out your save the dates, you can hold off on the actual invitations until now. You can also start looking at things like music, wedding rings, and even consider having a makeup and hair tester appointment to finalize your look.
- 1-2 months: By this time, you should be able to confirm guest counts with your vendors as required. You also want to touch base with all your vendors so they know what they are expected to deliver and when. Once your guests are confirmed, you can also do your seating plan if required.