Wedding Crunch Time

Planning to marry in less than a year? Pull off a stylish wedding with these fast-forward planning tips

By Amy Newman

Shotgun weddings may be a thing of the past, but there are still couples who choose to race down the aisle. Whether due to an upcoming deployment, wanting to ensure a special family member’s attendance, or just a desire for their “happily ever after” to begin right now, some couples choose to get married within months – sometimes even weeks – of the engagement.

But with most couples spending 18 months planning a wedding, is it possible to plan a quick wedding without too many sacrifices? We talked to local wedding planners for their suggestions on how to quickly pull off a beautiful wedding – without a hitch.

Book your venue first. Your biggest challenge: Getting ceremony and reception locations secured for the date and time you desire. That's because popular wedding spots can book up more than a year in advance, says Lorell David of i do Events in Anchorage. Getting married between mid-May and August makes it even more difficult to find a venue. “If you’re looking at getting married in the summer months in Alaska, that’s prime time,” she says. “It’s going to be quite difficult to get a venue, at least the one you want.”

But, before getting discouraged, consider setting your date on an off-peak day, such as a Friday, Sunday or even mid-week, Lorell suggests. Suddenly, you may find that your dream vendors and locations are wide open and happy to accommodate you.

Also, save time by scheduling your ceremony at the same venue as your reception.

Ask for help. Researching venues, caterers and other vendors takes time, something you’re already short on. Consider hiring a professional wedding planner to either coordinate the entire shindig or simply handle a few tasks you can’t fit in. You also can hire one to manage details during just the week of or the day of your wedding.

“Hiring a wedding planner is probably the smartest thing you can do,” says Amanda Talyat of Alaskan Elegance in Anchorage. “We know everybody in town, and if we don’t know everybody, we know somebody who knows somebody. We’re probably going to find it a lot faster than what you’re going to find.”

Buy off the rack. It can take several months for the wedding dress to arrive, plus at least another month for alterations, Amanda says. So to make sure you have the dress in time for the big day, she suggests buying off the rack.

“Even if it’s not your size, if it’s close, it can be altered,” she says.

Don’t worry that buying off the rack will limit your options; there’s a much wider selection available than in the past.

Also, consider using a dress not intended to be a wedding dress or bridesmaid dress, including prom dresses.

It’s in the mail. Ordering and mailing invitations takes time, and waiting for response cards takes even more. So how can you ensure your guests get all the details in time?

With a wedding six months out, you’re safe to mail invitations, provided you do it quickly, Amanda says. For shorter time frames, you’ll have to get creative, and maybe even a bit hands-on.

Hiring a local graphic designer to create the invitations, designing them yourself online, even using invitation templates found at office supply stores can help save time and still be beautiful, Lorell says.

If you don’t have time to mail invitations and wait for response cards, Amanda says there are plenty of “super cute” e-mail invitations available. Or, create a wedding website that has the added bonus of allowing you to share all the details – including hotel accommodations, wedding registries and things to do for out-of-town guests – in one place, she says.

Eat, Drink & Be Merry. Getting food, decorations and even a cake when you’re under a time crunch usually isn’t as difficult as getting a venue or the dress, wedding planners say.

Catering for hotel weddings is done in-house, so booking the venue guarantees the food, Lorell says. If you need to hire a catering company, unless the menu is something that must be special ordered, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a caterer available on short notice.

The same goes for decorations and flowers, Amanda says. She’s never had a rental place run out of essentials, and she’s even had the floral designers at Carrs/Safeway create beautiful bouquets and centerpieces for her weddings.

As for the wedding cake, unless you have an elaborate, multi-tiered design in mind, you should be able to find at least one cake designer who can accommodate you. If you can’t, try cupcakes. Even a cake designer who cannot fulfill a cake request can usually handle cupcakes, Lorell says.

“You can still make it look beautiful using a really nice cake stand,” Amanda says.

Be flexible. The most important thing to keep in mind when planning a wedding in a short timeframe is to be flexible, and keep your expectations in check. Don't waste a lot of time making plans until you see what's available. Then, focus on making quick, smart decisions.

“There’s going to have to be some give and take,” Amanda says. “You may not get everything you want, but you’ll come close.” After all, the more open you are to creative alternatives, the happier you’ll be with the end result.

Remember: Time may be short, but take time to soak it all in. Sure, you’ll be in a hurry but you can still enjoy the process. One recent bride, Janelle, sums it up this way: “In hindsight, my engagement was short, but it was sweet. I realize now that having less time to plan a wedding meant I had less time to stress over every detail!”