A Different Kind of Proposal

Once upon a time, my dad told me that he’d give me and whoever I decided to marry $5,000 that we could spend as we liked, provided I eloped. When The Beard and I did decide to marry, that offer changed to $2,000 to put toward a “real” wedding, since my dad’s wife at the time wasn’t going to see me married without all the proper proceedings. Honestly, we probably would have put that original sum toward my wedding budget because I like weddings and The Beard is his mother’s only son, but the thought of having a few thousand more dollars in the bank to put toward a house might have been tempting!

asking parents for money for a wedding

According to a New York Times blog, the newest trend where parents and budgets are concerned is asking for money for big ticket items in lieu of a contribution to a wedding. A down payment on a home is one popular way to spend the spoils, though others might include a much-needed new car or a blowout six-month vacation.

if you’re thinking of asking your parents for cash instead of a wedding contribution, bringing up the subject if your parents haven’t offered first can be difficult. Ms. Martini Bratten [editor-in-chief of Brides] recommends that couples first find out if their parents plan to contribute to the wedding before broaching the subject and not to be shocked if parents are perplexed by the proposition. And if parents make the proposal themselves, choosing whether to take the money or not can be hard as well, though Ms. Martini Bratten said she expected many brides would probably still opt for their dream event.

Asking for money to put toward a wedding budget is difficult enough for many brides and grooms without having to find a way to tactfully say something like “On the assumption that you’re going to help us pay for our wedding, might we just have the cash instead?” I suppose it would get a little easier if your parents have already said they’ll give you such-and-such an amount, and slightly more easy if you want to spend that money on something responsible, like a graduate degree or a flat in the nice part of town.

It might be harder, on the other hand, to ask moms and dads for money when you are planning a biggish wedding and your spouse-to-be’s parents have already indicated that they’ll help pay for it. In that case, it might be awkward for both sets of parents, particularly if there is bad blood between the families and one thinks the other isn’t contributing enough to the happiness or survival of the kids. And I think that asking for cash would be especially difficult if you and your spouse-to-be are well-off enough to pay for a rather nice wedding on your own and plan to do just that, but would like some additional funds for big expenses.

In my case, The Beard and I approached all of our parents to ask (with no strings attached) if they were planning to help us pay for a wedding. At the time, it never occurred to us to use the money so graciously given to us for our wedding for something else, and the thought of asking whether it would be all right if money given for one purpose might be used for another makes me feel a little itchy. That’s why I’m wondering if any of our readers chose to use parent-gifted wedding budget funds for other purposes… if so, did you ask your moms and dads if they’d be willing to hand over cash instead of writing checks to vendors? Did proposing the idea feel weird?

13 Responses to “A Different Kind of Proposal”

  1. Blossom says:

    My parents are paying for the marjority of the wedding because when i said my partner and I would save up and pay for it ourselves my mother would not have a bar of it and insisted on paying for catering and hire, and she keeps buying little stuff that she see’s that would suit my theme. I would never ever even consider asking for that in cash to buy a TV or something that would be plain rude and i would get an ear bashing from my mother!

  2. bobbie-sue says:

    We always intended to pay for the entire wedding ourselves, and were very firm on that. My mother offered to pay for a photographer, but a good friend had already offered to shoot the wedding for a nominal fee, and we didn’t want to have to do any formal shots to please anyone, so we politely declined. What I did ask my parents to pay for instead was a party with all my relatives overseas during our honeymoon; almost a second reception, but much smaller and low key. It took a fair bit of convincing due to family politics. My mother thought it would be a huge expense, but I told her that any decent photographer would have charged $2000 at least. I’ll admit I got a little offended that after letting her off the hook for the reception (traditionally funded by MOB & FOB), she wouldn’t foot the bill for her own family to be included in a small way. In the end my parents agreed to help us out with this. The family party was exactly what we wanted to have a quick meet-and-greet with relatives that hubby had never met and I hadn’t seen in years, and we were still able to have full control over the wedding.

  3. bobbie-sue says:

    Also, the cost of the 2nd event ended up being way less than any of us would have thought.

  4. Kathy says:

    My parents came to us with the proposal. A lump sum to be used for the wedding, and anything left over went to us to do with as we chose. If we wanted a wedding bigger than the budget they allowed, we were on the hook. It was a good system for us!

  5. Twistie says:

    It never occurred to me to ask my father about money. He’d been paying my way quite long enough. Mr. Twistie never asked his mother for a dime. Basically, without even discussing the matter in particular, I wound up paying for the wedding and Mr. Twistie paid for the honeymoon. It worked for us.

    Some friends of mine also never approached parents for wedding money. They’d been living together for about three years, and they simply assumed they were footing the bill on their own. Her father came to them and said since they seemed to be paying for the wedding he wanted to give them a more extravagant honeymoon than they would have been able to afford on their own. He sent them on a two-week vacation to London. Nice.

    Had someone offered us money no strings attached, Mr. Twistie and I might have chosen to spend it on something other than the wedding/honeymoon. But if it were offered toward the wedding, I don’t think I would have felt right spending it on something unrelated, or asking to do so.

    Your mileage may vary, but if money is offered for a particular purpose, my feeling is that your options are to accept the money for the intended purpose or to decline the money.

  6. Linda says:

    My husband was adamant we pay for the wedding ourselves. Our folks gave us money as a wedding gift which helped us pay for some small things closer to the wedding. My husband didn’t want anyone to dictate how we planned our wedding and by paying for it ourselves we didn’t need to appease anyone else.

  7. KTB says:

    I had a similar situation to Kathy. We didn’t ask my parents or his parents for money. Instead, my mother told me that my parents wanted to pay for the wedding, gave me her budget number, and told me that whatever we didn’t use, we could keep. We ended up slightly overbudget, which we paid out of our own pockets. I knew that my parents were going to have limited, if any, strings attached, so I wasn’t worried about having someone else’s wedding. I’m very lucky to come from a nuclear family with very little drama!

    As far as the honeymoon went, my SIL had borrowed some money to travel from my MIL, so my MIL decided to just give us the same amount for the honeymoon and not make my SIL pay her back. I think she was trying to be fair to both of her kids, which worked out awesomely for us!

  8. ChristianeF says:

    Personally, I wouldn’t ever ask my parents for money in the first place. I know they can’t afford it. My Dad and Step-Mom have 5 daughters between them and my Mom is not in a good place financially. When we all lived at home, my Dad would say (half-jokingly) he’d give us $500 and a ladder.

    If they offered money to help pay for my wedding, I’d take it (after much discussion) but, like Twistie, I wouldn’t consider using it for anything else.

  9. My mother offered money to help pay for our very small, modest family-only wedding. My husband’s parents offered as well. My husband had been married before and we were both in our 40s when we married last year.

    It was kind of them to offer, but we politely refused both offers, reasoning that as adults who have been paying our own bills since we graduated from college, it seemed a little inappropriate to take their money now, especially as none of them are in a position to be giving it away.

  10. Kristin says:

    I had a similar situation with my grandmother, where she’d offered to buy me a car when I got my BA and I and my sister (who was graduating at about the same time with the same offer) asked her if we could put the money toward getting master’s degrees. She had a hard time understanding why we would want to, and it’s been weird talking about it, since she’s so ultra-WASP she has a hard time admitting that something called “money” exists. (My grandfather on that side used to refer to my father as a “damn Yankee.”) I don’t know that I’d make the same request again.

    I definitely want to make the wedding happen without money from either of our sets of parents. If my boyfriend’s parents contribute and mine don’t, my parents will feel weird about it; if I take a dime of my parents’ money, I’ll feel resentful. Money has always been the carrot and the stick in my family. And I love my boyfriend’s family, but they have three other kids to worry about somewhat imminent weddings for–I don’t think they’d mind too much if we asked them not to help us out.

  11. Toni says:

    As evidenced by the posts above, this is one of those situations where no one solution is going to work for every family. It depends on family politics, relative wealth of the parties included, ingrained cultural assumptions, and a myriad of other factors.

    Some parents/grandparents/benefactors might prefer to see you put the money towards something “practical” like a house or college degree, and others might be offended that it’s not being used for a big party that they get to help plan. It seems like everyone so far handled the situation with tact.

  12. La BellaDonna says:

    I was 20 years old, and I paid for my wedding myself – with pretty minimal input from the groom, come to think of it. I don’t think it even occurred to my parents to offer anything for wedding expenses; it certainly didn’t occur to me to ask, as money was tight. In retrospect – yeah, it would have been nice; I was the first – the ONLY one to get married for nearly two decades – and there wasn’t a lot of family recognition from the parents, grandparents, etc. However, it was my wedding, and in retrospect, I’d have liked more help from the GROOM.

  13. Pencils says:

    I didn’t ask my parents for money, nor did we ask my husband’s father. However, my parents insisted on buying my wedding gown and a few other pieces of my outfit. My gown was only $700 or so, not thousands.

    It felt good paying for the wedding and honeymoon ourselves,