The Just-Right Engagement

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The big question – Will you marry me? – is easy to answer.

The follow-up question – When? – can be a lot tougher to answer

When Sara Dorchak got engaged in September 2015, she thought for sure that she and her fiancé, Jonathan DeSoto, would be planning their wedding for more than a year – if not longer.

Instead, the couple found themselves planning their wedding on a nine-month timeline. “I had always envisioned a spring wedding and on Long Island, where we live, [and] it is not unheard of for venues to be booked for years in advance,” Dorchak says. “We never even contemplated that June 2016 would even be an option.”

But when the couple began searching for a venue a few weeks after getting engaged, one of their top picks happened to have multiple dates open in June, and they even offered them a discount because the wedding was so close. “We really didn’t want to wait or have a long engagement, so having the earlier date seemed like the perfect idea,” Dorchak says.

According to The Knot, the average length of engagement is 14 months – the precise amount of time Hayley Ryan and her fiancé, Adam Doyan, will have spent planning their wedding. “I think we’re pretty comfortable with the timeline because we are paying for it all ourselves, so we really needed the time to figure out how we were going to budget saving the money,” says Ryan, of North Reading, Massachusetts. “On the flip side, I want it to happen sooner because the anticipation is killing me, and I’m excited about it.”

Although she planned her own wedding in just three months, Portland, Oregon-based wedding planner Marilyn Storch recommends 12 to 14 months for planning.

Competition for venues and vendors is part of the reason planning takes so long, says Storch, particularly if you have your heart set on a specific venue. However, Storch says there can be a point where you’re planning a wedding for too long, noting that she has had weddings that have been 18 months to two years in the making. “If you get too far out, a lot of vendors won’t contract with you,” Storch warns.

Taking a full year to plan is also a good idea if you plan on having an outdoor wedding or reception because you can pay more attention to the weather elements when you begin planning. You’ll better know what to expect from Mother Nature.

Knowing the elements is one reason Stacie Larkin of Sacramento only spent nine months planning her October 2015 wedding. Larkin and her husband chose October because the hot California weather was starting to cool off – and it was the one date her desired venue had available. “You definitely have to be prepared to make choices,” Larkin says.

One of the choices Larkin and her husband made was to have a daytime wedding on a Sunday, which turned out to be cheaper and didn’t affect travel plans for many of their guests.

Even though venue, vendor and even dress selection help dictate when your wedding will be, your guests really are the largest factor in determining how long you’ll be planning your wedding. “The guest list really dictates everything,” Storch says.

Storch recommends trying to cut down the guest list to just those you really want to be there because that gives you better opportunities. “To plan a wedding with hundreds and hundreds of people really does take time.”

Time also is important if you want to add a lot of personal touches to the day. Ryan says she’s grateful to have enough time to put her own touches on the décor. “If I had less time, I would definitely not be able to pull together the look that I want to.”