Getting married is a lovely fantasy, but in reality, the months leading up to your big day can be like walking a tightrope with a ticking time bomb in your hand. Many things have to be executed with perfect timing or – boom! – you’re scrambling to put everything back together.
Follow these steps to defuse any issues:
1. Line up your marriage documents.
Weddings are fun but keep in mind the important part: you’re entering a legally binding contract, one of the most important of your life. The legal aspect of marriage affects your finances, your career, and your future. Getting the paperwork right is crucial and shouldn’t wait until the last moment.
Marriage licenses within the United States may be obtained by citizens regardless of where you reside (for instance, if you’re from New York and want to get married in Las Vegas, you may get a license there as long as you have proper documentation). There’s only one state, Montana, where blood tests (for rubella) are still required. Most states have minimal requirements for marriage records, such as both parties being at least age 18, but several have mandatory waiting periods of 24 hours to about three days – and a 30- to 180-day period to use the marriage license before it expires.
Regardless of where the ceremony takes place, you’re likely to need a copy of your birth certificate from the state where you were born, which can take several weeks, and if you’re planning a religious ceremony, you may need to request a baptismal certificate or other proof of milestones from your faith.
Destination weddings outside U.S. borders have varying requirements, including a lengthy waiting period, particularly for divorcees who wish to remarry, on the island of St. Maarten. Marriages held in Turks and Caicos or the Dominican Republic must make time to have a sworn statement of single status notarized by an official. Other locations may require both prospective spouses to appear when making the marriage license application.
If you’re divorced, an official copy of your divorce decree will be required as proof, regardless of where you plan to remarry. And if you were widowed, you need to produce proof of your former spouse’s demise.
2. Lock down the venue.
Popular locations for receptions may be booked a year or more in advance, particularly in metropolitan areas. If you have less than a year to plan you could do a weekday evening wedding instead of a full Saturday event, and that off-peak option might allow you to book your favorite band, get the caterer you want, and to save money as well.
3. Make sure your invitations go out on time.
If you’ve planned a destination wedding, consider how much planning time is reasonable for people traveling from out of state. Destination weddings require at least six to eight months of planning time, making those “save the date” pre-invitation cards absolutely indispensable. If you’re planning on a place closer to home, six week’s notice is considered enough for invitations. Printing can be done within a couple of weeks, but be sure to proofread closely as getting one digit of the date or time incorrect can be a disaster!
4. Plan for alterations.
Unless you’ve been a certain size all your life, the stress of planning a wedding as well as all of the bridesmaids’ nights out may take a toll on you. Let the alterations of the wedding dress and suit wait until about two to four weeks before the big day to ensure the best possible fit. Be sure to bring the shoes you plan to wear.
5. Perform check-ins.
Call your vendors two weeks before the event to make sure everyone is on track and keeping your event on their radar. Take time to go over the details you’ve laid out in your contract with each (cake, flowers, catering, music, reception venue, photographer, minister, hair stylist) to ensure a smooth ride. This way if some unforeseen event takes place they will be ready to communicate any substitutions or issues with you. Ask questions like, “Where can we do photos if it’s raining?” and “How many extra dinners will be available if my cousins show up?”
6. Rehearse more than once.
It’s common to gather members of the wedding party the night before to run through the planned steps of a wedding, but there’s no rule that says it can’t be done two weeks beforehand with a few stand-ins for people who can’t be there. That way you may catch some imperfections such as the placement of floral arrangements or a better musical selection for the soloist.