How to Plan a Formal Wedding in Less Than Three Months with Minimal Stress

I got engaged on New Year’s Eve. We wanted to get married as soon as possible with a formal wedding, and we were able to do so in less than three months on March 18th!

Formal wedding planned quickly
Formal wedding planned quickly

When we told various wedding vendors that we were planning to get married so soon, many were shocked. “You want to get married on March 18th of this year???”, some asked.  Many couples take a year or more to plan weddings.

Of course, you can get married in one week, or one day if you go to Las Vegas! But we wanted a “fairytale” wedding in a wedding venue with a formal sit-down dinner!  Most would say that is a tall order with less than three months of planning.

But, it really wasn’t too difficult to pull off because we found the right venue and cut out some wedding traditions that weren’t important to us. Check out these tips on how we did it – without stressing out!

1. Avoid Saturdays for the best selection of venues

The first part of planning your wedding is finding the venue. Popular venues can be booked up for months or even a year in advance if you want one in the middle of summer on a Saturday night.

We secured an amazing vintage wedding venue, the Ebell of Los Angeles, with less than two months’ notice because we were OK with having our wedding on a Sunday instead of a Saturday (this also got us a discounted rental rate).

Not having your wedding on a Saturday night is probably the biggest compromise you’ll have to make to get your wedding at a kickass venue on short notice. You might have to settle for a Sunday or perhaps even a Friday for busier venues. Some of your guests might not be able to make it.

But look at the bright side: if you have your wedding on a Friday, it will ensure that only the people who really want to be there will show up, and your venue rental cost will probably be cheaper!

2. Use a venue with in-house catering

Another huge time-saver was the fact that our venue had in-house catering and had lots of wedding experience. That took a huge management task off of our shoulders. No need to research caterers, coordinate with the venue, and so on. This also made the wedding itself run smoother.

3. Use a venue that needs minimal decoration

Also, our venue was at the Ebell of Los Angeles, a historic landmark that needed minimal decoration. The only decorations we had were uplights (supplied by the venue), and flowers. Thus tons of design decisions and work were eliminated.

Wedding at the Ebell of Los Angeles
The Ebell of Los Angeles required no decoration except for uplighting

4. Skip the “save the date” announcement

With less than three months to the wedding, “save the dates” were kind of unnecessary.  Plus, it would be just one more thing getting in the way of planning the actual wedding. Just email the date to your most important guests, and spend the time on getting the actual invites out as soon as possible.

5. Skip the pre-wedding photo shoot

Pre-wedding photos are typically used for the “save the date” announcement (which we eliminated) and for your wedding website. We just used vacation snapshots for our wedding website. Yeah, they were not professional-quality, but in the end, no one will care or remember that our wedding website photos weren’t professionally shot, especially if your shots are funny or endearing.

6. Use online RSVPs

Because time is short, you’ll want to get your guests RSVPs as soon as possible. Even saving a few days helps! We still sent out paper invitations, but they directed people to RSVP online. We used and it worked out great.

Having online RSVPs also made things more organized. We just exported the results to a spreadsheet, which saved time over paper RSVPs.

7. Avoid perfectionism

You’ll have to make hundreds of decisions for your wedding, ranging from what color the napkins will be to what kind of chairs to use, to the DJ’s playlist. Think about what is important and spend time on those and make quick decisions for the other items.

Formal wedding table setting
Our flowers and table setting. We didn’t obsess over every detail and they turned out fine.

No one is going to remember the color of your napkins.  Make fast decisions about things like that rather than obsessing over them. Then spend your time on things that are important to you, like the DJ playlist, for example.

8. Avoid DIY arts-and-crafts projects like the plague!

Do-it-yourself arts-and-crafts projects can be a huge time sink. Some examples include homemade decorations, homemade party favors, programs, and slide shows.

Party favors might seem like a great idea but they often get left behind or thrown away shortly after the wedding unless they are truly valuable. Multiply that gift bag by the number of guests and that project can balloon out of control quickly.

If you want to give something back to your guests, consider spending the money on an open bar, better food, or a better band or DJ.

We also skipped the slide show. Not only did this save us the time to create it, but not having it helped the wedding itself move along more quickly which I think people appreciated.

9. Have a small wedding party

For a do-it-yourself wedding, having a big wedding party might be a good thing because it means more hands on deck to help. But because we used a “turnkey” wedding venue and because we cut out so much stuff,  we actually didn’t have very many manual jobs to do.

So, we just had a best man and a maid of honor in our wedding party. No groomsmen or bridesmaids. This saved time coordinating and meant no bridesmaid luncheon to plan, no bridesmaid dresses to pick out, and no groomsmen tuxes either. Instead, we let the best man and maid of honor wear their own clothes, which I’m sure they appreciated!

10. Combine pre-wedding parties

My wife had a bridal shower, but we combined all of the other traditional pre-wedding parties like the rehearsal dinner, bridesmaid luncheon, and bachelor/bachelorette parties into one lunch. At our ages, we had outgrown bachelor-party type of debauchery anyway. Planning a whole Vegas trip would have delayed things for us as well.

Instead, we combined all of the pre-wedding parties into a single informal lunch the Saturday before the wedding with our closest friends and family. We got takeout food and had it at my condo with minimal fuss. People loved it. For the invitations to this, I just used

11. Don’t register for gifts; get cash instead

Picking out stuff for your wedding registry takes valuable time. These days, most couples register at multiple stores, taking even more time. Wedding registries are a huge cash cow for retailers because that stuff is usually purchased at full price.

The last thing we needed was another set of silverware or a bread maker, so we skipped the registry.  The vast majority of our wedding guests got the message and just gave cash, which was a great help for paying off the wedding.

12. Pick a honeymoon-friendly destination for your honeymoon

We had our honeymoon in Hawaii because it required minimal planning. We booked our flights, hotel, and one helicopter tour and that was it. Other than that, we just showed up and found plenty to do since it’s such a common honeymoon destination.

We picked Hawaii for our honeymoon.
We picked Hawaii for our honeymoon. All we did is book our flights, hotel, and a helicopter tour on Kauai.

If you want to go somewhere that requires a lot of planning, consider delaying your honeymoon and planning it properly rather than showing up underprepared.

Don’t be a hostage to traditions

We recently attended a formal wedding that didn’t have a wedding cake! They just had cookies and cupcakes on one side of the room after dinner. This couple felt no need for the expense and trouble of a real wedding cake. And you know what? It was one of the funnest weddings we’ve been to.

Don’t feel like you need to adhere to every wedding tradition! If you want to, then great. But don’t do it just for the sake of traditions. It’s your day; you decide which traditions you want to follow and which you don’t to save time or money. Many wedding traditions like wedding cake have hyper-inflated prices.

How our wedding it turned out

As you can see, we cut a lot of traditions from our wedding. Instead, we concentrated on picking a great venue with great food, along with having a streamlined ceremony with as few bells and whistles as possible. We got everything done on schedule and our wedding went very smoothly. But most importantly, our guests had a great time.

After dinner, I gave a swing dance lesson which made our wedding unique. We had a good DJ and people danced late into the night and some even ended up going out afterward.

Our guests told us they loved the venue and that the food was excellent. We kept what was important to us and to our guests.

Of course, you’ll have to decide what’s important to keep for your wedding.

Did you plan a quick wedding?  How’d you do it? Leave your comments or questions below! – Brian

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