Wedding in Tuscany CertaldoThere is no other day in your life quite like your wedding say. Sure, there are other big days that you’ll remember forever: graduations, the birth of a child, the day you buy your first home, etc. But it’s your wedding day that you begin to fantasize about at a young age. If you’re in the period of your life when your wedding day is actually in the foreseeable future, fantasies can quickly turn into headaches. Wedding dresses can require months of alterations. Venues could be booked solid. Prices could be insane.

It should be noted that the average wedding cost was around $28,000 last year. If that figure makes your jaw drop, don’t panic right away. Averages can be misleading and you certainly don’t need to spend $28,000 to have a lovely wedding. However, if you want to approach something approximating the wedding of your dreams, it’s going to cost you a bit. But that’s okay; there are smart ways to go about planning your wedding. If you fear that by the time you walk down the aisle you’ll have ripped all your hair out due to stress, stop worrying and check out the following tips for planning your wedding without going crazy.

1. Check here how to allocate your budget on average

Still uncertain? Download your interactive offline  Wedding Budget Calculator

2. Get going ASAP

Four months from now is not the time to start planning your wedding. Once the initial glow of the engagement begins to wear off, it’s time to start doing the serious work. Get prices for halls, consider how big your guest list is going to be, will there be a religious portion of the ceremony, etc. The longer you wait, the fewer choices you’ll have, and the more stress you’ll have.

3. Determine your guest list early and keep it to a minimum

Of course you want to have as many people as you can at your wedding. But the fact is, the more people you feel you need to include, the bigger the venue needed, the more food that has to be ordered, and so on. The guest list is your first priority because it dictates how the rest of the process goes.

4. Get your dress next

Your dress can take longer than you may think in order to be ready once all the alterations are finally done. Whether you’re looking to pick through a selection of Lazarro wedding dresses or you’re using a hand me down that’s going to need alterations, you don’t want to drag your feet on getting the process started. It’s not unheard of for a dress to take months before it’s finally finished.

That’s a good jumping off point for someone just starting to plan her wedding. The key is to act as soon as possible once you know that you intend to get married within the next year or so. The general rule of thumb is the longer you wait to book venues, order food, or get a dress, the fewer options you’ll have. And those options will no doubt be more expensive. Still worried and overwhelmed? Hire a wedding planner who will do all the bookings for you and coordinate your vendors and the wedding date to be relieved from any stress. This is priceless!!! So plan soon and plan smart with a wedding planner and you’ll have a wedding that is as stress free as possible so you can focus on the most important thing: the happiest day of your life.

Jessica Smeale decides to plan her wedding early so she has enough time to get everything she wants.