Congratulations on your engagement! Did you pop the question, know it was coming or was this completely out of the blue? First things first, have you taken a moment to actually celebrate and enjoy your engagement? If not, stop and do that! And then start thinking about planning your big day and start reading this article and we’ll find out the answer… how long does it take to plan a wedding?
How to figure out your time line for wedding planning:
According to a Hitched survey of 2021 wedding couples the average engagement length is 20 months and 24% spent more than 24 months planning (could the dreaded virus have skewed that maybe?!), but weddingwire.com says that 19% of couples plan their wedding in six months or less. So what is the general consensus and how much time will you need?
Have a read through these points and consider all the different tasks that contribute to the average wedding planning time frame.
Think about what kind of wedding you’d like
Start at the beginning! As you chat through all the myriad of wedding options out there, you and your partner will start to figure out what you don’t want which will narrow down the list of what you do want. Eventually you’ll be left with a list of where your tastes overlap and you’ll have a good idea of your wedding theme. This might start to influence how long you’ll need to make your dream come to life. If you want a very simple day with just your closest family members you’ll need less time than if you want a huge wedding party with hundreds of hand made details.
Figure out a rough wedding budget
Will your parents foot the bill, will family contribute or will you pay for your wedding yourselves? Early in the wedding planning process the topic of money will inevitably come up and you’ll start to figure out how much you have to spend on your big day.
Figuring this out early is the best option so you can plan realistically! This might also influence your timeline too as if you have a certain wedding type in mind, you may want a little more time to save up.
And don’t forget to budget about 5-10% as a buffer for the ‘oh shit fund’ that will inevitably come up during your wedding planning.
Choose your wedding venue
There are so many different types of wedding venues out there (and you can check out some of <<my favourite Hertfordshire wedding venues here>>) as this can be a big decider on how many months you might need from engagement to wedding. If you have your heart set on a specific venue, then you’ll be at their mercy on available dates…
If you’re happy to be flexible with venue, then your timeline will be more flexible too. Similarly, if you aren’t married to the idea of a Saturday wedding (see what I did there?!), your options, and probably your budget, will have more wiggle room in it.
My husband and I got married on a Monday. We had no attachment to any venue and didn’t want to wait for months. We married about 5 months after we got engaged and chose a Monday because his guests were coming from the States – we decided it would help them to fly Saturday – Saturday and have a single week off work.
Real bride Niki says:
Engaged 14 months: I always wanted to get married the year after I got engaged – I don’t see engagement as a long phase – it’s a stepping stone to marriage. Like if you get engaged you know you want to be married… so I’ve always found it awkward when you say to someone “omg, you’re engaged, when are you getting married?” And they go “dunno, not planning it!”. We wanted to get married on the day we originally met, which we did!
Choose your wedding date
For some of you this will be the easiest thing in the world if you’re planning a wedding around an anniversary date and that will mean waiting for a specific number of months or having a truncated time frame. If it could be any date of the year, then start with what season you like best. Remember that the British seasons don’t always follow logic and summer isn’t always the most settled weather!
Real bride Emma says:
We got married exactly a year to the day after getting engaged!
I could never understand how people picked their wedding dates otherwise!!
Source your wedding outfits
Wedding outfits is where the panic might set in. If you want to wear custom then this can take time.
If either one of you is planning to wear a wedding dress a lot of dress shops say you need at least six to eight months to source your dress (after you’ve found “the one” of course!) and leave time for alterations. There are, of course, off the rack dresses or hire dresses as an option if you’re just not into long-term wedding planning.
Suits are the same story if you’re planning on wearing something you don’t already own. You can hire or buy pre-made if you don’t have the time in your planning time line to opt for custom.
Similarly, don’t forget that we get caught up in the details, but you don’t have to wear a tuxedo, suit, white puffy dress or anything else if that isn’t your style as a couple. If getting married in casual clothes is more up your street then there is nothing that says you can’t; don’t be pressured into something that isn’t your style.
Hire your wedding vendors
Busy vendors can be booked at least 12 months in advance, especially where summer weekend dates are concerned, so if you have your heart set on a certain company then it’s a good idea to reach quickly after you get engaged. However, I often get last minute enquiries that I’m happy to accommodate where I have availability so fret not, you’ll always find a great supplier to make you a wedding cake, do your flowers or take your photos!
I’ve also got a whole separate article about how to pick your wedding photographer which is handy and maybe you’ve also been wondering about whether an engagement shoot could be the best thing to celebrate this exciting time? I say go for it!
Send out your wedding invitations
If you have a date a long way in advance and want to guarantee most of your guest list will be there, then it can be a good idea to send out save the dates, either paper or digitally so your guests know to pencil the date in their diaries.
Usually wedding invitations go out two to four months before your wedding date. It’s worth sending them slightly earlier if you have a lot of international guests – you can’t have too much notice when it comes to booking travel, right?
If you’re having a short engagement and haven’t got time to get invites professionally printed, you can self-print or send out digital invites via a wedding website.
Real bride Kat says:
Engaged 9 months: I wanted to avoid the spring/summer because of my horrendous hay fever, and assumed a lot of people would be away over summer so picked September. We had the flexibility with our date as we were having a garden wedding at home. 9 months gave us enough time to plan and organise everything, without it feeling too pressured, although at times I definitely wished we had been able to enjoy being engaged for a bit before wedding planning started.
And if you’re having a destination wedding?
This is where all bets are off. If you’re considering a destination wedding you will almost certainly need extra time as this is a more complex way to plan a wedding.
You’ll need to visit the place(s) that you’re considering for your ceremony and then possibly have a return trip to finalise details. Plus it’s more difficult logistically to find vendors locally. Alternatively, if you want to take vendors like your wedding photographer from home, then they’ll need more notice to be able to travel.
Similarly, your wedding guests will need more warning to be able to take time off, arrange travel and potentially save up.
Compared to a UK wedding, these weddings are definitely harder to plan in a shorter time frame without compromising significantly on what you want.
So how long do you need to plan a wedding?
Whether you have a lot of time or not from the day you get engaged to your wedding time, anything is possible!
The biggest factor will be personal preference. Do you want a long vs short engagement period? If the thought of being engaged for two years fills you with dread then set a short date and it will get done, trust me! Deadlines focus the mind.
The flip side is, if you have must-have venues, suppliers or date then you may be at the mercy of others and the length of your engagement may be out of your control. If that’s the case, it’s a great idea to lean into your wedding lead time and have great fun planning your wedding together!
Remember, there is only one thing you MUST get in time for your wedding day… a marriage licence. The legal minimum amount of time is 29 days and you must get married within 12 months of application. You need to go to the Register Office to give notice (and you and your partner will need to go to separate offices if you live in different districts). So there you have it, the quickest you can get married is 29 days!
A poll on all my social media channels indicates the average hovers around the 13 month mark. Don’t be afraid to break with tradition and do your own thing though – take your time or steam ahead!
Still looking for a wedding photographer?
As you plan your wedding, I very much hope I can be there to capture ever laugh, tear and hug for you. My style of happy, relaxed Hertfordshire wedding photography is the perfect accompaniment to every wedding day so have a good look through the gallery and let’s chat about your wedding plans. I can’t wait to hear from you! I hope you’ve found these tips helpful, enjoy your wedding planning!