How To: Plan a Last-Minute Wedding

Not everyone has the luxury of time when planning their wedding. Perhaps you want to tie the knot while the weather’s still hot or maybe you’ve just left it 'til the last minute. Here’s how to arrange your nuptials when time is of the essense.


    Not everyone has the luxury of time when planning their wedding. Perhaps you want to tie the knot while the weather’s still hot or maybe you’ve just left it 'til the last minute. Here’s how to arrange your nuptials when time is of the essense.

    Top priorities
    When the countdown’s a matter of weeks not months, it’s vital to decide which elements are absolute musts and what’s an optional extra. A well-honed to-do list can reduce stress. Your top priorities should be organising a venue and celebrant, and getting in touch with important guests – parents, siblings, best friends. Next, work out what else you can’t go without, for example food, flowers and a photographer. 

    Although it might mean you need to be realistic about what you can and can’t achieve, being short on time shouldn’t mean turning your back on a well thought-out budget. Know what money you have to spend and record your expenses from the word go.
    Planning a wedding quickly can seem incredibly daunting, but if you’re desperately seeking a place to start, grab the New Zealand Weddings Planner to help you create the all-important financial plan, assemble your guest list, sort your table seatings and decide on the menu, music and more. 

    Invitations post haste
    Many couples set their wedding date more than a year in advance, so if you’re not able to give your guests the usual eight weeks of notice, you’ll have to be prepared for them to turn down your invitation, especially if they live out of town.
    Inviting guests via email may not be the traditional approach, but it’s a practical option if you’re under pressure. Think of it as not only a speedy way to lock in your loved ones, but also a cost-saving device. There’ll be no postage or stationery expenses to worry about and it’s good for the environment! 
    There are some attractive e-vite options available online, such as those at US site paperlesspost.com, which has countless elegant designs and sends your invitations in a virtual envelope. New Zealand-based paperlessweddings.co.nz also offers a wide range of wedding e-vites, plus the option to design your own.

    Rush the red tape
    Marriage is legally binding, so there’s some red tape to negotiate before you walk down the aisle. Registry offices need a minimum of three working days between booking and wedding, in order for your Notice of Intended Marriage (a legal document the two of you must complete) to be processed. 
    If you’d prefer not to take the registry-office route, a last-minute ceremony in your favourite chapel may not necessarily be out of the question, particularly if you’re flexible as to which day of the week you’ll say your vows. Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand’s executive secretary Reverend Martin Baker says opting for a weekday wedding will give you the best chance of success, as most churches will be vacant. 
    However if faith is an essential factor for you, you may need a little more time to prepare. “Some churches have quite well-developed marriage preparation courses they’d like the couple to engage with, and that could take some weeks,” says Martin. “Others are a touch more flexible and don’t have the same requirements. Ministers take marriage seriously and would [usually] like to meet with the couple a few times [beforehand].”
    Booking a celebrant at a moment’s notice will likely be less about finding the perfect match than a matter of ringing around until you find someone who can work within your short time frame.

    In-the-Nick-of-Time venues
    If you’re working to a tight deadline, be prepared for your venue options to be relatively limited. Your best bet could be to think outside the square and forgo your fairytale location for somewhere a little less formal. Try booking your favourite restaurant, a quaint pub, a hall or your local sailing or golf club. 
    If you’ll be marrying in the warmer months, why not consider a casual affair at the beach or a park? This might help ease the pressure of worrying about organising seating, flower arrangements and a perfectly catered meal. Prepare picnic food or fire up the barbecue after the ceremony, or if it’s a very small wedding, ask each guest to bring a plate.

    Timely tailoring
    Custom-made wedding gowns can take several months to make. However, there are thousands of secondhand wedding dresses for sale on online auction sites, with many sellers allowing brides to try before they buy. 
    Alternatively, purchase a gown off the rack. Auckland store Modes has one of the largest selections of ready-made wedding dresses in the country, ranging in price from $500 to $9000. Owner Diane Stephenson says buying a dress at the eleventh hour isn’t as challenging as you might think.
    “It can be sorted quite simply if you go to the right place, somewhere that has a great selection and the ability to make adjustments,” says Diane. “We’ve just had a bride who flew up from down south on the Friday morning before her wedding on the Saturday. We had her adjustments done by that afternoon. We don’t expect everybody to turn up with that expectation, but it can be done.”
    And for your groom? Simply rent a suit. 

    Snap to it
    Hiring a professional photographer to document your day is a great investment, but securing one without an advance booking can be tricky. Auckland-based wedding photographer Stephanie Creagh says couples should still ring around in case of last-minute cancellations. But if that fails, she suggests asking a friend or family member who’s a photography enthusiast to help. “But the responsibility to get the shots you want will be with you. Keep your expectations low. Guests are there to enjoy and celebrate your day, not work!”
    To ensure you get a collection of candid shots, Stephanie recommends placing disposable cameras around your venue or nominating someone to take charge of a polaroid camera. “Make sure guests don’t take their pictures home, though – ask someone to be responsible for sticking them into an album you’ve provided on the night.”

    Fast flora
    Buying in-season flowers will be the simplest and least expensive option for those needing to buy blooms for bouquets and decorations in a hurry. Check with a florist, or for a cheaper option ask at your local farmers’ market or a wholesaler that sells to the public. 
    Manager of Auckland flower wholesaler Bloom Brokers Pip Biggs says couples should have a variety of colours or a theme in mind to help them find the right flowers without fuss and be in to win at a fast-paced auction. 
    The most difficult times of the year for couples to unearth their preferred blooms are early January, February and public holidays. Says Pip: ‘If you’re marrying over New Year, for example, you’ll have to choose flowers that last, like roses, because growers go on holiday; the final [Bloom Brokers] auction is around December 27, and the next isn’t until the 7th of January. If you want roses anywhere near February, remember that prices will rise because of Valentine’s Day. Plus, being an auction system, everything is based on supply and demand. When a lot of people want something, it’s going to be more expensive.”

    Quick cooking
    Unfortunately, you may have to accept that your dreams of a three-tiered cake with all the trimmings might have to be scaled back. There’s always the option of baking one yourself, but owner of Auckland’s City Cake Company Maureen Keene offers a word of warning for those who call in favours from friends and family.
    “Making a cake for somebody is quite stressful,” she says. “Most people who come to see us at the last minute have [tried to make a] cake, or have had someone else offer to do it for them and been let down.”
    However, while many cake companies are booked well in advance during the warmer months when wedding season is in full swing, Maureen says couples should always enquire on the off chance there’s a gap in the schedule.
    Alternatively, single-tier cakes can usually be whipped up in a hurry. “We’d only need a couple of days’ notice,” says Maureen. 


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