Planning a wedding takes a lot of work (surprise, surprise). But the biggest job may be figuring out how to delegate: who can help you, how can they help, and can you get what you need without overstepping your boundaries (or offending your future mother-in-law)? We turned to two Vancouver pros – Alicia Keats, principal planner at Alicia Keats Weddings & Events, and Genève McNally, principal planner for DreamGroup Productions – for their expert advice.

Make a list, check it twice

First things first: figure out what needs to be done, and when you need it. That way, you can give your helpers plenty of notice. “The more warning, the better, so you’re not surprising someone at the last minute,” says Keats. And by scheduling out tasks well in advance of the wedding, there will be less stress for everyone.

Play to strengths

Be sure to get the right people on the right projects. Assign tasks based on skills: if your girlfriend has beautiful handwriting and wants to be involved, get her help addressing the invitations. “I usually delegate to people I know are passionate, and have a knack for it,” says McNally. But there are bound to be a few tasks that you’re not as personally attached to, and those are the perfect ones to hand off. “Think about projects where you’ll be happy however they turn out,” says Keats. “Things like collecting mailing addresses, assembling invitations or collecting family photos to display at the reception are great straightforward tasks that don’t leave a lot of room for interpretation.”

Be crystal clear

Talk to your friends and family about your expectations ahead of time – otherwise, miscommunication may leave some jobs unassigned. “Your loved ones may want to help but not step on anyone’s toes, so they’re hesitant to offer, and meanwhile, the bride and groom think they should know what they should be doing,” says Keats. And remember: once you ask for help, you’re going to receive it, and that may mean losing some control. Be as specific as possible when you’re delegating, so that no one takes creative license. Making mock-ups of DIY projects like wedding favours ensures that helpers know exactly what you’re looking to achieve.

Learn how to say no (nicely)

If your aunt is fixated on making your centrepieces when you already have a plan in mind, make it clear that you appreciate her love, but stand your ground and redirect her enthusiasm gently. “Say something like, ‘I love how helpful you are, I love that you want to be involved. I’ve got that task under control, but would be so happy to get your help on another task,’ ” recommends Keats.

Split things up

The maid of honour doesn’t have to do all the heavy lifting – share the tasks among the wedding party if they’re keen to be involved. One bridesmaid could take charge of coordinating the bachelorette party, while another could organize the dress shopping. “Everyone gets involved, and it’s not one person taking the whole burden,” says Keats. The same goes for cleanup when the party’s over. “At 1 a.m., which drunk relative is getting up on a ladder and taking everything down?” points out McNally. Remember to assemble a tear-down dream team – but make sure it’s a different crew than the decorators.

Leave some things to the pros

“Anything that’s important to a bride should be delegated to a professional, not a family member or friend. I’ve seen friendships and wedding days ruined because the cake doesn’t look like the cake in Martha Stewart,” McNally laughs. If you’re letting your cousin put together the floral arrangements, for example, do a test run first. Photography is another element that’s best left to a pro. “I hear horror stories all the time about uncles taking pictures and cutting off everyone’s feet, or not getting the first kiss,” adds McNally.

Respect boundaries

“Make sure that whoever you’re delegating to really wants to do it,” advises McNally. “The last thing you want is to ask someone to do something if their heart isn’t into it – then nobody’s happy.” The reality is, people have other things in their life to worry about besides your wedding, no matter how much they love you. “Have a clear conversation about what the time and financial commitments are going to be,” recommends Keats. And if the answer is no, accept that gracefully and move on.