03/23/2012 12:24 pm ET Updated May 22, 2012

Wedding Planning Primer For The DIYer: 9 Essential Steps To Start Planning Your Wedding

Need a little jump start on planning your own wedding? This cheeky and sensible primer for the DIYer will put you on the right track for celebrating your Big Day. Read on for tips on how to handle stress, figure out how much to spend, manage your guest list and more.

Step One. Put a ring on it!
That's right, you heard me. Get engaged before you start planning your wedding! Once you're engaged, make sure to enjoy it and the experience of building a life with your partner.

Step Two. Now that you're engaged, get ready to laugh.
Look your partner in the eye and make this wedding-planning promise to each other: "If any of our wedding plans fail, we're going to laugh it off." A moment of laughter makes even the biggest planning faux pas seem not as important after all.

Step Three. Start counting your cash. If you're not willing to compromise on your dream wedding, and you can't afford to pay for it in cash, then you should seriously consider pushing back the date. For my team at Pink Cloud 9 and I, going into debt to have a wedding celebration is a big no-no!

Step Four. Make a wish guest list. Take your time and be careful of who you wish for! Expect that the bigger the party, the bigger the headache. Are you low on cash but high on friends? Consider planning a big engagement party (everyone will want to buy YOU drinks!) and then a more intimate full-hosted wedding for only the closest friends and family.

Step Five. Pick a wedding date and destination! You'll want to choose a date and time that works best for you but also for your wedding guests. If you pick a major holiday, don't expect anyone but your family to show up. If you are planning a wedding with a four-hour drive outside the city, your friends won't likely be up for Friday-afternoon festivities.

Step Six. Have fun window shopping! Spend as much time as you can holding hands and wandering the streets in the city or town where you live. Venture out into your favorite neighborhoods, and don't discount the possibilities of your own (or someone else's) backyard. Don't confine yourself to only those extravagant venues that we see in wedding magazines or blogs. You'll be surprised by the deals you can strike with local business owners and the myriad of places that aren't a part of the $99 billion wedding biz.

Step Seven. Prepare to spend wisely.
Once you have your eye on a possible venue, start tallying up the costs. This is a good time to get consultation from a planner or to start playing around with a wedding budget template. The key to making a budget that works is to define your priorities. You can email me with a request for a free sample budget template for DIY weddings, and I'll be happy to share this with you.

Step Eight. Get ready to negotiate!
Unless the venue is super-popular, you can negotiate the rental rate, or at the very least, have some extra freebies thrown in. We have seen venues offer a percentage discount, but only because we asked. And when they haven't budged on the rate, we've seen them include a little extra party time when we've promised to give them some awesome photos and a review.

Step Nine. Replenish and recharge! Whew! All of this cash-counting, list-making, and negotiating really takes a lot of energy. You need to take some time out and relax! There's no better way to replenish and recharge than over a nice meal. So book a table or sharpen those kitchen knives and treat yourselves to a special night of appreciating each other. It's all a part of the benefits of being engaged!