How Far in Advance Should You Plan a Wedding?

If you’re just engaged, it can be super-tempting to dive into wedding planning immediately. 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 a little time to enjoy being engaged. You’ll thank us, we promise.

Every couple (and every wedding!) is totally different, but some simple guidelines can help you map out a realistic timeframe for your day. Keep reading as we explain how much planning is involved in the average wedding and whether a long or short engagement is the best option for your lifestyle, wedding vision and budget.

When Should You Start Planning Your Wedding?

Giving yourself plenty of time to plan a wedding is ideal: Most experts recommend starting preparations at least a year in advance. Starting early means that you’ll have more time to tailor fit everything to match your wishlist as well as dealing with any issues that come your way. Considering the average engagement in the United States usually lasts between a year and a year and a half, plans beginning with this timeline are extremely common. In addition, the further away from your wedding, the easier it will be to plan a destination honeymoon, pick a popular venue, and even grow your budget for the big day. And better yet, giving yourself extra time will help cut down on stress and enable you to enjoy all the little steps that come with planning a wedding.

When should I hire a wedding planner?

There’s really no way to get around hiring a professional planner for your destination wedding, from logistics to language barriers to time differences. A seasoned planner will help you navigate the ever-murky waters of getting married in a locale you’re not super familiar with, taking the stress and guesswork out of the planning process. Once you’ve got a ring on it, we recommend enjoying 1-2 weeks of being engaged. Once you embark on the planning process, there’s no going back—so. At the same time, you may be super excited to dive right into event design, try to resist the urge to spend your every waking hour Pinteresting and, instead, focus on the one thing you won’t ever get back once it’s gone: the fresh feeling of being newly engaged. 

Take some time to relax, enjoy each other’s company, and celebrate. Then, once you’ve allowed yourself to marinate in that pure awesomeness for a week or so, your very next step should be to hire a professional wedding planner to help you plan your destination wedding. You should have a professional planner hired at least 10-12 months before your destination wedding.

The one conversation to have immediately…

While we don’t recommend starting to plan your wedding within seconds of being just engaged actively, 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 impacts your planning timeline. You don’t have to have an extensive discussion with your partner about your wedding just yet, 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. For these reasons, there’s no need to rush to start planning. Instead, spend at least one month enjoying that “just engaged” feeling—perhaps celebrating with an engagement party, but without any pressure to start even 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. However, 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 to 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 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 are 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 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 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 in a shorter timeframe? You’re not alone. It turns out that 19 per cent 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 big day with a somewhat abbreviated 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!).

How Long Does It Take Plan a Wedding on Average?

It’s difficult to put an exact timeframe on how long it takes to plan a wedding because no two couples are ever the same! With this being said, research shows that most couples spend approximately 12 – 18 months planning their wedding, which usually adds up to between 200 – 500 hours in total.

Now, your ideal wedding planning timeline might look longer or shorter than the “average” couple – which is absolutely fine! We’ve seen weddings planned in 3 months, and engagements that lasted 5 years. The right timeline for your wedding will all depend on a few key factors.

Before you lock down your wedding date, you’ll want to consider the following things: 

  • Lifestyle and career: Do you and your partner both work full-time with busy social lives and family commitments? If so, you may want to allow yourself more time to plan your wedding to accommodate your lifestyle. On the flip side, if you have plenty of free time, you’ll be able to get things organised much quicker!
  • Finances: Do you already have some money set aside for your wedding, or will you need some extra time to build up your savings? If so, how much time will you need to achieve your savings goal without any financial stress? If you haven’t already discussed your wedding budget, this is a great place to start.
  • Wedding vision: Have you considered the kind of wedding you’ll be hosting and the overall vibe you want to create? An intimate wedding or elopement can be planned in a much shorter time frame, while a big celebration or destination wedding will require significantly more planning. If you’re not sure what your wedding vision looks like just yet, grab our free worksheet here to nail it down.
  • Flexibility: Are you flexible with things like your wedding venue, date and vendors, or do you already have your heart set on specific elements? Many in-demand venues and vendors book out quickly (we’re talking 12+ months in advance), so you may need to adjust your timeline to secure your dream team.
  • Support: Do you have family and friends willing to help out with the wedding planning, or will you be organising everything solo? If you can delegate tasks and ask for help, you can factor this into your timeline.
  • Personal preferences: Finally, consider the wedding planning timeline that best suits your personality and preferences. Are you someone who likes to take things at a relaxed, leisurely pace – or do you thrive on organisation, checklists and getting things done? This should give you a good indication of a realistic timeline that will work for you.

How Long Does It Take Plan A Destination Wedding?

The average length of time that couples plan their destination wedding is around a year and a half, with wedding planners claiming that anytime before two years is best to get a head start on organizing your special day abroad. Planning a destination wedding depends on destination season, guests having to make travel plans, and the availability of certain venues. Giving yourself plenty of time to nail out those details is key to enjoying a stress-free walk down the aisle in the Bahamas.

Steps To Plan A Destination Wedding

  1. Consult with a destination wedding planning company or venues abroad to find your dream location for your nuptials. Locking down a venue and destination will give you an engagement timeline to get everything else ready. Make sure to consider factors such as how many people you expect to invite, how you expect guests to travel, and what the weather might be like to avoid any hiccups down the road.
  2. Your destination wedding may require a scouting trip to ensure your chosen vendors and venue have everything you want. For example, a rooftop setting may look interesting in pictures but feels like magic once you’re there. Vice versa, a small outdoor venue may look beautiful on the website, but only when you visit do you realize it’s right next to a noisy highway.
  3. Once you have the location and date nailed down, be sure to give your guests as much notice as possible. Sending those tropical themed wedding invitations at least six months in advance will give your loved ones enough time to request work off and buy their tickets to Fiji for your special day.
  4. After the invites go out, your wedding will follow a more normal pattern, and you can use this destination wedding checklist to determine exactly what else needs to get done before you arrive at the airport.

When should I choose a location?

You might know the country or the part of the state you want to get married in, but nailing down a specific location should be the first thing you do after hiring a wedding planner. Your planner will know which locales will (and won’t) work for your wedding day dreams. For example, maybe you always envisioned getting married in that tiny town you love along the Italian countryside, but come to find out its noise restrictions won’t work with the late-night party you have planned, or maybe the two-hour bus ride up into the secluded hillside is just too much for your guests to endure. Oftentimes, logistics will help determine the exact location of your wedding, so—even if you’re 1-2 years out from saying I do—choose your wedding location right away after hiring your planner.

When should I book my venue?

For destination weddings, we recommend booking your venue 12-16 months out. That being said, different venues will have different requirements. For example, if it’s a super popular destination wedding spot, they may be booked out for 18 months in advance. This is where your planner will come in—she will know which venues require what amount of time in advance to book. Keep in mind some venues won’t take weddings that are too far out—2-3 years, for example—as it simply doesn’t make sense for them to have something on the books that far in advance knowing the number of things that can change in such a long amount of time.

When should I send Save the Dates?

Send out Save the Dates for your destination wedding 8-12 months in advance—any longer, and guests will forget about your affair any shorter. They may not have time to book travel and accommodations at a reasonable price. Whether you lean closer to 8 months or 12 will depend on your wedding locale and its proximity to (or distance from) the area from which most of your guests will be travelling. For example, a destination wedding in California with most of your family is coming from the East Coast may only require 8 months notice. In contrast, a destination wedding in Budapest with most of your guests travelling from the States will definitely require 12 months notice. When in doubt, put yourself in your guests’ shoes—even if money, childcare, or work schedules aren’t a concern for you personally, they likely will be for many of your guests. Ensure you’re giving them plenty of time to book plane tickets and hotel accommodations without getting hit with last-minute booking fees.

When should I mail out invitations?

You want to send invitations for destination weddings 2-3 months in advance. This will allow your guests plenty of time to request time off work, arrange for childcare if necessary, and book their travel. Also, be sure to include information about your wedding website on your invitations, as destination weddings typically require you to communicate a ton of information about your event to your guests–and wedding websites are the best place to do so.

In all, it takes varying lengths of time to plan a wedding, with each couple’s celebration as unique as the next. The most important thing is that you feel organized and stress-free so you can enjoy your wedding plans like you’re meant to.

Our final tip? Don’t let anyone else dictate how long you think you’ll need to plan a wedding. You know yourselves best, so trust your instincts and create a timeline that makes sense for you. As long as you remain calm, organised and flexible, we have total faith that everything will fall into place exactly as you’ve imagined. You’ve got this!

Scroll to Top