A summer wedding. New Year’s Eve nuptials. Vows on Valentine’s Day. No matter the date you pick, your wedding is likely going to be a red-letter day. But not all Saturdays (or Fridays, or Tuesdays—whatever floats your wedding boat) are created equal. Before you utter, “It’s a date,” there are a few factors to consider, swears destination wedding planner Beth Helmstetter. Here, she runs us through her checklist.
1. Are there any local events on the calendar?
If you’re planning to wed in Atlanta—site of Super Bowl LIII—you probably know to avoid the weekend of February 3, 2019. But even smaller affairs could create an inconvenience for your guests. “A local sporting event or a lavender festival can make traffic impossible for both guests and vendors for your day,” notes the creative director and owner of Beth Helmstetter Events, who suggests checking in with your local chamber of commerce and steering clear of booked weekends. “There’s nothing worse as a guest than sitting on a shuttle bus for 45 extra minutes because the path to the venue is being blocked by a community event.”
2. Can your VIPs attend?
Along with running the date by your immediate family members and key wedding party participants, says Helmstetter, “Clear it with any person you or your fiancé cannot imagine marrying without.” (You may also want to avoid family birthdaysas this is a date you’ll be celebrating for years to come.) But after you’ve gotten the all-clear from your crew, don’t open it up for discussion to a larger group. “Everyone will begin having an opinion,” says the pro, and there’s no need to make the process tougher.
3. Have any of your besties laid claim?
If any friends in your circle have already nabbed their wedding weekend, says Helmstetter, take a look at how that might impact your guest list: “Unless you just can’t find any other option, choosing the date that another couple has claimed, even if they aren’t really close to you, can cause anxiety among guests who may truly want to be at both celebrations,” she says.
4. How high is the chance of rain?
Yes, nothing’s guaranteed, but Helmstetter always recommends clients consult a farmer’s almanac if they’re considering a time of year when heat or rain might play a role. “In 15 years of being a wedding planning,” she says, “I’ve never had the farmer’s almanac be wrong.”
5. What time is magic hour?
Magic hour, the 60 minutes or so before the sun sets, can dictate what time you have your ceremony if you’re planning on tying the knot outdoors. “As a general rule, we recommend starting the ceremony one-and-a-half hours prior to the sun setting,” says Helmstetter. “This allows for a 30-minute ceremony with some buffer for running late and typically means guests will be enjoying cocktail hour as the sun’s setting. Then, this leaves your photographer time to shoot stunning portraits.” Just keep in mind that if you choose a summer date, that could mean pushing your start time to 7 p.m. or later.
6. Are your must-have vendors free?
Obviously your venue needs to be open on that day, but if there’s a photographer or a DJ you’ve always dreamt of using, check their availability as well. Still, cautions Helmstetter, “I wouldn’t make the venue and date search any harder than necessary. Unless the vendor is an absolute must, worry about clearing dates and booking vendors after selecting the most convenient wedding day for you and your family.”
7. Is it during a busy time at work?
Besides checking with your boss that you can have time off for your wedding and honeymoon, says Helmstetter, consider avoiding any particularly demanding times at work “so you are able to have as much fun as possible leading up to the wedding and can ease back in at a more gradual pace.”
8. Does this date work for your personalities?
If you’re considering a summer date, notes the pro, “Consider factors like how much you or your fiancé tend to sweat, if your hair holds up well in warm temperatures, or even the type of dress you want to wear. For instance, if you’ve always envisioned a long sleeve gown, August in Charleston might not be the best option. Or, if your fiancé has been known to sweat through his shirt, maybe avoid July in Hawaii.” Also take into account the, er, time of the month. Should you be planning on wearing white, you may want to try to avoid swapping vows you have your period.
9. Does your vibe suit the season?
If you have a vision for your day, think about whether or not that aesthetic will work with the time of year you’re eyeing. “Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of lush garden blooms or blooming branches,” says Helmstetter. “If so, a late spring, early summer wedding would make elements like that readily available. Or maybe you love the richer tones of burgundy and aubergine. In that case, maybe a fall wedding makes the most sense for you.” And while she stresses there’s no rules when it comes to matching the design to the time of year “certain florals are more available in certain seasons.”
10. Is it a date you’ll treasure forever?
Remember that you’ll be toasting this date for years to come. “Whether you want to celebrate with annual vacations to commemorate the wedding or you simply want to ensure you can be fully present for at least one day,” says the expert, “take this into consideration before setting a date.
This article originally appeared on Martha Stewart Weddings.