Meet with two or three vendors in each category, recommended Panarello, and set meetings within a day or two of each other. That way your impressions will be fresh in your mind and you can better compare, she said.

Find a wedding planner you click with, advised Worthington wedding planner Emilie Duncan. "You have to trust and like your planner," she said. If you have major vendors already booked, ask them which planners they like to work with. "They see the other side," she said.

Think space when picking a venue. "I love space. Guests love space. The serving staff loves space. Always make sure the space can accommodate the numbers you're going to have," Panarello said. She also likes a pre-function area-one separate from the main reception area where guests can enjoy a cocktail and conversation.

If the hall doesn't have a caterer, put that next on the list. Look at menus as a starting point. If you don't want a cookie-cutter meal, look for a caterer with a variety of options. "A vendor should direct the client. They should be able to take your information and specialize it for you," Panarello said.

Look at a photographer's website to get a feel for his or her style, and view multiple albums. Photos should vary from wedding to wedding, and that includes poses and locations, said Columbus photographer Simon Yao. "My goal is to create a work of art for my clients. I don't treat them cookie cutter," he said. And meet them in person. "It's who you feel comfortable with," he added.

"A vendor should direct the client. They should be able to take your information and specialize it for you."
JO PANARELLO
Panarello Consulting

Choose a gown now, said Kristin Cooke of Big Rock Little Rooster in the Short North, to allow time for the gown to arrive (which can take four to six months). "Some brides believe they shouldn't make a decision until they try on 50 gowns," she said. "It is OK to stop when you love a gown. You may not have the sunbeam and angel moment. It may just be 'Wow, I like how I look and this is how I want to look for my groom on my wedding day.' " Your dress may also help determine the feel of your entire wedding. "I feel like it sets the tone for the whole look," said Courtney Leister of the Arena District's Girls in White Dresses. "If it's lace, maybe you want to see lace overlay on invites or the cake."

Before you start on flowers, there are a few things you need to have done. "One thing that we run into are brides who don't have a venue, dress or colors," said Katie Rodgers of Bloomtastic in Upper Arlington. "And it's not a lot for us to work with." Bring a picture of your wedding gown and color swatches. There are dozens of shades of purple, Rodgers points out, so bring examples. Don't have a color swatch of fabric? Go to the hardware store and grab a paint swatch. Also, "don't just think about colors, look at patterns you like, too," said Dee Conrad, of Petals & Leaves in Powell. And come with a budget in mind, but willingness to be flexible. It's the number one thing local florists agree on-that many brides are uneducated when it comes to the cost of flowers. Many publications will tell you to reserve 10 percent of your budget, but often that isn't enough, Conrad said.

Now's the time to ask your bridal party to be in the wedding, recommends wedding planner Adrianne Mellen Ramstack of Adrianne Elizabeth LLC in German Village. Then, ask the readers and others involved in the ceremony soon after. "You want them to feel special and not like an afterthought," she said.

Choose a bakery eight or nine months out, especially if booking during busy season, said Katie Koivisto of The Cake Studio in Powell. "Try two or three bakers, and then decide," she recommended. On your appointment, bring anything you can-wedding colors, swatches, invitations. Even a picture of your dress. All those elements can show a cake designer what your wedding feels like. And let the bakery know what you want to try. Many bakeries do standard flavor tasting, but if there's something special you want, speak up before the appointment. (There may be a charge for that.) "It's also worth asking if the bakery does group tastings. That way you may get more flavors than normal," Koivisto said.

For invitations and save-the-date designs, bring color swatches and samples from your florist, suggested Maegan Richards of Paper Occasions in Dublin. The save-the-date invites are a great place to put a wedding website, added Ramstack. "If you have it, then push people to it to look for updates," she said.

DON'T FEEL THE BRIDESMAID DRESSES need to replicate your wedding gown. "I don't like matchy-matchy," said Leister from Girls in White Dresses. "The bride should be a different cut than the bridesmaids." The two looks should complement, but don't need to mirror each other. Attendants should place the order within the same week of each other, Cooke advised. This guarantees dresses are from the same dye lots.

Drop your save-the-dates in the mail, and start working on invites (these should be ordered with four months to go). Consider showing the invite to both families before it's finalized, suggested Michelle Honer of Paper Occasions, to be sure you haven't left anyone off or spelled anything wrong. Include directions to the ceremony and reception, things to do nearby if there's a long time between the two, and details for any extras, such as a Sunday brunch.

Helpful Hint: Beware of getting lost in the holiday card shuffle. "Either send invites a little before or after, so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle," Ramstack said.

Is your dress in? If so, Leister said, finalize your veil and jewelry. These also may take time to order. But you'll want to wait until the dress is in hand to make sure you match the way you want.

Start solidifying the plan for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. Think about who's invited. If travel is involved, many will need to know this information to make arrangements.

You have entered what most industry profes­sionals call "the wedding lull." You've done all the heavy lifting. Your major responsibility now is to take care of the small stuff-and try not to change anything.

Take care of details that are bride and groom specific: music and readings for the ceremony; greeters; and reception music. It's a great time to look into tuxedo rentals, too.

Think about what you want people to remember, added Ramstack. Everyone has food. Everyone has drinks. But what personal touches can you add? This fine-tuning should happen during the lull, Ramstack said-both the concept and execution. Do you want handwritten notes as place cards, for example? "Hone in on those special details, and then execute them," she said.

Schedule your first round of alterations. Remember you'll need your shoes for this fitting. And remind bridesmaids to at least make an appointment for their alterations, Cooke said. "The reason why a three-month window works is because, if they are good, they are probably doing other gowns as well," Cooke said.

Choose gifts early. "A lot of times, brides want to gift the same necklace and earrings so they'll all look special. Those can take up to a month to order," Cooke said. "It's nice when everything is done before the one-month countdown. So then all you are doing is reviewing checklists."

"I am a big proponant of a wedding website. If you have it, push people to it."
ADRIANNE MELLEN RAMSTACK
Adrianne Elizabeth LLC

Pick wedding bands about six weeks before your wedding, recommended Mike Cress, of Denig Jewelers in Worthington. "Give yourself at least a month. That way you've got time to make adjustments when the rings come in," he said, explaining some can take seven to 10 days to order.

Get your wedding license. In Franklin County, a license is only good for 60 days, so wait until about two months beforehand, said Sabrina Suri of Joie de Vivre Events. The other thing you should wait to do? Change your last name. "Wait until you get back from your honeymoon," Suri recommended. New documents, such as passports and credit cards, can take a while to replace.

Send invites. "I like people to RSVP a month in advance of the wedding," Ramstack said. That means at two months prior, invites must be in guests' mailboxes. But don't shoot for much earlier than that, she warned: if you give people too much time to respond, they tend to forget.

Helpful Hint: Before the invites go out, group guests into eights or 10s that could become dinner tables once the RSVPs come in.

Plan your final fitting a month before your wedding, but don't go much before six weeks out, Duncan suggested. "Your weight goes up and down. Stress does really funny things," she said.

Meet with you stationer to finalize programs, menus, table design and place cards. But two months out the design should be complete. "That way, all the bride has to do when we finalize it, is send us an Excel spreadsheet," Richards said.

Start communicating with key people in your wedding: bridal party, those speaking at the ceremony, reception or rehearsal dinner. Are you doing a mani-pedi night for the bridesmaids? Let them know now so they can plan. "And then they're not bugging you. They know the plan and they are ready," Ramstack said.

Count RSVPs. And always err on the lighter side, Panarello recommended. For example, if you know you'll have somewhere between 20 and 22 tables, estimate for 20. You can always add, but it's more difficult to take away.

Head to your venue for a final walkthrough. With you should be the caterer, venue contact and florist. With a better idea of your final numbers, you can figure out table arrangements and overall execution.

"Don't just think about colors, look at patterns you like, too."
DEE CONRAD
Petals & Leaves

Enjoy! "Have everything crossed off your list one week prior. That way you can relax and enjoy your wedding week, and there is nothing more special than that," Ramstack said. The same goes for the groom, she added, as his only responsibility that week should be to pick up his tux. Anything that's left: delegate.