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How To Plan a Wedding in Five Months While Working Full Time

With her wedding just days around the corner, busy-bee Zola bride Whitney still found the time to share with us her tips and tricks for pulling off wedding planning in a matter of months. Read on for the scoop on how to maximize your time while pulling off a dream wedding. 

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As a little girl, I didn’t fantasize about how fast I could plan a 110-person party. But three decades later, a quick engagement offered a fairy tale appeal.

My fiancé Brett and I got engaged over Memorial Day weekend and are getting married on Halloween. The story of our five-month engagement promptly began the weekend after we got engaged. While Brett performed groomsman duties in another wedding, I spent the downtime on the phone interviewing planners and checking venue availability. Brett would tell you I spent the whole weekend doing this, and by Sunday he declared: “There won’t be a wedding if this goes on for a year.”

The average engagement is 14 months, only a third of engagements are less than a year, and just 4% are under six months. Popular lore holds that weddings take a year to plan, but as a member of the Overambitious Brides Club, I want to dispel any myth that planning drives that timeline. If you are flexible on time-sensitive elements, like venue and band, the rest can be accomplished in a few months.

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Still, there’s an order of operations, and for us week-one priorities included finding a venue, choosing a date that gave our “must have” guests sufficient notice, and hiring a planner to help with the daunting task of planning a destination wedding in five months.

Of course, before choosing a venue, you need to know your budget, target guest count and creative vision. Luckily, Brett and I were aligned. We wanted to get married on an Austin-area ranch, and quickly learned the venues that were unavailable in fall were also unavailable the next spring. For two 30-somethings, fall 2016 seemed a like cruel joke. We found a planner-approved option available for Halloween (not a date when people are queuing to get hitched). I made Brett promise he’d dress up with me every year for our anniversary, and the real planning began. [Full disclosure: My mother didn’t share my laissez-faire attitude on the venue, and coaxed us into changing it six weeks before the wedding – which goes to show you can find a venue six weeks before! Perhaps I could have planned it in five weeks!]

After a productive first week, I broke down tasks into achievable chunks. Weeks two and three prioritized hiring a photographer (single-person vendors can only book one event so come first), finding a dress (designers advertise that dresses take six months, but I ordered mine four months out without rush fees), and securing hotel blocks. We scheduled trips to Austin to make decisions about less time-sensitive vendors, like the florist and caterer.

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To fit in wedding planning while working, I woke up early and gave myself a focused assignment each morning. At night, Brett would sign off on my recommendations or decide between choice A and B. This wasn’t his idea of fun, but together we crossed several to-dos off our list every week.

Key to the process is outsourcing the draining parts. I have a mutant gene that makes me relish wedding planning. But if I were stuck booking transportation and negotiating contracts, I’d have no energy left for the fun parts. Thank goodness for planners, and specifically my wonderful planner, who negotiated the contracts not once but TWICE with the venue change.

But here’s the real secret to planning a fast-tracked wedding while maintaining your sanity: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of good. I give each task a certain amount of time, then move on. By contrast, Brett has a perfectionist approach. To select songs for our band, I chose songs from their list that I liked and knew, listened to the beginnings of a few others, and passed the list to Brett for his approval. He got back to me exhausted, after listening to every single song on the list. I’m confident our different approaches will complement each other in marriage, but he could never plan a wedding in five months.

That’s the how of a quick engagement, but there’s also the why:

  1. Keep up the momentum. When you’re engaged for only five months, you have carte blanche to talk about it. You go from rehashing the proposal straight into gushing about planning. I haven’t tried dragging that out for 15 months, but I suspect people would find it less amusing.
  2. It’s the people who will drive you crazy, not the work. Everyone has an opinion on your wedding. You can finish the logistics in four weeks, but the peanut gallery can torture you for four months or four years – your choice.
  3. Start the rest of your life already. We’re excited for the celebration, but even more excited for our married life together.
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2 Comments

  1. Carolyn Beckett says

    As the mother of this particular bride, I would say that venue is the very first starting point and every venue should accommodate a Plan A (beautiful weather, outdoors activities, sunshine in the pictures) and a Plan B (quirky thunderstorms causing everything to be indoors with quick turnaround ability for the function of the limited space under a roof that keeps you and your wedding guests dry and happy). So always think Plan A and Plan B both for the venue and any other major part of what will make you happy or sad so that even if you have a small time to plan, you do so with a happy ending in sight.

  2. Charlotte Vick says

    As a former wedding planner and mother of a groom, I can say that no wedding plan suits all parties in the equation. No matter how much you plan, there are always things that surprise the bride, groom, planners and family. The best thing to do on the day of the wedding is focus on having a wonderful day and keep those surprises as funny anecdotes for family storytelling to the next generations.

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