If you’re just engaged, it can be super-tempting to immediately dive into wedding planning. After all, you probably started getting questions from well-meaning loved ones within seconds of announcing your engagement. When’s the wedding? Are you getting married in your hometown or a faraway locale? What will you wear? It can be easy to feel the pressure to kick wedding planning into high gear within days (or even hours!). Our advice? Wait. No matter how hard it may be, wait. Give yourself and your partner enough time to simply enjoy being engaged. You’ll thank us, we promise. So, how long can you savor that "just engaged" feeling? And when should you start planning your wedding? Well, it all depends on your wedding planning timeframe.
The one conversation to have immediately…
While we don’t recommend starting to actively plan your wedding within seconds of being just engaged, we do think there’s one important conversation to have shortly after the ring is presented. Talk to your partner about if you want to have a long or a short engagement. There are indeed advantages to each, and the general engagement length you choose does have an impact in your planning timeline. You don’t have to have an extensive discussion with your partner or set your wedding date, but the estimated timeframe is a good one to chat about right away.
If your wedding is more than 18 months away...
Having a long engagement can be a major luxury. You'll be able to relax and take on wedding planning with a generally slow and leisurely pace, and with less stress. You’ll likely have your pick of wedding vendors as well—vendors usually book up about a year in advance, so if your timeframe is longer than that, most vendors will generally be available. And you'll have plenty of time to make decisions. For these reasons, there’s no need to rush to start planning. Spend at least one month enjoying that “just engaged” feeling—perhaps celebrating with an engagement party, but without any pressure to start thinking about the actual wedding.
If your wedding is a year or more away...
The average couple is engaged for 13 months, and we think that’s a great timeframe if you can make it work. We recommend waiting about three weeks before jumping into wedding planning. This gives you time to revel in your engagement, but not too long so you don’t lose momentum. Once you’re ready to start planning, take it step by step—it’s not a good idea to try to plan your whole wedding at once. Start by coming up with a budget and an estimated wedding guest count, then begin researching venues at your own pace. Depending on where you’re marrying, it’s unlikely that many venues will be booked up just yet, so you're likely to have your pick of dates, venues, and vendors.
If your wedding is in less than a year...
There are lots of reasons why a timeline of less than a year might be right for you and your partner. Perhaps you got engaged in December and always dreamed of a fall wedding, but don’t want to wait nearly two years to wed. Or maybe you just don’t want to wait that long—totally fine! If you’re planning on going from “just engaged” to married in less than a year, we recommend waiting about two weeks before starting to think about the specifics of your wedding. You don’t even have to talk about your wedding for this timeframe, and just brush off any questions you may receive from family members or friends. This is your time to enjoy this blissful period, so feel free to ban that wedding talk until you’re good and ready.
If your wedding is six months away...
Want to plan your wedding on a shorter timeframe? You’re not alone. Turns out that 19 percent of couples plan their weddings in six months or less. While you might not have your pick of vendors, there’s no reason why you need to start planning immediately and stress yourself out. Giving yourself a week or so to relax and bask in that “just engaged” glow won’t put you at a disadvantage when it comes to wedding planning—you still have time. When you’re ready to start planning, follow our six-month planning timeline to help you get started.
If your wedding is three months away (or less than that!)...
You have exactly ten minutes to not think about your wedding—JUST KIDDING! If you’re planning your wedding day with a somewhat last-minute timeline, you may not want to wait too long before starting to plan. But know that you could probably plan your wedding in a week if you wanted to. Take a couple of days to get your bearings and then jump into wedding planning (this three-month checklist is a great reference!).
The Wedding Planning Process: First Steps
Once you've had a chance to relax and revel in your post-engagement period, it's time to start wedding planning. Whether you have more than a year or just a few months to plan the big day, the process of how to plan a wedding pretty much looks the same. Here are the first steps of your wedding planning journey to help you get started.
Decide if you're having a destination wedding or a local wedding.
You've probably heard that creating your budget is the first to-do on the wedding-planning checklist. Well, that's partially true. Your wedding's location has a major role to play in how much you'll spend—weddings in major cities tend to cost more than those in more rural areas, and destination weddings tend to host more than hometown events—so it's a good idea to figure out where you're getting married (general area, not specific venue yet) before setting your budget.
Set your wedding budget.
Now that you've chosen your big day's location, check out the WeddingWire Cost Guide to see how much a wedding costs in your area. Then, talk to any stakeholders who are contributing financially to the wedding to come up with your total budget. Once you have that total amount, plug it into the WeddingWire Budget Tool to determine how much you can spend on different wedding-related products and services.
Choose your wedding style.
Rustic or classic? Glam or boho? Choosing a wedding style can help you narrow down venues, discuss wedding ideas with vendors, and create a big day that feels cohesive and uniquely yours.
Create an estimated guest list.
While you don't have to have a final guest count just yet, coming up with an estimate will help you select a venue that's just the right size. Talk to your and your partner's families to come up with the number of guests you'll invite.
Hire a wedding planner.
A wedding planner may be an added expense, but it's one you won't regret. If you've decided to hire a full-service planner who will help you plan your big day from start to finish, now's the time to start the search. Once hired, your planner can help you pick a venue and book the rest of your vendor team.
Pick your wedding party.
Your maid of honor, best man, bridesmaids, groomsmen, bridesmen, groomsladies, and other attendants have important roles to play on your wedding day—and now it's time to ask them to be part of your VIP crew.
Select a wedding venue and set the date.
Time to find your venue (or venues, if you're hosting your wedding ceremony and reception in separate locations). Check out the WeddingWire Venue Directory to read reviews, view photos, and learn more about venues in your area. Then, schedule tours of a few of your favorites before selecting your dream wedding venue! Once you've booked your venue, you've officially set the date for your big day.
Hire your wedding vendors.
Once you've chosen a venue and set your wedding date, it's time to build the rest of your vendor team. Here's a basic list of wedding vendors you'll want to research and book:
- Wedding Planner (if you haven't booked one already)
- Caterer (if your venue doesn't offer in-house catering)
- Wedding Cake Baker
- Wedding Band or DJ
- Ceremony Musicians
- Rentals Company
- Wedding Attire Retailer
- Hair and Makeup Pros
Create your wedding website.
Your wedding website will be a hub of information for your guests—and it's a good idea to create it as soon as you have your wedding date and location set. Choose a template that complements your wedding's theme and add information as you move through the wedding planning process.
These are just the first steps of your wedding-planning journey. Check out the WeddingWire Wedding Checklist for more!