Before: The Date

18 Jun

Everything you need to get up to date

Once you and your fiancé have taken that important first planning step of discussing your wedding values (what’s important to you for your wedding), a next key decision is the date for your big day. As with the values, the date decision is one you must set in stone before you get too attached to that dream ceremony site or fabulous florist. So this post is all about how to choose your wedding date.

I wish someone had emphasised the importance of locking in the date to my Reflective Groom and I when we started wedding planning. We were quite slow to set the date, as it didn’t dawn on us that every other decision hangs off that one. My fiancé and I went to a wedding expo two months into our engagement, and the first thing vendors asked us was our date – and they looked totally bewildered when we said we hadn’t set one. The looks on their faces clearly communicated “Why are you even talking to me if you haven’t set a date?” Sounds rude, but it’s true: you can interview all the suppliers you like and decide on your perfect DJ or officiant, but if you come back to them with a date they’re already booked up for, then you’ve wasted your time and theirs.

Setting the date will also make the whole wedding excitement more concrete, and give you and your beloved a fixed time point to look forward to. Here’s my Reflective take on how we narrowed down our wedding date. I hope it helps you and your hubby-to-be reach your own decision faster than we did!

Length of engagement
Before you get into discussions of a spring shindig versus a summer fest, before you even touch the Friday-or-Saturday dilemma, discuss with your partner how long you want (or need) to prepare for the big day. How much notice do you want to give your guests, especially those travelling? Do you need time to save money? Do you have a baby on the way that you must plan around? If you’re planning to slim down, how long do you need to reach your weight goal?

The Reflective Groom and I had 17 months between the proposal and wedding day. My family lives on the other side of the world (where the wedding will be hosted), so long before we got engaged we agreed that any date we choose must be announced at least 13 months in advance. Why 13? Because it’s impossible to book flights more than 12 months in advance, so we knew no guests would have other travel plans on our wedding date. Cunning! It also gave people lots of time to decide whether they would join us, to book time off work, and to save money for the trip. (Important to note for those planning destination weddings!)

We also found that 17 months was a fantastic planning time frame. It wasn’t so far away that it seemed an impossible dream, but not so close that we had to live in a non-stop wedding planning bubble our whole engagement (as other friends with 6-8 month engagements have vented to us about their own experiences).

Time of year
The first obvious dilemma is spring and summer versus autumn and winter. Some wedding suppliers do offer discounted rates in winter, which is less popular for weddings and generally considered the low-season, but this is by no means a consistent rule – so don’t pursue a winter wedding assuming you’ll save big bucks on everything. Hosting an outdoor fete? Consider the temperature versus the dress code you have in mind (don’t make the boys swelter in tuxedos at the height of summer!), and also which months have the highest rainfall.

Another thing to consider is school holidays. If you have a lot of parents and their children as guests, make sure your wedding is at a time of year they can easily be away from school. Is your wedding in a tourist hot-spot? Consider then not holding it in school holidays, in case your hotel is over-run with kiddie-winkles, or the road to your venue is swamped with traffic. Check if your host town has any other events around the time you’re considering for your wedding (eg, jazz festivals and food fests), as these might also bring in tourists by the boatload. On the other hand, if you live in a small quiet town, you might prefer to hold your wedding at a touristy time of year, so it adds more atmosphere!

My groom and I scheduled our big day in the middle of school holidays and a long weekend (not by choice).  My hometown is one of the top tourist hot-spots in the country, and with a beach wedding we are basing ourselves in tourist ground zero. I am extremely worried that tourist traffic will delay guests getting to the ceremony (especially if they can’t find a park), and that there will be lots of rubbernecking tourists in our wedding photos. We are therefore taking lots of back-up measures, like detailed directions and shelling out extra money for a bus to and from the ceremony. I don’t regret choosing my hometown for the wedding, or a beautiful beach setting for the ceremony, but I do wish we’d been able to tie the knot a couple of weeks before or after, just to avoid this stress!

The month and week
Want to make sure the most important people can make it to your wedding? Then check their availability before you set the date. (Duh.) Check school holidays with parents, find out if your bridesmaid has a conference (as I did), and check if any guests working in finance can’t be out of the office at the end of the quarter. (Yes, we had some guests who couldn’t come to for this reason!)

But remember: it’s not only guests’ availability you have to consider, but also suppliers. If you’ve always had your heart set on a particular venue (think squeals of “June at the Plaza!” à la the movie Bride Wars) or a certain photographer you’ve always loved, then confirm their availability before you confirm your date. Otherwise, you might miss out.

The day of the week
As with the seasonal thang, most assume that weekend weddings attract a price premium; but again there’s no consistent rule for this, and choosing an off-peak day of the week only really guarantees you more choice of suppliers.

Want a big party? Go the Saturday!

Want a massive party, with much merriment (ie, booze) and dancing all night long? Then, really, go for a Saturday. If you take Friday, people have the next day free, but may not be in the party spirit coming straight from work. If you hold your wedding any other night of the week, guests might be making excuses and heading for the exits earlier than you wish. Don’t mind wrapping up early? Then, by all means, go for a Sunday or weekday. You might even want to plan earlier festivities than usual  (for example, a brunch reception), so people don’t feel obligated to take the next day off work.

We wanted a big party with lots of energy, and didn’t want anyone forced to take a day off, so we went for a Saturday! Party on, Wayne!

Wondering about wedding day timing, now that you’ve sorted out your date? Check out my next post!

Choosing your date is all about narrowing things down. So start broad with the length of engagement and season that work best for you and your partner, and then drill down to the month, week and day. Consider also if there are any sentimental dates to factor in, like your own anniversary or that of your parents. I hope all this helps you to debate what to take into account for your wedding timing. Good luck with your planning, and if you have any questions about our own process please feel to write your queries in the comments below!

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