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A lifetime of momentous financial decisions for couples often begins with how to pay for a wedding. For some thoughts on how to handle the money side of weddings, I invited Sandra Abdool, a certified financial planner (CFP) with Royal Bank of Canada, to do a Q&A.

Ms. Abdool has 24 years of experience as a planner and she has some thoughts on both weddings and what comes afterward in the financial life of a couple. Here’s an edited version of our e-mail discussion:

Q: In setting the financial tone for a relationship, how important is it for a couple to manage the costs of their wedding?

It’s really important for a couple to manage their wedding costs because they can add up very quickly and catch one or both partners by surprise when the final bills come in. This can then have a negative impact on other financial goals the couple wants to achieve in the short term. And your comment about setting the financial tone for a relationship is key. Being on the same page financially and making money decisions together – and this may well begin with how you finance your wedding – can go a long way toward helping couples build a strong relationship.

Q: What would you recommend to a couple with enough savings to pay for a big wedding: Enjoy the celebration, or think small and save money for a house down payment?

Planning for a wedding can consume a couple … and then a few months later, the event lives on in memories. You don’t want it to live on in debt. I think the pandemic has opened up simpler, less expensive options for couples to consider, which is a good thing because it keeps any related debt to a minimum. And, yes, if you think smaller and save money, you can put those savings toward a house down payment. You also may want to use that money for other life goals. Your wedding day will likely always be a special part of your memories as a couple.

Q: What are the key financial points you want to know about your partner before moving in together or getting married?

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be completely transparent with your partner prior to getting married. No one wants to come into a marriage and then be blindsided with past financial difficulties or debts they weren’t aware of. This is another reason that openness and transparency are critical before moving in together or getting married. A few questions you can ask your partner to open the conversation: Are you a spender or a saver? What are your big financial goals? Here’s mine – do they match?

Q: In your experience, what are the biggest financial flashpoints causing stress for couples these days?

Stress occurs when couples don’t have similar priorities. In a recent survey RBC commissioned, almost half of couples said finances are a top pain point in their relationship – and wedding finances in particular were called out as stressful. Some cited conflicts with partners who have significantly higher wedding expenses in mind, while others noted challenges with partners who want to have their “dream wedding,” regardless of costs. When looking at financial discussions in general, one-third of the couples we surveyed told us they weren’t comfortable discussing each other’s current financial situations – and this was especially true for men. When you aren’t comfortable with these conversations, it makes it challenging to figure out how you will reach any shared goals, or even to set those goals for yourselves as a couple.

Q: How good are couples at talking about money?

Couples aren’t talking about finances often enough. Our recent survey showed that 30 per cent talk about this one to two times per year and 5 per cent said they never do. It’s important to have frequent and open communication about how you want to spend your money. You could have a money date once or twice a month where you talk openly about finances. I can tell you that the more you talk about it, the easier it gets.

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