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Are wedding bells in your near future? If so, congratulations — and get ready! While you may have long dreamed of the day you’d put on a white dress or the day you’d see your bride walk down the aisle, it’s unlikely that you imagined the amount of planning and emotional turmoil you’d go through along the way.

Planning a wedding can be one of the most financially taxing things you do as an adult and will be a crash course on how your money philosophy differs from your parents, your fiancé, and your fiancé’s parents. Luckily, there are things you can do to make this ride as smooth as possible. So read on to find out how to stay sane while planning a wedding.

Don’t Fear the Budget

It’s no secret that I love to talk finance and that includes talking about the ever-dreaded budget. If this word truly makes your ears bleed, switch it out with “spending plan.” Similar concept and results, but a different point of view. A budget is meant to keep you on track. A spending plan helps you feel in control and empowered.

Before even setting a budget for your wedding, make sure your overall household budget is optimized so you can save money prior to your big day. Also, if you have any debt (credit card or otherwise), be sure to plan for how your wedding costs will fit into your debt repayment.

Once you have your financial big picture in mind, it’s time to set your wedding budget. Don’t even think about signing up for wedding websites or going dress shopping before you first sit down and discuss this with your fiancé. There are an overwhelming number of options out there and the more you see, the more confused you’ll probably get. Just like you wouldn’t jump off a ship without a life preserver, don’t start planning without a set budget in mind.

Categorize & Prioritize

Once you know the number you’re working with, you’re almost ready to hit the pavement. Almost. Again, even the most avid wedding lover might not realize the sheer volume of options there are when it comes to venues, dresses, cakes, decorations, and so on. To make sure that you don’t lose all control of your budget before you’ve even picked out invitations, start categorizing and prioritizing.

First, the categories. Aside from everything mentioned above, you’ll have to think about location, potential travel arrangements, tuxedos, pre-wedding parties, wedding favors, photographers, etc. Discuss where you think you’ll want to get married, what type of place you want it to be in, how many people you will need to accommodate for, what kind of food you’ll want to serve, answer the alcohol or no alcohol question and so on. Then write down each category on a sheet of paper and leave room for notes.

Second, prioritize. Take another sheet of paper and write down the things you expect to cost the most — plus the things on which you want to spend more.

For example, for my fiancé and I, it was all about the location. But I still wanted to have more money for the dress than for things like centerpieces. My fiancé was willing to meet me halfway if I was willing to accommodate the number of guests he wanted. That was how we prioritized.

When you’re ready, order your list from top to bottom of things you’ll allot the most money too. That way you can be sure not to splurge on wedding favors when you’ve already decided you want more wiggle room for choosing a top-notch photographer.

Communicate

This point should probably first. But I’m putting it here because I want you to walk away remembering it above all else. You should really think about this in the beginning, the middle and all the way through to the big day. You and your fiancé need to communicate with each other and your families. Perhaps someone doesn’t understand the decisions you’re making, why you chose the budget you did or who’s paying. Don’t wait until arguments break out and feelings get hurt to communicate. Start early and keep it up often.

You will hear many people say that this is “your day.” That’s only partially true. You are combining two families and the only way to help them understand what you want is to talk it out. If you don’t try to incorporate some of their wishes, you could end up with a rocky start to this soon-to-be combined family.

Remember, being in a relationship is not about always getting what you want. Sometimes you have to meet your partner halfway and maybe even agree to things you’ve never considered before. This can be hard to do but it can also lead to great personal growth. The same goes for creating a new family: communication and compromise are key.

Weddings can be stressful, but when all is said and done this will be one of the most memorable days of your life. Follow these steps to staying sane while you plan a wedding and you can ensure that you always look back and cherish this memory – not just of the day, but of the whole process.

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