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Ultimate Free Guide on Planning a Wedding in 9 Months or less

Planning a wedding is an exciting and daunting task. While some couples take their time to prepare for the big day, others find themselves needing to plan a wedding in a shorter timeframe. Whether you’ve decided on a whirlwind romance or circumstances have accelerated your wedding timeline, this ultimate guide will help you navigate the process of planning a wedding in nine months or less without breaking the bank. We’ll cover everything from setting a budget to choosing a venue, finding vendors, and making the most of your time. Keep in mind, you can use this guide for a shorter or longer engagement too! 

Gold Art Deco Garden Wedding
Lily Sky Photography

We have included 11 focus areas for planning your wedding. Skip to:

Decision Fatigue

We’re starting out with a warning about decision fatigue because it is a common source of stress and overwhelm in wedding planning. Avoiding decision fatigue during wedding planning is vital to keep your sanity intact and ensure that you make the best choices for your big day. One effective strategy is to break down your wedding planning tasks into smaller, manageable steps.

Set specific deadlines and prioritize your decisions based on their importance and the timeline. Create lists and spreadsheets to keep track of options, quotes, and appointments, allowing you to maintain a clear overview of your planning progress. Additionally, consider delegating tasks to trusted friends or family members, or even hiring a wedding planner, if possible. Finally, remember to take breaks to recharge (and date nights too!), stay well-nourished, and get enough sleep. Reducing decision fatigue will help you make more informed and less stressful choices, ultimately leading to a smoother and more enjoyable wedding planning experience.

Wedding planning can be a lot of hurry up and waiting, it’s best to go in with the mindset that is going to be time for action and decisions. And there will be enough time for relaxing and enjoying the experience.

It can be helpful to start with an intention for your wedding, we wrote more about intentional wedding planning in this blog post.  

Focus 1: Setting Your Budget

Taylor Jean Photography

Before you dive into wedding planning, the first step is setting a realistic wedding budget. This crucial step will guide your decisions throughout the process. Discuss your finances, set your priorities, and allocate funds for the key aspects of your wedding, such as the venue, catering, photography, and attire. Be sure to include a contingency fund for unexpected expenses.

Setting a budget for your wedding is the foundational step in your wedding planning journey. It’s the financial roadmap that guides all your decisions, from the choice of venue to the selection of flowers and the guest list. To establish a budget, first, have an open and honest conversation with your partner about your finances, expectations, and priorities.

Determine the total amount you’re willing to spend and break it down into categories like venue, catering, attire, photography, and entertainment. Be sure to allocate a portion of your budget for unexpected costs. A well-defined budget not only helps you stay within your financial means but also ensures you make informed choices throughout the planning process, resulting in a wedding that’s not only memorable but also fiscally responsible.

Focus 2: Creating a Guest List

Start by drafting a guest list. While nine months may seem like a short time, knowing how many people you want to invite is essential for choosing the right venue and managing costs. Be prepared to make some tough decisions about who to invite and who to leave off the list. You will not be finalizing this guest list at this point of your journey, but it will likely guide your decisions about which venue to select to make sure the venue fits your needs. 

Creating a guest list is a pivotal aspect of wedding planning that requires careful consideration. Begin by sitting down with your partner and discussing your vision for the celebration. Decide how many guests you’d like to invite and whether you want an intimate gathering or a larger event. A destination wedding may also reduce your guest count too. It’s essential to strike a balance between accommodating close family and friends and staying within your budget and venue capacity. Be prepared to make some tough decisions, as your guest list may need to be trimmed to fit your chosen venue and budget constraints. Prioritize those who are most significant in your life and whom you genuinely want to share this special day with. Your guest list sets the tone for the entire event, so take your time and be thoughtful in your selections.

Tip: With a large guest list with out of town guests, you may also want to add Book Hotel Room Blocks to your timeline and to do list!

Taylor Jean Photography

Focus 3: Finding the Perfect Venue

Elise Abigail Photo

With your guest list in mind, begin the search for a venue that can accommodate your desired number of guests. Don’t be afraid to consider unconventional options like parks, historic buildings, or even your own backyard. Booking a venue early is crucial, as popular locations may fill up quickly, especially if your wedding date is in a peak season.

Choosing the perfect wedding venue is a pivotal decision that significantly influences the ambiance and overall experience of your big day. Start your search early, as popular venues tend to book up quickly. Consider your budget, guest list, and the style of wedding you envision. Whether you dream of a rustic barn, an elegant ballroom, or an outdoor garden setting, the venue should align with your vision.

Additionally, evaluate the logistical aspects such as location, accessibility, and amenities offered. Visit potential venues in person to get a feel for the space and ask questions about their policies and restrictions. When you find a venue that resonates with your vision and meets your practical needs, you’re one step closer to ensuring your wedding day is nothing short of perfect.

Focus 4: Choosing Vendors

When planning a wedding in a hurry, researching and securing vendors efficiently is essential. Consider hiring a wedding planner to help you find and manage vendors. Or starting with the Recommended List provided by your venue. You’ll want to consider hiring a photographer, caterer, florist, and entertainment. Check reviews, compare quotes, and meet with potential vendors to ensure they align with your vision and budget.

Most couples start with booking the venue and photographer. But you will want to start with your highest priority vendors – if a specific makeup artist or DJ is the highlight of your wedding. Confirm and sign contracts with those vendors first. Selecting the perfect wedding vendors is a crucial step in ensuring your big day goes off without a hitch.

Start by conducting thorough research and reading reviews to find professionals who align with your vision, style, and budget. Meet with potential vendors to gauge their personality and expertise, as your compatibility and trust in their abilities are paramount. When it comes to choosing a photographer, videographer, florist, caterer, and other vendors, ask to see their portfolios and samples of their work to ensure their quality matches your expectations.

Remember to request detailed quotes and contracts outlining services, costs, and cancellation policies. Picking the right wedding vendors is an investment in the success and smooth execution of your wedding day, so take your time and make choices that reflect your unique style and desires.

Focus 5: Dress and Attire Shopping

Allen Wedding – Sabra Teel Photography

Once you have your venue and vendors in place, it’s time to start shopping for your attire. Since time is of the essence, consider off-the-rack wedding dresses, and don’t forget about the attire for your bridal party. Alterations can take several weeks, so choose your outfits early and make sure they’re ready in time. Selecting wedding dresses and attire within a 9-month timeframe is entirely doable with proper planning.

Start your search early, as finding the perfect wedding dress can be time-consuming. If you’re short on time, consider off-the-rack dresses or gowns from bridal sample sales, which can be altered to fit you perfectly. For the groom and bridal party, streamline the process by choosing attire from a shop that offers a wide selection and on-site tailoring. It’s essential to ensure that fittings and alterations are scheduled well in advance to accommodate any unexpected delays. Staying flexible and open-minded with your dress and attire choices can help you find stylish and suitable options within the time constraints, allowing you to look your best on your special day.

Focus 6: Invitations and Save the Dates

Taylor Jean Photography

Design and send out save-the-dates and invitations as soon as possible. Opt for digital invitations to save time and money or hire a calligrapher for a personal touch. With a tight schedule, ensure you get RSVPs promptly to finalize your guest count and seating arrangements.

Save the dates and wedding invitations play a significant role in setting the tone for your big day and ensuring your guests are well-informed. In the modern age, there are innovative ways to send out these announcements. Save the dates can be sent digitally through email or via social media, allowing for instant updates and cost savings on printing and postage.

Many couples are also opting for a wedding website, which provide a centralized hub for event details, digital RSVPs, and even gift registries. In recent years, QR codes have gained popularity as a convenient way to link guests to these websites or other digital information. Guests can simply scan the code with their smartphones, making it a seamless and eco-friendly option.

However, for those who prefer traditional paper invitations, the tactile and personal experience they offer remains a timeless choice. Whether you go digital or stick with paper, your save the dates and invitations should reflect your style and wedding theme, making the anticipation of your special day even more memorable for your guests. Here is more a blog post about Art Deco Weddings and invitations if you are looking for more ideas.

We hear time and time again that RSVPs can be the most stressful part of the wedding planning process. Give your self ample time to follow up on non-responsive guests or assign this task to a trusted person. 

Focus 7: Timeline and To-Do Lists

Create a detailed wedding planning timeline and to-do lists. Divide your tasks into manageable chunks and stay organized to ensure you don’t overlook any important details. Consider using wedding planning apps to help you stay on track.

Creating a well-structured timeline and to-do list for your wedding is a fundamental step in reducing stress and maintaining organization throughout the planning process. It’s best to start early, as this allows for more thoughtful decision-making and less last-minute chaos. When setting your priorities, have an open conversation with your partner about the elements that matter most to both of you. This will help you allocate your time and resources effectively.

Develop a master timeline that encompasses the entire planning period, from your engagement to the wedding day, breaking it down into manageable monthly, weekly, and daily segments. Share the responsibilities with your partner, dividing tasks based on your strengths and interests. Technology can be a helpful ally, with wedding planning apps and online tools offering features like checklists, guest lists, and budget trackers. Be sure to set clear deadlines and prioritize tasks, focusing on critical items like selecting a venue and securing essential vendors first.

Establish milestones along the way and celebrate these achievements, big or small, as they come. Flexibility is key, as unexpected changes can occur, so remain adaptable and solution-oriented. Maintain open and frequent communication with your partner and anyone else involved in the planning, keeping everyone on the same page.

Remember to care for yourselves; take breaks, eat well, get sufficient rest, and engage in regular exercise to sustain your physical and mental well-being. If the planning process becomes too overwhelming, consider hiring a wedding planner or coordinator to assist with the timeline and ensure a smooth journey.

As your wedding day approaches, triple-check all details, confirm vendor contracts, and ensure everything is in place. Finally, as the big day draws near, trust in your preparation and take time to relax and enjoy the moment with your loved ones. A well-structured timeline and to-do list, combined with a focus on self-care and positivity, will help you not only stay organized but also fully appreciate the beauty of the planning process and anticipate a wonderful wedding day.


Taylor Jean Photography

Many wedding stressors and tasks can be delegated to other individuals with advance planning. A top wedding stressor is following up on RSVPs and you may want to divide the list as a couple to follow up on only half the list, or ask a mom or other people to help take on this task. Delegating can some times feel like hard work or unnecessary but in the coming months, you’ll be grateful you did. 

Delegating tasks for a wedding is a crucial strategy to ensure a smoother planning process and a more enjoyable wedding day. Start by identifying individuals you trust and who are willing to help, whether it’s friends, family members, or a professional wedding coordinator. Assign specific tasks according to their strengths and expertise, taking into consideration their roles in the wedding.

Delegate responsibilities like coordinating with vendors, managing the guest list, handling decorations, or overseeing the timeline. By distributing the workload, you alleviate stress on yourself and your partner, allowing you both to stay focused on the significance of the day. Effective delegation also means you can relax and enjoy the celebration, confident that the details are being handled efficiently. It’s an opportunity for your loved ones to be part of your special day and contribute to its success, creating a sense of unity and shared responsibility that adds to the joy of the occasion.

Hiring Help?

Hiring a wedding planner or coordinator can be a game-changer in the wedding planning process, but how do you know when it’s the right choice for you? Several factors can indicate that professional assistance is a wise decision. If you’re juggling a busy work schedule, have limited free time, or feel overwhelmed by the multitude of decisions and details, a wedding planner can bring order and expertise to the process.

Similarly, if your wedding involves complex logistics, multiple venues, or a large guest list, a coordinator can ensure that everything runs smoothly. Moreover, if you lack experience in event planning or simply want to relax and fully enjoy the wedding journey, a professional can offer invaluable guidance, reduce stress, and help you make informed choices within your budget. Ultimately, the decision to hire a wedding planner or coordinator should align with your needs and desires, as their expertise can turn your wedding vision into a stress-free reality.

Another option, is hiring a day-of assistant, sometimes known as a day-of coordinator, can be a brilliant decision for couples who have handled most of their wedding planning but want to ensure their big day runs flawlessly. This professional is focused on the execution of the event and takes care of the logistical details, allowing the couple to fully immerse themselves in the celebration without stress. A day-of assistant helps to manage the timeline, coordinates with vendors, ensures decor and details are in place, and addresses any unexpected issues, freeing the couple from these responsibilities. This valuable support allows you to enjoy your wedding day with peace of mind, knowing that someone with expertise is overseeing the execution, so you can relish in the moment and create unforgettable memories.

Overall Timeline

We highly recommend working from a timeline template to keep track of activities and tasks as you work through the wedding planning. If you hire a wedding planner, they will create one for you and provide updates on this timeline. If you are self-planning – the template will be a guide to refer back to regularly. 

Here is a rough outline:

Day-Of Timeline

The day-of timeline is also very important to keep in mind. Again, if you hired a planner they will take care of this for you. But the day-of timeline will list the arrival and exit times of vendors and wedding party, wedding ceremony and reception times. 

But also include blocks of plenty of time to eat, eat wedding cake, and down time too! 

We recommend a blocking technique for building your timeline. This involves using a spreadsheet and listing all people that have activities the day of the wedding in columns, and then using the rows for the time. Being able to clearly see the start and end times, and how it overlaps with other people during the wedding day is a game changer.

Don’t let the word “spreadsheet” scare you! Here is a sample of a day-of timeline:

Honeymoon Timeline

We have seen time and time again, that couples schedule their honeymoon for the day after the wedding. Often requiring 3 am flights or very early drives to make the most of their honeymoon. If you have the ability to give yourself breathing room before heading off to your honeymoon, you will give yourself more ability to relax and enjoy the reception. You will want to spend a lot of time with your out-of-town guests and all your favorite people at the reception – not ending early stressed about your flight or remembering a passport.  

Elise Abigail Photo

There is also no requirement to take your honeymoon immediately after the wedding. We hear time and time again that people are so glad that they took their honeymoon months later because they were exhausted and overwhelmed with wedding day prep. But waiting a year or more runs the risk that you may never actually take the honeymoon. You deserve this time as a couple to celebrate this time of your lives, even if its a long weekend trip to a cute town a few hours away – it is still worth taking the time!

Honeymoons are a cherished and vital part of the wedding experience, as they offer newlyweds an opportunity to unwind, celebrate their love, and create lasting memories. After the hustle and bustle of wedding planning and the emotional intensity of the ceremony, a honeymoon provides a well-deserved break to recharge and bask in the joy of a new life together. It’s a chance to strengthen the bond between the couple, away from the demands of daily life, and to relish the beginning of a lifelong journey. Honeymoons allow couples to explore new destinations, indulge in shared adventures, and build the foundation for a strong and enduring marriage. This time of togetherness marks the transition from engaged to married life, and the memories created during a honeymoon become cherished reminders of the love and commitment that have brought two people together.

Focus 8: Décor and Personal Touches

Ally Jeppson Photography

For a wedding with a shorter planning window, focus on simple yet elegant decor. Personal touches, like family photos or meaningful quotes, can make your wedding feel unique and special. Enlist the help of friends and family to DIY some of the decor items to save time and money. It also helps to not focus on a strict color palette but rather a concept or theme to guide the decor for the day. 

Keep in mind, unless you are hiring a big team to manage it all for you – just keep it simple! Pick one or two areas that are priority for you with decorations, and don’t try to do all the things. You will create so much more stress and chaos that may not add value to the day. 

Wedding decor plays a crucial role in transforming a venue into a personalized, meaningful space that reflects the couple’s unique style and love story. Personalization is key to making the day truly unforgettable. Couples can infuse their personalities into the decor by incorporating elements that are meaningful to them, such as family photos, cherished mementos, or favorite quotes. DIY projects, like handmade centerpieces or customized signage, can add a special touch. Additionally, thoughtful choices in color schemes, floral arrangements, and lighting can create a harmonious atmosphere that resonates with the couple’s vision. Personalizing the wedding decor not only enhances the aesthetics but also fosters a deeper connection between the couple and their guests, making the celebration a truly authentic and memorable reflection of their love.

Focus 9: Finalizing Details

First take a deep breath! In the last few weeks leading up to your wedding, finalize all the details. Confirm bookings, make a checklist for the big day, and ensure everything is in place. Don’t forget to obtain all necessary permits and licenses if your wedding is in a public space.

At this point, your RSVP deadline should have arrived. You’ll want to share your final guest count information with your vendors to help them prepare for your big day. And if you are having a seating chart, this is a good time to finalize the layout with the confirmed RSVPs. You will also want to work with your photographer on a shot list to make sure you have a list of all the moments or groups you don’t want to have to worry about remembering the day of. 

Finalizing the details ahead of the wedding day is a critical step in ensuring that your special day runs smoothly. Begin by thoroughly reviewing all your arrangements and vendor contracts to confirm accuracy. Create a comprehensive checklist that covers every aspect of your wedding, from the ceremony and reception to transportation and accommodations. Assign trusted individuals, like a wedding coordinator or a reliable friend, to oversee and manage each segment, so you can focus on enjoying your day. Double-check your timelines and schedules, ensuring that everyone involved, from the bridal party to the vendors, knows their roles and responsibilities. Most importantly, remain adaptable and calm, as last-minute adjustments may be necessary. By meticulously finalizing every detail and having a reliable team in place, you’ll be well-prepared to embrace your wedding day with confidence and excitement.

Some of these final details can be fun too, like picking a favorite restaurant for a rehearsal dinner location. This is an item that can also be easily delegated to in-laws or the best man and be a surprise to the couple after the rehearsal too!

Pro Tip: For any decor and items you will be boxing up and using on the wedding day – pack by category. For example – for more elaborate table decorations, have a box per table that has everything needed for that table like 10 plates, 10 sets of silverware, the centerpiece, the favors (if at the table). 

Commonly Forgotten Items

Here is a list of items that we see forgotten most often:

  1. Marriage License: Don’t forget this essential legal document that makes your marriage official.
  2. Wedding Rings: Believe it or not, some couples forget their wedding rings in the excitement.
  3. Emergency Kit: A kit with essentials like clothes steamer, safety pins, pain relievers, tissues, and stain removers can be a lifesaver. Tape and Sharpies also deserve a spot in this emergency kit. 
  4. Utensils: Make sure you have a cake cutter and other serving utensils to bring – or confirm that the caterer will supply these. 
  5. Vendor Meals: Don’t forget to arrange meals for your vendors, such as photographers, musicians, and caterers.
  6. Cash Tips: Prepare envelopes with tips for your vendors and designate someone or family member to distribute them.
  7. Your Own Place Settings: Ensure you have a place setting at your reception table with all necessary utensils and glassware.
  8. Extra Invitations: It’s a good idea to bring some extra invitations for any last-minute guests or unexpected situations.
  9. Toasting Glasses: Remember to bring glasses for the toasts, along with any special champagne or wine.
  10. Ceremony Music Playlist: If you have specific songs for your ceremony, have a playlist ready for the sound system.
  11. Guest Book and Pens: Don’t forget your guest book and pens for your guests to sign and leave messages.
  12. Umbrellas or Weather-Related Items: Be prepared for unexpected weather changes with items like umbrellas or blankets for outdoor weddings.
  13. Change of Shoes: Comfort is key, so bring a more comfortable pair of shoes for the reception.
  14. Backup Power Bank: For your devices or any emergency charging needs.
  15. Transportation for the Bridal Party: Ensure everyone has a way to get to and from the wedding venue.
  16. Special Gifts: Don’t forget gifts for your parents, bridal party, or each other.
  17. Thank You Speech or Notes: Prepare what you want to say in your thank you speech or write thank you notes for the reception.
  18. Decorative Elements: Personal touches like table numbers, escort cards, and any DIY decor items you’ve made.
  19. Vendor Contact List: Make sure you have a list of vendor contacts and a timeline for the day. Distribute this to the other vendors, so they can communicate and work through items as they pop up without bothering the couple. 
  20. Dress Bustle Instructions: If your wedding dress has a train, ensure someone knows how to bustle it.
  21. Comfort Items: Forgetting items like mints, deodorant, or a change of shoes and clothes for after the reception can be inconvenient.
  22. Marriage Certificate Holder: If you plan to sign your marriage certificate at the wedding, make sure you have a secure holder for it.
  23. Travel Documents: If you’re heading off on your honeymoon right after the wedding, remember your passports, tickets, and any necessary travel documents.
  24. Honeymoon Packing: Prepare your bags and any essentials you’ll need for the honeymoon, so you’re ready to go when the celebrations are over.

By keeping this list in mind and ensuring you have all these often-forgotten items covered, you’ll be better equipped to enjoy your wedding day without unnecessary stress.

Focus 10: Enjoying the Process

Ally Jeppson Photography

Amid all the hustle and bustle, don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Planning a wedding in a short time can be stressful, but it’s also an incredible adventure filled with special moments. Take time to connect with your partner, celebrate milestones, and remember the reason you’re doing all of this.To fully enjoy your wedding day, it’s important to savor every moment and embrace the emotions that come with this significant milestone.

First and foremost, prioritize self-care in the days leading up to the wedding—get enough sleep, stay hydrated, and eat well. On the day itself, trust in the planning and preparations you’ve made and allow yourself to be present in the moment. Focus on the love and commitment you’re celebrating with your partner. Delegate tasks to trusted friends or family members to alleviate any stress.

Take time to connect with your spouse and share meaningful moments throughout the day. Capture the memories through photographs, but don’t forget to experience the day with your own eyes, not just through a camera lens. Dance, laugh, and cherish the company of your loved ones. Most importantly, remember that perfection isn’t the goal—authenticity and celebrating your unique love story are what truly matter. By staying relaxed, present, and open to the joy of the day, you’ll create cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

Focus 11: After the Wedding

After the dust of the wedding has settled, maybe after the first month, you’ll still have a few items to tackle and fully complete the wedding planning experience:

  • Sending Thank You cards to your guests
  • Writing Reviews for the vendors who helped you through your big day
  • (optional) Changing your last name (Instructions on changing your name in Missouri)
  • Preserving a wedding dress
  • Preserving the wedding bouquet and other wedding decor
  • Relax and enjoy the start of your marriage
    • Plan regular date nights!

Planning a Wedding in 9 Months or less

Planning a wedding in nine months or less may feel overwhelming, but with the right strategies and support, it’s entirely possible. Start with a clear budget and a well-organized plan, and remember that the key to success is flexibility and adaptability. Ultimately, your wedding day is about celebrating your love, and the memories you create will be cherished for a lifetime. So, embrace the process, focus on what truly matters, and savor every moment leading up to your special day.

November 22, 2023

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