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Simple steps ease stress

Because there are so many things to think about when planning a wedding, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by details.

Before you get started with any wedding plans, discuss the following things with your fiance: How big will this wedding be? Will it be formal or informal? What's the budget? Should the wedding feel small and intimate or large and festive?

Consider hiring a professional wedding coordinator. This will help you avoid getting loads of unsolicited advice and keep things objective. This person will handle detailed lists of things that need special attention, including names and phone numbers of the businesses you've hired, the arrival and departure times of musicians, photographers, videographers and entertainers, and where they will be setting things up.

If you're looking to cut costs, you may want to consider an off-season wedding. Scheduling the event in January through May or late October through November can help save money, as can planning an afternoon or mid-week celebration.

Always check references.The best way to research a business is to talk with past customers. In addition, many state and private agencies can provide information about a business's reputation.

Once you've decided on the businesses you want to hire, insist on a contract. This is a must when money is being exchanged.

Don't sign anything that you haven't read completely, that makes you feel uncomfortable, or that you can't afford.

Make sure you know what the penalty is for withdrawing or canceling, and if the business you've chosen doesn't have a formal contract, make your own and have them sign it.

Ask about deposits. Arrangements aren't usually considered valid - and often aren't even recorded - until a deposit has been received.

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