Ah, weddings.  Little boys and little girls dream about their weddings as the most amazing day of their lives. They think about walking down the aisle, the music that will play, then the image goes fuzzy and the expectation is that it will all just sort of fall into place.

The reality however, is that while wedding planning can be full of joy and love, it can also be a time of tough decisions and negotiations and in the worst case, stress and panic. Many engaged couples feel so overwhelmed by the process that they often don’t even know where to begin. (One recent study found that 23 percent of men found planning a wedding to be the most stressful thing they had ever done).

Luckily, these five tips will help start the entire wedding planning process off on the right foot and ensure that anyone’s wedding day goes smoothly.

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Hire a seasoned wedding planner

One needs only to watch an episode of “Bridezilla” to learn that wedding planning can be a stressful time for brides and grooms.  The wedding planning process can open a floodgate of opinions from family members and friends who feel that their opinions should be accommodated. Your mom wants a 300-person wedding, while your mother-in-law wants a brass band. Meanwhile, the bride and groom want a destination wedding.  No one can agree and emotions run high.

Enter, the wedding planner. A wedding planner is the perfect third-party intermediary who can help filter all of the personal opinions and keep the wedding planning process on track. According to one wedding planner, “Ninety percent of our job is therapy, 10 percent is actually planning,” A seasoned wedding planner will know how to stay calm and organized amidst the inevitable chaos and multitude of opinions from family and friends. From catering, to wedding logo design, a professional wedding planner is a bride and groom’s best friend.

Decide on a wedding venue first

You can’t have a great wedding without having a venue.  Having a venue gives the couple limitations and in a world of infinite possibilities, limitations can be a very good thing.  For example, picking a venue will also secure a date, time, season, and maximum capacity.

Having the date and time gives the wedding planning team a clear timeline.  Having that timeline can help shape the arc of the planning process and help keep everyone on track.  Having a season helps narrow down choices such as the types of wedding and bridesmaid dresses, color scheme and photography expectations.  Lastly, the maximum capacity will give the couple and their families a clear boundary for the number of guests that they can invite.  The wedding venue really is at the heart of the entire occasion.

Have the couple pick three non-negotiable elements

As the options of wedding planning pile on, it can very easy to get overwhelmed.  It is the couple’s big day and everything feels important! The monogramming on the napkins, the design on the invitation, the color of the groomsmen’s Taft shoes. It can quickly start to feel like the more decisions there are, the more compromises must be made to appease others.  This is why it is important that each partner chooses only a few elements to set his or her heart on.  

When everyone is feeling overwhelmed, as long as those three expectations are met for each person, he or she can step back and be flexible about everything else. This can be a way to avoid many unnecessary arguments and maybe even a few tears.

Get married during the off-season

According to the Knot, the average cost of a wedding venue is more than $16,000. With that being said, if you get married during the off season or on a weekday, that cost is almost certainly going to drop.  If you think your guests can spare a Monday evening for a wedding, go for it! It could be a great way to save some money. Plus, your guests will be thanking you for giving them an excuse to take a day off from work.

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Organizing a wedding can be a stressful process, this is particularly true if you are a bride, groom, or member of the immediate family. To reduce wedding planning stress, and to ensure that the wedding day is a roaring success be sure to keep these tips in mind.

Remember that hiring a professional wedding planner can be a great idea, especially if making compromises or handling many small details feels overwhelming. It is also best to choose a wedding venue early, it can set constraints which might clarify otherwise difficult decisions.

Ensure that the bride and groom have selected a few non-negotiable wedding elements. Other elements should be up for compromise should other parties feel strongly about them. Lastly, consider getting married during the off-season to lower costs.