After years of waiting with your sweetheart, they’ve finally proposed and you couldn’t be happier! After the initial excitement and joy of your engagement subsides, panic may start to set in as you reach the most difficult step of your relationship – planning a wedding. There can be an immense amount of stress that comes from wedding planning, particularly if you’re set with the daunting task of managing the whole thing on your own without the help of a wedding planner. In these trying times you may want to give up and just elope, but with the help of these tips you will be able to take a breath and plan the wedding you’ve always dreamed of.

Make a budget and stick to it

Before looking at venues or dresses or all of the other parts of the wedding that will cost you big bucks, be sure to set a budget for yourself. This budget should be detailed, instead of just a big number for all of the costs break it down by section. Be sure to account for flowers, dress, venue, food, alcohol, and more. If you take the time to create a detailed budget for yourself, there will never be a moment where you’re not sure whether or not you can afford something. If you don’t know where to start, keep this formula in mind – about 50% of your budget will go to reception, 8-10% to flowers, 8-10% for attire, 8-10% for entertainment, 10-12% for photo/video, 2% for invites, 3% for gifts, and 8% for miscellaneous expenses like a day-of coordinator. It’s important to set aside an extra 5-10% of your money for surprise expenses to cover all of your bases.

Guests come first

Something else to consider before you begin the actual research of wedding planning, nail down the number of guests you’ll invite to the wedding. This way you’ll be sure to have adequate space for all your friends and family. If you want to get into the nitty gritty numbers of it all, you should allow 25-30 square feet per guest. That number accounts for tables, waiters, band or DJ and dance floor space. Keep in mind, if your budget is getting too big, you can always trim the guest list and this may even allow you to book a smaller, more affordable venue.

Check your credit

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but weddings are expensive business! You can take advantage of the high cost of your wedding by signing up for a credit card with a good rewards program. Whether you choose one with airline miles or great shopping deals, consolidating all of your wedding-related purchases to this one card will allow you to accumulate thousands of reward points. You can then use these reward points for airfare for your honeymoon or something awesome for yourselves after the big day. If you think a wedding might just be too costly for you right now, you can always take out a loan to give you a little extra to make your day as special as you want it.

Organization is key

With the amount of options available to you when it comes to your wedding, things can get incredibly overwhelming. For many people it helps to get focused and organize everything you need in one place. Get an old school three ring binder and compile all of your vendor correspondence, photos or tear sheets from magazines you want your vendors to use, budget information, and anything else pertaining to the wedding. If it helps, setup a separate email account dedicated to your wedding where you’ll do all of your vendor corresponding, receive online RSVPs, and anything else digitally. It’s also beneficial to store important vendor numbers on your phone along with anything you’ll want constant access to – for whenever you don’t have your binder. Be sure to plan your wedding logically, one step at a time. Start with the date/venue and work from there on getting vendors, booking music, and more related to the reception/space. Don’t take on too much too quickly, or the stress will just snowball around you.

Be realistic with your time

This tip applies not only to the actual day of the wedding, but also the planning leading up to the big day. As you get closer and closer to the ceremony, time will seem to slip away from you and the menial tasks will really pile up. If you’re stressing about how you’ll be able to get everything done in time, just cut some of the list. Keep the important tasks like deciding on a processional song and confirming details with your vendors, but you don’t have to do all of the “Pinterest touches” to your wedding to make it special. This is a day you’ll never forget, but your guests probably won’t remember if you hand decorated cupcakes for each of them to enjoy when they arrived at the hotel.   

Though the planning part of your wedding may seem daunting at this point, hopefully the tips here have helped assuage your wedding-related worries. If you put these tips to the test, you should get some relief from the chaos of planning and allow yourself some time to breathe and look forward to the best day of your life.