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Most people will tell you that you need 12-18 months to plan a wedding. While that’s generally true since venues, photographers and other vendors can be fully booked in your area a year or more out, you can plan a wedding in less time if you’d like to.
The key tips to planning a last minute wedding are to keep things simple, have a small guest list, ask for help, think outside the box with vendors, and to be a meticulous planner (or hire one.)
I planned my own wedding, long distance, in 6 months which is faster than the average but was totally realistic and not stressful. Additionally, I’ve planned major events in my career for the biggest companies in the U.S. in as little as four weeks. So I have the project management experience to give you the best advice on how to plan your own event on a short timeline. Keep reading for an exact plan to make your wedding happen in a week.
How quickly can you plan a wedding?
How soon you can plan your wedding depends on the state in which you are getting married. Some states have a 24-72 hour waiting period between applying for or receiving your marriage license and actually getting hitched. There are a few states, notably Nevada, that allow you to get married immediately with no waiting period.
If you’d like to plan an event closer to a traditional wedding reception that has some guests, you might want to give them a few days notice. So our minimum recommended timeframe to plan a wedding is one week. Seven days isn’t a lot of time to line up vendors, send out invitations, and get a wedding dress but it can be done. We’re going to show you how.
How to plan a wedding in one week
You might want to take a few days off from work to get this to-do list checked off in time but if you only have a week to plan your wedding it can be done. Here’s how:
Day 1 – Plan
Craft your guest list
Keep this as small as possible. Who would come if you threw a birthday party at the last minute? That’s who you should include on your list.
And don’t forget your budget. Decide on how much you can afford to spend in a short amount of time since you don’t have a long window to save up for expenses later on.
You can check out my free budget guide if you sign up for my newsletter. It automatically calculates what you should spend where based on your budget and guest count and helps you stay on track. It’s like the fairy godmother of numbers.
Hire a planner / ask for help
If you need a wedding planner or day of coordinator, nows the time to recruit one to help you plan. If you can’t find someone today to agree to help you keep moving along in your checklist. Don’t wait for someone to get back to you to book your venue, send out invitations, or figure out other details. If a professional is not in your budget, consider asking a friend or family member to help. You can delegate certain minor tasks to them like picking up your flowers, your cake, tipping vendors, or setting up the decorations.
Find a space
As is the case with all weddings, your venue is the first thing to book! For more details on why that is, check out our post on When To Book Your Wedding Venue.
We recommend calling a restaurant and asking for a reservation for later in the week for up to 20 people or however many you have on your guest list. Tell them it’s a small wedding dinner and see if they have a prix fixe package you can put together or a minimum order value you need to meet. You may need to call a few restaurants to find one that can accommodate you.
If a restaurant is not an option, consider a family member’s backyard or house or a local clubhouse / recreation room. I advise against your own house / yard because you’ll have to clean beforehand and afterwords which adds one more thing on your to-do list but it’s not absolutely out of the question.
Book your courthouse appointment or find an officiant
The easiest thing to do will be to get married in a local courthouse if you can find an appointment. This can be a private ceremony for you and your partner or you can invite some of your guests to attend and cheer you on!
If you wanted to get married in a church or temple, it can’t hurt to call and ask if they would be willing to accommodate you but they often book weddings farther in advance.
Day 2 – Invite Your Guests
Send out invitations
Find a digital invitation you can send out via email. We have a review of some of our favorite, affordable options here. Paperless post, Canva, or Etsy are your best bets for simple, affordable templates that can be sent out digitally.
If you don’t have exact details on the time or location, that’s okay. Send out as much information as you have and ask for RSVPs. You can follow up with more information later in the week to the people who said yes or link to a website where you will include details.
Hire a photographer
Find someone local, or a student at a local fine arts college who can cover your wedding at the last minute. It will be more cost effective to hire them for a few hours of coverage than a standard package of 10-12 hours.
If a photographer is not in the cards, you can ask a friend who is good with a camera to take photos or leave out disposable cameras on tables for your guests to take photos for you.
Order catering, drinks, and a cake
If you’re having your reception at a restaurant this won’t be necessary but you might still need a cake. Find a local bakery who can make a simple cake based on the designs they currently sell at the counter. Or plan to pick up a sheet cake at your local grocery store.
Decide on your wedding party
If you’d like anyone to officially be a member of your wedding party like a maid of honor or best men, ask them and let them know what their role will entail. My best advice is to keep the list small and ask them for help with a few tasks the day of the wedding. Don’t expect them to get matching outfits or even outfits in a certain color by your wedding that is less than a week away.
Day 3 – Create Your Look
Shop for a wedding dress and suit
You don’t have time for a made to order dress or buying online so you’re going to want to choose something off-the-rack from a physical store. Why buying off the rack is a smart choice for your timeline and your wallet is something we’ve covered in depth here but the short version is that you can pick out a dress and have it the same day.
If possible for the suit, use one you or your partner already own and just pick out a new shirt / tie for the occasion.
Buy any other accessories
Shoes, a veil, jewelry, something blue, you’ll want to get it all sorted today.
Book hair and makeup
Select cities have Glamsquad where you can book appointments online for someone to come to your house. You can also call up your favorite local salon and see if they can squeeze you in. Sephora and other department stores also have make up appointments you can book.
At a bare minimum you should be able to find a place that can do a simple style like a wash and blow dry. And YouTube can help you out with makeup tutorials.
Day 4 – Finish planning
Update your wedding website or guests
Now that you’ve ironed out the time and place, you can update your guests. Update the wedding website if you have one with any changes. Also send out an update to everyone by email to let them know the details have changed and confirm their RSVP.
Schedule your rehearsal
If you were able to find a church or temple or other ceremony site that allows for a rehearsal or time to set up the day before your wedding. If you’re having it in your backyard or home, do a quick run through of the ceremony with your officiant and partner. This can be over zoom or the phone if your officiant is unable to make it in person.
Pick out any decor items
Identify a couple of things you can bring to your location that will add some wedding touches and are available at your local craft or dollar store. Candles (or faux), mason jars for flowers, maybe a box to accept cards from guests, and disposable cameras for the tables.
If your wedding is at a location that doesn’t have place settings, you’ll also need to pick up silverware, plates, table cloths, and serving ware. We recommend disposable instead of trying to rent at this point in your timeline. Allocate for 1.5x the number of guests who RSVP’d yes. So for example if you have 50 guests, buy 75 plates and silverware.
Day 5 – Relax and identify any missing pieces
Create your wedding playlist
It is a smart idea to skip the DJ or band. Unless you know someone personally who can quickly accommodate this request, it will be difficult to find. This step is only needed for locations that allow you to play your own music. A restaurant celebration will likely not allow you to play your own music unless you’ve rented out the entire place or have a private room.
Double check your guest list
Check in with anyone who hasn’t responded to your email. Giving them a phone call at this point to get their RSVP is a good idea. If there are a lot of people, divide up the list among a few friends or family members to do follow up calls.
Relax with a manicure and pedicure
You’re almost there! Treat yourself to a manicure and pedicure so you’ll be ready for the big day. Schedule any other maintenance tasks for today or tomorrow but avoid any major treatments. This is not the time to try out a new haircut or wax your eyebrows or try a new facial. You don’t want any surprises for your big day like a bad haircut or a red rash.
Day 6 – Prep for the big day
Pick up flowers
Head to the grocery store the night before or have one of your wedding party members do it. If someone else is bringing the flowers, have them drop them off directly at the venue tomorrow. Ask them to send you a picture tonight so you can check it off your list and ensure they didn’t buy anything too crazy.
Pick up your cake
Again, grab your sheet cake from the grocery store or check in with your wedding party member who is in charge of the cake. A photo will put your mind at ease.
Have your rehearsal
Great if you were able to schedule something official earlier this week. If not, still take some time to go through how the day is going to go with your partner so you’re not winging it tomorrow. First, decide when you’re going to wake up, get ready, travel to the courthouse or restaurant, and take photos. Next, read through the ceremony script and go over any customized vows. Finally, settle on the time for speeches, dinner, dessert, cake cutting, and any other special moments during your reception. Some of this will be determined for you if you have a restaurant reservation.
Set up decorations
This can be as simple as loading them into your car for your trip to the restaurant tomorrow. Or it could be checking in with your wedding party to see the set up. Or it may involve you going to the rec room or family member’s house to do a set up of the tables, decorations, and anything else you can store for the day.
Day 7 – Get married!
Enjoy your day
Wake up early to do your hair and makeup and get into your outfit. Go through your schedule that you made yesterday to the best of your ability but don’t be too worried if things go off track after the ceremony. Make sure you stop to take some photos of you and your partner and have some one-on-one moments together.
Send thank you notes
Since you didn’t send out paper invitations, it makes sense to go a little extra with your thank you notes. Include a personal note, maybe order some special, customized stationery with your date or a photo on it.
Start planning your honeymoon
Now that the stress of the day is behind you, you’ll have plenty of time to plan an epic honeymoon. Create your budget and sit down with your spouse to plan your dream vacation as a married couple.
What to cut out of your last minute wedding
There are some things you’ll need to cut out of your traditional check list in order to make the one week timeline work. Here are the items we recommend nixing:
- Setting a budget (Yes, you should have a budget but with our plan above you’ll be way under the average wedding cost anyway so don’t spend a ton of time budgeting for each item. Just evaluate as you go.)
- Picking a theme and color palette
- Hair and make up trials
- Rehearsal dinner
- Engagement party / wedding shower
- Bachelor / Bachelorette parties
- Gift registry
- Formal invitations
- Matching bridesmaids / groomsmen outfits
Now that you’ve read our recommended plan, you can confidently plan a wedding in just seven days. Congratulations! Reading this giving you hives? We’ll be covering how to plan a wedding in one month and three months next if you have more time.