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The final countdown has officially begun. We are exactly one month away from aisle-walking and wedding-cake eating (cupcake eating, rather) and til death do us parts. This may be strange, but it doesn't feel the least bit real. I's still, somehow, despite the steady build-up of stress in the back of my mind, just this hazy hypothetical thing in the pretty-gosh-darn-near future that I'm smack dab in the middle of designing programs for.

But I know it's real. And I know that even though I'm making those programs today, I'll be trying to motivate myself to scrapbook them in post-wedding efforts tomorrow. At least it will probably feel that way.

Anyway, one month out seems like a pretty good time to sort through some of the things I've learned over the past month (like how to politely participate in a cupcake tasting when all I really want to do is eat every last crumb), knowing full well that I'll be learning a lot more in the next several weeks. So, without further ado, here are my top three "aha!" moments and learning curves.

1. The things I liked to think of as the "big three" are things I thought of that way for a reason. Who, when and where are, for obvious reasons, going to have a domino-like effect on every single one of your other wedding plans. They interact most strongly with the budget (200 people and a $2,000 budget? Sounds like a great opportunity for an awesome cocktail party celebration. Fifteen people and $15,000? Fly everyone to Maui. And please, take Shayne and me with you.) These decisions, on a very basic level, set the tone of your wedding. Morning, evening, summer, winter it is all part of the fundamental decision. And, unfortunately, you can't really make any other decisions until you pin these guys down.

2. The guest list is probably going to be the most difficult (and emotionally exhausting) decision you are going to make about your wedding. If this is not the case in your situation, I envy you greatly. However, in general, I highly recommend that any individual participating or, for that matter, even thinking about participating in a conversation about the guest list, enter said conversation (or thoughts about said conversation) well-fed and well-rested. Just in case.

3. Communication is key. Seriously. If you don't communicate, nothing will get done. In an obvious sense, if you don't communicate you will have a hard time verifying flowers, music, bridesmaid dresses, your own dress the list goes on and on. On a more relational level, if you don't communicate, your husband-to-be won't realize how important it is to you that he be involved in the process until you're stiff with frustration, your mother might not realize that you'd love to hear her opinion and your maid of honor will run herself ragged just trying to figure out how she can be most helpful (I'm not saying which of these scenarios is true. Sorry!). Open and honest, and at times, careful, communication really helps the pre-wedding prep work itself out without the misery of an emotional rollercoaster.

Of course, these are not the only things I've learned lately. And with the wedding coming up so quickly (is there time for me to panic about everything I still have to do?), I'm sure I'll come across more items for the already too-long-to-publish list. But it there's anything that you, my delightfully engaged friends, need to know before you get your own balls rolling I'll be sure to pass it along.

Happy planning!