The clock starts ticking the minute Romeo pops the question and Juliet says yes. Love has never been so sweet but now there are details, details, details to attend to. These tips and secrets to planning your own wedding will minimize some of the stress associated with this life changing event. The sooner the planning begins, the more relaxed the newlyweds will be on the first day of their new life together.

Reserve the reception location immediately. If you can find wedding hotels that offer excellent reception halls then that would be a good idea to go for. The more specific date or bigger the wedding is, the more important it is to secure a reception location immediately. Popular venues often book a year or two in advance; therefore, act quickly to secure your date.

Wedding ceremonies are easy and steeped in tradition. The reception, however, is probably the biggest production you’ll ever stage. Have fun but remember it’s all about the marriage, not the party.

Build a timeline beginning with the wedding date and work backwards, toward the present, so you’ll know exactly how much time to devote to each task.

Wedding Photos

Determine budget before guest list. If you’ve got a $2,000 food and beverage budget, for example, and a guest list of 400, that’s only $5 per person. No caterer can meet that budget and you won’t be able to do it on your own either. Keep the budget and the guest list in sync.

Enlist someone to coordinate details on the big day. This challenge probably means missing the ceremony to make sure all finishing touches are ready for the reception. This is not the job for moms, sisters, bridesmaids, or anybody who wants to watch the ceremony or be in photos afterward. Hire professionals wherever possible but make sure someone outside the wedding party is the designated go-to person. Include this person in as much of the planning process as she will take on.

Go easy on bridesmaids. Don’t force them into debt. Choose bridesmaid dresses that can be worn again. Hire a seamstress to shorten dresses later to make them more wearable. Recycle excess skirt fabric into a shawl, if appropriate.

Reserve a block of hotel rooms for out of town guests. Reserve early and ask for a quantity discount.

Reserve a block of spaces at an RV park for guests who prefer to travel this way. Ask for a discount.

Plan space and activities for children if you invite them. Don’t expect kids to be miniature grownups for hours on end. Place cozy blankets on the lawn at an outdoor reception so kids can nap while moms can chat in comfort; make sure there’s a food and beverage station nearby. Designate a nap or play space for indoor receptions.

Do not schedule a bachelor or bachelorette party the night before the wedding.

Schedule absolutely nothing for the wedding day except the wedding.

Brides, do not upstage the groom. It’s his big day, too. He is your new husband, not a handsome new accessory.

Plan bride-and-groom alone time between the wedding and reception. Give yourselves a quiet moment to say hello. Share a glass of champagne. A private kiss. Breathe.

Incorporate wedding traditions from both sides of the family. Does her family bet on the first baby’s arrival? Make a game of it. Does his family pass around the bride’s shoe for honeymoon spending money? Pass that shoe. Brides, bring comfortable shoes to the reception.

Let bouquets and flower arrangements do double duty at the reception. Have the bride’s bouquet adorn the wedding party table. Put a bridesmaid’s bouquet at the guest sign-in table and the bar. Floral arrangements on church pews or at the alter? Use them at the reception. Some churches require you to donate floral arrangements to the church; ask if you can borrow them for the reception and return them before church services.

Your florist will pick off the outer blemished petals of most flowers going into bouquets, boutonnieres, and floral arrangements. Keep these discarded petals to strew about the food table, bar, sign-in table, or anywhere you want a floral touch.

A free open bar promotes overindulgence and is very expensive. Stick to beer and wine. If cocktails must be served, hire a professional bartender to keep cost to a minimum and minimize legal consequences of drinking and driving.

Make sure the caterer has more food than is expected; spills and other accidents happen. Too much food is always a better problem than too little. If serving buffet style, use servers (professional or volunteer) to eliminate waste and keep the line moving.

Early in the reception, keep music loud enough to enjoy and dance to but soft enough so grandparents can chat while watching the festivities. Once older guests retire, crank up the volume and party the night away!

If budget allows, treat out of town guests to a brunch the morning after the wedding.

Above all else, remember it’s all about the marriage. Enjoy the wedding and reception but never lose sight of their reason for existence. Remember the wedding and reception is merely a celebration of the beginning of a marriage between two people who love each other devotedly. Plan to put as much effort into the marriage as is put into the wedding and reception to ensure a lifetime of joyous memories from this day forward.

Author Bio

Samantha Hunt works at eInvite, an online retailer of wedding invitations, stationery, bar and bat mitzvah invitations, save-the-dates, birthday party invitations, and other custom paper goods.

Photo Credit: Katsu Nojiri