How To Plan Your Dream Wedding In 3 Months Or Less (Trust Me, I Did It)

February 29, 2012 by emilyanderson
shefinds | Weddings

Editor’s note: When our editorial assistant Emily told me that she was planning her wedding in under 3 months, I admit I had my doubts. I’ve always assumed that it takes 1-2 years to pull it off a wedding, but when I saw photos of Emily’s, I was in total awe. Not only can you pull off a wedding in that time — but it can be gorgeous, and tasteful and everything you dreamed of. She breaks it down here:

After my fiance John finished up his masters last May, we agreed it was finally time to get married. We’d been engaged for a while, but we were hesitant to set anything in stone, because we weren’t sure where his job search would take us. When autumn rolled around, we decided to just buckle down and “do this thing,” so we set a date: February 18th, 2012. This was in November of last year, mind you, which meant we had 3 months to do the whole shebang. From start to finish.

If you’re feeling time-crunched, keep in mind that we also completed a cross-country move a month before the wedding. Yes! So, if you’re planning a wedding in under 3 months, and you’re NOT randomly moving to Reno, NV somewhere in the middle, that is an EPIC WIN. You can totally make this happen. Allow me to give you a few pointers…

1. Buy ready-to-wear. Most bridal boutiques require 6-8 months for designer dress orders, so if you have your heart set on a Vera Wang or a Monique Lhuillier, it’s best to check the second-hand sites like Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses or Once Wed.

If you don’t care about labels and just want a pretty gown, shop off-the-rack. I was lucky enough to get a rush-order dress in 2 months from Bridal Outlet of Atlanta, but I tried my darndest to buy the sample size right then and there.

Buying samples is another great option. Every season, stores need to liquidate them to make room for new styles, so you can get them for 50-80% off! Be aware that they are gently worn and the sizes are limited.

For your bridesmaids, don’t even bother with traditional bridesmaid’s dresses – custom orders are right out of the question. We ordered black lace dresses from my fave department store Nordstrom (which has free shipping and returns!). I found several lovely b-maid options there that were available in petite, regular, and plus sizes! Sites like Shopbop and Zappos have free 2-day shipping, and a very stylish dress inventory. J.Crew is one of the few mass retailers who can get you an actual “bridesmaid’s dress” in 3-6 days via standard shipping – provided it’s in stock.

2. Pick the “Big Three.” Prioritize prioritize prioritize. This is THE most important thing you can do.

We decided that our priorities were good food, good music, and good booze, so we spent the majority of our time and wedding budget on them — particularly the caterer (which was totally worth it!). Sit down with your groom and pick the 3 aspects of your wedding that you care most about — and put all your eggs in those baskets.

3. Pick the venue first (and fast!). If you’re planning a wedding in less than 3 months, you need to focus on finding a venue and caterer ASAP. Many popular venues (like Angel Orensanz or The New York Botanical Gardens, both in NYC) are booked years in advance, so think outside the box. My venue was a gorgeous little community center that was a children’s hospital at the turn-of-the-century. National parks, historical manors (that are owned by the state) and private homes are great places to consider. Don’t count a backyard wedding out, either.

4. Beg, borrow, trade, or steal. Ok, don’t steal anything other than ideas — but trading or bartering are totally acceptable practices.

Think: do you have a skill that would be of use to one of your vendors? Are you an artist or an accountant? Perhaps you could trade a piece of your artwork, or a few months of bookkeeping for their services. How about something in your personal inventory? Are you really good at negotiating? I collect and sell vintage typewriters, cameras and design items online, so I traded some valuable antique pieces with my florist in exchange for wholesale pricing on flowers. #Win. I also borrowed a collection of vintage frames for my photobooth from my MOH Katie.

My wedding!

5. Trust your Pinstincts. You won’t have have time to second-guess your vision once planning starts, so make a Pinterest inspiration board that encompasses your theme and color scheme before you start ordering decor, or making any big purchases. If you don’t have a vision yet, just start pinning. After a few days, themes will start to emerge – and after a few weeks, you’ll be able to tell vendors exactly what you want. (Here’s my wedding folder, btw.)

6. Technology is your friend.

Wedding apps like Wedding Budget and Expense (for minding your moolah) and Nearlyweds (for wedding websites and managing online rsvps) can cut down on planning time and cost.

Also, sites like EbayEtsy and Recycled Bride are premium places to get decor on the cheap. I sourced a sweet collection of antique blue mason jar from these sites (in addition to flea markets and thrift stores). You can even re-sell them on the same sites (especially Etsy) after the wedding.

Chain stores like Target and Wal-Mart also have great seasonal deals (and return policies): we ordered purple string lights the day after Christmas and saved a ton.

7. Do your research. I checked Yelp and WeddingWire before I even met with vendors. I did not waste my time on appointments with bridal salons, caterers, wedding officiants, etc. that had iffy reviews. There are a lot of people in the wedding industry – you CAN find someone who isn’t totally mediocre, and won’t blow your budget. Trust me.

8. Ask for help. Our friends and family members were very willing to take on small, last-minute tasks when we asked them to – from buying sparklers out-of-state (they’re illegal in Georgia), to making a run for forgotten cocktail accoutrements on the day-of, to helping us hang string lights and decorate the venue.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help — family members (especially in-laws) actually want to be a part of the planning — probably more than you think. Everyone was absolutely fabulous at ours. It was warm fuzzy feelings all over!

9. If you don’t need it, skip it. We saved a nice wad of cash by making our own playlists for the entire wedding, and providing our own PA system for our wedding. (My husband has a fetish for vintage audio gear, so we didn’t have to look farther than our own living room for a pair of kickin’ speakers.) My parents were really pushing for a string quartet for the ceremony, but we said no. We also made our own CD playlist favors!

If you don’t care about a big cake, order something sweet and cheap instead (like candy or cupcakes). If you’re not nuts about fresh flowers, make your own centerpieces, like filling simple glass vases with marbles, sand or seashells. There are an insane amount of DIY wedding centerpiece ideas out there. If you don’t care about favors – don’t give ’em! No one will notice.

10. Enlist your bridesmaids. I assembled an A-list team: my MOH Katie and my mother pretty much shared the duties of a traditional “wedding planner.”  My other 2 bridesmaids, who were based in St. Louis and NYC, LOVED to chat with me online about wedding ideas…especially during work hours. Plus, all my girls drove or flew down to ATL 2 full days early to make sure everyone was primed, primped, and ready to walk down that aisle in style.

You can check out even more of my wedding photos on my fabulous wedding photographer Whitney Huyhn’s blog! And there’s even more on her second shooter Theary Meak’s blog. Got a question about planning a wedding on the fly? Leave a comment below, and I’ll get back to you!


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