Good Advice and Bad Advice About Money


It ought to go without saying that all wedding budget advice is not created equal. That certainly is the case when the question is who is going to pay for what!

Just this morning I felt myself compelled to read an article at Gal Time about the ‘new rules’ for who pays for what.

The author of the piece, Analorena Zeldon, consulted two experts, Andria Lewis (wedding planner with fifteen years’ experience) and Jodi RR Smith (author and etiquette expert) about how couples should broach the divvying up of expenses between themselves and their parents.

On the upside, the article not only assumes the couple will take some responsibility for some expenses themselves (and has a convenient breakdown of who pays for what when the two of you are paying for it all), but also that the bride’s parents might choose for a variety of reasons to opt out entirely.

In fact, I like Lewis’ most basic advice, which is essentially that once you know who is giving what, you sit down and work out a plan everyone can live with, pay attention to your budget, and keep your plans reasonable.

Where she loses me is the specific list of what parents pay for as opposed to what the happy couple pay for, should the parents choose to involve themselves financially. Still, she does note that this is just a f’rinstance and open to negotiation/variation.

I also think it’s a Very Bad Idea to tell each family what specifically the other family is paying for. People will figure out quickly whose contribution is less dollars and that leads to hurt feelings, bad blood, and potential life-long family feuds.

Still, this is better than Smith’s advice. Her plan is that the couple figure out what they want, then discuss with each other what each is willing to contribute. Then they go to her parents and ask “diplomatically and tactfully” what they will pony up. At this point, they head off to the groom’s parents (and note that there are no same-sex marriages happening here, or perhaps Smith believes that there is no such thing as a same-sex marriage with familial support) and – approaching them carefully and thoughtfully – ask the same question.

At this point, Smith figures it goes one of three ways: either the bride’s parents pick up the entire tab, the happy couple pays for everything themselves, or the groom’s parents pay part of the costs. Huh. Bride’s parents give all or nothing. Groom’s parents might pay up to half. Bride’s parents can’t (it would seem) give a portion or pay for a specific item and groom’s parents cannot ever cover the entire party.

That’s interesting.

But this whole thing of setting the budget and then asking the parents (no matter whose, in what order, or expecting what degree of return on the demand) how much they’re going to give you… yeah, that’s a situation I’ve gone on record before as considering a Very Bad and Very Tacky idea unlikely to end in anything but badness.

My take? Unless one or both sets of parents choose to make an offer of funds for your wedding, it’s better to assume you’re the ones holding the ball. Set your budget based on what you can afford and consider further money a windfall rather than a birthright. If and when you are offered financial aid from parents, mentors, or random folks in the street, find out what strings may be attached before accepting and make your decision according to whether you can live with them.

Oh, and if one side can offer a lot more money than the other side, do your best to avoid specific discussion of who paid for what. It’s the tactful thing to do.

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