We planned our wedding in a month, before announcing our engagement

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Sarah
plan a wedding in a month
Photo by Luminant Photography

Before getting engaged, my partner and I — together for six years, living together for five — had broadly been talking marriage for a while. But one night last November things went from abstract to concrete real fast. After a moment of silent recognition that we were talking real details, I looked at him.

“So, we’re doing this?”

He smiled. “Yeah, I guess we are.”

That was our engagement moment, and a week later we went home for Thanksgiving. Before we arrived, we decided not to tell our families we were getting married. There was no Facebook announcement, no excited phone calls home — nothing. To be frank, we wanted a little time to enjoy our engagement ourselves. We didn’t want to be inundated with wedding talk while we stuffed our faces with turkey and dressing. We didn’t want to have the same conversations over and over when we only had a handful of days to see our family and friends. But most importantly, we wanted to have our wedding completely planned before we made our announcement.

This wasn’t out of any ire toward anyone. We love our families (and each other’s families) and value their opinions on all manner of things. We simply didn’t want to get swept away in the conversations about dresses, bridal parties, religious versus non-religious ceremonies, registries, flowers… well, you know.

More than once we had joked about just heading to the courthouse and getting a Justice of the Peace to hook us up. But, being from a small, Midwestern town, we thought our families might be disappointed to miss out, and to be frank, I wanted our families and friends to witness and celebrate our commitment.

We decided to tell our families at Christmas, so we had a little over a month to plan what we wanted.

Here’s how we were able to plan a wedding in a month, all before even announcing our engagement:

Venue

Neither of us wanted a church wedding (he’s an atheist; I describe my religious identity as “complicated”) or a large wedding (big crowds are disconcerting and large weddings in Chicago are expensive). Luckily, I had read a post on Offbeat Bride about a monthly event in Chicago where you can have a City Hall wedding in the (beautiful!) Chicago Cultural Center.

Reception

We decided to do a boozy brunch in lieu of a reception, because there’s nothing Chicagoans love more than boozy brunch. We rented a private room at a local brewpub for a small, intimate meal for about 30 of our nearest and dearest family and friends immediately following the ceremony — no DJ or dancing, no flower or garter toss.

Invitations

I used MyWeddingThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them to create a free website, mostly to keep everyone in the loop about what was happening and where, evites for our invitations, and SoKindThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them for a very small registry. The website was very useful while planning a non-traditional wedding for a relatively traditional family, as we were able to explain our choices in a friendly manner. All of this was kept “unpublished” until we announced our engagement.

Outfits

I picked out my floral wedding dress from Etsy, which the vendor made according to my measurements and I later had slightly altered by my dry cleaner. My partner used the opportunity to purchase a new suit for work and formal occasions.

Photography

I contacted a friend from a local nonprofit who does a lot of the organization’s photography. He and his wife were more than willing to do ours, and the results were incredible.

And that was it. That was all the planning we wanted to do for our small, frugal wedding. And we had it all done and ready to go or planned and in process by the time Christmas rolled around and we told our families we had decided to get married.

Are there a few lingering desires left over from the constant inundation of what a wedding “should” be? Sure. (I sometimes wonder if my mother missed that bridal boutique moment.) But had we called our families the morning after our engagement, would I have been taken dress shopping, when I knew the last thing I wanted was a traditional white dress? Would we have been talked into ordering flowers or favors? Would our guest list have grown from 30 to 60 or 100? Would we have drawn out our five-month engagement to plan a bigger wedding? Maybe not. But also, maybe.

Instead, my partner and I worked through what we wanted (and didn’t want), which brought us even closer together. We created a celebration that reflected who we are and what we value; we put it together and paid for it ourselves; we learned to communicate not only what we wanted, but also why those desires were important for each of us. And to be honest, we actually had a BLAST wedding planning.

You know we love short engagements. Let's just get to it — ammaright? So leave your short engagement planning tips if you got 'em!

  1. Absolutely love this! Thank you for sharing your story. My fiance and I talked very extensively about getting married and our ideal wedding day before we got engaged. Now that it's official, we are hoping to pull off a just-us ceremony followed by a larger party. For other brides looking to do the same: we told our folks straight-up that we wanted a relaxed, non-traditional approach to a wedding before all the crazy-talk could gain traction. Luckily, we've found that our immediate families have been very receptive to our choices. I do occasionally worry about offending extended family members or being judged for our choices, but it's posts like this that help to keep me grounded and remember that we're in this for us. Thanks again for sharing!

    • "Crazy talk" is something we definitely wanted to avoid! We did have a few notes of deflation from our extended family, but using the wedding website to explain our choices was very helpful in explaining our decisions.

  2. I love this post!

    We kind of ended up doing the same thing, half intentionally half by accident…

    By the time we told our parents we had picked a venue, I'd bought a dress, and he'd bought a suit…. and our parents were surprised but totally on board with everything we had planned!

    • Congrats! Having supportive family was super-helpful. We were very lucky our parents were just like, "OK!" rather than pitch a fit that they weren't involved (which would've been completely out of character for them anyway).

  3. My second wedding has become this way …

    We were engaged in March, 2013, and we've moved the date a few times until we're now at "well, we don't know when". People were initially excited, but it's quieted down in which everyone's more excited about babies being born than weddings now. When we finally get a date, nobody will know until we spring the invites on them.

    Seriously, how you planned your wedding is absolutely wonderful in the best possible way. Congratulations on unlocking the achievement in "stress-free party planning a life event".

  4. We decided 4 weeks ago that after 8 years and 2 children together we would plan a wedding in 30 days. We have two weeks to go! Not a problem. Clear, quick decisions are a girl's best friend. We did give our 20 guests notice as soon as we decided as everyone, including us, will be flying into our destination. Can't wait to update here when it is all said and done!

  5. Thank you for sharing this! We spread the news minutes after our engagement, and while there hasn't been much pressure at all (yet), we got "when's the date?", and still get it, constantly.
    We haven't set one, so that gets awkward.

    We want to have a brunch instead of reception, as well (and no toss and no dancing, although our iPod will be the DJ). But what's a boozy brunch?

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