Today, Kensington Palace finally announced the date for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's wedding, which means the couple only has until May 19 to plan a celebration that will be watched by the entire world. No pressure, Meghan and Harry. Think that sounds like a rush? It's actually common for royal engagements to be short.
Kate Middleton and Prince William were officially engaged for five and a half months before they threw a wedding reception for about 2,000 guests. William's mother, Diana, also said "I do" to Prince Charles after a six-month engagement. And their big day was attended by 3,500 guests.
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So what is the secret to planning the wedding of your dreams in less than half a year yourself?
“Efficiency is key when planning a short-term wedding," said Megan Velez of Destination Weddings Travel Group. "Focus on the big things like the venue, photography, attire, and food. There may not be enough time to plan and work out some of the smaller details, so make a list of the most important things to you and your partner and tackle those first."
Good organization is obviously key, so the first task on your to-do list (yes, you do need a to-do list) is finding a seasoned planner. (Forget a little help from your friends.) Planners already have the relationships, so you won't have to rush to call and negotiate with vendors, do research, and order floral arrangements.
"Using technology is a great way to maximize efficiency. Instead of traditional save-the-dates and invitations that you mail, create beautiful e-versions where guests can receive and RSVP immediately," said Velez. Also, download a few wedding plannings apps will help you stay organized.
But if your mind is set on paper invites and you only have six months until the big day, start getting your guest addresses immediately. Tifany Wunschl of Gourmet Invitations says this is typically what takes couples the longest to put together. "If you want to do something special, such as engraving, laser cutting, or printing on metal or acrylic—these all take extra time," she added.
Next, make sure you have your final guest count early on, so you can lock down your venue.
"When trying to choose a date, consider something unconventional, like a Sunday brunch or a weekday. That will open up a lot more options in terms of vendor availability, and you may even find they are willing to give you a discount for scheduling on an off day," suggested Kevin Dennis of Fantasy Sound Event Services. Securing your dream venue will also be more likely if your reception is not on a Saturday.
Also, consider that a short engagement means your guests will have to plan any necessary travel quickly too—so help them out. “When you have just a few months to plan, it’s going to be essential to make communication with your guests a priority. Complete a wedding web site immediately and spread the word that it’s available. Be sure to include room block information, travel tips, and the key dates and times so they can plan accordingly," said Dennis.
For most couples, a photographer and a videographer are the most important components of their wedding, so booking one who's worked at your venue before can be helpful.
“Aim to a hire a photographer who is already familiar with your booked venue, ceremony, and reception. Every property has their own rules and regulations so eliminate the learning curve so you can quickly move on to the logistics of the event, " recommended Keith Phillips of Classic Photographers. “It would be great to be able to have an engagement shoot prior to the wedding day, but that’s not always going to be terribly realistic with just a few months. If an engagement shoot is included in the package, talk to your photographer about the potential for swapping it out with an anniversary shoot.”
Now that you have your basics (date, venue, photographer, website), you can focus on the food and decor.
When it comes to catering, stick to seasonal and local options for food and beverage. Do not try to reinvent what your caterer does either. Let them help guide you through menus.
"Don’t try to offer two or three entrées that will require guests to RSVP for menu selection," said Heather Jones of Wente Vineyards. "Make it simpler on yourself by selecting one entrée plus a vegetarian option if needed or buffet. This is actually a great scenario to consider a duet plate—that is a pair of proteins, such as beef and fish."
While a wedding cake is an essential part of any wedding, since they are usually made a few days before the reception, don't stress too much over it in advance. Just make sure you know exactly what you want when you finally talk to your baker.
Opt for seasonal flowers—they are less expensive and will take a lot less time to put together into bouquets and centerpieces.
"Linens are the simplest way to change the look and feel of an event, fast. Going for rich, regal, and elegant? Velvets will do that for you. Breezy and airy? Drape runners in a light fabric down your table," suggested Johanna Meyers of La Tavola Fine Linen Rental. She says that since linens are pretty universal in sizing, you can order them in a pretty short timeline, but they are essential because they can change the entire color scheme of your venue.
Finally, there is one major don't that all pros agree on—stay away from Pinterest. It may be counterintuitive since the platform is full of beautiful bridal inspiration, but it is exactly this abundance of choice that will undoubtedly lead to confusion, that you'd want to avoid.