Smooth road to the chuppah with prenuptial troubleshooting

He popped the question. She happily said "yes." And the whirlwind of wedding plans was set in motion.

But when those plans get sticky and tempers start to boil, it's easy for a couple to lose sight of why they are marrying. When things get tough, take a moment to sit back and remind yourself that what really counts is not what type of hors d'oeuvres to serve but the long and happy life you will share after the wedding.

With the average engagement lasting about 15 months, you and your spouse-to-be have plenty of time to get to know each other. Longer engagements are especially helpful to younger couples.

"A long engagement allows for increased familiarity and lets couples explore the roles they expect to play," psychologist Evelyn Lehrfield says in Bride's magazine.

More important than finding the perfect wedding dress and caterer is spending time planning your future. Discuss issues such as family and children — Do you want any? How many? When?– lifestyle, finances, career aspirations and fidelity.

Air any fears or insecurities you have about the relationship or marriage in general. How do you feel about your parents' marriages — do you want to emulate them or avoid their mistakes?

How about religion? Are you in agreement about how observant you will be, or how observantly you'll raise your children?

If this is a second marriage, consider how well you'll deal with stepchildren. Also discuss fears and problems from your first marriage that you are afraid may carry over into this relationship.

Premarital counseling is a growing practice, particularly as more synagogues encourage couples to attend retreats and counseling sessions to teach them the value of open communication.

Another route taken by some couples, prenuptial agreements, determine the distribution of assets in the event of divorce or death.

Couples today generally are older and bring more property to a marriage, according to Cosmopolitan. Moreover, couples marrying for a second or third time may have children from previous marriages.

On the other hand, divorce attorneys will tell you, prenuptial agreements can victimize the spouse — usually the woman — who comes into the marriage with less money.

If you and your future spouse choose to sign such an agreement, each of you should consult your own attorney. Books such as "Don't Get Married Until You Read This: A Layman's Guide to Pre-nuptial Agreements" by David Saltman and Harry Schaffner (Barron's) will guide you through the process.

Once all that is behind you and you are ready to plan the wedding in earnest, you will need the negotiating skills of a true diplomat. The process starts with the couple.

Decide what is really important. If you have your heart set on an expensive reception hall, you may be willing to negotiate on music or food. If you want a large wedding, you may agree to a more affordable outdoor affair.