See what the experts have to say.

After watching friends endure a seemingly endless year of wedding planning, you know a short engagement is for you, right? Well, if you’re daydreaming of a dapper celebration with hundreds of guests, a big church ceremony, white-gloved servers, and a sunset over the marsh, you may find yourself changing your tune. It’s not that you want to be drowning in wedding details for months on end, but pulling off the perfect Southern wedding for a big crowd can take some time.

How much time, you ask?

“Ideally, nine months,” says Charleston wedding planner Calder Clark. “More than a year is tiresome for all parties, and less than nine months poses problems for composing a great creative team.”

We’re not saying a shorter timeline isn’t possible. Calder once even pulled of a large Southern affair in less than one month, shockingly enough. But, it’s true that you’ll likely run into some speed bumps. At less than nine months, you not only run the risk of top vendors already being booked, but you’ll also be tight on your wedding gown shopping timeline. Calder also cautions that some personalization, such as custom stationary suites, can get tricky and costly in a tighter timeframe.

On the other hand, too much time is a problem. “The longer you have, the more you second guess your very reasonable and tasteful decisions. Pondering a shade of green becomes a heated debate,” warns Calder.

Most importantly, newly engaged couples should approach planning in a way that fits their lifestyle and schedule. Couples earning graduate degrees, remolding a home, or managing major projects at work already have a lot on their hands. Add in a dose of SEC football games and family commitments, and you can find yourself with a timeline puzzle on your hands. Calder advises working up a date matrix and projecting all of the possibilities with family and close friends before nailing down a date and exact timeframe.

Ready to start planning? If nine months sounds reasonable for your schedule, check out Calder’s overall wedding planning timeline, and you’ll be on your way to bringing your big, Southern wedding dreams to life in no time.

One Year Out: You’ve got the ring! Enjoy your engagement for a moment. Take a deep breath and soak it all up, because it all flies by before you know it.

9 Months: Hire a visionary planner and designer, venue, photographer, band, caterer, and floral designer (in that order).

7-8 Months: Begin designing the stationery suite, securing your gown, jewelry, shoes, and wedding party attire.

5-6 Months: Begin planning your honeymoon.

3-4 Months: Nail down the design, including rentals, florals, lighting, sound, tenting and the like.

2 Months: Work with your planner on final orders, production, and details.

1 Month: Let the experts deal with the final touches while you head to the nail salon, spend time with family as they arrive in town, and keep taking those deep breaths.