It’s been a while since I did a wedding post and for good reason. The wedding planning has officially gone from laid back and nonchalant to full on stress mode. Which brings me to writing about the five most important take aways I’ve garnered so far in planning my spring 2014 nuptials.

1. Don’t be fooled into thinking you have more than enough time when you set your wedding date for a year in advance.

At first when you are in the heady glow of newly engagement, it’s easy to agree on the wedding date and then take some time off to just enjoy your new status. Bad idea. While I do think you need some down time to enjoy the moment, the wedding planning should start pretty soon after you have nailed the date. I’m in awe at how many little details there are to figure out and how many unforeseen little disasters come up. Even when planning a small wedding there is just an overwhelming amount of stuff to think about. You want to allow yourself enough time to rework alternatives in case your initial plans are proving to be too problematic. Once contracts have been agreed upon and signed, changing dates and venues can become a nightmare task.

2. Decide on all the major stuff early.

And what is the major stuff? The wedding date. An estimate of the number of guests based on a preliminary guest list. Where the wedding will take place and the location of the reception. The size of your wedding party. The wedding budget and who will pay for what in that budget. The sooner you nail down the big stuff, the easier it will be to plan all the stuff that comes after.

3. Don’t follow traditions that don’t make sense to you as a couple or to your budget.

In researching what is expected to be included in our wedding day and looking at the cost of some of these items, I simply don’t see any reason to do many of them. Recently I’ve been getting costs for things like wedding cakes, favors, photographers and even officiants and I’m awed by the prices. With so many things to choose from and so many costs attached, it’s easier to find low cost alternatives or cut things out altogether that don’t make a lot of sense for us, especially because we are having a small wedding.

4. What seems like a silly thing actually makes more sense then you’d think.

I never seriously considered the idea of a wedding theme. I barely wanted to pick wedding colors, so I left that up to the groom. Now that I have so many decisions to make about table setups, invitations and flowers, having a theme and color scheme really does help to narrow down the endless array of choices.

5. Be as informed as possible before settling on any choice.

I picked a wedding venue and set a date but I forgot to check one very important detail. Conventions and large festivals can wreak havoc on a wedding, especially if there is a large one in town. Large scale conventions eat up hotel rooms and elevate the remaining inventory to obscene price points. If you are planning a destination wedding in a major city, or expect to have a lot of out of town guests, hotel availability should play a big part in deciding the wedding date and location. Check with the major hotels in your area and ask them if there are any big events happening during the weekend of your desired wedding date and then plan accordingly.