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Special section Love and money -- oil and water?

Before picking out your future kids' names, find out if you're headed for wedded financial bliss or a train wreck.

Talk about debts before walking down the aisle

"Opposites attract. That's what makes it exciting," says Ruth L. Hayden, a financial educator and author of "Richer for Poorer: The Money Book for Couples." But "when it comes to money, we wish we were married to a clone."

Talk about what works for you and why. Discuss how financial decisions will be handled as a couple. How will household expenses be divided? Will you agree to consult each other before making purchases of $100 or more? Or is $500 a more realistic limit?

Experts also urge married people to continue to pursue individual goals, whether it's getting another college degree, sprucing up that work wardrobe or taking a photography class.

"Each person should have their own individual play money," Dunnan says. "You shouldn't have to give up everything or consult each other on everything just because you're married -- because you're both individuals."

Money talk before pillow talk
While it may not be the most romantic thing to crunch numbers with your honey amid the hubbub of wedding plans, it can save you a lot of stress later. Postponing money talk may only make things worse.

"It doesn't get ignored when you get into a marriage. It tends to compound itself," Green says. "It's like the clash of the Titans."

Dunnan suggests couples talk money and debt before they send out the wedding invitations, especially if they're footing the bill themselves.

"They should talk about it early because it could have an impact on how much they spend on the wedding," Dunnan says. "They may need to downsize the wedding."

With average wedding costs topping out near $20,000, it's easy to see why so many couples start their life together in the red.

"It's a lot of money for one day and a honeymoon," Dunnan says. "They can be paying for it three or four years into the marriage. It's not a good way to begin."

Green recalls one couple who decided at the last minute to go all out and serve champagne and caviar at their wedding. Even though their parents helped pay for the wedding, by the time the couple returned from their honeymoon, they owed $40,000 on their credit cards.

 
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