You can talk to a dozen wedding “experts,” but there are some things you can learn only from brides who’ve been there. BRIDES magazine asked recently married women to share their wedding mistakes, and then came up with smart solutions to the most common regrets.

DON’T: Be the event planner at your wedding.
Focus on having a great time, not keeping the seating chart straight. Spring for a day-of wedding coordinator, or appoint someone responsible (Mom?) to be the go-to person should any problems pop up.

DON’T: Neglect to do a seating chart.
DO: Avoid a musical chairs-style free-for-all: Take the time to plan table assignments. No need to have place cards—which assign a specific seat to a person—but letting guests know which table to sit at will eliminate chaos and confusion as the party is getting under way.

DON’T: Spend practically 24 hours a day for a year to plan an eight-hour event.
DO: Put things in perspective. There’s more to life than debating whether to serve chicken marsala or chicken cordon bleu. Allot no more than an hour a day to planning duties.

DON’T: Get into debt to finance the wedding.
DO: Create a realistic budget, and stick to it. Chocolate fountains and designer gowns may cause rational thought to fly out the window, but there’s no excuse for starting married life in debt. First add up how much you can spend, including parental contributions. Then prioritize, putting the biggest amount toward the elements you value most—flowers, photos, menu, whatever. Use a spreadsheet to keep track of every expense as you start paying vendors.

DON’T: Leave your wedding famished.
DO: Plan on eating at least part of the meal—the hors d’oeuvres may be your best bet, since you can sample them and socialize at the same time. It’ll be harder to find time to eat the rest of it; you’ll get busier and busier—dancing, chatting, posing with guests—as the party progresses.

DON’T: Forgo booking a professional photographer.
DO: Find a pro whom you can hire for his minimal amount of time—usually four hours—to capture the highlights (ceremony, first dance). You won’t end up haunted by badly lit shots or that missed photo with Grandma.

DON’T: Tackle too many DIY projects.
DO: Curb your enthusiasm, and pick just a few endeavors that will have the largest impact on your budget (such as invitations) and decor (centerpieces). Warning: You will not find the time to make 1,000 origami cranes!