Maybe it's the barrage of television commercials for diamonds that lasts the entire month of December, or the prospect of sitting down to yet another family dinner with all of your nosy relatives repeatedly asking, "When are you two going to finally get married?"

Whatever the reason, the holidays can be a popular time to pop the question to your sweetheart. Along with those visions of sugarplums dancing in your head, you've now added fantasies of the perfect wedding, honeymoon, and a life of wedded bliss.

As soon as you head to the bookstore and start cracking open those pearly white wedding planners, you'll find that one of your first tasks will require that you set a budget for the big day. (I don't mean to rain on your parade so early, but it won't be long before you'll have to start crunching some numbers.)

Why budget now?
You'll want to establish a budget for several reasons. If you set a budget that you and your family can afford, you'll protect yourself from beginning your new life in debt. After all, young families soon find plenty of expensive things facing them, from new homes to children, not to mention leftover college loans.

Also, when I was planning my wedding, I found our budget to be invaluable protection against the onslaught of the wedding industry.

It's with good reason that two Rule Breakers stock recommendations have nuptial themes. The Knot (NASDAQ:KNOT), an online wedding service, publishes articles, personalized Web pages, registries, regional resources, and very handy planning advice. It attracts millions of wedding-frenzied eyeballs each month, a dream market for wedding vendors. The newsletter has also recommended Blue Nile (NASDAQ:NILE) for creating a niche as an online diamond retailer.

Make it your goal to have some money left after the wedding to invest in the nuptial industry and maybe to do a little research into The Knot, Blue Nile, and Tiffany's (NYSE:TIF), the iconic purveyors of luxuries that come in those little blue boxes.

Sit down and prioritize
In the meantime, however, you'll have to plan a wedding. Here's some preplanning work that my husband and I found worthwhile before setting up our budget or making any decisions. They may serve you well.

The first part is recommended by many planning books, and you may be tempted to skip it. If you work through it, you'll have a much better understanding of each other down the road. On two separate pieces of paper, write down all the major components of a wedding -- food, drink, location, officiant, flowers, cake, gown, photography, videography, etc.

Get out some fancy glasses and pour yourself some wine or beer, or maybe set out your favorite snacks. Reminisce about your first date. Now, working separately, rank each item on the list according to priority. Then, compare your lists. Start talking through any major differences and how you'll handle them before moving forward.

My husband and I were lucky -- or just that compatible -- that all the top items on our list matched. We cared about food and setting, hoping to replicate the feeling that we were inviting our family and friends to our home for a big celebration. We both also cared a lot about photography.

Make it your goal to put your money toward your top priorities. This is, after all, what you care about. Knowing your priorities will help you resist the urge to spend a lot on everything, because you can look back to your lists and remind yourselves you don't care about harp players or disco balls in the dance hall.

Start cutting
Follow up this exercise with a discussion about any components you could cut or minimize. Look to the bottom of both of your lists, and you'll see where you can start. (You won't find this recommended in many planning books, because they want you to buy, buy, buy.)

We immediately dropped the idea of a videographer and any notion of giving out wedding favors. We chose a site that didn't need decoration, so we omitted all but the essential flowers. We got very gracious assistance from my husband's sister with hair and makeup. We drastically limited the options at the bar, but no one ran out of drink. We had a fabulous wedding!

After you've done this, you can start your research into other cost-cutting tips. You can start right here with these related articles:

Curious to why The Knot and Blue Nile are recommendations of our Rule Breakers newsletter? Try a free 30-day trial of the newsletter and discover more innovative companies.

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Fool contributor Mary Dalrymple does not own stock in any company mentioned in this article. She welcomes your feedback.