how to plan a wedding with a long engagement

19 Jan

david and i got engaged a little over two years ago. in some ways, we were ready to get married right away: we’d been together for five years, we’d agreed that marriage was in the cards for us for almost as long, and we were excited about making that commitment. in one way in particular, we were not: we were broke. like, knew-we-couldn’t-afford-a-wedding-for-three-years, broke.

i was excited to be engaged and start thinking about what our wedding would be like, but with it so far in the future and all of the wedding planning guides beginning at 12-18 months before the wedding day, i was kind of stumped as to where i could begin. here’s what i’ve learned, almost 2 and a half years later.


having an indefinite amount of time before i could make concrete plans was a really valuable thing: i had seemingly limitless time to research venues and vendors, wedding gowns and reception styles, without the pressure of a deadline looming. i spent a lot of time looking up possible venues in our area, and found some really interesting choices that wouldn’t have been obvious, had i been in a mad dash to book something right away just to secure a date. having a lot of time for research also gave me time to seek out some blogs that were more in line with our goals and budget for the wedding, which gave us plenty of ideas that were attainable and didn’t just make me feel broke and sad.

book early

in our research, we found out about our venue long before we booked it, and were able to grab our incredibly popular date (saturday of memorial day weekend) pretty far in advance. booking vendors early is one of the best things i can recommend–you get the pick of the litter, since few couples are looking to book as early as you are, and you often pay lower rates than those who book later. ever notice that most vendors raise their prices at the start of the year? take this as an opportunity to miss that price hike.

change your mind

our ideas about what our wedding should be like have changed quite a bit between getting engaged and actually planning the wedding. after lots of chatting, we’ve changed our mind about how to incorporate our wedding party: it went from “we don’t want to single anyone out and offend our friends who wouldn’t be included” to “let’s honor our favorite people and find a way to include everyone in another manner!” our changes of heart also ranged from how it should look, right down to who should marry us: a couple of months ago, it occurred to me to ask our mutual friend and mentor to be our officiant. this was 2 years into our engagement, and if we’d had a more traditional-length planning period, we probably would have missed out on this revelation and would be getting married by a stranger. while some of our changes were trivial, some–especially the ones that involve our friends and family–i think will have a big impact on how we experience the day.

learn a skill

i started making birdcage veils because we were broke, and i wanted to learn as many DIY skills as i possibly could to save money and inject a little creativity into the process. it just happened that in my experimentation, there was a marketable skill, and i opened my etsy shop shortly thereafter. granted, you probably won’t be great at everything you try (the jury’s out on if gocco and i were meant to be), but worst case, you burn a few dollars and a couple of hours; best case, you have fun, save money, add a personal touch, and who knows? maybe it’s something you could make a business out of someday.

start a blog

…or start networking. when you make yourself into a someone who has a voice in the wedding industry, you may become more just another bride to vendors; the dynamic of your relationship changes. i’m not saying that starting a blog, a shop or a twitter account is going to get you free stuff (though it’s possible, don’t enter your relationships with this in mind), but it may put you in a position where it would be mutually beneficial for a great vendor to work with you. getting to know people might open doors for you that would otherwise be closed, and last but certainly not least, you meet great people! who couldn’t use a few more great people in their lives?

those are my suggestions for what to do with a long engagement, whether you’re newly affianced or have been for some time and still have a ways to go. any other good suggestions out there?


5 Responses to “how to plan a wedding with a long engagement”

  1. Rebecca January 19, 2010 at 10:10 pm #

    despite being halfway through my engagement (9months to go) this post was really interesting and thought provoking. thank you!

  2. Liz January 20, 2010 at 2:57 am #

    sheesh, girl, i’da driven myself crazy by now!

  3. foxywedding January 21, 2010 at 1:31 am #

    Srsly. I had a little over a year and a half, and I was so anxious to get the party started! You are so together it’s awesome.

  4. Adina October 9, 2010 at 8:43 am #

    i have been engaged for 10 years! yes, that is the correct number! i have to tell you that you have taken your long engagement and done something positive and helpful to other couples. i have talen the attitude that if i can’t afford it right now, then don’t even think about it. but now that i’m actually starting to plan my wedding, i am seeing that i should have had some sort of idea what we wanted from the get go. now i’m trying to plan my wedding in 5 months and have no idea what i’m going to do. best wishes to you and way to go for thinking so far in advance and knowing what you want now.

    • onelittledove October 12, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

      thank you so much for the sweet comment, adina, and best of luck with your planning — 5 months is a sprint, but i’m sure it will go great! congrats!

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