An Engaging Decision

By Kristen Castillo

October 29, 2010 5 min read

You've got the guy and the ring. Now you need to pick a date and plan the wedding.

If you're like some brides, you already know when you want to get hitched. Other brides aren't so sure.

"Brides have on their minds when the wedding will be," says Sara Morgan, director of marketing for Weddzilla, a social networking site for the wedding industry. "Then they go with that. It's less about budget and more about timing."

So sit down with your fiance and a calendar so you can pick a date and time to say "I do."

*Engagement Timetable

According to the Bridal Association of America, the average engagement time is 17 months.

"The majority of our clients opt for approximately a yearlong engagement, plus or minus three months," says Ashley Baber, owner and principal planner of Ashley Baber Weddings, noting that many engaged couples are working full time.

Often, the decision to have a short or long engagement is tied to when the engagement happened. A Thanksgiving engagement could produce a New Year's Eve wedding, but that would be a short turnaround.

Some wedding days are more popular than others. Saturdays throughout the year are filled with weddings because most people don't work on Saturdays.

In many parts of the country, weddings are limited to certain times of the year because of extreme heat or cold. For example, Baber says spring and fall are popular seasons to get married in the South.

Holiday weddings, such as Labor Day weekend nuptials, can be fun because of extra days off from work, but remember to give guests advance notice of at least nine months.

*Short Notice

A short engagement has some positive attributes.

"Some brides love the short-term gratification," Morgan explains. "The bride pictures it her whole life and can't wait to get it done."

Aside from the whirlwind of planning, there can be financial benefits, too.

"One advantage of a shorter engagement is negotiating power," Baber explains. "A venue or vendor may be willing to offer discounted pricing if it has not already booked a date that is just a few months away."

With a short-term engagement, build flexibility into your plans. Limited vendor and services availability can be a problem.

"Brides are finding that venues and churches are booked, especially in big cities," Morgan says.

According to Baber, another downside of a short engagement "is increased stress from making a lot of decisions in a short period of time."

With limited time, it can be a challenge to get the planning done.

"I do not advise allotting much less than six months to plan a wedding unless the couple have a lot of time, motivation and, above all, the ability to be decisive," Baber says.

*Long-Range Plans

Couples with long engagements have more time to research and book wedding vendors. Though wedding planning is always stressful, a couple planning long term may have less to worry about at any given moment compared with a bride and groom planning a wedding on a quick timetable.

Baber says most planning timelines found in books and magazines and on the Internet work around a one-year engagement. "So we tend to see a sense of comfort in couples that opt for roughly 12 months of planning time in knowing they are 'on track,'" she says.

But a long engagement can pose problems.

"One of the few disadvantages of having more time to plan a wedding is that we will occasionally see couples start to second-guess their decisions -- food choices, flower colors, etc. -- if given too much time to mull over the details," Baber says.

*Economic Impact

The economy is affecting the length of time couples are engaged.

"We are seeing a slightly longer average engagement as many couples opt to financially contribute to their wedding or, in some cases, pay for the entire thing themselves," Baber says.

Whether you have a short or a long engagement, remember that it's your wedding and the start of your new life together. So take a deep breath; pick a date; and plan the event on your terms.

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