Yes, it's possible! You can plan an entire wedding in just a few months (even just a few weeks!)
We've seen plenty of gorgeous short-notice weddings on the blog & I've had a number of wedding photography clients who have managed planning weddings very quickly in seemingly low-stress fashion.
And no, I'm not just talking about elopements. You can plan a full-fledged wedding in record speed. All it takes is reasonable expectations, flexibility in your wedding vision and our own expert tips…
Choosing A Date
If you're going local, pick a weeknight.
Marrying any day Monday through Thursday will give you the most options when it comes to booking your vendors. Plus, most of your wedding bookings will be delightfully more affordable. Sundays and Fridays can often still be a bit more reasonable when it comes to price and availability. If you can avoid it, block out Saturday as an option, as you'll likely be competing with couples who have been planning much longer than you have.
Planning to travel for your wedding? Consider your guests first when you choose what day of the week you plan to hold the celebration. If everyone is traveling for a week or so, it'll still be quite easy to get married say – on the beach in Hawaii – on a Wednesday night, if everyone is already in town.
But, if the majority of your guests are 9-5ers who don't intend to take any work days off, best stick to a weekend day to ensure they can travel out to attend.
A small guest list will make it easier when you are searching through the more limited pool of available venues for your ‘last minute' wedding date. Spaces that aren't traditional wedding venues (think rental homes, restaurants, galleries, etc) can accommodate smaller groups. You can always ‘extend your guest list virtually' by live streaming your wedding for those who don't get an in-person invite.
If you still want a big wedding, however, it's possible! By taking our advice above – choosing less popular wedding dates – you may be able to find a venue to host your 300-person event.
When planning a wedding in three months or less, send Save The Dates (if you want them) and wedding invitations as soon as possible, before your guests make conflicting plans. In that regard, we recommend opting for digital wedding invites so you can spread the word instantly rather than waiting for proper paper designs, printing, shipping, and mailing.
We love Greenvelope‘s digital wedding stationery. Not only are they beautifully designed and so paper-like, they include all sorts of fancy features like RSVP-tracking, messaging, maps, even add music to set the wedding vibe.
Finding A Venue on Short Notice
Probably the biggest question of any wedding plans that decides most of the rest of your booking: where are you going to get married?
You may think it's impossible to find a wedding venue on short notice, it's really not. You just need to think outside the box. ‘Raw wedding venue‘ potential is literally everywhere. A flower farm, a hotel balcony, an NYC ferry, an empty beach, even a National Park!
If all the traditional venues you've contacted are booked, start thinking about places that allow gatherings that aren't designated as wedding venues. Public parks & lands, restaurants and bars, friends & family properties, and yes, even Airbnbs and rental houses can often serve as a venue so long as it says ‘Suitable for Events'. Find out how to quickly search for event-ready Airbnbs here.
One of my current, fabulous, adventurous brides got engaged in March and is getting married in August at Glacier National Park. Cool, calm & collected, it seems her wedding planning has been pretty seamless regardless of the short notice & plans to marry in one of the most popular places during one of the most popular times!
She'll be renting a room for one night at a gorgeous hotel within the national park to get ready in, marrying on a scenic trail viewpoint on St. Mary Lake & cooking up a campy outdoor dinner somewhere nearby. Keeping the guest list quite small, she had no issue choosing a Saturday date for the wedding.
In New York City, you can get married anywhere! So long as you have an ordained minister (something any friend or family can become online) and two witnesses you can hold the ceremony on the street, in a restaurant, on top of a skyscraper, on a ferry boat – the sky & sea are literally the limits!
My bride & groom Laura & Vinnie booked a hotel room with an incredible, massive balcony at a super cool neighborhood hotel, The William Vale. Guests knew what room to come to and they pulled off an incredible, low-cost NYC wedding with an exclusive Manhattan skyline view – no venue competition whatsoever.
Zoe, who planned her wedding in just two months, married on a Wednesday. Thus, she had no issue finding an available venue for her stunning Hawaiian beach wedding.
The Wedding Dress
Don't let us shouting “You need to order your wedding dress 5-10 months ahead of time!” scare you. That warning is just for made-to-order wedding dresses. There are endless ways to find that perfect wedding dress in a short timespan, especially now that Covid has encouraged designers to offer more quick-to-ship options & online shopping.
We've rounded up all of the best places to shop for your wedding dress online, most of which are dresses that have really short lead times or are ready to ship right now! You can also buy gently-loved, never-been-worn & sample gowns on resale sites like Still White.
There are still options, however, if you want to have that bridal salon shopping experience. Many bridal salons sell sample gowns off the rack (dresses that have been gently tried-on in the salon) that you can take home day-of and get professionally cleaned and altered. There are also plenty of designers who still make made-to-measure gowns in less than one month. Best to call any of your local bridal salons ahead of time to find out what options are available in-store for a short turnaround.
Designers we love that offer new, unworn gowns that are quick to ship? Grace Loves Lace & Daughters of Simone for boho lace lovers. Shona Joy & Kamperett for the casual bride looking for something sleek & sexy. And Kaviar Gauche for anyone in need of glitz and glamour.
Booking Wedding Vendors
What does our beautiful beach bride Zoe say about finding all of your vendors on short notice? “Ask your vendors.” If you've found anyone local you already love – photographer, florist, venue, etc – chances are they'll have suggestions of other vendors they love to work with and who might still be available.
DIY Where You Can
Cutting out the number of vendors you need to hire will help ease the availability & planning pain. Think about which wedding-day necessities can be DIYed by you and your friends and family.
Flowers are a great place to start. I foraged for mine at our Mexico destination wedding with my best friend, dad and coordinator. We then mixed in tropical fruit decor to help make it look more ‘full'. Christina bought all of her dried flowers at the local farmer's market and mixed them with my mom's homegrown flowers.
Creating your own wedding day playlist can cut out the need to find a DJ, band, audio rentals, etc. Maybe you have a master baker in the family (like my mom) who can make a cake? The more you DIY, the less you have to cry, “Everyone is booked!”
My advice if you DIY a lot of wedding day elements: hire a day-of-coordinator. Even if it's just a very organized friend! That way, finishing & arranging all the DIY elements don't fall on you on your wedding day. (I've seen it happen, you don't want to do it!)
Get Creative For Your Reception
If you've held the ceremony somewhere public like a beach, National Park, or city street and still need to find a reception space – get creative. You can invite all the guests to join you at a beer garden or big restaurant for an ‘after party' that you don't need to reserve. Then, everyone can order what they like and you can still party until closing time (or you move on to the after-after party).
Other reception ideas include:
- If you're getting married at a State Park, National Park, etc, you could reserve group campsites and have a big, campy outdoor dinner & bonfire that lasts all night long. We've seen plenty of couples on the Oregon Coast get married on the beach and throw an incredible campsite reception, all for the cost of $30 per site & some firewood.
- Backyard receptions will always be cool. You can have a casual BBQ in someone's backyard or make it elevated with these tips to throwing a luxurious at-home wedding.
- Ain't no party like a hotel party. Find a cool hotel nearby and book out the biggest suite (maybe adjoining hotel rooms?) You can throw a swanky hotel party with room service champagne & all the food you like!
There's nothing stopping you now! We hope you now have the confidence to plan that last-minute wedding. For more expert advice, visit our wedding planning section.