NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Weddings aren't born when an engagement ring finds its finger, but in the list-writing, vendor-calling, deposit-check-writing weeks that follow.
Couples who aren't planning their wedding shortly after the ring is out and the parents are told are destined to be eaten alive by a wedding industry with painfully tight timetables and pitifully low tolerance for slackers. The average engagement is little less than 14 months, according to TheKnot.com (KNOT) and WeddingChannel.com's Real Weddings survey, and 43% of couples are engaged for more than a year.
That's great, because they're going to need every day of it if they're going to book a Saturday night wedding slot (which Donne Kerestic, CEO of 1-800Registry, says 80% of engaged couples choose for their special day -- many booking a year in advance or more). Photographers are in similar demand, mostly because the nation's 541,900 businesses serving the wedding industry are pressed into service 77 times a year, or for roughly 1.5 weddings a week, according to wedding market research firm The Wedding Report.
This makes for a lot of frustrated couples and frazzled families, as the Real Weddings survey found that the average couple doesn't start planning a wedding until 10.6 months before the date, with only 28% of couples planning more than a year in advance. Even when couples do plan that far in advance, they're still procrastinating. The average couple spends 3.4 hours a week planning the wedding when they have a 10- to 12-month buffer between them and the aisle, but cram 11.3 hours of wedding planning into a week when the wedding's less than three months away.With demand for wedding services increasing and the amount couples are willing to spend on their ceremony and reception growing, a wedding shouldn't be treated like a junior high algebra exam given the Monday after a weekend. Instead of playing around on their Bed, Bath & Beyond (BBBY), Target (TGT - Get Report) and Macy's (M - Get Report) registries for months and cramming a bunch of details and stress into the last minutes before marriage, couples should consider tackling these five tasks as early as possible: