I have been a wedding planner for more than a decade. If you’re a fan of the wedding reality show Rich Bride Poor Bride you are likely familiar with my work. I typically work with a couple for anywhere from one to two years, helping them plan every aspect of their special day. For the newly engaged, or those who may not be familiar with the process, the average length of a North American engagement is 18 months.
Recently, my fiancée and I planned our wedding. The catch? We had exactly 30 days to do it. By the end of it, I found a beautiful and magical experience need not take more than a year and a half to plan.
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So, if you just want to get married and don’t want the stress and wedding fatigue that a long planning process includes, here are some lessons I learned to help make that process easier.
Make a list of the absolutely essential people in your life. Typically, parents, siblings and one to four best friends. Leave off distant school friends, work friends and friends of your parents. This is ‘wedding triage.’
Call each of them, tell them they are important and get them to commit to a date. When you have that magical date — consider it set in stone and start your planning.
The truth, from experience, is that you will have a far better time with the 40 to 60 people who you adore than with the additional 100 people you are likely not as friendly with, but feel obligated to invite.
If your guest list is less than 100 you will have limitless options. Don’t think about banquet halls, think about gorgeous little restaurants, small inns, art galleries or a garden. Look for a place that is beautiful as this will cost you less in décor down the road.
Forget a weekend date.
Hardly anyone in the wedding business ever works during the week and as a result, you can get an amazing location, an award-winning photographer, a celebrity chef for the cake and a terrific band. They may even offer discounted pricing.
Avoid fancier styles with embellishments or the time consuming process of letterpress. If pushed for time, have an email invitation designed and sent so people can RSVP quickly. The best part is it’s free.
The Internet can also be great for short-run invitations if you need to have something in your hands and into the mail box within 10 days. You need to allow an additional 10 days for people to receive and send back.
The RSVP date can be 10 days prior to the event to allow you enough time to give final numbers to your caterer.
Hire the best you can afford — these images will be the memory of your day. Ask the photographer if they will set up an online gallery of their shots or slideshow. Since some friends may not be able to attend, they can at least have access to these images following the event. If you can afford video, please do.
You need not have a city hall wedding, a simple Internet search will yield many spiritual, non-denominational or interfaith officiants who can conduct a wedding ceremony at your choice of location. Price typically runs $200-600.
Any local bakery can make a wedding cake. Find some images of cakes you like. Opt for simple and take it in. They will typically be less expensive than using a fashionable wedding cake artist. Resist the urge to make your own — they always wilt or fall and are just plain stressful.
Even for a small wedding hire live music for the ceremony. The cost is low, between $250-650. Consider hiring them to play through cocktails or dinner if you want music through the evening, but not necessarily a major dance party. If you want dancing, use your iPod.
Flowers & Décor
You can make more of an impact and alter the appearance of any space with colourful, luxury linen rentals than you ever could with flowers.
Consider renting beautiful linens ($15-35 per table) and going with very simple, in season flowers.
Don’t get fancy with the flowers and always remember that you can never have too many candles — they are easy décor and a fabulous DIY project that can be handled on short notice.