When you first start planning your wedding, there are things that are nice to know (like the hottest wedding colors of the year). Then, there are things you need to know — advice so essential that any bride who’s lucky enough to hear it thinks, “I’m so glad someone told me that!” These are those.

1. DON’T BOOK YOUR VENUE BEFORE YOU HIRE A PLANNER.

Venue selection is the starting point, but if you are able to work with a planner, involving them first can be a lifesaver. “Some clients inquire about our services after they have already booked their wedding venue, but the venue can dictate almost all of your wedding-planning decisions, which isn’t always ideal if you are not aware of this,” says Lindsey Norton of L. Brook Events. “Does your venue have the ability to fit 200 people, with a dance floor and a stage for a 10-piece band? If your guest count exceeds a certain number are you required to rent bathrooms? These are all questions that you may not know to ask, but your planner does.”

2. PEAK WEDDING MONTHS ARE EXPENSIVE

June to August is peak wedding season, and everything is at a premium cost during this time. Consider getting married earlier in the year, when winter is no longer as severe, and spring is just about to arrive. Or, you can consider early fall for your wedding, as venues often slash their prices this time of the year.

3. LIGHTEN YOUR LIST

The easiest way to trim your wedding budget? Cut your guest list. We know that might seem impossible to those with large families and friends from all over the place, but consider this: Half of your wedding expenses go to wining and dining your guests. If it’s costing you $100 per person, eliminating one table of 10 can save you $1,000. Not to mention, you just took away a floral centerpiece, 10 place setting rentals, 10 invitations, 10 favors, and more, saving you thousands.

4. IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO

You’re getting married, not having a birthday party. Remember: Your wedding is about two people coming together—and the celebration should reflect that. “Stop comparing your wedding to what your friends have done in the past, what you see on Pinterest, and what your friends and family are telling you need to do,” says Morgan Perrone of Valley Flower Company. “It has to be what feels true to you as a couple. If it means having 1,000 red balloons because it reminds you of your first date, by all means, have the balloons and don’t let anybody tell you it’s stupid. Don’t worry what people think or say about your wedding.”

5. GET ORGANIZATIONALLY FOCUSED

Before you meet with any vendors or sign any checks, set up your online checklist, budgeter, and guest list manager. Get a three-ring binder to use to compile all your correspondences with vendors, notes you make during meetings, and photos or tear sheets from magazines you want vendors to see. It’s also a good idea to set up a special email address dedicated to your wedding (so that you can easily access all wedding-related emails).

6. BEFORE YOU GO WEDDING SHOPPING

Wedding dresses are crucial to transforming you into a splendid bride, however they can be quite pricey. Before you step into the shop, do your research and know your options. Here are some ways to make the most of your wedding dress budget.

Consider more than one style: If you keep your options open, it is easier to find a dress that falls within budget. Do your research ahead of time, and identify which styles will look good on you. Then look at dresses in these styles and choose the one that you are satisfied with, both in look and in price.

Look at the clearance and sale section: Many bridal will always have dresses on discounts and on sale. Before you look at the latest collection, it may be a good idea to see what is available in the sale section. You may find a dress that is quite similar to what you love in the current collection, at a fraction of a price.

Wait for trunk shows: Trunk shows are a bride’s dream-come-true, especially if you are in a standard 8-12 size group. These shows allow you to find the dress of your dreams at a reduced cost. If you are engaged for a year or more, it is likely that you will come across at least one trunk show during this time. So, call up the boutiques in the area and find out whether they have one scheduled in the near future. Put off your wedding shopping session till after wards, so you can take a chance and hope to find your wedding dress at the trunk show.

7. PROVIDE ACCURATE DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Make sure guests know where they’re going. As easy as online map programs are to use, sometimes the directions are wrong or there’s a quicker, less traffic-prone route to take. Ask your ceremony and reception sites for printouts of recommended driving directions, which they often keep in stock for weddings and will give to you for free, and test out the routes yourself.

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