Planning and Organizing a "Last-Minute" Wedding
in the Hudson Valley and beyond

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Traditional wedding guidebooks and planners recommend that the bride and groom begin planning their wedding at least a year in advance. One might argue that the myriad of details involved in a organizing a wedding requires a significant amount of time. It is, however, the exception which is quickly becoming the rule. For a variety of reasons, young couples today, here in the Hudson Valley and beyond, are choosing the fast mode of wedding planning and are opting to spend less time planning and, presumably, more time celebrating. It is often their theory that once having made the decision to get married, it seems unfortunate to postpone their special day because of the logistics involved in planning. In the fast-paced life which so many young people live today, devoting anywhere between twelve and eighteen months toward planning the events of just several days, seems an ineffective way to allocate precious time. Finally, for some couples the amount of planning time gets curtailed due to extenuating circumstances, anything from family illness, to new jobs in new cities, to military service. For all these reasons and in all these instances, planning time is cut back and couples face the additional challenges of arranging a "last minute" wedding.

For the purposes of this article we will not discuss elopement, which offers its own and advantages and its presents its own issues. Let's begin with the unequivocal statement that short-time weddings are absolutely possible, presenting obstacles which are categorically surmountable. What's most important is that couples keep in mind that they are planning a special, joyful event and that the process, although stressful, should be pleasurable.

There are some general guidelines which will prove helpful with short-term planning. Couples should begin by prioritizing, focusing on what is really important to them. The crucial word here is "them." Although couples should by no means ignore the wishes and concerns of family and friends, it is after all, the couple's wedding, and it is their feelings and opinions which should be paramount. A family meeting to discuss priorities and set ground rules is a good way to get started.

Let's return to the concept of prioritizing. There are several important decisions, which in combination will create a couple's Hudson Valley wedding day. These elements are: budget, date, style, location(s), and members of the wedding party. The trick is, of course, to get all of the elements in sync, so the couple needn't give up their wishes for one element to accommodate another. Staying flexible and being opened to the possibilities of alternatives, while absolutely keeping priorities in mind, is the most important thing

It is at this point that the couple needs to decide what in their minds is most important. What factors, should they need to be compromised, will "shatter their dream?" Is it the location that's most important? Is at the style of the wedding? Is it the people who will be attendants? Is it a specific date? Once these elements have been placed in order, decisions become much easier.

Most couples will need to work within a budget, so it is wise to carefully examine their resources, as well as the resources of family members who have agreed to participate financially. Couples need to keep in mind that most offers of financial support usually come "with some strings attached," and, should the couple accept such assistance, the level of participation of those family members will usually automatically and probably justifiably, increase. It's a trade-off! Once again, prioritizing is essential. What one bride may unequivocally not ever consider forgoing, may be viewed as an unnecessary frill to another. With the facts in mind, couples need to set and absolutely stick to their budget.

Choosing the date is next. There are a number of factors which come into play. Should the couple wish an outdoor wedding, then the season needs to be considered. Maximum lead time is important if the couple wants an elaborate wedding and if many guests will be coming from a distance. With the latter, the purchase of airline tickets becomes an issue. Couples may find that wedding professionals, such as photographers and florists are booked during peak wedding seasons, May through October, and on holidays. The easy answer, of course, is to book the wedding off-season. There are, however, other options. A midweek wedding, a Friday or Sunday evening wedding, or an off-time hour (e.g., early morning wedding and brunch receptions) should be considered. A change in the type of food service, from sit-down to buffet, for example, may allow a caterer to squeeze in an additional wedding on an otherwise unavailable date. It may also be worthwhile hiring a wedding or location consultant, who may prove particularly helpful by providing information about venues and locations which the average couple might not be able to find on their own.

There are almost as many choices for the style of a wedding as there are different personalities of brides and grooms. A wedding is at its core a celebration. The style of event a couple should choose should fit with who they are!

Asking themselves some basic questions will allow a couple to focus on what they really want in the style of their wedding. A formal or informal wedding? A large, grandiose affair, an intimate one, or one somewhere in between? A theme-related or traditional wedding? A wedding with music for listening, dancing or both? A civil or religious ceremony, civilian or military? A more formal, sit-down dinner, somewhat less-formal buffet, a multi-course dinner, a cocktail receptions or an appetizer only party? The Hudson Valley offers a potpourri of venues which will be in sync with the stylistic elements that the prospective bride and groom are seeking. It is all these elements which influence the style of a wedding, but once a couple has homed in on what really makes them comfortable, the selection of a location will fall more easily into place.

If it's a magnificent view of the Hudson that suits their style, it's available. If it's an alternative, Woodstock, flowers-in-the-hair party, it can be found. If it's a palatial, elegant estate, the whole-nine-yards event, it's doable. If it's on-the-water or by the river, it can be held in our backyard. There is no wedding style which cannot be accommodated in the Hudson Valley!

Which brings us to the choice of location. Although time constraints in the choice of venues may offer obstacles, it also provides couples with an opportunity to think "out of the box." With venue options particularly, creativity can be a valuable asset and provide an exciting challenge. The Hudson Valley offers an amazing variety of both traditional and alternative/unusual wedding locations.

For couples who are willing to be flexible with their dates and the time of their wedding, there may well be traditional wedding locations available, if that's what they are looking for. Larger wedding venues are often equipped to hold more than one wedding on a particular date, so couples should not assume that a location is unavailable before they inquire.

The choices which are available in the Hudson Valley range from elaborate hotel ballrooms to low-cost local VFW halls, fire stations, and church and synagogue back rooms. Depending on the style of wedding which the couple wants, they should may also consider a country club, favorite restaurant, historic site, mansion, villa, estate, chateau, landmark building, museum, art gallery, yacht, inn, B & B, seasoned barn, park, garden, vineyard, destination resort, alternative resort, or the ever-popular home/house wedding on their own or another's property.

Last, but certainly not least, is the selection of the wedding/bridal party. A wedding is after all a celebration to be shared with friends and family. Although last in this article's list, people more than things and places, are a critical element in the success of any wedding. With a wedding which is being planned "last minute," the choice of people may be influenced by logistics. Attendants will need enough time to make travel and lodging arrangements and will, of course, need to be available on the chosen wedding date. Being an attendant and someone's wedding involves financial issues as well. Especially when attendants are not given a great deal of planning time, they may be required to spend more than they are able to. This can be a place where the couple needs to pick up part of the tab in order to ensure that those special people will indeed be able to participate.

It is not our intention to ignore or minimize the planning details which come before and after the wedding, such as choosing an engagement ring, purchasing and mailing announcements and invitations, pre-wedding parties (bachelor, bachelorette, rehearsal dinner), honeymoon travel and more. These too may involve some extra crunching, but by following priorities and by organizing, everything will ultimately get done. Again we suggest making use of available resources.

Time constraint is just one of many logistic issues which couples may face in planning their special day. It's important to keep in mind that the problems inherent in coordinating a short-term wedding are all surmountable. The key is to stay focused, set priorities, stick to the ground rules they set, make full use of available resources, remember that people are more important than things and always, most of all, keep mindful that they are coordinating a happy occasion and should attempt to enjoy every moment of the process.

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