Getting engaged on Valentine's Day? Here's how to do it without breaking the bank - Sarah Coles

Love in the time of Coronavirus has been a challenge for all of us. At the start of the first lockdown the Deputy Chief Medical Officer suggested couples living apart should “test their strength of feeling” by moving in together.

Valentine's Day is traditionally the day many people pop the question.

By now, even those of us who have lived together for years, can safely say our strength of feeling has been well and truly tested.

But while there are plenty of couples who decided to call it a day or live at arm’s length, there are those who have spent the past 11 months getting closer.

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Traditionally, Valentine’s Day is the second most popular day for popping the question (after Christmas), so on Sunday, there will be plenty of people with a slightly heavier left hand, wondering how to have a wedding without any guests.

Before you start trying to have views on things like flowers and sugared almonds – and buy an outfit that costs roughly the same as your first car – it’s worth taking some steps to set your finances on the right track for marriage.

Don’t buy an outfit that costs roughly the same as your first car

Don’t squander more than you need to on any aspect of your wedding. It’s easy to get carried away when you may have preconceived notions of what a ‘proper’ wedding is meant to look like, but few people have the spare cash, so it means running up serious debts. Marriage has enough challenges without having to deal with enormous credit card bills at the same time.

If you haven’t already had ‘the money talk’, do it now

This needs to cover everything financial that either of you need to know about one another. Nothing should be off the table: not even the debts you don’t tell anyone about or the fact you’ve not actually started a pension. You both need to know where you stand, so you can plan properly for a future together. Even if there’s nothing particular to report, the aim is to make talking about money as commonplace as arguing about the bins, because during any marriage there will be difficult times financially.

Take stock

Your circumstances are about to change, and there are some things you need to put in place. Marriage will automatically mean any will you have in place is cancelled, so once you have tied the knot, you need to make a new one. This is important for everyone, but is urgent for those with more complicated families.

In 2017, a third of marriages saw at least one of the couple getting married for the second or subsequent time. In 15 per cent of cases, both had been married before. If you have children from a former relationship, and you die without a will, your new spouse will receive the bulk of your estate. And while you may trust them to ensure your children receive a fair share, you won’t be able to guarantee this unless it’s written into your will.

Now your future is bound together, you should also start to plan together for the future. This means everything from working out how you’ll eventually be able to afford a home of your own to calculating how much pension income you’ll have if you both stick with your current arrangements.

Ask the tough question

Nobody wants to turn to their shiny new fiancé and say: “what if we split up?” But you do need to consider this before you get married. Even if you’re committed for life, there’s no guarantee that things won’t change, and while it’s incredibly difficult to start this conversation, planning for the worst can protect you if things go wrong.

It’s worth at least talking about what you’re bringing to the marriage financially, and how you both expect it to be divided in the event of a divorce. Ideally, you should consider a pre-nuptial agreement, which puts this in writing. They aren’t legally binding, but as long as it’s fair, and you both had legal advice when it was drawn up, the courts will take it into consideration if you can’t agree further down the line

Have an escape fund

This is cash you can hold in your own name that nobody else knows about, which you can use if things go wrong. This doesn’t necessarily just come into its own if you need to escape the relationship. It can also be life-changing if you need to escape any kind of financial cul-de-sac.

Having some money in your own name to fall back on means you never need to feel entirely trapped in any situation.

None of these considerations are particularly romantic, and you might want to wait until the glow of the engagement has worn off a bit before bringing everyone back down to earth with a bump. But a few awkward conversations handled with tact now can save you from an awful lot of grief in fu