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Summer is traditionally wedding time in Mzansi, when beautiful venues are booked out years in advance, caterers are run off their feet and florists search desperately for another six dozen white roses.

It’s fabulous to focus on bachelorette parties and flower bouquets, but it’s also vital to draw up a wedding budget and discuss some tricky financial and legal topics with your partner.

This will help ensure that “I do's” don’t leave you with debts and dramas long after the confetti has blown away.

“Wedding budgeting may not be as romantic as choosing rings and champagne,” says Justmoney commercial manager Sarah Nicholson, “but it boosts your chances of enjoying a beautiful, meaningful ceremony without being in arrears for years.”

Wedding costs can be eye-watering, particularly if your beloved has set their heart on an opulent destination in the company of dozens of friends and relatives.

Wedding planners point out that costs vary enormously, but you could easily spend R250 000 on a wedding or up to R850 000 for a three-day destination celebration.

According to Statistics SA’s Marriages and Divorces 2016 Report, the median age of grooms is 36 and 32 for brides.

This suggests that some couples who are financially established may have a sum put away for a wedding. But whatever your age, the sooner you start saving, the better.

Check the interest rates offered by some banks and compare them to make a savvy choice.

When it comes to planning your wedding budget, Justmoney has the following tips:

* Set up a spreadsheet. List all the expenses you can think of. It helps to obtain information from friends who have recently tied the knot.

* Source a range of quotes from suppliers, because these can vary enormously. A quick internet search revealed you can order a simple A-line wedding dress on Takealot for R2500 with free delivery, or fork out between R15 000 and R30 000 for a one-off creation tailored by a specialist bridal dressmaker.

* Make a guest list. Establish how many guests you are likely to invite and what the food and drink costs could be. The venue catering manager or on-site wedding planner can help. Trimming the wedding guest list can slim down your budget.

* Decide what’s important for you. “Don’t feel pressured to have a couture gown or choose an exotic destination, just because of Facebook friends and Hello magazine. Decide what elements have meaning for you, and focus on them,” says Nicholson.

* Hold the ceremony at a family home, outdoors, or a non-traditional location.

* Rely on seasonal, locally available flowers and avoid expensive exotics. Use the same flowers for the wedding and reception. Fill tables with candles to up the romance and cut flower costs.

* Scan social media to catch promotions such as dress and jewellery sales.

* Seek out new talent. Seasoned photographers could recommend someone up-and-coming who’s more affordable.

* Use free apps for online invitations rather than expensive printing.

* Build in a buffer. Remember to set aside an amount for unexpected expenses.

This is also the right time to talk about money and to discuss what is important to each of you. What constitutes your ideas of a happy, successful life? Be open about any current debts. If your partner has bad money management skills, he or she is unlikely suddenly to change his or her financial behaviour once you are married.

On some overseas dating sites, people include their good credit scores to highlight their appeal as suitable mates. You might not want to go this far, but determining whether your goals are aligned now can help to prevent heartache later on.

Deciding on the legal framework for your marriage is another must-do. Consult your financial adviser or a family lawyer. Four out of 10 marriages end in divorce before the 10th anniversary, according to StatsSA, so clear up any doubts about contracts now, as well as documents that need updating.

“Planning ahead, budgeting properly, and informing yourself about your rights and obligations will help to ensure that, when you finally walk down the aisle, you’re better set to avoid conflict and enjoy a happy life together,” says Nicholson. “You’ll also have settled into some good money habits that will last a lifetime.” 

PERSONAL FINANCE