“[W]hen you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” — Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally
Getting engaged is like speaking the first few words of a novel-length promise. You know you’re at the beginning of something momentous. But in order to get from “yes!” to forever, you have to set a date.
For some people, deciding when to marry is completely arbitrary. For others, it’s a source of major stress. Our deep-dive guide to choosing the perfect wedding date takes a holistic approach to wedding planning. Get to know what you and your soon-to-be-spouse love most, and your wedding date will practically pick itself.
“If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can’t buy.” - Unknown
The joy that comes with a new engagement is truly something special, but that bubbly sparkle of excitement can quickly turn into panic when talk turns to budget. In 2019, couples getting married in the United States paid out an average of $33,900 for their big day. If you’re wondering where all that money’s going, check out this breakdown:
- Ceremony site - $2,382
- Reception venue - $15,439
- Transportation - $856
- Rehearsal dinner - $1,297
- Photographer - $2,679
- Videographer - $2,021
- Wedding planner - $2,002
- Officiant - $286
- Wedding dress - $1,631
- Groom’s getup - $283
- Hair & makeup for the bride - $225
- Musicians for the ceremony - $797
- Band for the reception - $4,247
- DJ - $1,292
- Catering - $70/person
- Wedding cake - $528
- Flowers and décor - $2,411
- Wedding invitations - $386
- Wedding favors - $245
Then there are the peripheral wedding costs like your marriage license, time taken off of work to make arrangements, and the price of plane tickets and hotel rooms if you’re having a destination wedding or taking a honeymoon.
While many of these costs are fairly standard regardless of when you decided to get married, some vary wildly depending on the season.
Early spring is one of the least popular times to get married. There are a lot of reasons that couples might want to avoid a spring wedding, but weather is near the top of that list. Mother Nature isn’t sure if she’s ready to leave winter behind, and it’s definitely too soon to settle into warmer temperatures. You could be soaking up the sun one day and buried in snow the next. Not exactly what you want to deal with when you’re welcoming out-of-towners or making your way to your reception.
March is one of the most affordable months for weddings. Venues and vendors are experiencing lulls, and most are willing to shave down their fees to get a booking on the calendar. Not only that, but you may also be able to book a popular vendor that books up for summer months or even years ahead of time. This changes in April and May, but in areas where the chilly part of spring tends to linger, you may be able to score deals even after March 31.
One of the biggest wedding myths is that summer is the be-all and end-all of wedding season. While it’s true that summer may be a great time to get married on the coast or even in inland locales like the Midwest, you may encounter issues in other areas. For instance, normally sunny Southern California experiences a phenomenon in early summer called “June Gloom” — a slight misnomer as the mood-dampening fog often rolls in sometime during May. Try to book a venue and hotel in Florida or other Gulf Coast locations in summer and you’re going to go face-to-face with hurricane season.
That said, summer is still a hugely popular time to get married in much of the country. Vendors are busy, and supply and demand will end up costing you a pretty penny. Experts recommend signing a contract with your venue of choice 10 to 11 months before your big day, but if you’re planning a summer celebration at a popular spot, you may want to explore your options even earlier.
Ahh, fall. Sweater weather, crisp air, and cheaper wedding dates… right? Eh, not so fast. A whopping 40% of weddings happen in September, October, and November. That means two out of every five couples choose to say I do in the fall. If you think that means you’ll pay higher prices if you follow the trend, you’re right.
There are so many fantastic things about a fall wedding, but the cost of one isn’t one of them. If you’re not willing to consider another season, you can save money in the fall by exploring venues and destinations that are outside the box. Getting married in the Berkshires in October is magical thanks to the local apple orchards and gorgeously leafy backdrops, but you’ll save money by hosting guests at a local farm closer to home and choosing food trucks instead of a chef-led sit-down dinner in a highly sought-after hotel ballroom.
Winter wedding dates come with a bevy of perks. People are less likely to want to travel around the holidays, so you may score cheaper venues and have access to vendors that book up quickly other times of year. Weather is obviously a concern, but facing down a winter storm in a city used to snowy weather is still easier than trying to tell your future husband or wife that you’ll cherish them forever when a hurricane is sending gale-force winds through your tent.
Embrace winter and all the themes, food, and cool décor that a cold-weather wedding brings. You’ll be able to stretch every dollar and have the added benefit of every future holiday party feel like it was created in honor of your marriage (hey, there’s no harm in pretending!).
“Color is a power which directly influences the soul.” – Wassily Kandinsky
For couples not used to creating vision boards or organizing their life by color, choosing a color scheme for their wedding can feel foreign. Why not just decide on each item as you go and let the pieces fall into place?
Unfortunately, that kind of haphazard approach to picking out your wedding colors can yield a pretty jarring result.
Imagine flipping through your wedding photos and suddenly realizing just how poorly those orange flowers went with the black faux marble plate chargers your caterer recommended. You accidentally recreated Halloween for your spring wedding and never even noticed.
Skip over the messy mistakes by exploring what color palettes work best when. Come up with a plan and everything from your décor to your dress or suit will look and feel cohesive because of it.
When you’re choosing your wedding date, keep colors in mind. You don’t have to adhere to every color rule in existence, and it’s great to push boundaries from time to time. That said, muted pastels in the middle of fall are usually going to feel out of place. Luckily, there are some classic combinations that never seem to go out of style.
- Green, gray, and cream: This iconic trio works well for any season because it’s like a nature-inspired spin on neutrals. In spring, the green mimics renewal. In summer, it’s lush like a meadow, and in fall and winter it adds a botanical touch not unlike leaves or a wreath peeking through snow.
- Black and white: Always a classic combo, black and white feels formal but could also help support a more focused theme like Art Déco or Hollywood glam.
- Jewel tones: Colors like ruby and emerald feel rich and luxurious. While deep colors are often linked to winter weddings, you can add a third complementary color like ivory, mauve, or even a pale yellow to lighten up your regal palette and make it more fitting for other seasons.
- Earthy neutrals: Boho is back in a big way, and earthy neutrals are the perfect color palette for such an easy, breezy theme. Taupe, sand, mocha, beige, nude, camel, tan, olive — they all look lovely, and you can use the whole kit and caboodle without your reception looking overly busy.
Some color combinations seem to lend themselves to a particular season. If you’re stuck on when to schedule your wedding, identify the colors you love and use those preferences to narrow the field.
Winter colors are about extremes. Go ethereal with white and metallics for that shimmery, sun-hitting-the-snow vibe, or go for red and white for a classy take on holiday colors. Deep colors like eggplant, ruby, and royal blue work well too.
Bring on the pastels! If you love pale pink, lilac, robin’s egg blue, mint, seafoam, lemon, and coral, consider a spring wedding. Those light colors feel airy and bright, and they fit with the spring theme of rebirth.
Summer colors epitomize vibrancy. Think citrus (hello, lemonade stand!) with tangerine, yellow, and orangey-pinks, or you can go full seaside charm with various shades of blue and green anchored by a sandy beige. With July weddings in the mix, this can be the perfect time to show off your patriotism — a red, white, and blue scheme can be tweaked to fit an upscale affair or done playfully for a backyard bash right before Independence Day.
Fall is a time of transition. Think about the leaves turning to color, and the last blast of summer heat fading into cool breezes and pumpkin spice lattes. Speaking of pumpkin, all those colors you know and love from autumn displays are great for a fall wedding. Caramel, apricot, pumpkin, mustard, and gold work beautifully together. You can also work in hues like navy, eggplant, and blush to tip your dresses and décor more toward summer or winter.
Every year has its own trending wedding colors. Sometimes these combinations are distinctly seasonal. Papaya, peach, and white help make a spring wedding look soft and inviting with just the right amount of sweet sophistication. Navy, matte gold, and champagne deliver a memorable new take on winter luxury. Check out these trends, see which resonate with you, and use that palette as a starting point for brainstorming wedding dates.
“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” – Dr. Seuss
Wedding traditions are as varied as they are significant. You may have family traditions like an heirloom veil or special vows that mean the world to you. Or, you may have cultural traditions that you can’t imagine getting married without. Perhaps you’re looking to start a new tradition you can pass down to your own kids. If so, check out some of these customs that could influence the date you pick for your big day.
- The month of June is named after Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage and childbirth.
- Some Jewish couples believe that the third day of the week (Tuesday) is twice as lucky for weddings thanks to the doubly repeated phrase “And God saw that it was good” that appears in the book of Genesis.
- In Celtic tradition, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are luckiest while Thursday is for loss, Friday for “the cross,” and Saturday as unlucky as it gets.
- Those who believe in numerology like dates with strong numerical patterns — which is why an estimated 24,900 couples tied the knot on 11/11/11 compared to just 1,700 couples getting married on the other Fridays that month.
- Some Asian cultures believe the number 8 is lucky, so dates like August 8th hold a lot of appeal for big events such as weddings, while the number four is associated with death — making April 4th a non-starter.
There are other numerology tips too, like using your life path number to choose a date. To try out this route (even if you’re just curious):
- Add up the numbers in your birthday. For example, September 21, 1981 is 9 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 9 + 8 + 1 = 31 and 3 + 1 = 4, so anyone born on that date has a life number of 4.
- Do the same math game for your partner.
- Add the two numbers together.
- Use your final, combined life number to choose a date — if it’s 9, you might just September 9th, the 9th day of any month, or even decide to get married at 9am.
“A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.” – Dave Meurer
It’s nice to believe that our loved ones would put everything aside to see us get married; however, if you pick a date that conflicts with another important event, you could be in for disappointment.
Love the idea of standing in front of a Christmas tree to wed the love of your life? All that holly jolly cheer and those endless streams of twinkling lights are enough to make anyone bubble up with joy. But while you’re imagining all of your friends and family gathered around the Yule log as you get hitched on Christmas Eve, everyone else is imagining being cozy at home honoring their own traditions. Oops.
The same idea applies to other holidays, too. Halloween, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Easter, and even smaller holidays like St. Patrick’s Day and Memorial Day can be problematic if your best man is in an Irish band or your uncle holds a huge family barbecue bash at the end of every May.
More than half of Americans — 56% to be exact — will rearrange their schedule just to be able to catch their favorite sports team in action. Approximately 10% will even skip work or school to keep tabs on their team. So just imagine how the avid sports fans in your life might react if your wedding happens to fall in the middle of playoffs — or worse yet, on the same day as the Super Bowl or World Series.
There are other potentially problematic dates too. Your grandpa’s 90th birthday. Half your cousin’s graduations. Back-to-school season. Another friend or family member’s wedding. The competition isn’t fair, and it probably won’t feel good to anybody involved, so it’s crucial to at least try to work around events already on the calendar when you add your own shindig into the mix.
Even if your own religious calendar is free and clear for your potential wedding date, your guests may have other obligations. Jewish couples are forbidden from marrying on their religion’s days of rest, so getting married on Sukkot, Shavuot, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, or Passover could mean your Jewish friends will be unable to attend.
While it’s true you can’t accommodate everyone, you can be sensitive to the dates that are the most likely to cause conflict. Also keep in mind that moving your wedding to a couple days before or after a major holiday or other big to-do likely won’t be enough. People may still have to travel to your wedding, and besides, they have their own plans and lengthy checklist leading up to their events that may not include prepping for a weekend full of your wedding festivities.
“If I get married, I want to be very married.” – Audrey Hepburn
Gorgeous pictures are just one element of a successful wedding, but when you consider how long you’ll be looking at those pictures, they suddenly get much more important. You may not need to pick an exact date based off how you want your pics to look, but certain scenarios will be restricted by season.
There is something undeniably magical about a newly married couple posing in the snow. If you’ve been poking around on Pinterest or other sites looking at winter wedding inspiration, you’re probably seen those jaw-dropping photographs of the happy duo kissing through a scattering of snowfall or sharing a blanket on a snow-covered rock. It probably goes without saying, but if you want a winter wonderland theme in your wedding photos, you need to get married in winter.
April showers bring May flowers. Spring can teeter back and forth between rainy days and sunny moments that illuminate all the greenery and flowers that epitomize the season. Think cascading flower backdrops, dainty flower crowns with sprigs of baby’s breath peeking through, and rustic branch arches with a few pale blooms tucked in for good measure.
And if it rains, all is far from lost. Pics of the bride with her dress pulled up to reveal rubber boots are as unique as they are memorable. Same goes for the newlyweds cuddling under an umbrella with tulips and tufts of newly grown grass just visible through the mist.
All that summer warmth brings a ton of opportunities for outdoor photos. If you want your wedding date to include walks down the beach, pictures of you wading into the ocean, or one of those must-have shots of the wedding party donning sunglasses and jumping in the air, summer is your season.
With summer nights being so temperate, you can have your reception outdoors without needing a covering like a tent. Instead, string lights from tree to tree or hang lanterns for photos that will blow up on Instagram. Couples who want a backyard BBQ feel for their wedding or who are aiming for the kind of rustic charm that comes with hay bale seating and a lemonade stand should seriously consider a summer wedding date.
The most popular wedding date in 2019 was October 19, with nearly 34,000 couples tying in the knot in the United States alone. That makes sense given the overall popularity of fall weddings, and it’s likely that tempting photo opportunities have a lot to do with that trend. Fall photos are rich, earthy, and warm. They can be fun (a formally dressed couple jumping into a pile of leaves) or cozy (the just-hitched duo cuddled up on the back of a pickup while wrapped in a plaid wool blanket).
Fall wedding photos can take on a Halloween or Thanksgiving theme or work in elements that suggest autumn without being overtly cliché. Flower-stuffed pumpkin centerpieces are whimsical yet classy, while fall colors like eggplant, mustard, and burnt orange make for inviting photos that will look wonderful on your wall for years to come.
“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate” – Alan D. Wolfelt
Most couples in the U.S. spend between $1,800 and $7,000 on their wedding grub, with the average cost sitting right around $4,000. That number can be a lot higher, though, depending on factors like:
- Whether you include a cocktail hour and passed apps
- Whether you choose a sit-down dinner or buffet
- How many entrée choices you offer guests
- The type and amount of protein included
- How you structure dessert (for instance, a cookie table in addition to the cake)
Another major detail to consider is the relationship between the food you want and the time of year you’ll get married.
Foodies know that produce tastes best when picked and consumed in its prime growing season. The seasonality of fruits and vegetables affects not only flavor but also cost. If asparagus is your very favorite thing, it may be best to aim for spring, when the veggie is in season and your chef can purchase it in large quantities from local farmers for a much lower cost.
If you’re interested in straying away from the tired fish-or-chicken wedding choices, embracing a seasonal farm-to-table menu could be the way to go. Look for a chef who talks about farmer’s markets the same way you talk about your future spouse — that’s the person who will take whatever’s freshest and turn it into a slew of dishes that will have you and your guests salivating.
The possibilities are literally endless, but here are some ideas of what seasonal menus might include:
- Winter: Apples, carrots, beets, brussels sprouts, kiwi, kale, citrus, sweet potatoes, turnips, and pears
- Spring: Apricots, asparagus, avocado, garlic, lettuce, mushrooms, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, and strawberries
- Summer: Bell peppers, broccoli, cantaloupe, cherries, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, honeydew melon, mango, raspberries, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini, lime, and plums
- Fall: Broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, cranberries, grapes, ginger, onions, parsnips, pears, pumpkins, pineapples, rutabagas, and mushrooms
There is always some overlap between seasons, so a wedding on the cusp could be just the ticket if the menu of your dreams is a little bit spring and a little bit summer.
Picking your wedding date to complement your favorite foods is about more than just seasonality. After all, food is an experience. You can quite easily build your entire reception around a culinary idea. If you’re tied to a specific theme, that may well dictate what time of year suits your big day best.
Spring and summer bring the perfect weather for al fresco dining options. That means long family-style tables in the garden or on a patio and cooking styles that only work when you can be outside. You can even hire a food truck to pull up and serve guests eager to have a bite to eat.
Summer dishes might include:
- Upscale burgers and brats on the grill
- A Hawaiian-inspired luau
- A clambake
- Chilled spring rolls
- Cold raw fish dishes like ceviche or poke
- Lobster rolls
- Herb-roasted chicken with apricot and mint couscous
- Pan-seared scallops with an orange and celery salad
- BBQ brisket (or almost anything else, for that matter!)
The same goes for drinks. Spring and summer call for refreshing cocktails and mocktails, especially the more fruit-centric among them. Flavored iced teas, mint juleps, infused lemonades, and Bellinis are all fancy enough for a special event and yet still perfect for more laid-back outdoor receptions.
Summery desserts are always fun. From DIY ice cream sundaes and grab-and-go cotton candy to strawberry shortcake and key lime pie, having a summer wedding means treating guests to your favorite warm-weather sweets.
Cold weather calls for comfort food, although that means different things to different people. It’s normal to crave heavier, heartier dishes. You feel satisfied and warmed from the inside out, no matter how snowy and windy it may be. As for what comfort food looks like at a wedding, you may be surprised:
- Carrot and parsnip bisque
- Gourmet baked potato bar
- Crispy brussels sprouts with bacon jam
- Mini brie grilled cheese and tomato soup shooters
- Lobster macaroni and cheese
- Handmade pastas with creamy sauces, like spaghetti carbonara or ravioli with truffle cream
- Coffee-crusted filet mignon with candied carrots
- A classic English roast dinner or carvery
- Fried chicken
As for beverages, consider hot options. If you fell in love over hot cocoa at a ski chalet or are especially fond of mulled cider or wine around the holidays, make those your signature drinks. Instead of a champagne toast, wine aficionados may pass out glasses of Eiswein, a sweet dessert wine made using grapes that are harvested only after they’ve frozen on the vine. If that’s not the perfect tipple for a wintery celebration, what is?
And then there are the fall and winter desserts. Pumpkin pie, molten chocolate cake, s’mores, caramel apples, churros, and cinnamon rolls are iconic and can be transformed simply in the way they’re plated and garnished. If you’ve always loved fall or feel your happiest in winter when temperatures dip and you can indulge in gingerbread cupcakes without a hint of guilt, it makes sense to choose a wedding date that’ll make it easy to enjoy all your favorites on your big day.
Some dishes are delicious no matter what it’s like outside.
- Charcuterie boards
- Bruschetta bars
- Caprese salad
- Pizza and flatbreads
- Street tacos
- Shrimp scampi
- Butter-poached lobster
- Risotto (studded with spring veggies early in the year and mushrooms and thyme in the fall)
- Fish and chips
Beverage wise, beer and wine work in any season, though you may want to tweak your selections based on your weather and the menu. Couples who appreciate lighter, citrus-infused beers and white wine or lighter reds may love a spring or summer bash where Beaujolais and pilsners fit right in. If you almost always find yourself reaching for bold reds, full-bodied whites, and heavier beers, order up plenty of porter, stout, and cabernet sauvignon and reserve yourself a fall or winter date.
Chocolate chip cookies, macarons, hand pies, cheesecake, cake pops, candy bars, doughnuts, mousse cups, and nostalgic sweets like Rice Krispies treats and whoopie pies are appropriate no matter when you say I do.
“If I had a flower for every time thought of you… I could walk through my garden forever.” – Alfred Tennyson
Last but certainly not least, there’s wedding décor. Decorations are how you set the scene for the wedding of your dreams. Think of it like set dressing for a movie. If you’re directing a western, you’re going to need a lot of horses and hay; if you’re directing a futuristic action flick, the set is going to look markedly different.
Wedding decorations can vary wildly in terms of cost — flowers alone cost an average of $1,500. Whether you go totally bare bones and let Mother Nature do the talking or cover your ballroom in crystals and silk from floor to ceiling, you can generate an atmosphere that thrills both you and your guests. A big part of how you decide to decorate your venue depends on the season, so pick a date that corresponds with the effect you want to create.
Close your eyes.
When you picture your wedding day, are you walking down the aisle flanked by miniature potted evergreens? Are you waiting for your bride under a gazebo draped with hand-carved snowflakes? Are you admiring the candles and seasonal toppers that added the perfect finishing touch to your wedding cake?
Winter weddings can be elegant, with gilded chargers and velvet linens providing seasonal warmth, or you can share your love of the holidays with pinecone napkin holders, ornament-shaped escort cards, and flocked branches running down the middle of family-style tables. Even your wedding programs can be personalized to fit the season.
With all the pastels and budding florals that make spring spring, it’s easy to make your wedding extraordinarily romantic. Seasonal flowers like daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, peonies, and roses are all in bloom. That might mean they’re more affordable (though no guarantees). Little baskets filled with pastel soaps or lavender-scented cupcakes are small touches that can make a big impact.
Because spring botanicals feel so new, greenery often takes center stage. If the idea of rows of chairs draped in vines and sprigs of myrtle and eucalyptus tucked into hand-painted planters fits in with your vision of the perfect wedding, aim for a date in March, April, or May.
Bright. Airy. Vibrant. Tropical. Relaxed. Sunny. Happy. Fun. Inviting.
Summer is all these things and more, and summer wedding décor should represent many of those same characteristics. Lanterns and fairy lights are lovely ways to illuminate your tables or dance floor, while glass vases in bright colors bring in summer vibes with or without equally eye-catching flowers.
Fan-style programs combined with bins of personalized sunglasses and flip-flops pull double duty as practical wedding favors and summer-ready décor. And of course there are flowers. Lots and lots of flowers. Intensely pink bougainvillea, ruffled marigolds, rippled hibiscus, flashy aster, and picture-perfect frangipani combine incredible fragrance with summery ambience for a result that’s almost intoxicating.
Even lawn games turn into décor. Cornhole, giant Jenga, and oversized Connect Four are meant to keep guests entertained, but having them nearby also lends your wedding an aura of playfulness.
The magic of summer wedding décor is that it can make you feel like you’re relaxing with friends in your backyard or luxuriating at a five-star tropical resort. Couples who prefer to spend their days hosting pool parties, enjoying concerts in the park, and heading to the beach might love the nature-inspired, fun-infused décor that comes with setting a summer wedding date.
So-called “leaf tourism” brings millions of visitors to New England every year, generating a whopping $3 billion — all just for a chance to witness Mother Nature’s incredible color-changing operation in person. It’s no wonder then that fall décor can be simply stunning.
When you’re eager to use foliage in your centerpieces or love rustic venues, fall is a great time to have a wedding. You can still have flowers (pansies, chrysanthemum, dianthus, and flowering kale are all in season), but leafy branches, bunches of hay, and bundles of sage feel just as fitting. Because fall is harvest time, it’s natural (no pun intended) to work in market-inspired displays. Use crates to hold your programs and fresh apples to add color to the table holding your escort cards.
Picking a wedding date may seem daunting, but that’s only because most people tend to do that first and let the rest of the wedding planning follow. By considering the décor, food, photo poses, and traditions you love, you can use your why to nail down your when. And then, your date is more than just a square on a calendar but a time that means something to you — and soon, it’ll hold more meaning than you can even fathom.