Whether you're newly engaged and eager to say "I do," long-engaged and way behind on wedding planning, or somewhere in between, it's totally possible to plan a wedding in three months or less. You probably won't be planning a black-tie affair at the Plaza that quickly, but a beautiful fete for your friends and family is entirely doable in 12 weeks. Here's how to get it done...
Step 1: Deal with the basics. Start by choosing a wedding date and setting a budget for your wedding, and then move on to nailing down the location. Decide on the type of party you want to have and start sussing out venues. Fret not if you don't land your first choice -- there's always something available if you can keep an open mind. Consider renting out a restaurant, booking space at a local park, or asking a friend with a beautiful backyard to give you the best wedding gift you could ever ask for.
Step 2: Think outside the (vendor) box. You probably won't be able to book your city's top vendors so close to your wedding date, but that doesn't mean you can't put together a totally gorgeous celebration. Here are some ways to get creative with your wedding planning:
- Find out if your favorite restaurant caters and serve the foods you love most buffet-style.
- If you're having a small, at-home wedding, you could go really DIY and ask your friends and family members to each contribute a potluck dish.
- Instead of having an open bar, buy beer and wine in bulk from a vineyard or brewery and hire a bartending student to serve for the night.
- Skip the band or wedding DJ and put your favorite playlists on an mp3 player -- just be sure you mix it up and include songs all of your guests will enjoy.
- Call local florists and see if they can put together some simple arrangements using in-season flowers. If they don't have to order anything out of the ordinary, they just might be able to help you.
- Get a standard cake from a bakery (i.e. not a custom order) and add a unique cake topper (Etsy has a great selection!) Or you could pick up a sheet cake from the grocery store and call it a day -- because you know deep down everyone loves that grocery store frosting.
Step 3: Invite your guests. If you're still three months out, you have time to send paper invites. You'll need to send your invitations ASAP and you may want to give your guests the option of RSVPing to you via email. Expect to have to chase down some of your invitees for a response -- you'll need to give your venue and vendors a final head count at least a couple of weeks before your nuptials. Sending Paperless Post invites is also an option if you're down to the wire -- they're sent instantly via email and you can choose from some gorgeous designs, so you don't have to sacrifice style for efficiency. And don't be disappointed if some of your out-of-town guests are unable to attend! There's a lot involved in traveling to a wedding.
Step 4: Find an officiant. There are many people who can legally marry you: a member of the clergy, a justice of the peace, a judge, or even an ordained friend. You'll need someone to stand up there on the big day and perform your wedding ceremony, so start making some calls and get yourself an officiant. Depending on the marriage laws in your state, you may have enough time to get a friend ordained through the Universal Life Church in time to pronounce you married.
Step 5: Purchase your wedding attire. You don't have time to order a gown from a bridal salon (it takes at least six months to order and receive a dress in your size), but you can visit trunk shows, sample sales and formalwear stores and score a great ensemble. If you're open to a nontraditional bridal look, purchase a white bridesmaid dress. (Bonus: we guarantee you'll save a ton of money!) You can also check out vintage shops and upscale consignment stores, and scour the racks at department stores -- you'll be surprised at what you find once you start looking. If you're really lucky, you could ask a talented friend or family member to custom-make a gown for you, but be sure you trust their abilities before you commission the dress. Grooms will have a much easier time purchasing a suit off the rack -- and don't forget, vintage shops are your friends!
Step 6: Get crafty. Get your friends together for a night of cocktails and crafting -- those centerpieces and place cards aren't going to make themselves! We know you've been pinning DIY projects for months anyway, so pull out your favorite how-tos and get cracking. If you're short on time, pick a few projects that will give you a lot of bang for your buck and don't worry about the rest.
Step 7: Don't forget your marriage license! In the rush to plan your wedding, we'd understand if you forgot to pick up the most important item of the day: your marriage license. But you need one! Get down to the courthouse at least a week before your big day to get your paperwork in order.
Have more time? Check out our 12 month wedding planning timeline and our 6 month wedding planning timeline!