When you’re planning your wedding, there are two things that become absolutely priceless: your time and your peace of mind. Hiring a wedding planner to do the heavy lifting might seem like something that’s out of reach for your budget, but not only is it a move that can actually save you a huge chunk of change in the long run, your wedding planner can act as the gracious background force that helps you enjoy your big day more–even as the glue that keeps your relationship (and your families) together throughout the process.

As one of Portland’s most popular wedding planners for more than 20 years–and a favorite of so many Hardy Farm couples–we sat down with Paula Cano, owner and creative director at A Family Affair of Maine, to get her expert advice on the benefits and the whys of hiring a wedding planner. Here are her most persuasive reasons:

  1. A wedding planner is your “boots on the ground” for destination weddings.

Whether you’re coming up to Maine from Boston or the Bay Area, the last thing you want to be doing when you’re getting ready for your big day is juggling all the million moving pieces that go into seamlessly pulling off a ceremony and reception–especially if you’re not in the immediately Portland area to deal with issues like changes and cancellations that will inevitably pop up.

“Having someone to work locally on the couple’s behalf or the family’s behalf, pulling together the team of vendors and rentals and then working behind the scenes with that team to make sure everything goes off without a hitch, is essential,” Cano said. “A wedding planner navigates the production of not just the day but those shoulder events, which might include the rehearsal dinner and the day-after brunch, and helps to alleviate the pressure for the family members, too, who now don’t have to be responsible for those duties.”

  1. A blank slate venue is both a good and a bad thing–especially if you’re going DIY.

It’s very tempting to book a venue that allows you to choose and bring in all of your own stuff, from food and booze to furniture and flowers, versus having to select from a sometimes limited list of preferred vendors. But while many venues in Maine allow you to have the ability to customize the experience completely to your own personal taste, it can also spell disaster if you’re going it DIY.

 “The best thing about a blank space experience, obviously, is the ability to bring in your own team of vendors, but it’s also bringing in many of the components from the outside and really depending on a number of vendors for things you might not think of,” Cano said. “That’s not true when it comes to a venue like Hardy Farm, who’ve really perfected the space over time and have a wide range of offerings included with their packages, but it’s also not common.”

While most of her couples plan ahead, about 10 percent of brides and grooms reach out in panic mode at the last minute needing help pulling all the details together. Hiring a wedding planner from the outset means that there’s a team guiding you through the process from the beginning and pointing out issues up front, making sure that everything is accurate and in line and that you and your vendors and venue have everything they need — from maintaining the rental contracts, to being on-site when rentals arrive, to taking an inventory of everything and making sure that everything is accounted for and in good working order. Like many wedding planners, Cano is present for every wedding, and also has an assistant employed year-round working behind the scenes to get quotes, and to make sure that the production schedule is really lined up with the itinerary and the venue requirements.

“I love the concept and the idea of DIY because it really is a fact that no one knows you as a couple more than you,” Cano says. “We definitely encourage our clients to work in conjunction with us to make the day their own, it’s really is a collaborative effort. We just want to take all of those ideas, and work to include the vendors that they may have fallen in love with before they met me, and to really have a great working experience to convey what it is that you wanted to do yourself or really can’t, or don’t have the means to.”

  1. You work with your vendors once–wedding planners work with them every day.

When you’re planning the wedding of your dreams, there are dozens of separate vendors you’ll need to work with to plan the wedding of your dreams, from your floral designer and photographer to your caterers and bartenders or your linens and furniture rentals. But while you’re going to work with and negotiate with these partners once (maybe twice) in your life, wedding planners collaborate with them regularly and work with them as colleagues — and that can mean big savings for you, of both time and money.

Cano says that wedding planners like herself not only have long-standing relationships with all manner of wedding vendors, they consider them as extended team members because of how closely and how often they work together on events — which can planners can negotiate discounts, bonus items thrown in, and last-minute favors that you don’t have access to.

“If we work together on a regular basis, it’s just easier for all involved: We know the drill, it’s simple, one of us can spearhead the plan and then executing it is easier for some of the other vendors,” she said. “The ability to call at a moment’s notice for maybe, say, heaters for the tent, or additional tenting if the weather’s looking to be tight. I have great relationships with vendors who can pull some strings for me that might not otherwise happen.”

  1. Planners keep you focused: Dream weddings can get carried away, especially in the age of Pinterest.

Wedding planners are not only the creative directors of your big day, they can also act as a kind of newlywed therapist–avoiding not only Pinterest fails but heading off any potential interpersonal drama by asking the right questions and forecasting any red flags from the beginning. (Sort of like a priest would do for your relationship in Pre-Cana class, making sure you’re a good fit.) Wedding planners have worked on hundreds, sometimes thousands, of other weddings, and bring that depth and breadth of experience and all of those trial-and-error ideas with them to help you put together an event that’s not only dreamy but doable.

“Pinterest can be a great thing and a really, really bad thing,” Cano says. “With all of my clients, I encourage them to complete a Wedding Vision Summary that asks all the big questions: Where do you shop? Who do you follow on Instagram? What colors do you navigate towards? What does the majority of your closet look like? How is your home decorated? Where do you go to eat as a couple? All of those things help me to get to know them on a different level, but also helps them to steer them creatively and navigate through the vision process without getting lost in avenues like Pinterest, which can really complicate things for some people.”

In addition to the look and feel of the wedding aesthetically, Cano also coaches her couples through the emotional side of the big day–stemming off potential problems by digging into family stuff.

“There could be dynamics that are important for me to know about, say like so-and-so isn’t drinking right now and really needs to be watched, or these two people can’t sit on the same side of the room, or handicap situations that we need to prepare for,” she says. “Hiring a wedding planner helps you to not only have a Plan A and Plan B, there always needs to be a Plan C.”

If you do decide to go the DIY route, popular wedding blogs can be a huge asset, like Green Wedding Shoes for its pretty thorough archive of Wedding Planning Guides, 100 Layer Cake for their tried-and-true DIY wedding planning system (that includes free downloadable worksheets similar to the ones Cano uses), and OnceWed for their “surprisingly doable” DIY wedding projects, including hair and makeup and how to tie a bow tie.