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Realize the wedding of your dreams with planning

Decide on a date

Couples should select a date for their wedding soon after becoming engaged. After all, it is the countdown to this day that will help organize and determine planning schedules.

Reserve a ceremony location

Traditional weddings take place in a house of worship. It's best to meet with a pastor, rabbi or other officiant to see if the ceremony site will be available for the wedding. This person will also help guide couples through any religious requirements needed prior to getting married there, as well as any rules and regulations for the ceremony site.

Book a reception site

After securing the ceremony location, couples will have peace of mind knowing they can now book the place where their party will take place. This may be a catering hall, hotel, cruise ship, or even someone's backyard. Sometimes the ceremony site is also the reception site, as is the case in many second weddings. Catering directors are typically on hand to talk about pricing and options. They will work closely with the couple to plan and execute the reception.

Select a photographer

Photographers tend to book very quickly, particularly if they are well recommended. It pays to research and choose one early in the wedding-planning process. Every photographer has a different style. The couple should select one who will not only be accommodating to their wishes, but who will also suggest ideas that may not have been considered, such as artistic black and white prints or photo journalism-type images. The photographer's personality is very important. He or she will be spending the entire day with the couple and should be likable and personable. Couples should also find out if the photographer they speak with at the studio will be the one shooting the wedding. Some companies have several photographers on hand.

Book a band or DJ

Another vendor that tends to have a busy schedule will be the wedding entertainer. Early booking ensures your date will be available. Couples should talk about musical selections and the ways to engage the various generations attending the reception.

Choose a florist

Flowers add an elegant touch to the wedding day. A florist will often provide flowers for both the ceremony and the reception. Select a florist who offers helpful, creative ideas about bouquets, corsages and centerpieces - and who will deliver in a timely manner.

Select and order dresses

Wedding and bridesmaid gowns can take several months to order and be tailored. It can also take some trial and error finding a dress shop that meets the needs of a bride and her attendants. So it's best if this fun part of wedding planning is done early on. While there are no set rules for gown selection, it may help if the bride and her attendants all use the same shop so that styles will be complementary and service and alterations can be organized with minimal fuss.

Order invitations

With a bevy of styles of invitations, there will be many ideas to consider. Couples should leave ample time to look through sample books or do research on the Internet. They should decide on a style that best suits their wedding, based on its formality, the time of day and the wedding colors.

Choose transportation

Many couples forget to factor limousine or car rentals into their plans. Whether it's a limo, Rolls, horse-drawn carriage, or a party bus, the bride and groom should arrange for transportation for themselves and their attendants to and from the church and reception.

Find formal wear

Tuxedo rentals are quite popular for weddings. If the wedding is taking place during a peak party season, such as prom time, it pays for couples to reserve tuxes several months in advance. All of the groomsmen should rent from the same shop to be uniform.

With these decisions made, the bride- and groom-to-be have only a few things left to do, such as selecting wedding favors, addressing invitations and purchasing thank-you gifts. -(MS)