Wedding planning tips

Planning a wedding is more than finding a church, a dress and a cake. It takes preparation to pull the whole thing off.  Here are some tips on how to plan your big day with a limited amount of prep time.

Start with your budget.  The average cost of a wedding is in the neighborhood of $27,000, so you need to make hard choices. You can make changes to your vision to fit within a budget, but don't try to blow the lid off the spending limit just because you saw the perfect pumpkin carriage pulled by six horses that fits your Cinderella fairy tale perfectly.

One of the biggest factors in total cost is the number of guests. Don't be surprised if both sets of parents want to invite everyone they've ever met, including the cashier at the supermarket they frequent. Make sure they understand that not everyone on the list will receive an invite, unless it fits within your budget. You do need an idea of how many people you want to invite - the operative word here is "you" - in order to choose the venue. If you choose the venue first, you may find it's not large enough to accommodate your guest list.

If all this wedding planning hasn't caused you to pull out your hair, you might consider a professional wedding planner before you turn into a bald bridezilla. Wedding planners can help with all the small details you might otherwise forget. They also work with several vendors, such as caterers, photographers, florists, party rentals and lighting designers.  Although it may seem like one more cost, a wedding planner can also save you money with discounts that might not be offered to you when planning a wedding on your own.  If nothing else, a planner can keep the budget under control.  You set the limit and the planner's job is to work within that amount.

When you shop for you dress, make sure it fits your current body size. Don't buy it two sizes too small with the intent on losing 20 pounds before your wedding. Remember, this is your dress, not your sister's, your mother's or your best friend's. Choose a dress that makes you feel beautiful. Make sure the bridesmaids and your mother know they can have a voice when they choose their dresses, but your wedding dress choice is off-limits.

If you're having an outdoor wedding, have you taken into consideration the weather and the uninvited winged guests that might show up? Whether it's an open or cash bar, make sure you have at least one bartender for every 50 guests. Make sure there are enough tables and chairs for all of your guests, work on the seating chart and don't forget the linens. Order your invitations, decide on the music, choose the menu and the cake, hire a photographer, get your flowers and make sure to hire an officiant.

Whether you plan all of these details yourself or work with a planner, Angie's List can help.  Florists, photographers, caterers -- and, of course, weddeing planners -- are all categories on the list.  Just search your city for the catetory and look for service providers who have received rave reviews and top grades from past customers who are also Angie's List members.

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