Whether you’ve been planning your dream wedding since you were a teenager or want a quiet, simple do, getting engaged and preparing for a wedding is a hugely exciting time. From choosing your dress to writing speeches, there are millions of things to do. And with these tips, you can make it as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.

Make the big decisions first

Once the question’s been popped and you’ve broken the news to family and friends, start making decisions. It may seem a long way off, but the sooner you know what you want, the more likely you are to get it. If you want a weekend wedding, you’ll need to plan in advance: Saturdays and Sundays fill up quickly, and you may need to book for the following year or two. Likewise, if your heart is set on a popular venue, you’ll have to secure it quickly. Once you’ve got the date and the venue sorted, you can ease off and let the rest of the wedding fall into place.

Plan your dream honeymoon

Many couples make the mistake of leaving their honeymoon planning to the very end. This can result in a number of issues. If you don’t have time pencilled in for your dream honeymoon, you may end up using all your precious annual leave on dress fittings, venue viewings and wedding prep. However, if you know you want to go away for an extended amount of time, you can schedule it into your plans. Deciding on a honeymoon is one of the most exciting parts of planning your wedding: whether you honeymoon in exotic Sri Lanka, live the luxurious life in Dubai or try a mix of everything on a cruise. Don’t forget to make it special, and not just another holiday. You’ll find that some of the best honeymoon cruises have everything from private hot tubs and on-demand butlers to daily bottles of Champagne and elite dining areas.

Pick a theme

You may want to go all out with an extravagant theme or simply stick to one colour palette throughout – but whatever you choose, it’s best to decide early on. Once you’ve chosen a theme, it’s easier for guests to pick their outfits and for wedding helpers to find your accessories, decor and crafts. Your theme may rest on the time of year you get married in and the venue you choose, so pin down those elements first.

Narrow down your guest list

The guest list can often be the most contentious and stressful part of planning a wedding, so don’t leave it to the last minute. You should have a rough idea of how many people you want there: your budget and venue will certainly affect this. Cutting down on numbers is hard, but remember you’re most likely paying for these people, so don’t feel bad about not inviting your old neighbour’s dog walker! You can always have a limited number for the ceremony and sit-down meal then invite more guests to join you later in the day.

Create a realistic budget

When you start budgeting for a wedding, there’s a lot to think about: from the big payments for venues and caterers to easily forgotten items like table dressings and decorations. Your budget should take into account everything from wedding rings to honeymoon. Once you have a list of your expenses written down, you can decide where to prioritise. If you want a long, lavish honeymoon, you may need to cut down in other areas. On the other hand, if you’d rather go for a top-end venue, you might not be able to spend as much on your honeymoon. Deciding what’s important to you and your partner is key, then budgeting accordingly is the best way to keep it realistic, and ensure you’ll have a brilliant day.

Know what you want from guests

If you and your partner have been living together for a while, you may not want the customary gift lists of crockery, home furnishings and household items. Instead, you could opt for donations towards an open bar or for people to contribute towards your honeymoon. Likewise, if you’re going abroad for your wedding and guests need to pay their own way, consider whether you’d expect them to afford a gift on top of travel expenses.

The period between your engagement and your honeymoon is one to enjoy – although this is often easier said than done, as there’s always a lot of stress! So, the sooner you can start planning your wedding, the more you can relax and enjoy the experience.