It’s no secret, nor is it rocket science or brain surgery that weddings are stressful events. However, they still keep happening, in spite of the tantrums and the Bride-zillas, in spite of the recession which keeps driving costs upwards and your dream day plans down the drain. If you’re thinking of starting to plan your very own day to remember, read on, for the absolute essential checklist in terms of wedding items. These are things you are bound to mull over, during the next couple of months, but having them in list form in front of your very eyes can but help keep you levelheaded, grounded and organized. Good luck!

1. The Date

Have you and your beau/belle set a date? If not, you’d better get going with it, because time waits for no one. If you want to stand at least a slight chance at making things happen or at booking your place of choice, be it a restaurant, a spot on the beach, a grand ballroom or a lovely open-air terrace, you generally need to start making arrangements at least six months beforehand.

2. The Theme

Will your wedding be a classical fairytale? Will it have an ethnic theme, inspired by your roots or by your husband’s roots? Will you be traveling for the event? What about a movie theme? An aquatic wedding? Any theme you select is bound to affect the outcome and the specifics of the event from the overall plan down to the most minute details. As such, it’s probably wise to narrow your options down at least, right from the very beginning.

3. The Venue

As we were saying earlier, wedding-appropriate venues tend to get booked quicker than hotcakes are sold, so get going with your planning, especially if you’re thinking of getting married at the peak of the wedding season (anytime from June until September). Otherwise, you risk ending up someplace you’d never even set foot in, much less get married there. After you’ve selected your venue, you need to talk to the manager, tell them how many attendees you plan to have and express any particular demands you need met, such as arrangements for a live band or, you know, live doves being released halfway through the party…

4. The Guests

And since we mentioned attendance earlier, the guest list is probably the one item on this list that will be giving you the biggest headaches. Why? Because human relationships are complex and intense like that. Anyone from your parents to your future spouse will want to have a say in this and you’ll slowly start discovering the underlying tensions and animosities in your family. The golden rule of thumb here is that you can and should invite anyone who matters, just as long as the seating plan is well designed enough to keep sparks from flying on your big day.

5. The Invitations

Many brides-to-be fuss a whole lot over the issue of invitations, which have come to be regarded as the wedding’s business card, so to speak. There are plenty of technical aspects to consider here, from the type of card to be used, to fonts, layout, envelopes and, of course, cost. But the most important thing, which many often overlook, is the actual message expressed by the invitation. Try to think specific, not generic, and come up with a text that says something about you and your spouse—be it funny, emotional or inspirational.

6. Maids of Honor

This is yet another wedding moot point, which has been known to make and/or break several long-standing friendships over the course of human existence. You will want the maids of honor to be your nearest and dearest female friends, but before you contact them for the event, make sure they can hold down their alcohol and that they get along with one another, at least superficially. Otherwise, the drama-charged atmosphere at the event is likely to cause some incidents you would much rather avoid. Trust us.

7. Flowers

Irrespective of whether or not you actually like flowers, everyone will expect to see them at the wedding. Color coordination is the key concept here, and if you’ve hired a wedding planner, your task is half-done already. Professional planners will usually discuss the issue with an expert florist, who will know what flowers are appropriate and which ones aren’t and will help you make the right selection, perfect for expressing your unique personality.

8. The Groom’s Outfit

The groom’s tuxedo is by no means any less important than the bridal dress. It should not be gaudy, it should match the theme and the dress, it should go with a good pair of dress shoes, and, most importantly… it should fit! Many a wedding picture has been destroyed in its day by the groom’s drooping coat shoulders. Avoid this fashion faux pas by preparing to invest some good money into the tuxedo rental. You’ll be thanking yourself in the years to come after the wedding.

9. The Dress

Yes, the dress is possibly more important than anything else at the wedding. There are some lucky women out there who have known what they want their wedding dress to look like ever since they were twelve. If you don’t fall in that special category, however, your best bet is to approach a professional designer, who will, at the very least, tell you what cuts would flatter your form.

10. The Ring

Probably the only one item that is more important than the dress, the ring is bound to cause you a fair share of stress, if for no other reason than what Hollywood teaches us: wedding rings always get lost right before the priest will have you saying I do. With respect to the materials or stones you should select, this decision is entirely personal and based on anyone’s personal preferences and tastes. One word of advice, though: if you’re the bride, always discuss what you like and don’t like in terms of jewelry with your husband before he actually goes out and pays big money for an expensive ring… which you end up disliking.