How Long Does It Take to Plan a Wedding?

two brides hi-fiving

Photo by Clarkie Photography

No amount of time couples spend planning their wedding is truly the same. Some elope after just a few weeks of preparing, while other couples spend years getting their big day just right. But, on average, how long does it really take to plan a wedding? Experts say about one year.

“I would say the general consensus is one year in advance is enough time to plan your standard, local wedding," says award-winning planner Nicole-Natassha Goulding. This timeframe gives couples an ample window to book a venue, hire necessary vendors, find a wedding dress, and more.

Meet the Expert

Nicole-Natassha Goulding is the owner of luxury wedding planning service Chic by Nicole. She has been planning weddings in Montreal since 2015 and has won multiple awards for her events. 

Ahead, Goulding outlines when couples should start wedding planning, how much time to allot for major to-dos, and what to consider if you're planning a destination event—all so you can say "I do" a year after you said "yes!"

When to Start Planning 

So many couples and their families forget to pause and celebrate their engagement (a huge milestone!) before rushing into potentially-stressful wedding planning logistics. That's why Goulding tells couples to wait at least one month before diving into wedding details. She says, “My advice is for couples to at least wait a month after getting engaged to start planning their wedding."

However, there are tasks that need to be completed before the actual planning process begins. Couples should discuss their general vision for their wedding and their priorities during this time. You also need to set a firm budget and pick a wedding date before approaching any vendors. “Your budget will determine all the decisions you make so having a clear and defined idea of how much you are willing to spend is key,” reminds Goulding. One month is typically a sufficient amount of time to make these initial decisions.

What to Do First

Not all wedding planning tasks are created equal, and some need to be done long before others—and are the reasons why wedding planning usually takes a year!

Book a Venue

Securing a venue is one of them. “Searching for the perfect venue definitely is one, if not the most time-consuming task,” Goulding says. “From venue visits to pricing out menus and discussing options, I would definitely say it is one of the most laborious tasks on the list.” Couples also want to make sure they get their first choice of wedding date, so it’s important to search early before the calendar is blocked off by other couples. 

Find a Wedding Dress

Another priority: the wedding dress. “A common mistake brides make is not shopping for their wedding dress early enough,” says Goulding. “Unfortunately, they are then forced to either pay expedited rates or choose something off the rack.”

Shop for your dress at least a year before your wedding as some designers require six to eight months to have it custom-made and shipped in time for multiple alteration sessions.

Hire Vendors

The more you care about having a particular vendor, the earlier the company should be booked. For example, if you really want a celebrant to officiate your wedding or a particular wedding band at your reception, book them as close to a year in advance as possible to make sure they are available on your date. The same goes for makeup artists, florists, photographers, and bakers.

Send Save the Dates

Another task to check off early is sending out save the dates. People get busy, and you want your guests to block off the day in their calendars. This is especially important for out of town guests who will need to make travel arrangements. Reserve a block of hotel rooms for them as soon as you have your wedding date and location, too!

Choose the Wedding Party

It’s also important to choose your wedding party early and ask them to be in your wedding. That way they can get started on planning your bachelorette party and have plenty of time to find their outfits.

Plan Your Honeymoon

If you’re going on your honeymoon right after your wedding, consider those details at least six months in advance to get good deals on flights and hotels. 

How to Stay on Track

How do you ensure you're sticking to the usual timeline? Hiring a wedding planner is one way to do so. This person’s job is to keep you on track and make sure you are completing every step in plenty of them. But if you can’t afford one or want to plan yourself, there are plenty of tools to assist you.

Wedding planning books and magazines come with checklists to keep you organizes Choose one that is detailed—that tells you exactly when to send out invitations, contact a florist, get a sample menu from the caterer, and more. 

Goulding also says many couples keep a wedding planning binder or an Excel spreadsheet. She advises writing everything—big or small—that needs to be done in it. “Listing out the tasks that need to be completed each month is crucial to ensuring all the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted for the day.” 

She also recommends apps like ClickUp and Asana to help manage and track a timeline. “Project management apps are perfect for wedding planning as they allow you to delegate tasks, keep multiple lists, as well as providing an overall snapshot of your wedding planning journey,” she shares. 

Destination Weddings 

“Destination weddings are a different monster,” says Goulding. “I suggest clients start to plan ASAP.” Not only is it harder to find vendors in a place you are less familiar with, but your guests also need more time to plan their travel. They need to ask for time after work and book their flights and hotels.”

She continues, “Hiring a destination wedding planner should be the first task on the list, followed by choosing a location. Your location can change many things in the process such as choosing your date or whether you can have a legally binding ceremony at your desired destination.”

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