How to Plan Your Wedding in 30 Days

Here's your cheat sheet and secret weapon against wedding planning meltdown mode. Let the countdown to "I do" begin.

Planning your wedding in a month? As overwhelming as it may seem, the key to getting it all done is to cut out all the panic-inducing extras and focus on the big tasks at hand. So the next time you feel like you'll never get it all done, rest assured—it's simpler than you think.

  1. 30 Days...

    White and blush wedding table settings

    1. Knock out the three big essentials: budget, guest list and style.

    What's the dream reception look like? A small intimate dinner at your favorite restaurant? A dressy cocktail party? At the same time, figure out how much money you have to spend. The average wedding in 2015 cost $32,641, not including the honeymoon. A big budget influencer is the guest list. It costs more to invite more, so keep that in mind. Also, the average number of guests is 139 people. Because you're working within a short time frame, and potential guests may have already made plans for the month, you'll probably end up with a smaller than average guest list.

    2. Find and book a reception site, and set a date.

    The popular venues (country clubs, ballrooms and hotels, for example) might already be booked for Saturday night, but call them anyway to try for a Friday or even Sunday afternoon or evening. Also, think outside the typical wedding venue and consider nearby restaurants with event spaces or large rooms that can be sectioned off.

    3. Start a wedding website and set up a registry.
    It's free to create a website on and having one is by far the best way to get info out to your guests quickly (and 30 days is quick!). Once you've set up your registries, link them from your website so guests have an easy way to find where you're registered.

    4. Send out invites.
    Sure, you could email your guests, but we think a more personal alternative is still the best route for a wedding invitation. You won't have time for custom, but check out stationery stores around your area for preprinted invites, or look online (Wedding Paper Divas and Minted have a ton of designs). If you have an extra small guest list and good penmanship (and patience), you could even send handwritten notes. Just don't forget to include your wedding website on the card so everyone knows where to go for more info.

    5. Find a wedding dress.
    There won't be time for fittings and custom orders, but that doesn't mean you don't have any options. Bridal salons host sample sales all the time where, if you're lucky, you could take a designer gown home with you the same day as your purchase. Or check out any number of popular ready-to-wear stores that are now carrying wedding-worthy white dresses. There's BHLDN with dreamy vintage-style dresses, Ann Taylor for classic and simple silhouettes, and even Nordstrom for the variety factor to name a few.

    6. Decide on a suit.

    Similar to the wedding dress, there won't be time to go custom, but you still have the option to rent a tux. If you want to buy a classic suit, try Brooks Brothers or check out any number of stores like Zara or Top Man for affordable and totally on-trend styles. Don't want to leave the house? Searching for a tuxedo online has never been easier, if that's what you're into.

    7. Pick your bridal party and tell them what to wear.

    We recommend choosing a color and style and then asking your best girlfriends to find the closest match. Have everyone find a flowy chiffon dress in pink, or a knee-length dress in navy and any neckline goes (to name a couple options). Or, if it works with your style, just ask them to wear their favorite LBD from their closet. The guys can rent tuxes, or you could have them wear their own suits and then buy them matching ties to coordinate the look.

    8. Create an outline of the other vendors you need to hire, and start inquiring about your date.

    This is probably going to be your toughest task by far. At the very least, you're going to want to find a florist, photographer, videographer, cake baker and band (or DJ). Your best bet here: Let one vendor lead you to the next. If you find a photographer you love, ask them to recommend the rest of your vendors. Or check out GigMasters to find and compare prices for entertainment, rentals and tons of other vendors.

  2. 25 Days...

    S'mores cupcakes wedding dessert
    Photo by One Love Photography

    9. Book your photographer.
    This goes for all your wedding vendors: Call references and peruse the web to get first-hand reviews. Ask any and all questions you might have about their services before you sign a contract. You may be working on a tight deadline, but that doesn't mean you don't have time for clarification.

    10. Book your videographer.
    We can't stress it enough: Your wedding will go by in a blur, and you'll remember it better with a video. At the very least, get someone to capture video of the ceremony. If your top pick is booked, ask them to recommend someone else who can help you. Maybe they have a talented second shooter who's available.

    11. Book your cake baker (and caterer if it's not a part of your reception contract).
    Beyond frosting color, flavor and filling, there are a few other details to hash out during your design meeting. Once you've decided what it should look like, figure out how and where you want to display it in the reception room.

    12. Book your florist (and arrange for any rentals).
    Typically, a florist will present you with a flower proposal. Then as you firm up details and plans, he or she will tweak and edit the proposal so that it meets your style and budget requirements. To expedite the process, you have to be extremely communicative and up front about your budget (usually 8 to 10 percent of your total budget should go to décor) and style (bring lots of pictures to your meeting).

    13. Book a hair and makeup artist.
    We highly recommend scheduling a trial run. This is your hair and makeup we're talking about, after all. The good news is if you end up booking a hairstylist or makeup artist, the money you pay for the trial usually applies to the day rate.

    14. Book your DJ or band.
    You probably won't have time to track them down and hear them live before you book, but at least listen to demos. Make sure they're from recent weddings. If it's a band, make sure the demo is representative of all the musicians who will actually play your wedding.

  3. 20 Days...

    Engagement ring in pink velvet ring box
    Photo by Emily March Photography

    15. Plan the ceremony with your officiant and outline the program.
    If you have a minister or rabbi, you can follow along the traditional ceremony outline, add in your reading and song picks and call it a day. If you want a friend to oversee the ceremony, you'll need him or her to get ordained in order to make it official on the marriage license. Don't worry though—it's a pretty fast turnaround time to get ordained online. For example, you can apply to the Universal Life Church and have a confirmation ordination email back from them usually within 72 hours.

    16. Decide on your honeymoon and book flights and hotel rooms.
    The best deals can usually be found online mid-week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. That's when airfares are typically at their lowest rates. If you don't have the patience to book through a travel site, call a travel agent. It sounds old-school, but agents can help you get a trip booked with low-hassle and most of them are affordable or even free (many will take a cut from the hotel or airline instead of you).

    17. Shop for wedding rings and order them.
    If you can't get the one you want in time, order the ones you love anyway and find a placeholder for the ceremony. Pick up a pair of inexpensive silver or gold bands at a jeweler in town. Or have a little fun with it and find your place holder wedding bands at an antique store or flea market.

    18. Plan the rehearsal dinner and invite your bridal party (email or call with info and put it on your wedding website).
    This doesn't have to involve a five-star dining experience. Go casual and pick a restaurant with fun built-in décor (read: no extras needed). Simply call to reserve the back room or several tables. Ask about a large group menu or put in your order ahead of time and let the restaurant do the rest.

  4. 15 Days...

    Hydrangea escort table centerpiece
    Photo by Amanda Megan Miller Photography

    19. Check in with your vendors and finalize plans with each of them.

    Confirm the ceremony outline with the officiant, run through the reception with your caterer or reception manager, iron out the flower proposal, choose the menu and cake, make a list of must-play songs and do-not-play songs, create a must-have list of photos, and figure out your hair and makeup look.

    20. Buy your veil, shoes and accessories—and decide on your "something old, new, borrowed and blue."

    21. Get your final guest list count of who's coming and assign them to your seating chart (if you're having one).

    Find a free online seating chart tool on

    22. Work on day-of paper elements including the ceremony program and escort cards.

    Print them yourself or take them to a local printer who will be able to get the job done for you on the spot or within a day.

  5. 10 Days...

    Local honey wedding favors
    Photo by Cassidy Carson Photography

    23. Confirm all final payment amounts, delivery and location times with your vendors.

    24. Buy gifts (or favors) for guests, bridal party, parents and each other.
    Have gifts wrapped in the store if that's an option. You'll save time and the headache of tracking down wrapping supplies last-minute.

    25. Shop and pack for the honeymoon.

    26. Prepare your wedding toast or thank-yous to family and friends.

  6. 5 Days...

    Bride and groom ceremony exit
    Photo by The Schultzes

    27. Create a day-of schedule and contact list for parents, bridal party and vendors.

    28. Apply for your marriage license together. You usually can't do this until a few days before the wedding anyway.
    Go online to find out what the cost and process is. Typically you'll have to pay a fee for a marriage license and apply in person at your local county clerk's office or courthouse.

    29. Put together an overnight bag for the wedding night.

    30. Put final payments and cash tips for vendors in envelopes and give to a friend to distribute.

    Get married!

    See? We told you it was possible. Happy planning!

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