How Short Is Too Short of an Engagement?

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While some couples revel in the chance to have a leisurely engagement, enjoying this special status before mulling over options and taking their time with wedding planning, others want to cut to the chase and just get married already! Yes, being engaged is exciting, but it’s a stepping stone to marriage, and if you see it as more of a formality, having a short engagement may be the right call. But how short is too short? We asked our experts to fill us in.

The appropriate length of an engagement depends on two main factors: What type of wedding you’re planning and how long you want to be engaged.

For a more traditional wedding with all the fixings, a traditional engagement is around 12-18 months. This gives you ample time to choose a venue, shop for your dress, select vendors you love, and design and plan all the details. It sounds like a lot, but with popular venues being fully booked up to two years in advance, and at least six months for a wedding gown to be made and delivered, having that extra time can be a huge help. If you’re decisive and have a great team in place, you can comfortably plan a wedding with all of the bells and whistles in seven to nine months, but be aware that you may need to work fast!

If you’re planning something less traditional, whether it’s an elopement, a smaller wedding or an event that speaks to your personalities and forgoes some of the frills, you can definitely cut your planning time down. You may need to buy a dress off-the-rack or shop sample sales if you have your heart set on a classic wedding dress, but if you are able to find and secure the vendors you’re hoping for, a few months is plenty of time. Two or three months will also allow you to invite your guests while leaving them with time to arrange for travel and hotels so they can join you.

And of course, there’s always City Hall or a surprise wedding! If you just got engaged and want to get married next weekend, consider setting up a dinner party with your friends and family at your home or the private room at your favorite restaurant, and then surprise them with a short and sweet ceremony before you sit down to dinner. You may be limited to guests who are local, but you’ll be able to celebrate with the people you love, without the pressure of planning a wedding with a capital "W."

The last thing to consider when you’re figuring out when to make it legal is whether your state has a waiting period for marriage licenses. Some states will let you say “I do” as soon as you’ve got that piece of paper in your hands, while others (like Minnesota and Wisconsin) do require a few days between the issuing of your license and your actual wedding date.

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