How I Planned My Sister's Wedding In One Week

by Camille Bautista

Yes, the idea of planning a wedding in one week is crazy. But love has no boundaries — and in my sister’s case, no timeframe. My sister Eileen and her now-husband Joseph’s love story began where many romances these days spark and burn: Tinder. But thanks to a wondrous mix of serendipity, chemistry, and certainty, these app-crossed lovers got engaged in half a year’s time. The engagement was wonderful — and lasted just a little over seven days.

When my sister told me the news, we exchanged sisterly squeals, embraced, and proceeded to scream some more. The engagement heralded a moment of euphoria not just for the two lovebirds, but for our entire family. It would be the second marriage for both of them, and most definitely a well-deserved second chance at happiness.

Then, she dropped a bomb: “We’re getting married next week.” The couple had decided on a day convenient for all 20 guests: Tuesday. It was Sunday.

Judge away, but they simply didn’t want to wait to start their lives together. After basking in the glow of my sister’s new bling, reality set in: We had to plan a wedding in a week. ONE WEEK.

Most women take months — even years — to map out every detail of their big day, and we had a mere eight days to get everything right. Eileen is a perfectionist, and as her younger sister, I knew she needed only the best. I convinced myself I could do it. With the help of our meticulous mother, the three of us held estrogen-fueled pow wows, discussing everything from flowers to dresses.

Though the planning period was short, that didn’t mean it wouldn’t be a wondrous, magical celebration of their union ... albeit with hair-pulling phone calls, last-minute cancellations, and sleepless nights leading up to said magical day.

So how did it turn out? Beautifully. So beautifully, in fact, that my Kim Kardashian-cry face made more than a couple of appearances.

As the unofficial maid of honor, here’s my advice, should you ever find yourself needing to plan a wedding in one week:

Make a Checklist

Creating a list is key, because if you’re like me, you’re going to panic and forget everything. Aside from having attended a few, I knew next to nothing about weddings. Groom? Check. Bride? Check. A couple of witnesses in your loved ones and family? Throw ‘em in there. What else do you really need? Clearly, this was a lesson I needed to learn.

Even if you’re choosing a low-key, civil ceremony like Eileen and Joe did, it’s still a special day and there are plenty of details that could be forgotten. Keep a record of all the things you need to get done: buying a dress, finding a venue, taking pictures, (don't forget the wedding rings!) etc., and check them off as you get them accomplished. Not only will it provide a clear picture of what’s missing, it'll make you feel more productive and help you stick with a plan. Cue stress hives.

Do Your Research

I’ve never been the type of woman who dreamed of the day I get to walk down the aisle in white. I don’t have a Pinterest board dedicated to vintage-themed decorations or typewriter notes guests can leave for me and my new husband. After my sister’s first wedding more than 20 years ago, she didn’t exactly carry around a scrapbook filled with future designs either. We needed to have some ideas and be inspired.

I hit the Internet every day, furiously scanning the web even hours before they exchanged vows to get ideas from other wedding ceremonies in New York City.

Using my checklist, we designated locations to each point with realistic goals in mind. The ceremony would be at City Hall. We would take pictures in Central Park. I used resources like OpenTable and Yelp to find a restaurant for the reception. I searched for simple yet elegant wedding dresses based on my sister’s style at nearby department stores. We built on ideas from image searches and wedding blogs, then added the couple's own flair.

Google is your best friend.

Hurt Some Feelings — You Can’t Please Everyone

On such short notice, it’ll be impossible to invite everyone you’d like to attend your celebration. You’re going to have to hurt some feelings, even if it’s that family friend invited to every holiday get-together or your best friend from work. Don’t feel too bad, though, they'll understand and will be ridiculously happy for you regardless. And if they’re not? You wouldn’t have wanted them there anyway.

Prioritize you guests based on who will ABSOLUTELY have to be there (i.e. Granny, parents, immediate family), how many people you’ll be able to accommodate, and of course, your favorites.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Advice

Your friends and family can be your greatest resources, so don’t feel like you have to shoulder the burden alone — especially when sh*t hits the fan. Unless you're a master organizer, in all likelihood a couple of things are going to slip your mind.

If you know someone who’s gotten married recently and already gone through the good and bad of the process, even better. My sister turned to friends who had tied the knot at City Hall, and they gave her step by step guidelines on what to expect. I happened to share Eileen’s great news with a couple of close girlfriends, and they jumped at the opportunity to offer some recommendations. A sorority sister helped me search for restaurants, my best friend reminded me to get a cake (THIS IS IMPORTANT), and another sent me links to wedding dresses.

Freak Out

It’s okay to randomly burst into tears and hate everyone around you when you’re helping to plan one of the biggest days of someone’s life. Snap at the closest person next to you and get irrationally angry at restaurants that can't help you because “what do you mean you can’t get me a private, catered room in three days at the last minute, I only need a table for 20?!” Just remember, it's not the end of the world. Scream, complain, and worry, then have a glass of wine. Woosah…

Be Realistic and Make Some Sacrifices

Weddings are expensive. Did you know bridal bouquets can cost you $400? Because I sure didn't. Let's just let that sink in a little: $400, for a bunch of flowers. We knew we couldn't drop that much with the timeline given, so I had to weigh the options. Don't go jumping at the first things you find. With a little research, we were able to find a beautiful bouquet and boutonniere for a reasonable price.

Most people don’t have a separate savings account dedicated for the rainy day when they decide to have a flash wedding. The key: budget, budget, budget. You and your significant other should have the awkward money talk, or discuss with the two families who's going to foot the bill for what expenses. Not the most pleasant of conversations, but definitely necessary.

Remember the Big Picture

Don't get so lost in the planning and stress that you forget what it's all about. Eileen and Joe were head-over-heels in love and so happy on their wedding day. Mission accomplished, and so worth it.

Image: courtesy of Camille Bautista