@Shylis: Congrats on your engagement!
How are you liking RCIA? Are you considering converting?
Is your FI deployed? (I might’ve missed that somewhere)
Okay first piece of advice – don’t book anything until you book the church. Some churches might say you need to finish pre-Cana before you can book, but that is definitely not the Law or anything. Explain your situation, and they should let you book a church. Most brides book a venue first, but for Catholic brides its really important to book the church first since you can’t really go church shopping or just decide to get married at your venue or something.
You can definitely pull a wedding together by November. If you get your church/venue booked now (which you can do without him, I mean, maybe not as fun without him, but your mom or sisters or friends or whomever will have more fun looking at venues than he probably will). The rest of it can be put together in a few months. We planned our wedding from February to August, and it was fine. Don’t let wedding websites fool you. You don’t need to pick your flowers 8 months out. Just some people do.
So as far as non-Church parts of the wedding, if you want to, go ahead and book things like the venue, photographer, caterer, florist. You can figure out details like menus and decorations when he gets back. Your caterer won’t need to know what you are having months ahead of time anyway.
As far as the Church goes, you can definitely plan that when he gets back. Its not something you should throw together last minute, but its not like it has to be set in stone super early either. A good resource for wedding planning is: http://www.foryourmarriage.org.
A Catholic wedding is basically like a normal Sunday mass, with the couple saying the vows between where the homily and where the Prayers of the Faithful are. If you aren’t Catholic when you get married, then the wedding will probably just be the Rite of Marriage, and not a mass. Meaning that you’ll stop after the prayers of the faithful (well, plus a few more prayers after that) and won’t have communion.
If you’ve never been to a wedding, talk to your church and ask if you can go to one. Technically anyone can go to a Catholic wedding because they are church events. (Though usually people only come if they are invited, you don’t have to worry about the whole parish crashing). If your church has a wedding coordinator, ask him/her about it and if they know a bride that would be okay with you coming and just sitting in the back. It’s a really important sacrament to receive, so I think its important to see it before hand. I mean, nothing weird goes on or anything, but its just good to know what you’re doing.
If you want to, you can message me and I’ll send you a link to my blog. I’m writing about my wedding right now and going over the parts of the mass and all.
As far as pre-Cana, we did ours in a total of about 2 months. Talk to your church and see if you will need to go on a retreat (its usually part of it). If so, you will need to make sure those dates work with your time schedule. Our Pre-Cana was a few classes and being matched with a sponsor couple. I’ve heard of on-line options, but if you have the time to do it person to person, its really great and I would really encourage it.