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$mart Money - Planning for more than the wedding

Editor's note: This week's Smart Money iswritten by Meagan Mueller. She has workedwith Brad for about four years. Brad is at aconference, so Mueller has written this week'scolumn. Completely unexpected to me, this springDarcy asked me to marry him.

Editor's note: This week's Smart Money iswritten by Meagan Mueller. She has workedwith Brad for about four years. Brad is at aconference, so Mueller has written this week'scolumn.

Completely unexpected to me, this springDarcy asked me to marry him. Of course, Isaid Yes! We're both very happy and excited,and there is so much to do! But, like WarrenBuffet says, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail,and so for us and for our wedding, the hardwork and planning now begins.

Planning for a wedding can be overwhelming.Luckily for me, planning and I get alongvery well, and so the planning itself is somethingI'm looking forward to. The first fewdays after our engagement, we had alreadystarted working on two main components ofour wedding: the guest list and the budget.Starting a guest list early on is important to us,because we have so many different friendsthat we see in different environments. Weekslater we were still adding people that we hadforgotten in the initial roll call. It's also importantto know how many people you're going toinvite because the number of people is thesingle biggest influence on the cost of a wedding.How many people to feed? How manyinvitations to send? What size of venue do weneed?

Taking the step into marriage means tyingour lives together forever. Even for those of uswho are already in the less traditional common-law setting, this is a huge step. And itrequires a lot of communication. One thingboth Darcy and I are firm about: our weddingwill not put us into debt. And we're paying forthe whole thing ourselves, so that meanswe've got a lot of saving to do.

Even before we were engaged, I was a hugefan of wedding shows on TV. Working in thefinance industry, my favorite was "Rich Bride,Poor Bride". On the show, a hired weddingplanner serves as a central coordinator, withintentions to help the happy couple achievethe wedding of their dreams, based on thebudget provided. Time after time I foundmyself completely astonished at how so manycouples can obtain and pay for the services oftheir wedding planner, and then turn aroundand spend whatever they want, regardless ofthe costs. The wedding planner is left as anafterthought, trying to pull together the piecesand rein in the spending as the entire weddingspirals out of control.

And I think I know why.

Most couples who successfully make itonto TV have absolutely no idea how muchanything actually costs. They save up a chunkof money, decide it is enough, and then try tofit their wedding vision into the budget. Forthe majority of couples on the show, that justdoesn't work. They spend what they want,have an amazing time, celebrate with weddingof their dreams, and then half a year laterthey're applying for the show "'Till Debt do usPart".

Darcy and I are going to do things differently.We know what kind of wedding wewant, and so we are going to do as much aswe can to plan our wedding before we evenset a date. We're going to get to know everyaspect of our wedding, from the cost of thevenue, to the cost to rent table linens. Andwhen our savings begins to approach themagic number that will give us our perfectday, we will book venues and send invitations,and the celebration will begin. Butnot before.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Darcyand I are planning to be happy for the rest ofour lives, and that starts by having a financialplan in place, not just for our wedding, but forthe rest of our lives together. Starting a marriagein debt is a risky game to play. A surveyby Citi group shows that 57% of all divorcingcouples cite financial strains as one of themain causes of their divorce. It's not surprising,with many other studies and surveysshowing that the average Canadian's spendingis out of control. Starting out of the gatesalready burdened by the debt from your weddingis a hard way to start a happy life.

The statistics paint a harsh reality for manycouples, but it's a reality that can be easy toavoid. Discuss your life plans with your partner.What goals are important to you? Whatare you willing to give up? Do you want to buya house or have kids? Where do you want toretire? Are you financially prepared to withstanda serious illness, disability, or death? Itis okay if you're not on the same page with allof your goals you are in fact, different people but it's important to respect your partner'svalues wishes, and plan for the future youwant to build together.

One way couples plan for the future is tosave a big number, and hope that it's enough.The rest of your lives is a long time left up tochance. Financial planning teaches us tosave with our goals in mind. Darcy and I aregoing to plan our wedding, and then save asmuch as we need. I know already, our weddingis going to be amazing.

Talk to your spouse today about your valuesand your goals, and then talk to yourfinancial planner about how to make themyour reality.

The opinions expressed are those ofMeagan Mueller, Investment AdvisorAssociate at Manulife SecuritiesIncorporated.

Brad Brain is a Certified Financial Plannerwith Manulife Securities Incorporated, MemberCIPF and with Manulife Securities InsuranceAgency in Fort St John, BC. Brad Brain can bereached at brad.brain@manulifesecurities.caor