Every week millions of South Africans watch as couples on popular wedding shows prepare for what may be one of the biggest celebrations of their lives…

Viewers get a sneak peek into the search for the perfect venue, dress, suit and cars, and how the couples deal with arranging their big event. Amid all the excitement viewers also get a front row seat to how quickly the costs add up and the impact it has on the couples involved.

Whilst a marriage is certainly cause for celebration, the process couples tend to go through before saying ‘I do’ can often be daunting. The whole experience can take months or even years to plan, but how enjoyable this time and process is often comes down to the approach to planning and funding it all. For many South Africans having both a traditional and a Western wedding can add to the pressure a couple feels to meet expectations.

According to Priya Naicker, Advice Manager at Old Mutual Personal Finance, many couples spend a great deal of time and money on achieving their dream wedding but not nearly enough on achieving their ideal marriage. “Be careful not to plan for your wedding at the expense of planning for the marriage and the future,” says Naicker.

“It is important to consider your goals for the marriage and the financial resources required to achieve them. Your wedding should be viewed as one part of that bigger plan. Assign a level of importance to the wedding by understanding the necessary trade-offs or requirements when considering your other lifestyle goals”.

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Naicker offers five tips to help you make your dream wedding a reality without breaking the bank.

1. Plan your financial future and goals

Understanding what you want to do, be and have together (and individually) for the future, helps place the priorities of your wedding in the right context. This helps you plan the ideal wedding that complements, rather than compromises, your future married life by assisting you to make decisions based what is truly important for the wedding and your years ahead, as opposed to being swept up in the potential shopping hype.

2. Decide what is most important to you

Consider what is most important to you when it comes to the wedding experience and then think about what is essential to delivering that experience. Prepare to apportion your spend in a way that reflects this by indulging in prioritised aspects and being prepared to compromise on the details that have less impact on these outcomes.

3. Turn the dream into a goal, and the goal into a plan

Consciously turning this into a goal creates the necessary focus to bring the plan to life. Start by creating a budget and actively finding ways to better apportion your spend. This will likely create pockets of savings that can be channeled towards wedding savings.

Start by creating a budget and actively finding ways to better apportion your spend. This is likely to create pockets of savings that can be channeled towards wedding savings.

Make an informed decision on how much you are comfortable with spending on your wedding experience and use your budget to balance your current spend with saving toward amounts still required for the wedding. Stick to the decision on the maximum wedding budget as far as possible. If you do go over budget, agree on what trade-offs will be required (for example, decide whether additional savings need to be created in your monthly spend or if future goals need to be compromised as a result).

4. Do your research

With Internet information at our fingertips, it is now much easier than ever before to do your research. We should, however, be aware of the potential for information overload and unverifiable information (for example, some websites feature paid reviews that may not reflect actual experience). Therefore, it is often helpful to complement research with recommendations from family and friends or people who have used suppliers.

5. Make it fun

Have fun with the process. Find ways of making the exercise playful and use it to generate excitement for your future plans. Ideas could include creating a spend challenge between you and your partner. Divide up the wedding planning aspects and challenge each other to produce the best outcome within budget. Come up with fun (non-financial) penalties for exceeding budget and pick out inspiring mini rewards for coming in under budget.

“Planning for the future and the wedding can and should be fun. Approaching this with transparency and open conversation is likely to set the tone for a healthy financial relationship between you and your partner,” says Naicker.

“Choose to start the journey equipped with the right expertise and with a financial plan that protects, guides and excites you. Partner with a financial advisor who can help you navigate tough choices, compare scenarios, and stay on track and accountable to both your current and future selves.”