Make the announcement: Some couples just don’t feel right if anyone knows their big news before their parents and other close family members do. If possible, tell both sets of folks in person. If your parents don’t live nearby, put in a special phone call.

Delve into dreams: Sit down with your fiancé and talk ideas. Think about the style you’d like, whether it’s a garden wedding, a sit-down dinner in a ballroom or a ceremony on a mountaintop. No talk of money. Yet.

Rough out the timing: While you don’t have to set a firm date now, it’s smart to have an idea of what month or season you want to marry in. Then you’ll know how long you have to get things organized.

Because your wedding’s size determines where you’ll hold the party, how much it will cost (prices usually rise per guest) and whether travel will be involved, creating a guest list is one of the most important things to do. So make your list; your fiancé and both families should do the same. You can, and likely will, cut later, but this first number will be your base.

Now talk money: It’s rare these days that the bride’s parents pick up the whole bill, so decide on your bottom line. Find out from both sets of parents if or how much they can contribute.

Get organized: Buy a notebook and separate it into sections for each budget category. This way you can write down the amount you want to spend on the item and then note your expenditures. As you near your limits, you can start to figure out ways to cut costs.

Ceremony who and where: Finding an officiant and a ceremony site can be simple — if, say, you wish to marry in your hometown house of worship. Even if you’re no longer living in the area, you may have family who still are and can help out.

 Sometimes for the sake of convenience, couples choose a place that’s in between their homes and their parents’. And then there’s the destination wedding; just make sure that everyone you really want to join you and your groom can afford to travel and is able to make it.

The reception venue: Think again about those wedding dreams, and see how they mesh with reality. Perhaps you envision an outdoor garden. Fine, but what if you can’t find just the right place or the weather is an issue? Maybe there’s a hotel with a pretty courtyard that would suit.

 Some couples find historic homes in their area to rent. Use local resources to narrow down options: a wedding planner or a recently married friend. Check wedding websites and bridal magazines. Then start scheduling visits.

Hiring Your Vendors
Here’s how to hire the best.

Photographer and videographer: The best ones usually book weddings many months in advance, so get on this one early. Get recommendations from friends, then research what kinds of shots you’d like to see — formal portraits and dancing shots or a candid, journalistic format. Always ask to see other wedding albums the pro has done.

Quick tip: Not sure what kind of album you want? Look for photographers with a style and many package choices on offer. You don’t have to make up your mind right away. After the wedding, you may even want to get creative and make your own album.

Musicians: Arrange to hear musicians perform before you sign them on. Make sure they agree to stick to the playlist you give them. Find out how they will dress and how many breaks they will take. Hiring a deejay is usually less expensive than a live band, but not always.

Flowers and décor: Once you have your reception site booked, you can decide on table arrangements and other decorations. A hotel ballroom might be a relatively blank slate, whereas a museum may need little more than simple centerpieces. Be careful only hire a professional  decor company.

Caterer: You want to know how dishes will taste and look and how flexible the caterer is with menus and prices. Don’t be afraid to bargain; you can cut costs by limiting the number .