The Five Things You Need to Do Before Hiring a Planner

10/03/2011 01:13 am ET | Updated Dec 02, 2011

Congratulations, you're engaged! Before your head starts spinning with thoughts of the perfect centerpiece, a dress to die for and dazzling crystal chandeliers -- take a step back. Your wedding coordinator will be able to guide you through the process of making your day personal, execute your dreams flawlessly and help you to make decisions that are representative of you and your relationship in every way. A planner's job, amongst other things, is to get into your brain, understand your needs and desires and make them a reality. BUT, they can't do that unless you first do your homework! If you spend a bit of time on the following five tasks, it will not only streamline the process of planning your wedding, but enable you to avoid many of the speed bumps that brides commonly trip over.

1. Create a guest list. You don't need to get bogged down with addresses at this stage of the game, but focus on putting pen to paper to determine an actual guest count. This is essential in searching for locations that make sense. You don't want to consider locations that hold 150 if you have 200 guests. Likewise, you don't want to get locked in to a large revenue minimum on a ballroom that is simply too large. Make sure you talk to your parents and get their lists, as well. Include a five percent overage for people like that friend you will undoubtedly run into at the mall whom you have completely overlooked.

2. Determine a budget. Your planner will be able to let you know whether the budget you decide upon is realistic, but you need a starting place for that to happen. Discuss the finances with your fiancé and parents, and find out up front what each party is contributing. Wedding budgets can spiral out of control, but having a number in mind will prevent you from looking at items that don't make sense and help prevent that from happening. You don't want to get your heart set on items that aren't in your financial comfort zone.

3. Determine the tone of your wedding. What does your wedding feel like? What are your guests wearing? How formal is the day or evening? Is the focus a sophisticated multi-course dinner or a high energy dance party? This will impact just about every decision you make, and it's best to start thinking about it.

4. Discuss the big items with your fiancé. It's amazing how many couples start planning a wedding without going over even the basics together. Getting on the same page from the beginning will prevent arguments down the road.

5. Think about your location. Where is your wedding taking place? Is the ceremony in a house of worship or at the same locale as the reception? Is this a destination wedding or in your home town? What is convenient for those guests who are important to you?

If you take the time to figure out these basic items before you hire a planner, you will be able to give your wedding professional the tools that they need to begin planning a wedding that is specific to your needs. It will help to eliminate false expectations and get you on track for a smooth planning experience. Once you have these items ironed out, you will be ready to plan your wedding -- and get knee deep into the perfect flowers, the band that no one has seen, and, of course, a little sparkle.