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An Expert Wedding Planner's Top Five Do's Before You Say 'I Do'

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This happy couple let <a href="">Glow Event Design</a> do the planning for them. Photo by <a href="">Victoria Lara Photography</a>
This happy couple let Glow Event Design do the planning for them. Photo by Victoria Lara Photography

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When you start planning a wedding, you'll quickly learn that everyone around you is a wedding expert: Your mother, your best friend, your neighbor who watched The Wedding Planner and now swears by J. Lo's advice that you can mitigate a self-tanning disaster with a "quarter cup of lemon juice, half cup of salt and a loofah. (Spoiler: It doesn't work.)

Couples are flooded with unsolicited tips about wedding planning, but what they really need is guidance from a professional — someone like award-winning San Francisco event planner Christina Millikin from Glow Event Design.

Christina knows a thing or two about saying "I do," and has a few practical suggestions for couples planning the big day.

1. Set a budget before you start planning.

The number one way to spend out of control, Christina says, is to not start with a number. It's okay to make adjustments, but you should begin with a dollar amount, and then estimate what you will spend in each category (e.g., flowers, catering, attire, etc.).

2. Be honest with vendors?and yourself.

When interviewing vendors, be up front about how much you plan to spend with them. If you don't, you might receive quotes that are significantly higher than your budget permits, which wastes everyone's time. In your initial call to a vendor, ask, "Do you have a minimum price for events?" If a florist's minimum is $6,000, and you only have $3,000 to spend on flowers, it's time to move on.

3. Delegate the small stuff.

Even the Beatles got by with a little help from their friends. If friends and family offer to help, let them. Bridesmaids will be happy to move your overnight bag to the bridal suite. Groomsmen can be tasked with walking grandma from the ceremony to the reception. There's no need to do everything yourself.

4. Create a backup plan for bad weather.

If you're the type of person who will freak out if the ceremony has to be moved at the last minute, then you shouldn't get married outside. But if your heart is set on vows by sunset, consider a venue that has both indoor and outdoor options. (The Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay is a swanky local choice that offers the best of both worlds.)

5. Make sure your wedding reflects you.

Traditions have changed. If you don't want a wedding cake, consider cookies, ice cream, or pie. If you don't want to get married in a church, think about a museum or local landmark (like the Castro Theatre). Be sure to add personal touches that represent you, whether it's a puppy ring bearer or a family-filled flash mob.

Your wedding should be celebratory, not stressful. If you're planning your big day by yourself, heed Christina's advice. It could mean the difference between a magical event and a bridal meltdown.Robyn Hagan Cain
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