How to plan a wedding in 6 months.

Planning a wedding isn't easy. Planning a wedding to happen in 6 months or less is even harder. Here are a few steps that are helpful in planning a fantastic wedding in such a short time.


1. Prepare yourself mentally. Get into the right frame of mind. Be prepared to compromise. Enter into the planning of your wedding with an open mind and flexibility. You may have it all planned out in your mind but not keeping your ideas flexible will leave you frustrated and disappointed. Be ready to alter your ideas of what your dream wedding is. Not only will you need to be flexible with your planning but you need to be willing to make compromises financially. Don't try to over plan or be too controlling. Take everything with a grain of salt and a sense of humor.


2. Decide on a budget and stick to it. This is the first step in planning any wedding but even more important when planning on a short time line. Because of the short time frame the money you spend won't be spread out over a year or two. You need to look at what funds you have to spend and be able to live and pay your bills. You may need to scale down the vision of your wedding. It's very easy to rely on credit but you need to seriously consider if entering into a marriage with enormous bills is a healthy start just to have an over the top wedding. No one wants to start a marriage in bankruptcy court. The number one reason for young marriages failing is financial stress. Keep your eye on the ball.


3. Work with your partner to make a guest list. Determine how many people you can entertain with the budget and space you have available. As you proceed through the planning process, your guest list size may influence your destination choice, and likewise your destination choice may affect how many people you can invite. If you start getting an idea of guests together early, it will help you throughout the whole planning process. Start getting their addresses together, but don't worry about invitations until you're sure you want to invite (and can accommodate).


4. Buy a wedding planner book or make your own. Make sure it has a calendar and pockets to store brochures and clippings. This helps you organize your ideas and helps you store contact information all in one place. Write down vendors you have talked to along with contact information and appointment dates and times. You can also add swatches of fabric and photos of flowers to show to your florist.
  • Start planning as soon as you decide on a date! If you take care of everything in the beginning, you have more time to enjoy your engagement and more time to focus on the small, minor details (e.g. the font color of your invitations).
5. Make a time line with a to-do list. The time line will differ depending on where you live and the bridal market. The time line could change drastically if you were planning your wedding for January or June. Most of the following steps need to be completed in the first month to month and a half to get the vendors (florist, photographers, dresses, etc.) booked or picked in time if you're in an average sized city. When planning something fast the bulk of the decisions are made in month one. You just spend the other months fine tuning and hoping the wheels don't come off the wagon.


6. Decide on a date and an alternate date. Call your ceremony location options to find out what is available and how the cost fits into your overall plan. If you wait, you risk the date being unavailable. If you find a place you like that is available and in your price range you should book it and not wait.

  • If the site is out of your price range or booked, you can inquire about having it on an alternate day. Friday and Sunday weddings have become more and more common especially in large cities where there is incredible demand and cost associated with Saturdays. They may offer Fridays or Sundays at a reduced rate.
  • Also ask of the possibility of having a morning wedding if there is another event later in the day.
  • Be realistic, A Valentine's Day wedding will be extremely hard to book on short notice unless you can be really creative. The prices also sky rocket on that day with supply and demand.
  • Ask what the refund or cancellation policy is for booking on short notice. They may have contracts that state you must cancel at least 6 months before to get a deposit back. Since you are already within this window you should be very careful what you book and offer deposits. Also ask if the contracts can be changed since you are booking late. They may give you an extra month in the cancellation/reschedule window of time.

7. Research reception areas to see what is available in your budget. Consider the usual reception halls but also look into historic buildings, museums, vineyards, art galleries, botanical gardens, historic hotels with parlors. Zoos can also be a unique place for a reception that may be more affordable, available on a short time line and really make a fast turn around wedding memorable.

  • Determine if a reception location is available where you are having the ceremony. This will make things much easier to plan and more affordable. You won't have to arrange transportation for the wedding party and this will be one less thing to book and put a deposit on.
  • If you are having trouble finding an available reception location, call your local caterer and ask them for a list of local reception sites. They are usually more than willing to help, especially if you are a potential customer.
  • Consider having a wedding around a major holiday where churches and reception halls may already be decorated.
  • You can easily have a wedding with 30 people attending in a parlor of an old home, historic site or building, lovely private garden or exterior site with a view. With so few people attending you can easily move the event to a great spot out of town so don't feel like you must plan within the city limits. Consider the beach, neighboring town, parks, outdoor site with a great view or lovely historic site in your state.
8. Contact an officiant to conduct the ceremony. Certain religions or churches require couples to attend pre-wedding counseling. If you want a religious officiant, your officiant will likely want to meet with you and your partner before the wedding to discuss the vows, how they usually conduct ceremonies and other details. Don't wait until the last minute. Ministers book well in advance but they can usually do several ceremonies in one day. You may need to be flexible with your time if you must have your preferred officiant. If they aren't available you can ask if an associate pastor is available or if they can recommend someone else.


9. Go find your dress! Wedding dress shopping can be fun but most places take up to 4-6 months to have your dress shipped to you. This is the last thing you want to worry about. Remember, there are alterations that may need to happen as well. Instead of going to a shop that special orders go to the bridal stores that carry multiple dresses in stock. Try to find a dress off the rack that doesn't need to be ordered. You don't have time for constant fittings. Remember that when trying things on. Sometimes that awesome dress seems a lot less awesome when you are dress-less on your wedding day or bald from pulling your hair out.
  • Dresses that lace up the back are easier to fit and will require fewer trips to the seamstress.
  • You may need to drive to a larger city to find a store with multiple sizes in multiple dresses. Take friends or family who are easy to shop with and won't make the process more difficult. Take your bra and a pair of heels to check the length. Take a pair of Spanx (stretch under garment to reduce your dress size). If you find a dress that is too tight, try it again with the under-support. Take a camera and get a picture of you in the dress if it is allowed.
  • Keep the venue in mind. A Princess Diana cathedral train won't work in every venue. The smaller the venue, the smaller the train. If you don't know the venue yet, go with a shorter train and modest dress.
  • Don't be afraid of consignment shops. If the dress isn't perfect you can always have them remove some of the bulk fairly easily but don't go for the complete reconstruction unless you're comfortable with your seamstress.
  • Cherish your heritage and ask your mother, grandmother, aunts, etc. if anyone has their dress. Vintage gowns make the event much more special. Chances are good they'd be honored to have you wear their dress and won't mind you having it altered. Just ask.
10. Decide who you want to be a part of your wedding and then ask them.
  • Consider nixing the traditional bridal party. Ask one close family member to stand with the bride and one with the groom. The maid of honor can wear one of her dresses or cocktail dresses and the best man can wear a suit. Even if you have four sisters, just explain and let them know you can only have one. Ask you mother to stand with you. You really don't need all the maids, junior brides maids, flower girls, ring bearers, etc. Keep it super simple.
  • Remember, the more people you ask, the more money and time it will cost in the long run.
  • Don't assume every one of your friends must be in the ceremony. Chances are they'll be secretly thankful since being in a wedding takes much time and money for everyone. If they love you they'll still help out and probably be more motivated.
  • There is a time crunch involved so be considerate of people who may be traveling long distances to be involved.
  • Surround yourself with people who are positive and helpful. You don't have time for drama queens or emotional vampires.
11. Pick out the bridesmaids' dresses. Like wedding dresses, these can take several months to come in if you order them and may require your bridesmaids have them altered. Bridesmaids may not be as "attentive" to your time line so try to pick out dresses that are figure forgiving or have laces instead of zippers. They'll save alteration expenses and the minor details won't be a major problem if they don't use a good tailor/seamstress.
  • Check out the major department stores and bridal shops for the chance to buy off the hanger. Take your bridesmaids with you so they can try on.
  • Don't be afraid of different style dresses. So long as the color is the same you can use different styles. This could be a great way of finding dresses that fit a variety of body shapes without requiring major alterations.
  • Consider going to a department store formal gown department (and not in their bridal department) for your bridesmaids dresses rather than a bridal shop. They will get the dresses faster and can possibly save money as well. Layaway and alterations are sometimes included.


12. Schedule a time for the groomsmen to be measured for tuxedos or suits. Tuxedo measurements require multiple measurements and they are required to get the best fit. If they live out of town they can be measured by their nearest tuxedo rental shop and the measurements can be sent to your local tuxedo shop.
  • Never let a groomsmen guess his measurements or allow someone other than a tuxedo shop to take his measurements.
  • Have your groomsmen pick up their tuxedos several days before the wedding. Thursday morning is usually the earliest for a Saturday wedding. They should try the tuxedos, shoes, etc. on immediately. If there was a problem with size or a measurement, the store can still use a day or two to sort it out and possibly have another size shipped in.
13. Meet with your photographer. Most photographers are busy and have limited schedules. But if you start early, your date is more likely to be available. 
  • Remember that an experienced professional wedding photographer would produce quality images, whatever the weather or regardless of any unforeseen circumstances.
  • Ask to see all their pictures from a wedding.
  • The perception is that digital costs less so the overhead will be minimal. Photographers will tell you the capital investment in professional equipment is far higher, and the time spent editing the photographs is far more intensive than the days of film. Weigh the cost with the quality, ask questions and use someone you can communicate with easily.
  • You might want to save money by making an arrangement with the photographer and getting a CD of your pictures, and then having the actual photos printed yourself at a local photo shop.
  • Remember that the photographer owns the copyright (by law, whoever clicks the shutter owns it), so ensure that any reproduction of images is permitted in writing by the photographer.
14. Register for wedding gifts at a store offering the service. Most national department stores and discount stores have a bridal gift registry available. The national chains also make it easier for people out of town.
  • If you're having a small and simple wedding you should keep your gift list requests modest and focus on the essentials (towels, casual china, cookware, serving items, etc.).
  • If you have a larger budget and can go all out for the wedding and reception despite the short time frame you can go for more lavish gift requests like expensive fine china, crystal and silver.
  • Etiquette suggest that everyone invited to showers should also be invited to the wedding and/or reception. The exception is a destination wedding with reception or showers/luncheons thrown by co-workers.
  • Guys can have showers too. If the couple needs many items to start off, have a male relative or friend throw a yard or tool party for the groom. Make sure he registers for the items.
  • Why not just ask your wedding guests to pay a set fee each to help pay towards your photographer?
  • Register at one or two stores. Try to think of stores convenient to friends and family.
  • Remember to buy thank you notes and stamps. Send them out as quickly as possible after you receive a gift or if someone helps you with your wedding in some way. You don't have much time and if you get sidetracked you may not get the card out in the appropriate time frame.
15. Meet with florist. If you find one that is reputable and available you should book them. Hopefully, you've looked through bridal books and floral design sites to get ideas on how you'd like your flowers to look. Ideally, you printed pictures and stored them in your bridal book.
  • Not all flowers are available year round. You may discover you are paying almost double for a flower that is out of season and difficult to come by but could be replaced with a similar flower with more availability.
  • Ask your florist what ideas they may have to make the cost more affordable.
  • Consider simple designs of one flower or a few simple flowers tied with a lovely ribbon. It keeps cost down! Don't forget that flowers are usually dead by the next day.
  • Can't find a florist? Don't panic! You'll just need to rethink and compromise.
    • Call all of the florists back and ask about renting the potted plants, having them do the corsages and boutonnieres for you to pick up everything the day before. Have them use hardy flowers!
    • Have them prepare simple but hardy flowers wrapped in ribbon for the bouquets (again, picked up by you the day before and stored in water).
    • The florist still does a lot of the work but you'll need to pick it up the day before, put everything out and maybe even take the rental plants back to the florist.
    • They may see this as a way to add on additional business without actually having to visit a wedding site to decorate.
16. Go to a local printer and look through invitation books. Try to pick ones that won't require a lot of assembly once they come in. Those invitations with the ribbons are cute but do you really have time to put them together, stuff the envelopes, address the envelopes and mail?
  • Most bridal stores have invitation books for ordering. Ask ahead what the turn around time is.
  • You may be better off getting a simple invitation from a local printer. With the technology available, most local printers can do just as good of a job. They may also feel more compelled to do better work because you're local and reputation is everything.


17. Contact local caterers and discuss food options for your reception. Discuss various menus and costs. Also discuss whether you will offer alcohol and how it will be served.
  • Are you going to offer a full sit down meal? It may be less expensive to offer heavy hors d'oeuvres or a buffet. That may free up more money for alcohol.
  • Consider only offering beer, wine and champagne to save additional cost.
  • Don't offer alcohol. Save even more by offering coffee, tea or punch following an early afternoon wedding.
  • So long as the reception isn't during a meal time you can avoid providing lots of food. Plan your wedding after lunch but before dinner to cut catering cost. Guests will have eaten.
  • Offer a coffee and cake reception with finger sandwiches, cheese platters and punch and other finger foods. Use a deli to prepare the sandwiches and have a volunteer set out the food. Skip a caterer all together.
  • Establish what happens to the left over food and beverage. It's yours if you pay for it. Save the leftovers and freeze them, pack a picnic basket for your honeymoon trip. Bring storage containers and ask someone to pack it up once the reception is over.
  • Determine when you must give them a final head count or last date to change the menu. If your budget gets out of control it's nice to be able to shave back on the catering.
  • Determine if you need to get a one day license to serve alcohol or if it is provided by the reception venue or caterer.
18. Contact local bakeries or wedding cake specialist to pick out and order your cake. Tell them how many people will be attending. Let them know if your wedding will be inside or out so they can advise you of what ingredients will stand up under the weather. No one wants to see a melted cake.


19. Find a band or DJ. If you are booking a band or a DJ you should start checking around and see who is good for the venue. On a short time schedule, a DJ may be more affordable and more flexible. Ask around and see who is recommended. As always, if the best is booked ask who they recommend. Meet and discuss the play list.
  • If you're planning something small, don't worry about entertaining everyone with a dance reception.
  • Call the local music college for deals on a small string section for the wedding.
  • For super small weddings you can forgo the music all together. If it is that intimate, everyone will know everyone and be talking anyway.

20. Start making plans for your honeymoon. Booking flights and hotels early can help save money, and it may take several months to get a passport and/or visas, if they're needed.


21. Get a marriage license. Find out what is required by your state to apply for a marriage license. Do you or your partner need a copy of your birth certificates? Do you have an approved copy? Find out specifically what they require so you can order an appropriate copy or a signed original if needed. Do you need a copy of a divorce decree? You may have to contact the county where your divorce was finalized to acquire one.


22. Follow up all along the planning process. Continue to follow up and check the status of things with your party, vendors, etc. With a tight time line you can't let anyone lose focus.


23. Schedule make up and hair for yourself, the mothers and the bridesmaids for the day of the wedding. It is fine for them to be responsible for the cost themselves. Don't feel obligated to pay for it but don't give them specific style demands unless you are footing the bill.


24. Make a list of things you will need the day of the wedding. Keep this list in your planner. Add to it as you think of things. Discuss this with your bridesmaids or maid of honor. See if they can help you remember or take control of your bags.


25. Stock a wedding preparedness bag. Here are some things you may need that are commonly needed and sometimes forgotten:
  • Duct tape. Seriously, this is the best at fixing hems, tears, holding bras in place, you name it. Super models use it and wedding planners swear by it.
  • Lighted make up mirror
  • Oscillating fan (Wedding dresses aren't comfortable to hang out in, she'll get quite warm while waiting.)
  • Advil, Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol
  • Extra makeup, powder, lipstick
  • Slippers or comfortable shoes for before the wedding or after if your feet get too sore
  • Baby powder--used to cover spots on the dress
  • Hair supplies: bobby pins, super hold hairspray, curling iron
  • Body supplies: deodorant, perfume, bra, foundation garments, etc.
  • Sewing kit with spools of thread in the color of the bride's dress, the brides maid's dresses and the tuxedos.
26. Congratulations! You should be well on your way to a great and memorable wedding that will be a pleasure for you, your future spouse and your guests. Keep in mind that small, sweet and intimate is always better than big, impersonal and lavish.


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