For many couples, their wedding budget is the first money conversation they have together. Whether you’re newly engaged, daydreaming about your perfect venue, or have been planning for months, money will touch every aspect of your big day (and beyond). Here are eight do’s and don’ts to help you stay financially focused and ready for your future together:

DO – Create a wedding mission statement. This mission statement should be used to guide how you’ll focus your budget. For instance, if your wedding mission statement is to “create a romantic, intimate, and unforgettable celebration for your closest friends and family”, you’ll know quickly to weed out the cheesy photobooth your sister-in-law insists is a “must-have”.

DON’T – Pull your wedding budget out of thin air. The “average” wedding budget is not a good barometer of how much money you and your partner can reasonably afford to spend on your big day. Your wedding budget should be based on the real numbers of what you can afford after you factor in your expenses, debts, and the time you have before your big day. Remember that many vendors will need a deposit in advance!

DO – Start a wedding sinking fund. A sinking fund is a special savings account where your money is earmarked for a specific purpose. Each paycheck or money, transfer a set amount into a high yield savings account. This way, it’s harder to transfer the money out for impulse spending, and you earn a little extra while you save.

DON’T – Put your wedding on credit. Transferring the financial burden of your wedding onto your future self is a recipe for disaster. Remember, after the honeymoon, you and your partner will want to start working toward the next goal (perhaps saving for a home or starting a family). You won’t want to be paying for your wedding, plus interest, for years to come. Plan ahead and take your time to save.

DO – Start discussing finances outside of the wedding. It’s vital to understand how you and your partner approach money before you say “I do”; financial issues are frequently cited as the reason for divorce. Are you aligned on your financial goals? Do you know exactly how much debt you’re both bringing into the marriage? What about assets (now or in the future)? Will you combine finances, keep your accounts separate, or have a hybrid? Remember – you’re on the same team; it’s time to get on the same page.

DON’T – Let friends and family dictate your wedding budget. From the moment you are engaged, everyone and their dog will have an opinion on how you should spend your wedding budget. This gets even more complicated if family members have offered to contribute to costs. Ask clarifying questions before accepting their generous gift to understand what expectations they have and avoid conflicts down the road.

DO – Consider professional help. Unless you have a background in event planning and management, investing in a professional planner can significantly reduce costs in other areas. Wedding and event professionals, like the members of SWEL, can help you navigate your wedding budget with confidence.

DON’T – Be afraid of Prenups (or Postnups). Marriage is, at the end of the day, a contract – one that is a lot easier to enter than exit. While a lot of people may think a prenuptial agreement is unromantic, it serves a very important purpose. A knowledgeable attorney will help facilitate discussions between you and your partner in a healthy, safe, and mutually beneficial environment before creating your documents. This will also give you a sense of security and confidence going into the marriage; feelings that are super sexy in my book!

(Note: This article was originally written for and published in the 2023 Suncoast Wedding & Event Guide)