Be A Marriage Planner, Not A Wedding Planner

Are you about to put a ring on it? Now is as good a time as any to ask yourself and your beloved: Are we more invested in our wedding or our marriage?

Chances are, you’re planning a dream event–after all, this time will be the last time. (Well, at least, that’s the plan.) According to a recent survey, couples spent an average $28,427 on their wedding last year, the highest since 2008, the year the Great Recession began. Before you blow your life savings–or worse, go deep into debt–to pay for your wedding, take my advice.

First, be sure that you and your fiancé have a clear understanding and regular, open and honest conversation about how you will manage money as a couple. Wedding planning and budgeting together is a great test run of how you’ll operate once vows are exchanged. If you can’t talk about money before the wedding, it will be a sore spot for your marriage.

Remember, marriage is a legal and financial contract, as well as a social and/or spiritual union. Those who believe that love and money have nothing to do with each other have never been through a divorce. I’m not just saying this as a personal finance expert. I’m speaking as a person who has endured the financial consequences of two divorces; financial infidelity and conflict were major factors in both marriages.

I must emphasize, this discussion should be focused on the marriage, not the wedding. Too many people find out the hard way that they cannot finance a healthy and prosperous marriage because they’ve taken on so much debt and exhausted their savings to finance their wedding day. As too many divorced and unhappily married couples know, money can’t fix a broken relationship, but bad money habits can destroy a healthy one. Here’s how to prevent that from happening:

Be financially intimate with each other, totally open and honest about your financial habits and history, including your credit reports, taxes, debts, assets, child/spousal support obligations/income, etc.

Agree to a budget and meet monthly to discuss and manage it together. Make financial decisions jointly, even if one or the other partner actually spends the money, handles savings, and pays the bills.

Never use financial information as a weapon, or to punish or ridicule your mate’s past financial mistakes or lack of financial literacy. And never spend or withhold money to hurt or punish your partner.

Set financial goals as a couple, never putting individual wants above jointly agreed upon objectives. Always put your goals ahead of the demands and expectations of family and friends.

Be financially faithful. That means, for example, never spending money and hiding it from your partner.

Don’t worry about which partner is bringing in the most income. Instead focus on financial planning as a team, eliminating debt and increasing total household net worth, regardless of income source.

If you’re really into planning weddings, become a wedding planner. But if you want a prosperous marriage, become a marriage planner, including creating and following a real plan for your finances as a couple.

Black Enterprise Executive Editor-At-Large Alfred Edmond Jr. is an award-winning business and financial journalist, media executive, entrepreneurship expert,  personal growth/relationships coach, and co-founder of Grown Zone, a multimedia initiative focused on personal growth and healthy decision-making. This blog is dedicated to his thoughts about money, entrepreneurship, leadership and mentorship. Follow him on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr.