A few days ago I found myself at the local mall over lunchtime entirely sans reading material or a companion. I have no problem eating alone, but if that’s what I’m going to do, I prefer to have a book or a magazine in my hand. Going home where all my books live wasn’t an option since I had more shopping to do (it takes fortitude and visits to several stores to find lightweight summer pants, sometimes), so I headed for the lovely brand-spanking-new Borders that had just replaced the anemic little Waldenbooks we used to have. Same corporate masters, much bigger store.
I marched in and what to my wondering eyes did appear? Dozens of bridal magazines smack dab in my face almost as soon as I was through the door. The one that really caught my eye, however, was a Real Simple special wedding publication. I rather liked the clean, fuss-free imagery on the cover of a bride (well, most of her, since we see her pretty much only from about mid-torso to toes) sitting holding a simple bouquet composed of several large, plump, purple hydrangeas and a few glossy green leaves tied with pale blue ribbon. Her shoes are ballet flats. The gown is unadorned. In short, it looked all about the simple, the stripped down, and yet the elegantly lovely.
Even the tag line at the bottom of the magazine cover looked like the sort of philosophy I have always liked best: ‘Your personalized plan for a stress-free, beautiful celebration.’ Who wouldn’t want that? I snapped up the magazine and proceeded to read it with growing gawk over lunch.
Most of what was in there was pretty much what you’d find in the pages of any glossy magazine filled with wedding porn: your twelve-month countdown to planning, ads for companies that want you to register for your gifts with them, an article about all the accessories you can buy to go with your gown, advice on choosing the right gown for your figure, etc. I think Crate & Barrel had an ad every three pages. Interestingly enough, there weren’t a lot of wedding gown ads, and this is clearly going for a more upscale market since there wasn’t a peep out of anyplace like, say, Target that caters specifically to people on tight budgets.
Did I say budget? Oh yes, I did. Most of the advice ranged from the bland (wedding gowns take months to get to the customer, so ordering early is a good idea) to actually thoughtful (advice on how to choose whether to write your own vows or use the standard form for your denomination), to the aspirational (here’s what Muffy and Chip did, and isn’t it quaintly charming?). Then I started reading the article entitled 10 Common Budget Questions. It was numbers 2 and 4 that really struck me as seriously bad advice. But let’s take a look at what the magazine said and what’s wrong with it:
Our relatives haven’t offered to help us pay for the wedding. Is it okay to ask them for money?
Certainly. Here’s how:
*Gather photos you’re using for inspiration and any vendor estimates you’ve received.
*With your fiance, sit down with your families separately and show them the type of wedding you are hoping to have.
*Broach the subject of finances: Explain how much you and your fiance can afford and the amount your dream wedding will cost. Then, in a gracious and non-threatening tone, ask whether your families would consider paying for a specific aspect of the wedding – such as the flowers or the cake – instead of purchasing a gift for the two of you.
*If they still don’t bite, consider showing them the average wedding costs in your area. Go to www.costofwedding.com and enter your ZIP code for a breakdown of expenses in all major categories.
So…if your parents don’t react to your good news with promises to lavish cold, hard cash for the event on you, you should show them pretty pictures and ask them – in a gracious, non-threatening way, of course – what they’re going to pony up for? It seems to me that if parents expect or want to pay for all or part of the wedding, they’ll find a way to volunteer that information without being informed that your dreams cannot come true if they don’t make with the checkbook.
Plus there’s that assumption that there’s a gracious and non-threatening way to share that message. Somehow all I could think of was Marlon Brando making an offer Mom and Dad can’t refuse.
If you really can’t cover what you want on what you have, I suggest looking into what can be scaled back. After all, even if you try to coax money out of your parents, you might not succeed…and considering the next question is what to do if the ‘rents promise money but then fail to come through with it, I’m guessing the author of the article got that, too.
For my money, though, it was question 4 that really looked like a can of worms waiting to be opened.
My in-laws can’t afford to contribute as much as my parents. How do we handle this situation?
Arrange a dinner with all of the parents together. Beforehand, speak with your families individually about whether they might underwrite parts of the wedding and the financial constraints, if any, of the other couple. At dinner, talk through who will contribute what. (Note that contributions don’t necessarily have to involve a price tag.)
Well, that certainly won’t be the most awkward dinner party anyone at the table has ever attended.
These people are actually suggesting discussing your in-law’s finances with your parents, and vice versa and then holding a party to make sure everyone knows who has more money to spend on the wedding. Trust me, even if price tags are never brought up at this dinner of the damned, everyone will know how the money played out. After all, if Mimsey’s parents are footing the bill for the open bar, the ice luges, the catering, Mimsey’s wedding gown and accessories, and all the flowers…everyone will know that there’s no way Brad’s parents are spending anything like the same amount of money on their generous offer of the wedding cake and a backyard barbeque after the rehearsal.
Do your parents, your in-laws, your fiance and yourself a favor: graciously accept offers of budgetary help from any family members (providing the strings attached are ones you can live with), but don’t wheedle for money with pretty princess fantasy pictures and don’t embarrass your parents or his by sharing their financial situation with people they may hardly know.
If you want money from your parents, ask up front and be prepared for the answer to be no. It’s what grown ups do.