How to Plan a Wedding with a Short Engagement

There's no time to waste!

Here's how to pull off the wedding of their dreams with only a few months to get everything organized.

Photo: Heather Kincaid

The average engagement period is 11 months, and most wedding-planning checklists that can be found online are based on having a year to coordinate the details. However, there are plenty of couples out there who pull off the wedding of their dreams with only a few months to get everything organized. Of course, doing so can create its own unique challenges.

Actress Brittany Daniel and Adam Touni wedding day photo portrait

Photo by Michael Segal Photography; Planning & Design by Bluebell Events

While we would always recommend hiring a wedding planner, this is a must when you are on a short timeline. The only exception would be if you are having a very casual celebration or eloping. A short engagement often means you need you need to make compromises. Accept that from the start with the knowledge that the payoff is getting to marry the love of your life sooner. One of those compromises may be shrinking your guest list so that you have more venue options. 

Be quick and decisive when choosing a venue, as many book over a year in advance. Look at more unusual locations, which might not host a wedding every weekend. Saturdays will probably be tough to find openings, so be prepared to get married on a Friday or Sunday. If your timeline is shorter than three months, send out invitations as soon as you officially have a date and venue. In fact, you should start collecting addresses and looking at designs for invitations while you’re searching for venues. If you are less than six months out, it’s already too late to send a save the date. The good news is that’s one less thing to do!

Finding a venue is usually the first thing a couple does on any wedding-planning timeline, and any other tasks need to be moved up. Most bridal gowns can take about six months to arrive from the designer to the store, and given that alterations will likely be necessary, you will most likely need to pay rush fees. If you have so little time that even that is not an option, your best bets are sample sales, vintage dresses, pre-owned gowns, or buying a style off-the-rack. There’s also a chance a local seamstress will be able to create a custom design in your time frame, but be sure to read reviews very carefully. 

The key to a short engagement is accepting you will often have to pick who is available among your vendors, rather than picking the best. However, it’s always worth reaching out to someone whose work you love – you never know until you try! The other crucial aspect is sticking to a decision once you’ve made it. You don’t have time to change your mind. 

Discover 15 things you should buy after getting engaged and when real grooms realized they were ready to propose.