The proposal was amazing; who knew he was such a romantic? The hugs, kisses, and congratulations are beginning to die off, and you are left with the seemingly impossible task of planning the wedding. Thoughts race through your mind, “I need a caterer, a reception hall, a church, a dress, flowers, favors, invitations, music, photographers, videographers . . . where on earth do I start?” Your mind’s buzzing slows, you regain your composure, and tell yourself, “I can do this; it can be done.”

Yes, it can be done. This is a common scenario many go through when they come to the realization that the time has finally come for them to plan their wedding. Maybe they have dreamt about their wedding day since they were little, or maybe they have only thought about it from time to time.

Whatever the case, planning a wedding is a formidable task, but there are ways to avoid wedding planning woes. Take it from me; I planned my wedding in six months while being a full-time college student during my last semester before I graduated, and I did this without a wedding planner. The following tips are among the most important in my stress-free wedding planning toolbox.

Know your time frame, but be flexible Perhaps the very first thing you should do when planning your wedding is choose a few dates. Choosing a date early in the planning process is vital because everything revolves around it, from the availability of the caterer to the wedding attendants knowing when to ask for a leave day from work.

Having multiple dates to choose from allows for the opportunity to be flexible if, say, the best man has an important business meeting he absolutely cannot miss scheduled for the day of the wedding. It is important to remember that, while it is your special day, everything else doesn’t stop. The more you are willing to be flexible, the easier this process will be.

The suggested amount of time to spend planning your wedding is about one year; if you don’t have a year or don’t want to wait a year, it is entirely possible to do it in far less time. Beware, though, that most wedding To Do lists found online have very strict deadlines at least twelve months before the wedding date. Don’t pay too much attention to these lists; they are merely guidelines for the order in which you should do things.

Adjust the time frame as necessary, and if your wedding planning is a little out of order, so what. The important thing is knowing that it will all come together in the end, and the way to do this is to have an idea of a date far in advance so you know who will be available. Just make sure that you confirm and reconfirm the date, place, and time with all of your services at least two weeks before the wedding, to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Use your resources

The next thing you need to remember while planning your wedding is that you are not alone. You have friends and family who have special talents that you can use. If your mother has a great taste in food, share the catering menu with her; put your heads together to come up with a great meal for the guests.

If your mother in-law has a knack for decorating, put her in charge of the flowers. If you are making your own invitations, gather together your best girlfriends and have a little party hanging out and making invitations together. Whatever talents your friends and family members have to contribute, do not waste them.

You can also ask for suggestions. Find out what caterers have worked with your chosen reception hall. These caterers will know the policies of the hall and how to best set up the tables for ease of moving around. Sometimes reception halls only allow certain caterers to use the kitchen, and if caterers don’t have to bring their own heating equipment, they may charge you lower fees.

Ask the florist if she knows of any cake designers; sometimes cake designers and florists are in cahoots because cake designers may use fresh edible flowers to decorate their cakes. Once you have found a few services you are happy with and trust, ask for references; the people who work for these services are professionals, and the better they are able to work with other services, the more seamless your wedding will be.

Do it your way

Perhaps the best way to avoid wedding planning woes is to just do things your way. Don’t buy into tradition or what people tell you should be tradition. When choosing wedding favors, you will be bombarded with ideas for fancy chocolates or monogrammed potpourri bags. If these aren’t your thing, don’t use them. Choose a favorite flower and hand out seed packets.

If your wedding is near Independence Day or New Years Day pass out sparklers, poppers, and pop rocks (just respect the building’s fire code). If your caterer doesn’t mind sharing a few trade secrets, hand out cards with the recipes for the wedding meal, so your guests can recreate them later on. Depending on how long you have your hall rented for, decorate yourself. Pull together your mother, future mother in law, brother, sister, cousin, friend, etc. and put your personal touch on the decorations.

Just remember that your wedding is a party to celebrate one of the most important days of your life with those you love. Have fun! Don’t worry about what could go wrong. It is safe to say that the majority of wedding planning stress is anticipatory stress; brides and grooms think what can go wrong will.

Remember that the services you are working with have professionals backing them up. Let them do their jobs, so you can do yours and enjoy being engaged; the more you try to control, the more you will stress about how things will mess up. Remember that your wedding is an occasion to celebrate love; don’t push away those who can help you the most.