While most traditional wedding planning timelines are designed for a couple with a year (or more!) to get the details ironed out, sometimes that’s just not realistic—especially if you get engaged over the holidays and are dreaming of a summer wedding! But can you actually pull off a fabulous wedding in only six months? You bet! You might actually be surprised by how easy the process can be (you know, since there’s no time to second-guess your decisions). No matter your budget, you can get from “yes” to “I do” in a flash. Here’s how to plan a wedding in just six months, so get planning because there’s no time to wait!
First things first. Start by determining the budget for you wedding and figuring out who will be contributing (and how much). Now is a good time to make a list of your must-have items (like a certain photographer or a live band), since you might want to allocate extra funds toward these items. (Check out our guide to creating a wedding budget in 5 steps!)
The Guest List:
In order to properly prioritize your budget (and choose a venue!), you’ll need to know how many people you’re hoping to have at your wedding. Sit down with your S.O. to make a preliminary list, then talk to your parents about any other guests they’d like to add. Think about the size and style of wedding you’re hoping for, and keep your budget in mind—more guests means more people to feed and a bigger venue to rent!
There are a lot of details to address when planning your wedding, and a short timeline can make all those specifics feel a little overwhelming. Set yourselves up for success by hiring a planner or month-of coordinator, who can help arrange your planning documents and to-do list and recommend vendors. Even if you’re taking care of most of the specifics on your own, knowing there’s a pro you can turn to will ease a lot of pressure and keep you moving along at a good pace.
While most traditional wedding venues book a year—or more—in advance, you can still find a fabulous venue on a short timeline. First, consider alternative dates like a Friday or Sunday, which might get you that ballroom or country club you’ve been eyeing. It’s also a great idea to look into non-traditional spaces, like a restaurant, art gallery, or even your parents’ backyard.
Just like venues, a lot of wedding vendors get booked pretty far ahead of time, so you’ll want to get yours lined up fast. Get in touch with photographers, videographers, florists, bands or djs, and cake bakers A.S.A.P. so you have a little time to consider your options and keep looking if the people you reach out to are booked up.
Custom-made wedding dresses should usually be ordered six or more months in advance, but can be had in a shorter time frame—just know you’ll have to pay a rush fee if you go that route. For a more affordable option, check out ready-to-wear bridal shops, salon sample sales, non-bridal ready-to-wear designers, or even rental sites for options you’ll be able to take home the same day or schedule for delivery. Schedule fittings for closer to your wedding date so your dress fits like a glove. (Check out our 8 favorite bridal salons in NYC and make your appointment!)
The Wedding Party:
You’re not the only ones heading down the aisle! If you’re asking friends to stand by your side at the altar, get them on board early on. While bridesmaids’ dresses can be purchased and delivered on a shorter timeline than a wedding dress, they still take a while, so consider ready-to-wear alternatives or ask your ‘maids to pick their own dress in a specified color palette. Get rental orders for suits or tuxedos placed quickly, or go the same route with groomsmen and let them wear their own suit in a certain color.
The Save-the-Dates and Invitations:
As soon as you have your venue selected, get those save the dates sent. You can opt for digital save-the-dates (since you’ll have plenty of time for custom invitations, but not quite enough for custom save-the-dates) or semi-custom printed designs from companies with a quicker turnaround time (think Minted or Shutterfly’s The Wedding Shop). Some will even print your guests’ addresses on the envelopes for you, making mailing as easy as peeling and sticking stamps. For your wedding invitations, get working on the design early on so you can have them ordered and on your way with plenty of time to mail. And don’t forget to get your wedding website (and your registry) set up before those save-the-dates go out!
You’ve booked the major ones already, but there are other vendors to consider. Now’s the time to hire hair and makeup stylists, rental companies, and transportation for you and your loved ones.
Whether you’re getting married in six months or a year and a half, this is the latest you should shop for wedding bands. Like engagement rings, many are made-to-order, meaning it could take 45 days (or up to 90!) for your wedding band to be made and delivered. Start by shopping at the store where your partner purchased your engagement ring, especially if you’re interested in a matching set, or devote an afternoon to visiting a few different jewelry stores to find the one you love.
Trials and Tastings:
With a little time to spare before your big day, it’s time for the fun part: Tasting your menu and cake, and doing a test run with your hair and makeup stylists! This will give you plenty of time to make any changes to the services, like adjusting the menu or opting for a different hairstyle.
After a whirlwind of wedding planning, you’ll be ready for some R&R after your wedding day! Worried about flight prices? Search within the U.S. (think Nantucket or Kiawah Island in South Carolina), where you can find great beaches and affordable flights. Try looking on sites like Airbnb anywhere across the world, as these spaces tend to need less time to book than many hotels or resorts.
You’ve already designed and ordered your invitations, so now it’s time to get them in the mail. For a destination wedding, send these 12 weeks before your wedding date. For a local celebration, eight weeks is the perfect amount of time.
Now’s the time for your bridal shower and bachelor or bachelorette parties. You shouldn’t have too much planning to do when it comes to these parties, but want to make sure they’re scheduled a month or two before your wedding so you’re not distracted by last-minute stress.
The Final Details:
No matter how long you’ve been planning, there’s a long list of things you’ll need to take care of in those final weeks. Confirm timing and orders with all of your vendors. Finalize your seating chart and have your escort cards printed. Outline the timeline for your wedding day. And of course, don’t forget to pick up your marriage license!
And check our our week of wedding to-do list for all those last minute details!