How long does it take to plan a wedding? Here’s how to get started on your wedding planning timeline

When you first get engaged, your google search history might look a little something like this: How to plan a wedding day? How long does it take to plan a wedding? How do I pick a wedding venue? Can someone please hold my hand and bring me cake as I hyperventilate?

And don’t get me wrong – they’re all excellent questions. But (bar the last one, to which the answer should be and only be an enthusiastic, 100% yes) the answer to them all is kind of how long is a piece of string? Your wedding is such a personal thing, and every couple will have different wants, needs, and circumstances. But, having said that, I know it can feel helpful to have some guidelines as the answer to how long does it take to plan a wedding. With that in mind, I’ve included some below, as well as my top timeline tips for you, gleaned from my years of experience in the industry.

How long does it take to plan a wedding?

A ‘traditional’ wedding timeline takes around a year on average. That is, providing it’s not a destination wedding, for example, or you know, planned in a pandemic…

Though, as above, I generally think weddings can take as long or as little as you think you’ll need depending on your familiarity and comfort with organisation, but between 9 and 12 months is a great amount of time to aim for. This way, you have plenty of time to pull together your wedding day plans, but it doesn’t become all consuming and you can still have a life outside of it too.

Couple holding hands during wedding ceremony

So, what should you include in your wedding planning timeline?

Once you know the answer to the question of how long does it take to plan a wedding, the next question is: ok, so what do we next?!

When should you begin planning?

First things first: celebrate your engagement! It’s a huge milestone, and deserves to be enjoyed fully before you dive headfirst into the world of wedding planning. Wait at least a few weeks before you begin scheduling venue tours and supplier meetings.

However, if you’re keen to get going – and why wouldn’t you be? – you could use this time to start talking together about your vision for your day, and work out what details are important to you both. This might not feel like it’s wedding planning, but trust me: it’s definitely one of the most important elements of the whole process. Plus, this stage is definitely a great time to start thinking about your budget, too – even if you don’t decide on the final sum for a few weeks.

Wedding portrait of couple surrounded by greenery

What should you do first?

Book your wedding venue

Though mostly you should do as Sinatra sang and do things your way, some wedding planning tasks naturally take precedence over others. Having a place to host the ceremony and reception, for example, is up there.

Choosing a wedding venue takes time and includes visiting potential locations and discussing pricing and fees, so it is one of the more time-intensive tasks of wedding planning. But, once your wedding venue is set, that means the date and guest list numbers are too, and after that it’s like a beautiful set of dominos. Many wedding venues also offer catering and alcohol or can point you towards their recommended vendors, so it can lead to crossing off several more tasks on your wedding planning to-do too, if you hadn’t already sorted them.

Choose your suppliers

If there are suppliers you absolutely love, you need to book them ASAP. Some suppliers book out over a year in advance – especially as the industry continues to deal with the fallout of the pandemic – and you don’t want to regret missing out on that perfect photographer or videographer, for example.

Extra top tip: make sure to review contracts carefully and ask questions to know exactly what’s included and if there are any extra fees. As a wedding photographer, I can tell you that we’d much rather you clarified stuff beforehand, than end up feeling dissatisfied later!

Find your outfit(s)

Many couples leave shopping for their outfits until later in the planning, but it’s good to start thinking about this sooner rather than later. This is especially true if you plan on something bespoke, but even if you opt for something off the peg, you might need to order your size in, or make some adjustments as needed. Waiting too long to decide may result in having to choose from only what’s available on the rack, or to pay an extra rush fee.

Bride and groom hugging after bride’s speech

How can you keep to your timeline?

Knowing your answer to the question “How long does it take to plan a wedding?” is one thing – sticking to it is a whole other ball game.

The best way to keep your planning on track is to hire a professional wedding planner. As well as ensuring you stick to your budget, organising your suppliers and dealing with any dramas on the day, they’ll be a firm but friendly face who’ll keep on top of what’s due when.

However, if hiring a planner isn’t in your budget, there’s loads of brilliant resources online that can help keep you organised. There are free checklists and timelines that provide an excellent starting point, which you can tweak for your own situation. As you begin to plan your wedding, be sure to give yourself as much time as possible and write out clear to-do lists with due dates to keep you on track. Also, having a wedding planning notebook can really help too! And really, who needs an excuse to buy more stationery?!

Extra top tip: I’d definitely recommend creating a separate email account for your wedding planning, so all your emails are in one place and don’t get lost in your general inbox.

Couple hugging next to willow tree

Now all that’s left to do…is plan!

So, hopefully I’ve shown you that the generic answer to how long does it take to plan a wedding might not be the same answer as how long it’ll take to plan your wedding, and that’s ok. But hopefully I’ve also given you some practical tips to get started on planning the wedding day of your dreams, too. Get those notebooks at the ready, pop that bubbly – and get cracking!

Oh, and if you’re looking for a London or Cambridgeshire wedding photographer specialising in laidback, emotive documentary photography that captures you at your most you, then I’d love to hear from you.