1. Venue first

Book your venue before you do anything else. Before you plan your decor around a dozen long tables or extra-tall centrepieces, secure your venue so you can see exactly what will and won't work. (One year is not too far ahead to book.)

2. Find a good photographer

Find a photographer or videographer who suits you and your fiancé's personalities. You spend up to eight hours with this person on the most important day of your life, so their personality should not put a dampener on your day.

3. Ask for a discount

If you get married on any day other than a Saturday, you may be eligible for major discounts. Most venues and suppliers set their rates for 'in-demand' Saturday afternoons, so ask for a discount because rates on other days may be cheaper.

4.Get it in writing

Get everything in writing from suppliers and read the fine print. Written cost estimates should be carefully checked and physically signed off by you or your partner. Couples have been caught out in the past by, for instance, hotels that charge double rates after certain hours. Also, set a limit on your bar bill, because no-one wants to cancel their honeymoon just to pay off the tequila.

5. Learn to barter

Negotiate with everyone. You can save valuable money if you play tough and convince suppliers to drop their costs.

6. Send out your 'save-the-date' notes early

Send out save-the-date notices as soon as you've confirmed your wedding date. This will ensure that all your special people have your date diarised and can book their plane tickets. Snail- and e-mail notices are both fine.

7. Get the invites out ASAP

Wedding invitations should be sent out at least two months before your wedding.

8. Take a course.

Many wedding consultants began their careers by doing short courses while planning their own weddings. A short course such as INTEC's wedding consultant course ( www.intec.edu.za) can be taken via distance learning. It will equip you to plan your own wedding and may just send you off in a great new career direction!

9. Choose the right person for the job

Choose a marriage officer (priest, rabbi, imam or guru) who knows his or her stuff. They should be able to advise you about the legalities, paperwork and order of ceremony. For instance, a wedding is only legally binding if the register is signed in a religious building, private home or government office. Plus, South African citizens must present valid green ID books; passports are not permissible.

10. The cost of marriage

Your marriage officer should cost between R1 700 and R1 800, and that should include about 10 hours of counseling and rehearsal time.

11. Get it copied.

Get a photocopy of the marriage register and your marriage certificate on the spot. Otherwise, this can take up to six months to source.

12. Fix your will

Get your will amended because you're now part of a new family, and sign an antenuptial agreement. Think long-term sensibility, even in the midst of the wedding planning and blissful excitement.

If you're using an outside professional

1. Shop around and meet a few before making your selection. The chemistry must be right – because they're central in your lives for many months.

2. Ask for references. There's no professional registration system for consultants so make sure you, personally, talk to at least three couples who've used your chosen consultant's services.

3. Wedding planners should charge a maximum of 10% of the total cost of the wedding – but only on invoices from suppliers they commissioned on your behalf. Make sure you check the suppliers' clauses. For example, if a venue charges overtime, you'll be paying that extra cost plus another 10% for your planner.

4. Negotiate. Wedding planners may be happy to drop a percent or two for you.

5. Your wedding consultant should be there on the day. They should be efficient and effective, yet unobtrusive. You want them to make sure everything goes smoothly but you don't want their arm in every photograph, tucking that stray tendril behind your ear!
Are you a blushing bride-to-be? Are you planning your own wedding? Tell us about it in the box below.