Who’s In Charge?

When it comes to planning a wedding, everyone has an opinion.

You may be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t get a lot of unsolicited advice or unreasonable demands from friends and family… but what if you’re not so lucky? Who has what rights in these questions? What can you do about it?

Time was, and not so long ago in historical terms, when the groom’s entire job was to show up on time in appropriate clothes and say ‘I do.’ And the brides’ job was to allow her parents to give the party they wanted in the style that best displayed any wealth they had. Two brides or two grooms was unheard of.

The wedding as an expression of the happy couples’ personal aesthetic vision is a relatively new concept, and there are a lot of people who haven’t caught up with it yet. Your parents may feel that it’s still their job to plan your wedding for you, especially if they’re footing the bill.

The thing is, if they’re paying for it, it does give a lot more weight to their arguments. It’s hard to convince people to pay for things they don’t approve of. It’s hard to convince them to pay for things they wouldn’t choose for themselves. If your priorities and tastes are very different from theirs, you could wind up butting heads over the most seemingly ridiculous things.

Chances are, though, that if you’re spending a lot of time arguing about flowers or whether to have a vegetarian entree option, at least part of what you’re really arguing about is the question of who’s in charge.

And that’s where things get tricky.

There are lucky couples out there who are handed wads of cash by parents with no strings attached. If that’s your case, have at it and enjoy!

But most people who give money to a couple want some form of control over how it’s spent. That means that if you’re offered money, you have to decide whether you can live with the strings attached.

It might be that your parents will pay for your gown as long as it’s within the budget they’ve offered. Or it might be that they will pay for it as long as it’s pure white and covered to the chin. Your soon-to-be in-laws might be willing to pay for all the flowers, no holds barred. Or they might be willing to pay for only flowers they don’t associate with something negative or only if they’re fake. Your grandmother might want to pay for the venue, no matter what it might be… or she might insist you hold the wedding at her church and the reception in the basement where you’re not allowed to serve alcohol.

If you’re getting money from someone who wants you to choose what they would choose for you, you need to decide first if it’s what you would choose for yourself. If you, too, prefer faux flowers or didn’t plan to serve alcohol, anyway, those strings won’t be a problem. Take the money and run.

But what if you have your heart set on a rum pink strapless gown? A hall filled with the lilies your MIL associates with funerals, or an open bar and a country club setting?

Well, you can discuss the matter with the person holding the purse strings. Sometimes a bit of gentle persuasion will result in a compromise that will satisfy everyone. You might even be able to get your own way entirely, if the person is willing to listen carefully and you are able to articulate your desires eloquently.

But if they won’t budge, then you have a decision to make: can you find a way to have your wedding without their money? Can you live with having the wedding they prefer you to have? How much emotional fallout will there be if you simply refuse the money?

In a perfect world, you would be able to have precisely the wedding you’d most like to have with the full support of your family and friends… but this world isn’t perfect. Nobody gets their own way every time. Sometimes the price of getting your way is higher than you want to pay. And sometimes we all need to put someone else’s priorities higher than our own.

Ultimately, the decision is yours. You get to decide whose priorities are most important and why. Even if you choose someone else’s preference, it’s up to you.

You’re in charge.

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