Choosing your wedding date can feel like a daunting task, I know. But once you understand the key parameters to stick within, assessing all the possibilities seems much more manageable (and hey, exciting too!). Every couple’s planning timeline will vary, but on average, most will have a 12-18 month engagement, providing ample time to choose the wedding date that checks all the right boxes.
So where do you begin?
1. Consider the 4 S’s: Seasonality, Sunset, Setting and Symbolism
It’s a great rule of thumb to begin this process by closing your eyes and picturing your sky-is-the-limit wedding vision. Allowing yourself the space to visualize will make it easier to think about those specifics that may be important to you subconsciously – namely, the season. Do you envision an al fresco celebration? Is your gown long-sleeved? What kind of food are you dining on? What do the auxiliary events look like, if you’re having any? Are you dead-set on specific flower varieties that only bloom certain times of year?
Think about sunset timing as well. Most wedding photographers recommend a ceremony start time a couple hours before sunset to ensure the most flattering light for your celebration shots + portraits, so it’s good to keep in mind that weddings in late fall and winter months might mean a ceremony start earlier in the day (and thus, an earlier dinner as well). Same can be said for summer though. If your venue has a hard curfew, you’ll want to make sure your ceremony isn’t starting too late that everything feels rushed or too early that the light is harsh for all of your photos. This is where hiring a wedding planner before choosing your date + venue can come in handy! They can advise on all the specifics.
Along the same lines, thinking about your wedding destination can help you narrow down the wedding date pool significantly. Not only for any dream venues you’ve been eyeing (which we’ll touch on later), but particularly for the way that location is experienced at different times of year. If you’ve always imagined wine tastings and relaxing horseback rides with your VIPs in the days leading up to your wedding, allowing you to indulge in that destination fully, then a winter or spring event may not be as ideal. Think about the time of year your destination really shines, especially in the scope of why you fell in love with it + how you want your guests to experience it.
Early on in the process, you might also be considering specific dates because they’re meaningful to you. Whether it’s an anniversary, family tradition or auspicious date in your culture, you might want symbolism to play the leading factor in your date selection, letting the seasonal designs + destination highlights flow from there.
2. Process of Elimination
Now that you have a general idea of the time of year, you can rule out some of the more obvious dates to avoid…
Thanksgiving, Christmas and other family-oriented holidays, as well as religious + cultural holidays, should generally be avoided if you’re hoping for more RSVPs than Regrets, though certain holidays lend themselves to weddings well. New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day are becoming increasingly popular for weddings, as are long weekend holidays that will give your guests Mondays off from work.
Pro Tip: Be mindful that certain holiday weekends may drive up your bill for certain categories based on general demand. Think flowers around Valentine’s Day and fireworks around 4th of July.
Major Sports Games
We’ve all been to a wedding where a group of die-hard sports fans are huddled around a smartphone or tv during the reception to focus on their team. If this isn’t a moment you want to embrace, we highly recommend taking stock of the most important games your guests are going to care about and avoiding that date altogether.
A lesser known variable is conventions in your wedding destination, but this could play a key role in your negotiation power for hotel room blocks. A weekend where the best hotels are guaranteed to sell out will not only make availability slim, but rates higher. Traffic could also be a potential issue for group transportation, but especially guests driving on their own.
Astrology is playing a larger role in the selection of wedding dates these days, especially where unlucky dates are concerned. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t get married when mercury is in retrograde, you should just be aware that hiccups are likely to take place during these handful of dates each year.
The Ides of March, Friday the 13th and Leap Day are also considered inauspicious dates to wed.
Another weekend that might be worth ruling out is tax weekend. You may find guests either stressed about an event falling on this important deadline or missing altogether because of poor time management, so best to avoid altogether if possible.
Big Work Projects
Never underestimate the importance of triple checking your own schedule as well! What first might seem clear may reveal a stressful project launch at work upon closer inspection. Think closely about when you might need to be fully “on” at work so you can take the days leading up to your wedding off guilt-free!
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to think about the big weddings/life events that might overlap with your friend + family groups so that you aren’t competing for these guests.
3. Evaluate Your Budget
Different seasons and days of the week will have a major impact on the bottom line. Venues will naturally offer lower rates during off-peak months and weekdays, which can free up your budget for other areas, like photography, florals, food & bev, entertainment, etc. if you’re open to it.
Microweddings on the up + up, even as restrictions around the global pandemic lift, and we have a feeling budget is one of the major reasons why. We go into more detail on the benefits in this article, but to sum it up with respect to dates, you’re likely to feel much more guilt-free in choosing a weekday wedding when your guest count is reduced to your VIP’s… thereby allowing you to invest in those areas most important to you, whether it’s the wedding itself, investing in a home, enjoying a killer honeymoon, etc.
A few other benefits of weekday weddings?
-More quality time with loved ones
-Potential for upgrades and add-ons with vendors
-Lower prices for flights and accommodations
4. Communicate with your VIPs
Don’t forget to involve your most important loved ones! Ask around to make sure the general dates you’re looking at aren’t a no-go for those people you can’t imagine saying “I Do” without. We’d recommend limiting this check to your immediate circle (i.e. parents, siblings, Maid of Honor, Best Man) because as they say, too many cooks in the kitchen is a nightmare for everyone. Once you’ve selected a date, stand your ground! People’s plans change, but never let that guilt you into moving this important life event for someone else. After all, you gave them a chance to speak or forever hold their peace!
5. Do your due diligence with your dream venue and vendors
The last big element to consider when choosing your wedding date is your dream venue or vendors. You may not have this figured out at this stage, and that’s 100% okay! But if there’s a particular place your heart is set on or a photographer you’ve been saving up for through the years, for example, be sure to put some feelers out for their availability before signing the major contracts locking you into a date.
Here is where hiring a wedding planner first and foremost can be a lifesaver. Not only will they help you navigate the tricky roadmap of which booking decisions/vendor hires to make and when, they can help you think through the specific dates that might offer the best chance of upgrades, add-ons or price breaks with venues and vendors based on a number of variables.
And that’s a wrap! Now, you’re ready to choose your wedding date with confidence, knowing that a little bit of well-rounded research and communication goes a long way. Be sure to check out our post on finding the perfect wedding venue next!