How Long Does It Take To Plan A Wedding?

Stressed bride who does not know how long it takes to plan a wedding

My friend Chloe got engaged on New Year’s Eve, and a few days later we met for a celebration dinner at our favourite Greek restaurant in North London.  After I’d admired the ring – a shimmering sapphire flanked by a pair of sparkling diamonds – and before we got properly stuck into our wine and moussaka, she looked at me and said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you.  How long does it take to plan a wedding?  How much time am I going to need to set aside?”  

 “You want to know how long it really takes?  Put it this way.  From your engagement party to the wedding day, you’re looking at 528 hours. That’s roughly 22 full days of planning.  Or 66 working days.  Or 12 hours a week spread over 44 weeks, depending on how you want to measure it.” 

Chloe looked like an eight-year-old who’d just been told there is no Father Christmas.  In fact, she’s an extremely talented artist. But there she sat, twisting her ring, looking for all the world as if she was contemplating giving it back to her fiancé, Ned.  

Should You Think About Hiring a Wedding Planner?

It seemed like a good moment to top up our glasses, if only to fill in the brooding silence while Chloe regained the power of speech.  Eventually she said almost to herself, “So you’re telling me wedding planning is basically a full-time job?  Either that or I’ll have to think about getting a wedding planner on the case so I can continue to have a life of my own?” 

The number 528 to answer the question, "How long does it take to plan a wedding?'
Will it take 528 hours to plan YOUR wedding?

“Not at all,” I reassured her.  “This 528 hours to plan a wedding estimate.  It’s not the holy grail.  It’s simply the result of number crunching from a survey of 2,000 brides, carried out by a business that specialises in wedding gifts.  And you did ask!”

“Yes, but I thought you were going to say something like six months.  You know, a few hours here, a few there, on weekends.  Bit more as the date gets closer.  Or maybe I can do the prepare-to-be-married thing in one marathon session and then get back to real life?”  Chloe has always been an optimist, which is one of the things I love about her.

A broken heart because sometimes it takes more time to plan a wedding than you expected
Sadly, Chloe had more wedding planning time than she bargained for

You Sometimes Have More Time To Plan A Wedding Than You Expected

As it turned out, my lovely friend had longer than she expected to plan her wedding. The coronavirus pandemic hijacked Chloe’s timeline three months before the wedding. So she had to postpone.

And yes, of course I helped Chloe plan her wedding.  

But what about YOU? Should you consider hiring a professional wedding planner?  

If you’re already struggling to find enough hours in the day to keep up with everything you want and need to do, and if you can manage the additional expense, a wedding planner can be a definite asset.  But having said that, the vast majority of brides get by with a little help from their friends and family. And you can, too.

Especially if you follow Boss Bride Guide.

Where, When & How Should You Start the Wedding Planning Process?

First of all – this is really, really important – there’s absolutely no cast-iron SHOULD about organising your wedding!  

And while you and I have never met, the one thing I’m pretty sure about is that the amount of time you’ll need to spend doing Wedding Stuff won’t add up to 528 hours.  

After all, with all this work and effort, who on earth wants to be an average bride!

I’m going to assume for a moment that the reason you’re reading this is because you’ve not been wearing your engagement ring for very long, and its weight on your finger still feels a tiny bit strange . . . in the best possible way, of course.  

White gate with sign saying Entrance for wedding guests only
To invite, or not to invite? That’s so often the question!

Or perhaps you’ve started organising – you know, checking out wedding venues, squabbling about the guest list, agonising over the relative merits of fridge magnets or temporary tattoos as wedding favours and wondering if you really ought to set up a wedding website before you go any further. 

In which case, you’re becoming more aware with every passing day that the epic task of getting everyone in the right place at the right time on the right day (not to mention you, decked out in that perfect dress you haven’t quite found yet) could easily spiral out of control.

Runaway Bride? Could Be An Option!

You might even be at the point where eloping is beginning to sound like a damn good idea – destination wedding for two, anybody? – if only in theory!

Outstretched hand to save drowning woman whose wedding planning it taking longer than she expected
“We’ve got you!

But however far you’ve travelled on your own, particular ‘Bridal Path’ you know most of the organising lies still ahead.  You still need to make lots of big decisions. And you want to be sure you don’t screw up along the way.

Would you welcome an unbiased, helping hand on your journey into unknown territory?  Excellent!  You’re in exactly the right place.

So back to those 528 hours. Or however long it’s going to take.

How do you make the best use of your free time, planning your wedding while still keeping a decent balance in your work-play-wedding life?

The bottom line is that it all boils down to your personal planning style. Once you’ve figured out what that is, it’s going to be so much easier to work out how long it’s going to take to get you from where you are now, to becoming the laid-back bride you intend to be on your wedding day.

So first, your planning style?  Let’s work out what it is, because it’s one of the keys to bossing your wedding.

What Kind Of Wedding Planner Are You?

Unless you happen to be a project manager (in which case, organising your wedding should be an absolute breeze, and you should complain to Google, because you found this page by mistake), you’ve probably never given much thought to your planning style. But believe me, you have one!

Let’s see if you empathise with any of these:

1. The Wedding Waterfall Planner

You prefer to work in waves.  Which means you’re more comfortable with an A – Z wedding planning approach.  Not so much alphabetical, but instinctively

  • You want to start by making a Boss Bride Wedding Plan that sets out the Big Stuff.  Let’s call them Milestones.
  • Once you’ve done that, you want to focus on whatever you decide is the logical first step.  For the sake of argument, let’s suppose your first Milestone is choosing your dress.  
  • Now, you’ll come up with a list of logical steps you need to take to reach Milestone One. Most likely starting with research and ending with a decision to purchase.  
  • Then you start looking at dresses, until you’ve got a clear idea of what you think’s going to look great on you.
  • And so forth, with shopping expeditions, conversations with people you trust, fittings etc.
  • You’re ready to move on to Milestone Two of your Boss Bride Wedding Plan once you’ve secured the dress of your dreams. And you simply keep going with it until you’re done. Then on to the next Milestone, all the way to the end.

What’s Smart About This Approach?  

Creating your own Boss Bride Wedding Plan is a great idea!  Instead of just thinking haphazardly or in the abstract about all this stuff you have to do, and getting wound up about the sheer amount of work you’ve let yourself in for, you’ve identified the Big Stuff and you’re ready to get stuck in.

A waterfall to illustrate a method of wedding planning that flows from one logical step to the next
Your Boss Bride Wedding Plan: Step by step to serenity

What About The Weaknesses?  

You need to be able to make decisions pretty fast . . . otherwise you’ll end up with a great dress but no place to wear it, because the next Milestone was the wedding cake, followed by the flowers, followed by the reception.  They were all tasks you enjoyed but now you’re on to the Stuff you’ve been putting off.  Like grappling with your budget, picking the venue and choosing the photographer.  Guess what? Everything’s booked out for months – and you’re horrified by how much you’ve already spent.

Can This Approach Work For You? 

Yes, if you put your Milestones in the ‘right’ order and sort out stuff that needs to be organised sooner rather than later (hint: focus on the budget, venue and photographer ahead of the cake).  Alternatively, if you’re in no huge hurry to get married, just make a start with one of the tasks you’ve singled out.  Get it done, and see what you fancy doing next.  Call it baby steps!

2. The Wedding Priority Planner

Like the Wedding Waterfall Planner, you’ll see the value in a Boss Bride Wedding Plan and feel comfortable with a step-by-step approach.

You also see immediately how a decision you make about one Milestone impacts on others.  It helps you prioritise the important – and most time-critical – Big Picture Stuff up front.

For example, the number of people you invite will affect the type of venue you choose, which in turn means you might find yourself needing to book or recommend hotel rooms for your guests – something better done sooner than later if you’re marrying at a popular time of year.  

What’s Smart About This Approach?  

It helps you prioritise the important – and most time-critical – Big Picture Stuff up front.

Nailing down the essentials at an early stage makes the Bridal Path less bumpy, because you minimise the risk of disappointment, panic and costly surprises. 

Woman focuses on wedding planning priorities
Plan your wedding faster by sorting the Big Stuff first

What Are The Weaknesses?  

Your budget might come under pressure, because critical elements of your wedding such as the venue are not only better booked early on, they are also often the most costly.  

So you could find yourself having to spend a lot of your budget early on, rather than being able to spread the cost over your entire timeline.

Can This Approach Work For You? 

Yes.  You can set a date to get married then set your priorities, beginning with the Big Stuff.  Some brides-to-be tell me that they feel far more relaxed once they’ve answered the Seven Ws:

  1. What’s the maximum you want to spend?
  2. When’s your wedding going to happen?
  3. Where are you getting married?
  4. Who’s on the guest list?
  5. What food are you going to serve?
  6. What are you (and you bridesmaids) are going to wear?
  7. Who’s taking the photos and are you also getting a videographer?

That’s what we mean by the Big Picture Stuff!  

3. The Wedding Scrum Planner

This is the one where you’re willing to rely on friends and family – perhaps even your bridegroom! – to help you plan your wedding. 

A thought that will have some brides rushing for the exit already, but if you’re happy to let others make a few decisions on your behalf, you’ll definitely be able to plan your wedding faster than if you’re determined to go it alone.  

Here’s an example of how to do it.  Suppose you know someone who’s a big foodie.  Give them a basic brief – for example:  “We want to do a full buffet plus a barbecue, and the price has to come in at less than £30 a head.  Can you come up with six potential vendors, please?”  

Then leave them to do the leg work and get back to you with a list of caterers and prices, so that you can make a final decision about who gets the gig.

What’s Smart About This Approach?  

It’s an excellent time-saver.  Especially if you really don’t want to spend 528 hours planning your wedding.  Focus on whatever you’ll enjoy best and leave other stuff to people who are keen to help you, and will be thrilled to be ask to carry out the task you ask them to tackle.

Bride, groom and friends who worked together to plan the wedding
“Team effort! And we even lived to tell the tale!

What Are The Weaknesses?  

Not a great choice for control freaks.  And probably tactless to ask your vegan bestie to plan a hog roast.

Can This Approach Work For You? 

Several brides I know swear it worked like a charm.  Because once you’ve created your Wedding Vision Board and have a clear picture of the wedding you want, you can assign individual tasks to people you trust.  

Then once they’ve done the leg work you’ll have the information you need to make a final decision about your wedding cake . . . your flowers . . . the font on the wedding invitations . . . the table plans (if you have a friend who happens to be a diplomat, sign her up now) . . . transport for the wedding party . . .

You can see how organising a Wedding Scrum and letting your hand-picked team run with the ball is a lot faster than doing everything yourself.  Just be sure to choose the right people.

4. The Lean Wedding Planner

You’ll be relieved to know this has nothing to do with any of the wedding diet features you keep coming across, all of them featuring implausibly skinny women dressed in white and apparently thrilled to be pictured alongside a big box of vegetables. Although having said that, you WILL need a degree of self-control.  

Virtuous bride nibbles on stick of celery while friend tries to tempt her with chocolate cake
Lean wedding planning’s got nothing to do with celery – thank god!

Lean Wedding Planning is about removing waste, and in this case, making sure you don’t waste your time on tasks that don’t really need to be done, or taking longer than necessary to tick them off your list (you’re likely to be a fan of lists!).

It’s not so much that you’re looking for shortcuts (like the Wedding Scrum Planner), but more that you prize your time, and are determined to use it productively.  

So that once you’ve booked your venue, that’s it, you’re done!  You’ll never doubt your decision, or find yourself looking at other ‘perfect places’ just to be sure you made a great choice.  Instead, you’ll be tackling some other aspect of your wedding with equal – some might say ruthless – focus and speed.

What’s Smart About This Approach?  

Enables you to see the trees (and chop them down, one by one) rather than getting lost in the woods.  And it’s satisfying to make progress without too much agony.

What Are The Weaknesses?  

By prioritising efficiency and speed, it’s possible you could miss out on some of the enjoyable dithering that goes into planning most weddings.  

You know, like accepting six different wine tasting invitations, when you already know full well who’s going to be supplying the refreshments . . .  

Can This Approach Work For You? 

If you’re the sort of person who gets irritated about meetings that drag on for longer than necessary, if you rarely lose sleep over decisions once you’ve made them, and if you’re horrified by the very thought of spending 66 working days planning your wedding, then I’m going to say ‘Yes!’

So How Do You Get Yourself Properly Organised Without Wedding Planning Taking Over Your Life?  

When it comes down to it, organising your wedding is simply a project.  Yes, it’s a mega project – probably the biggest and most important project you’ve taken on in your life so far.

Image of a giraffe from the neck upwards
Have you SEEN the length of those wedding checklists?

But equally, it boils down to a big bunch of stuff that you’re going to have to get done.

In reality, organising your wedding is nothing more scary than a series of linked tasks. But you keep seeing all these twelve-month wedding timelines, six-month timelines and three-month timelines.

Then there are those wedding checklists for flowers, and tables, and RSVPs, all of them longer than a giraffe’s neck.

And with all this damn paperwork, comes the pressure to be perfect.  

There’s so much wedding advice online that it’s easy to get overwhelmed – and influenced –  by the sheer weight of information being thrown at you.  And frankly, some of it is downright judgy.  

Boss Brides Don’t Cave in to Pressure – Online or in Real Life

How dare someone suggest that the wedding invitation you choose ‘says more about you than your dress’?  And all because they want you to hire a calligrapher who, for the price she charges, had better be Megan Markle.  

Only this morning, I got an email instructing me to ‘Follow these 37 Pinterest accounts right now if you want to make sure your wedding’s on trend for 2022’.  

(Pinterest, incidentally, can be a wedding planning timesaver provided you use it the right way. But take it from me, following thirty-seven accounts that are all gagging to sell you stuff is NOT the right way.)  

These are important decisions you’re making about your wedding, but please, if you take only one thing from this particular article, never give in to Bridal Bullying.  

Bride wearing boxing gloves so she can fight back against bridal bullies
It’s your wedding not theirs. Sometimes you just have to fight back!

Remember:  The Wedding You Want, TOTALLY The Way You Want It. 

As for how long it’s going to take to plan YOUR wedding, here’s some final advice. 

Girly Swot, Social Success or Last Minute Merchant: Which One Are You?

 I’d like you to think back to the last set of school exams you passed, even though that might have been a while ago.  And in particular, think about the way you prepared.  

Which one of these are you?

Girly Swot

  • You always did your homework or got your assignments in on time
  • Great at taking notes. 
  • Left plenty of time for revision
  • Began by making a revision timetable and more or less kept to it
  •  Worked your way through practice papers
  • Got the good results you were expecting

Social Success

  • You always contributed well in lessons
  • Found it most effective to do most of your revision either in a small group or with a study partner
  • Responded well to a little external pressure – you promised  you’d have that topic covered by Friday, and you’d hate to let down your study buddy – you helped motivate each other 
  • Keen to party as soon as the exams were over
  • And then there was that BIG celebration when your results came through!

Last Minute Merchant  

Bride who is late runs through field towards her venue
I’ll get me to that church on time . . . with seconds to spare
  • You’ve always been deadline-driven
  • In fact, your frenemies might have called you a procrastinator, although they’ll also concede you’re annoyingly bright
  • While everyone else was studying hard, you were still thinking of reasons to not get started
  • But as the exams got closer, you got quietly stuck into revision guides and websites
  • You also looked at recent papers to work out what questions were likely to come up
  • Then you memorised your model answers and studied the marking scheme so you knew how best to allocate your time on the day.
  • And guess what?  It worked! 

If you’re a Girly Swot

Allow plenty of time to boss your wedding. Compile a Wedding Timetable, with the key dates marked and a list of the wedding topics you need to master.  Do a bit of colour coding if you like.  Because you’re probably going to discover you enjoy the process of planning your wedding and pulling everything together even more than you secretly expected.  Chances are that you’re going to be a Wedding Priority Planner with a great eye for detail.  And if planning your day takes 528 hours – or more – you consider it time well spent!  

Group of friends celebrate because working together kales it easier to plan a wedding faster
Teamwork gets the wedding planning done

If you’re a Social Success

I reckon the Wedding Scrum Planner approach will suit you best.  You like working in teams, and you won’t have any problems enlisting support from your friends and family.  And once they’ve done their bit, you’ll be keen to step up and make the big decisions only you can make.  And by empowering others to help – bossing your wedding in the nicest possible sense – you’ll  have more time to enjoy your engagement!

If you’re a Last Minute Merchant  

Go on, admit it. You still think eloping might be a plan.  But sooner or later (by which I mean later) you’ll make your peace with the fact that this wedding isn’t going to organise itself, and finally get cracking.  

I’d put money on you becoming a Lean Wedding Planner.  

You won’t so much Boss your wedding as whip it into shape in an astonishingly short amount of time.  You’ll be quietly proud of the result.  While everyone who knows and loves you will be murmuring, “I don’t know how she did it!”

Calm relaxed bride who owns how long it takes to plan a wedding
It’s taken 528 hours to plan my wedding . . . now all that’s left is to find myself some killer shoes

Ready to make your Boss Bride Wedding Plan?

So what next? Do you need to think about picking your wedding date?  If so, you’ll find a couple of ideas here and here.  

Before you do that – and even if you’ve already started planning your wedding – it’s essential to do a little dreaming.