Since money is the number one cause of marital discord, according to Dr. Howard Markman, Co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver, a mutual financial plan is vital to the success of your marriage. Many engaged couples get so caught up thinking about groomsmen gifts and bachelor parties that they lose sight of the post-wedding party portion: the marriage, and its monetary realities. Though you may be reluctant to broach the subject of money for fear of upsetting your fiancée, head off arguments with a sit-down discussion about money management style, financial expectations, and the economic background behind each person's financial views. Trust us; before you start picking out groomsmen gifts and wedding china, have this one simple talk that could save your marriage.

The decision whether to get a prenup, have joint or separate accounts, or life insurance options are all based on personal preferences. But here are a few broad guidelines for how to make a successful financial plan for the future:

Tell no secrets, tell no lies. When it comes to money, honesty is not only the best policy; it's the thing that keeps couples out of debt, out of jail, and out of divorce court. It sounds harsh, but hidden debts or secret spending can deplete a financial fund irreplaceably-and damage a marriage permanently, so if you find yourself disguising how much money you're spending on groomsmen gifts, take that as a warning sign. Before you get married, talk honestly about any debt or expenses you have. Similarly, define your terms for "luxury" and "necessity." It's fine for a couple to agree they want to spend 70% of their wedding funds on necessities and 30% on luxuries, but if she considers oxygen facials to be luxury bridesmaid gifts, and his idea of luxury groomsmen gifts is McDonald's coupons, therein lies a problem. Not an insurmountable problem, but an issue that requires pre-marriage resolution.

Timing is everything. As with any other hot topic, be sensitive about when you approach the money discussion. Is your fiance exhausted from an early morning meeting, or bummed out about an argument with a friend? Now is the time to keep mum on the M-word. A hot-button discussion under these kinds of circumstances will only lead to explosions. Spend a fun day shopping for groomsmen gifts or honeymoon resort wear. Afterwards, time your talk for a quiet dinner out, where you are both relaxed and romantic, as well as obligated to remain calm and couth. By gently working money talk into your romantic routine, you will demystify finances and not fear future discussions. There are limits however; you might do well to ban money talk from the bedroom!

Debt is the Devil. Make getting and staying out of debt a priority during your wedding planning. If your fiance has her heart set on a princess wedding, take a second job or petition relatives, but don't max out your credit card on groomsmen gifts and wedding favors. One day, no matter how important, is not worth the months or even years of debt that can result from wedding planning. Similarly, work out a plan to pay down student loans and individual debt so that it doesn't carry over into the marriage. If necessary, postpone the wedding until these debts are paid off. It may sound extreme, but baggage of any kind should be dealt with in advance in order to have a happy, stress-free marriage. Also, the less debt you have, the fewer bills there are to bicker over later.

Common Goals are Key. Money talk shouldn't be all depressing. To engage your fiance in money talk, maybe after a day out shopping for bridesmaid or groomsmen gifts, start out the conversation by asking about her dreams or goals for the future. Get excited talking about your dream home, a fantasy vacation in Greece, or owning your own vineyard. Then bring the discussion down to reality by saying, "Cool, let's figure out together how we can accomplish these dreams." Now is the time to talk about putting away ten percent, investing in an IRA, cutting down on dinners out, 86ing the gold-encrusted cufflink groomsmen gifts, or whatever it will take to help you get to those goals.

Don't Discount Childhood. Not to be too Freudian, but since different spending habits have the potential to hurt our partner or be taken personally, its important to get a perspective on where your fiance gets their money management style from before you have a blow-up argument over the groomsmen gifts budget. For example, it may irritate you that your fiance constantly nags you about paying bills. You're a grown man. Of course you're going to pay them! But one simple talk may unlock the fact that when her parents divorced, there was no guarantee the bills would be paid, and so what you perceive as nagging is just your fiance's way of reassuring herself that her future is stable. Similarly, if you spend money like its going out of style, she may learn you have insecurities about your looks or status that could be resolved in other ways, like working out together or just more compliments from her. Taking a look at childhood could also help you to make better financial choices and build a stronger relationship.

Using these tips to talk to your fiance about a financial plan for the future could save your marriage, so be sure to have this chat before you splurge on reception halls and groomsmen gifts. Don't let dollar signs get in the way of "till death do us part." Being open and honest will lead to a happy and secure life together.

Some information taken from
Ladies Home Journal