SO, YOU'VE MET the man or woman who makes your heart skip a beat. You have accepted his (or her) proposal to grow old together, and the date has been set. All that is left is to organise the finer details. Planning a wedding is an intensely stressful period for the bride and groom as budgets, time, expectations, family and decisions conflict with a couple's idea of a dream wedding. Karen Yau, a marketing manager in the luxury goods sector, said the stress kicked in almost immediately after she became engaged. She and her fiance were obliged to consult many fung shui and fortune-tellers to find the best date for their wedding. This took three months. The next stage was to find a suitable venue, and that's when the stress really kicked in. The couple had to compete with others getting married on the same auspicious date in December and corporations booking their end-of-year company dinners. Employing the services of a wedding planner can help take the stress out of the preparations, but planners usually charge about 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the overall cost of a wedding, which can add a significant amount to a budget. Michele Li is a former events co-ordinator and set up The Wedding Company with her business partner three years ago. The company offers packages and tailor-made services for wedding planning, and services on the day. If a budget did not cover the fees of a wedding planner, consult friends who got married recently and get a list of service providers that they were happy with, Ms Li said. 'Read as many wedding magazines and books as you can. They will provide you with lots of good tips to create a fabulous wedding,' she said. 'When you choose your bridal party, make sure you choose friends and relatives who will roll up their sleeves on the day while you can relax and enjoy your day.' The most commonly overlooked aspect of wedding preparations was the budget, Ms Li said. 'We spend a lot of time helping couples work out their budgets and appropriate their funds. We also do a lot of styling and venue decoration to ensure their wedding is different and unique, which is a common request,' she said. To ensure dreams are realised without finances getting out of control, a budget should be made before preparations even begin. Estimate the number of guests expected, including their food and beverages. Doubling that figure provides a rough budget for a wedding. If a budget is limited, a buffet-style brunch or afternoon tea rather than full-blown lunch or dinner can keep costs down. People are less inclined to drink a lot of alcohol during the day, which will also help keep costs down. Another trick for couples with artistic friends and relatives was to enlist their help with the photography, flowers and the cake, Ms Li said. Floral and venue decoration would set a wedding apart from others, she said. Shopping around for the right florist and decorator and spending time getting the details right will pay off on the day. Ms Yau said her background in organising high-end luxury events meant her standards were very high, and much of the stress of planning her wedding came from herself. 'I had to be involved in every single decision that was made and I handled everything on my own. Some of my friends also getting married in the same year were always able to delegate their tasks to their bridal party or wedding planner, but I just couldn't.' Family factors can be another cause of stress as those who hold traditional customs close to their hearts are likely to want those customs maintained. Ms Li said traditional Chinese weddings were still popular among her clients but that the trend was to combine a lavish Chinese banquet with more westernised elements in venue decoration. 'The Chinese tea ceremony is still a must for traditional families and often it is the parents or grandparents who still insist that couples perform this ritual of serving tea to their elders,' Ms Li said. For Ms Yau, it was a battle of wills between her and her husband's family. She grew up in Australia and her family was unfamiliar with all the Chinese customs. Her husband's family is traditional Chinese and Catholic. Compromises had to be made at every step. Colours she wanted were banned, and colours she didn't want were important to her husband's family; flowers she wanted had inauspicious names. 'It was hard for me to come to any compromise and it was very frustrating for me to even try to get a grip on all their reasons,' Ms Yau said. The banquet for more than 600 and a fuchsia-coloured scheme were far from the cosy white wedding she and her husband wanted. Nevertheless, she eventually achieved what she set out to do: create a wedding that she and her guests would always remember. The colour scheme turned out well and the planning process brought her closer to her Chinese roots and heritage. In hindsight, Ms Yau said if she could do it again, she would be less of a perfectionist during the planning process. 'I stressed too much and to be honest I didn't enjoy the planning process. It is meant to be one of the happiest days of our lives, so why shouldn't the planning be as enjoyable? 'Now, I always tell my friends who are getting married not to be so uptight about everything and to remember to enjoy the planning process.' She said having a bridal party take care of everything on the day took the pressure off at the last minute so that she could enjoy the day itself. At least six months should be allowed for wedding preparations, but be mindful that the best wedding service providers can get booked up at least a year in advance, especially in the popular and auspicious months of October, November and December.