With a short six-month engagement, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry defied a survey by Bridebook, which found the average engagement period for couples in the United Kingdom to be 20 months. In the United States, that period is just over 13 months, according to a 2018 study.
Which brings us to question: Is a short or long-term engagement best?
Therapist Jeannie Suh married her husband only three months after he proposed. “I was super-efficient at making decisions because I had little time to think about options, but it wasn’t easy pulling things together so quickly," she says. Corinne Ugarte, a stylist, allowed for more time but says she still felt overwhelmed. “My husband and I put our wedding on hold for two years, however having all that extra time to plan gave me more time to stress, change my mind on pretty much everything, and overthink the planning process," she says.
“There’s no one rule when it comes to an engagement length,” says Diane Gottsman, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life and founder of The Protocol School in San Antonio, Texas. “It’s more about the couple's preference and how much planning is needed.”
Having said that, we asked top wedding planners—aka the people who have to move quickly when faced with a short engagement and keep the momentum moving with a longer timeline!—for their opinions on the just-right period between proposal and wedding day. And, well, their answers were all over the board. From three months to 18 months and a number of responses in between, 22 wedding planners share their thoughts on the perfect length engagement, below:
Less Than Six Months
"Three to five months! Once you decide to marry someone, why wait? The longer the engagement, the more you may start to question things when your first instinct is usually the correct one." —Tara Guerard, owner, Tara Guérard Soirée
"I personally had a four-month engagement and had so much fun every single day of planning! Literally no dull moments only momentum and no rethinking decisions!" —Lynn Easton, founder and creative director, Easton Events
"You have to be super decisive and flexible if you go with a shorter time period. Trying to book venues, photographers, caterers, and wedding attire can be tricky, but not impossible if you have talented people working with you." —Troy Williams, principal and event designer, Simply Troy Lifestyle + Events
Between Six and 12 Months
"I'm into shorter engagement periods—six to eight months feels short enough to labor over designs but long enough to not feel rushed." —Elizabeth McKellar, founder and creative director, The Nouveau Romantics
"A six-to-twelve-month engagement enables your guests to make travel plans, take time off of work, and plan ahead to be present at the wedding." —Becca Atchison, founding partner and creative director, Rebecca Rose Events
"A six-to-eight-month engagement is the perfect length for most couples as it will allow enough time for great vendor options, but will not allow them to overthink every decision." —Virginia Edelson, founder and owner, Bluebird Productions
"Eight to twelve months is the perfect length for an engagement. When clients allow it to extend beyond that, they find lots of reasons to not plan their wedding, and will start receiving save-the-dates cards from other engaged couples for the day they were hoping to book!" —Matthew Robbins, founder and creative director, Matthew Robbins Design
"Don’t plan your whole wedding the week you get engaged. Set yourself up for success by settling into the process slowly and then start the planning. I think the ideal engagement length is eight months to a year." —Mindy Weiss, owner, Mindy Weiss Party Consultants
Nine Months, Exactly
"That’s easy—nine months or bust! If you share an anniversary during the planning period or see an entire cycle of seasons change, you’ve been planning too long. We call this analysis paralysis!" —Calder Clark, principal and creative director, Calder Clark
"If your engagement is shorter than nine months, you’ll inevitably feel rushed at some point and may make rash decisions. Any longer and you’ll find yourself in holding patterns throughout the planning and will likely change your mind unnecessarily." —Beth Helmstetter, creative director, Beth Helmstetter Events
12 Months, Exactly
"Anything longer than twelve months drags out the process—we tell clients eighteen months is the length of a pregnancy times two! Anything shorter and you can be riddled with anxiety and are at the mercy of the market." —Alison Laesser-Keck, destination planner, Alison Bryan Destinations
"I encourage my clients to enjoy the engagement period and not rush right into planning, as there should be a couple of blissful months where they can daydream about the wedding. I think the ideal engagement is one year, with a planning process around eight to nine months." —Jenna Lam, event director, Jenna Lam Events
12 Months or More
"I think twelve to sixteen months allows couples to enjoy the wonderful halo of that time together but not lose sight of their future marriage or momentum in the wedding planning process." —Bronson Van Wyck, founder, Van Wyck & Van Wyck
"The perfect length engagement is twelve to fourteen months. A couple should take a few weeks to celebrate their engagement with family and friends before considering the often most stress-inducing tasks of wedding planning—establishing a budget and drafting the guest list. Once those are set, they can schedule tasks over the calendar year, rather than handling too much at one time." —Allison Jackson, owner and lead planner, Pineapple Productions
Honestly, It Depends...
"Time gives you choices. Planning far enough in advance will secure the ideal venue, reserve the perfect band, or lock-in the photographer who will capture your memories forever." —Bryan Rafanelli, founder and chief creative officer, Rafanelli Events
"Take into consideration your personalities: Do you tend to feel anxious when you don't have enough time? Or do you feel better making decisions quickly? There’s no correct answer in terms of the right length engagement, just the one that feels right for the couple." —Rebecca Marin Shepherd, owner, The Wildflowers
"It depends on the couple. A slightly shorter engagement—eight to ten months—keeps things exciting and means less time to get pulled in different directions by family and friends. Longer than that, and you have the luxury of researching and price comparing, as well as saving for the big day." —David Stark, chief creative officer, David Stark Design and Production
"Type B personalities who leave the details up to others are not cut out for a long wedding planning process, while type A personalities need time to process changes and mull over decisions. There’s no right or wrong length but I love a short plan—banging out a fun wedding in two months’ time is totally my jam." —Wendy Kay, owner and creative director, Birds of a Feather Events
"Eloping? You’ll likely need less time to figure out all the details and can plan in only a few short months. A destination wedding? Give yourself twelve to sixteen months to research the area and plan a trip or two to see your venue and meet with vendors. Planning something local? Ten to twelve months works. You shouldn't feel rushed when making big decisions about your day—if you do, take a step back and evaluate if you need to allow yourself more time." —Michelle Cousins, owner and lead designer, Michelle Leo Events
"It's whatever makes a couple feel comfortable. I recently had a bride and groom start planning with a two-year lead time, and after six months, they realized they didn't need that long and moved their date up by ten months. Luckily, the stars aligned and all of their vendors were available." —Leslie Price, president, In Any Event
"When you have too much time, brides overanalyze their decisions and make changes—when their first instinct is often spot on. I suggest twelve to fourteen months for sought-after European venues and eight to ten months for locales within the United States." —Stefanie Cove, creative director, Stefanie Cove and Company
"Cliché as it might sound, a perfect time frame should be based on what couples have going on in their lives and how they want to prioritize the planning process." —Jacin Fitzgerald, owner and creative director, Jacin Fitzgerald Events
Still unsure what's best for you? We have one final tip—and that's to average the above responses. The numbers tell us that a nine-month engagement seems to be the sweet spot, just sayin'!