17/02/2015 10:30 GMT | Updated 18/04/2015 06:59 BST

Plan Your Marriage Before Your Wedding

If you were one of the lucky couples to get engaged over Valentine's Day weekend, congratulations! This is a special and exciting time, and no doubt thoughts of engagement parties and wedding preparations are already providing hours of anticipation and joy.

Before you set about planning the wedding of the century, though, it is even more important to plan your marriage. I'm talking about drawing up a prenuptial agreement.

Before you click away, consider what would happen if things did go wrong. What would happen to your property or to a business you might own?

You might assume that you have certain rights, but laws governing the financial outcome of separation are complex and sometimes uncertain. Things can become more complicated if any other parties - such as new partners, parents or business partners - seek to influence or take power in some way.

Although prenuptial agreements might have a reputation for being a one-way ticket to divorce or a license to exploit the richer, or poorer, partner, nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, prenuptial agreements are designed to protect each party in the marriage and set out clear and equitable expectations for it. They are useful for estate planning purposes, as well as for planning for the familial and financial future of the union.

Although they are approached differently in England and Scotland, English law increasingly recognises the valid part that prenuptial agreements have to play in family legal proceedings.

Despite this, prenups seem to be lower on the priories list for couples. According to Google, more people search for ideas on proposing or planning weddings throughout the year than for advice about prenuptial agreements or marriage contracts.

In the UK, the average monthly Google searches for 'how to plan a wedding' in the 12 months period to January 2015 was 12,100. The average monthly number of searches for the term 'proposal ideas' was 2,900, and the average monthly number of searches for 'prenuptial agreement' was 1,300.

Because one aspect they deal with is the division of assets in the event of a relationship breakup, it might be easy to think that creating a prenuptial agreement is a cynical assessment of your marriage's potential.

Instead, prenuptial agreements are useful in a range of situations, from selling a family business to dealing to with property and other assets in the event of the marriage coming to an end. Both the weaker and the stronger person of the financial union can benefit from, and be protected by, a well-constructed prenuptial agreement.

In my experience as a family lawyer, prenuptial agreements are a simple and fair way to enhance the security of your marriage and expectations for it. It will also teach you a lot about each other as you examine the practical aspects of combining your lives.

My advice is that you start as you mean to go on, by drawing up a fair agreement with expectations for your marriage as early as possible.