"We wanted the whole day to be a celebration of the rest of our lives. We wanted people to walk away saying, 'That was so much fun.' And we were able to accomplish that. Choose the few things that are really important to you, like the photographer and DJ were to us, and then go from there. Be flexible on the other details and remember to have fun." —Jeanae and Scott
Put together a wedding planning schedule and do things one by one, in a logical order, so you don't take on too much too fast and end up with everything snowballing around you. Don't hire any vendors before you've confirmed your date; don't design your cake before you've envisioned your flowers; and don't book a band before you've settled on a space.
As soon as you've picked a date, start to look for hotels in a wide variety of price points. Many hotels allow you to reserve rooms for guests under a special wedding block and a reduced rate. You can then release any unbooked rooms a month prior to your wedding. If the hotels you contact insist upon contracts with cancellation penalties, just say no—you don't want to be responsible for rooms you can't fill.
If your officiant is affiliated with a church or synagogue, you're often expected to make a donation to that institution. If you're a member, you'll probably want to give a larger amount than if you're not. However, if you're getting married there and they're charging you to use the space, feel free to give a smaller amount. Tipping the officiant, both nondenominational and denominational, is also appreciated.