Your weekly stockmarket update from Brewin Dolphin, Hamilton House, 6 Nantillo St, Poundbury. 0845 213 1280. www.brewindolphin.co.uk

Will this be the year when the head rules over the heart and prudent lovers put wedding plans on hold rather than accumulate large amounts of debt to fund the big day?

Probably not, believe advisors at Brewin Dolphin, the country's largest independent private client investment manager. But the credit crunch, concerns about falling property prices and the financial climate generally suggest options for couples and families trying to fund weddings will be rather fewer than has been the case in recent years. This puts a renewed focus on making prudent investment an integral part of the planning process.

An average wedding costs around £18,0001 and few people have that kind of money available as spare cash. Of course, many people elect to save up for their wedding over a period of time. Other common ways to find the cash are foregoing the annual holiday, borrowing from friends or parents, or using a credit card.

Explains David Evans divisional director at Brewin Dolphin's Dorchester office: "The problem is that, with the general reduction in spending confidence, the holiday may already have been set aside, the parents may be feeling the pinch and many credit cards are already stretched to their limit."

Weddings seem to be getting more and more extravagant, so the first thing to think about is if you really need all the trimmings or whether a rather more modest event might help get married life off to a sound financial start. It you want the big day to be just that, then it pays to plan early from a financial viewpoint, whether the money is coming from your own pocket or those of parents.

The best investment choices will be very much dependent upon the amount of time available for money to grow.

In order to account for market volatility, five years or more is really required for investment funds to deliver a return. If forward planning allows this, then a regular monthly savings plan using a diversified fund or an Open Ended Investment Company (OEIC), which is similar to a unit trust, will often be a good option, so long as you choose your savings vehicle carefully.

Where the available saving time is only about a year the best option will probably be to put savings into a bank or building society, maximising flexibility and minimising administration charges. (It is worth remembering here that not a single saver has lost money in Northern Rock.) Says David Evans: "As ever, if at all possible, the best advice is to save or invest - whichever is the most relevant to you - rather than borrow. If the money isn't there for the wedding of your dreams then think hard about whether it's really a good idea to start married life under a mountain of debt. Wouldn't a more modest affair mean you remember the wedding as the day you started your life together, not the day your debt problems began."

David Evans is a divisional director of Brewin Dolphin Ltd. and the views expressed are not necessarily held throughout the Brewin Dolphin Group. You should bear in mind that no investment is suitable for all circumstances and it is important to seek expert advice if in any doubt.