My fiancé refuses to let his parents help out with our wedding.
May 25, 2011 6:59 AM   Subscribe

My fiancé refuses to let his parents help pay for our wedding. Should I say anything, or am I walking into a minefield?

We're getting married this year in a fairly economical wedding. My parents are paying for about 60% of the costs, while my fiancé and I are paying for the remainder. This arrangement is less because either of our families believe in the traditional idea that the bride's family should foot the bill and more because my parents are inviting their friends and family as well and want to show everyone a good time (but again, in a VERY ECONOMICAL setting).

My fiancé's parents have offered to help, but he turned them down because he says he's an adult who doesn't need their money. I understand this sentiment, and went through the same reaction myself when I started planning the event, but I quickly realized that weddings are way more expensive than I anticipated. I worry that my fiancé, because he's less involved in the wedding planning process, simply doesn't know how costly this will be. He has a history of being extremely stubborn/idealistic about certain matters without considering the basic logic of the situation (in this case, while he would like to pay for the whole wedding himself without MY parents' involvement, he doesn't make enough money for that. It was quite an ordeal just to convince him that letting them help out wasn't the end of the world), so this isn't terribly surprising.

Most importantly, I'm getting nervous about how this affects the relationship my parents have with me and my fiancé. Right now, my parents are footing a lot of costs themselves, and I worry that my mother will feel resentful if my fiancé's parents don't help out a little. My mother gets really easily offended by a breach of manners such as this, which wouldn't be fair to my fiancé's parents, who have offered and been turned down. So then I worry that my mother will resent my fiancé, whom she absolutely adores. This is a lot of hypotheticals, of course, and I'm a huge worrywart.

I don't make as much money as my fiancé, and I really really don't want to butt into his affairs with his (lovely, sweet) parents. Should I say anything? Or just let it be?

Other details: Fiancé and I have a savings system in place where we dump a percentage of paychecks into the wedding fund. We're pinching pennies for a honeymoon as well. Fiancé's parents are also inviting family friends and relatives, of course. Fiancé is an only child, while my parents have another child in college right now. I get the impression, perhaps incorrectly, that my parents make about as much as my future in-laws. None of the involved parents are overcontrolling crazy people who, once their dollars are in the savings jar, will bulldoze wedding plans.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In all seriousness, ask him if his parents can help out with the rehearsal dinner as a) that is somewhat traditional and b) a concrete thing for his parents to help with and c) mention how your parents are covering a lot of the costs and actually go over the costs with him.

It shouldn't hurt to ask, and being practical in how you ask may alleviate some of his stubbornness. And since the future in-laws OFFERED, why on earth wouldn't you (collective couple you) take them up on that?
posted by zizzle at 7:04 AM on May 25, 2011 [7 favorites]

My take is that a wedding can be seen as a family event, and that parental participation is therefore totally reasonable.

Perhaps you could compromise by having his parents "host" one of the events--traditionally the groom's family would host and pay for the rehearsal dinner, for example. I've been to weddings where the bride paid for the food but the groom paid for the booze. I've been to weddings where the groom's family paid for the honeymoon. Generally I've always seen this as "two families are getting together and putting on a really great party!"

I see no reason why his parents shouldn't be offered the opportunity to provide some measure of hospitality. Your fiance is effectively shutting them out of the chance to help throw this party. It's silly.
posted by padraigin at 7:05 AM on May 25, 2011

I would just let it be. If i could go back and do it, i would most certainly not allow anyone else to help pay for any part of our wedding...We would have had to get super creative and probably had an incredibly tiny, scaled back wedding. Even my lovely, sweet in-laws (whom I love dearly!) got a bit crazy with wedding planning crazies, and it very much turned into something we didn't really envision, and parts of it we still really wish were different. Money has a tendency to monkey with boundaries and relationship dynamics....especially surrounding weddings.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:08 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

With money comes baggage. A contribution of money allows that party to have opinions about how that money is spent as well as how all other money after is spent. My vote is to respect your husband's wishes.

If anything my vote is to make the wedding more frugal. I have been to weddings that were free and resulted in a healthy and happy union.
posted by rdurbin at 7:13 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

My mother gets really easily offended

this is actually a good reason for your parents not to be paying for it, either.
posted by rr at 7:17 AM on May 25, 2011 [9 favorites]

"My mother gets really easily offended by a breach of manners such as this"

This is not a breach of manners; traditionally the bride's family pays for the wedding, or (less traditionally) the couple pays for the wedding. The groom's family pays for a few things here and there. There's no tradition of halfsies.

That said, you should sit down with your fiance and show him the wedding costs and budget. Point out to him that your parents are helping as a gift to you as a couple, and his parents have offered to do the same -- why shouldn't his parents have the same right to help out as a gift to you?

Really I think in your situation, you either have to let both sets of parents help, or neither.

If the costs of the wedding are going to damage your relationship with your fiance, your parents, or his parents, you need to have a cheaper wedding. There's nothing preventing you from visiting a JP and then letting each set of parents throw you a "reception" as they please, for example. Which wouldn't be my thing, personally, but is always an option. Have a small wedding with the people YOU invite and pay for; let each set of parents have a party later with THEIR people. Whatever. But if you can't afford the wedding you want without damage to the most important personal relationships in your lives, you can't afford the wedding you want.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:19 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Whatever. But if you can't afford the wedding you want without damage to the most important personal relationships in your lives, you can't afford the wedding you want.

This is excellent advice.

Do you have a budget? Have you shown your fiance how much everything costs, pointed out the exact amount you'll need to pay for, and then examined your incomes to see how it doesn't fit in?

If he still refuses to allow his parents to pay--and ultimately, this is his choice to make--and paying for the 40% is going to put too much stress on your finances then you can't afford your current wedding and should scale back. It doesn't matter how economical it is at present, it's not economical enough if you guys can't pay for it.
posted by Anonymous at 7:29 AM on May 25, 2011

If your parents are helping, then it is wrong to turn down the help of his parents, plain and simple. Your husband's attitude about him being an adult and not needing their money is kind of a slap in your face because you accepted your parent's money and you're most certainly an adult.

It's best to either put on the best wedding you can with no parental money or with the help of both sets. Help him recognize the reality of your financial burden here and the inherent inequity of accepting one set's help and declining the other's.
posted by inturnaround at 7:31 AM on May 25, 2011 [17 favorites]

"I worry that my fiancé, because he's less involved in the wedding planning process, simply doesn't know how costly this will be." Does he not know because you are not talking to him about this or he is not listening? Either one sounds like a red "not enough communication" flag to me.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:39 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Everything else aside, you need to be comfortable talking to your future husband about this. Money management is one of the core shared responsibilities of married life. If you can't get a full airing on this issue now, it will portend even more serious problems in the future.

You're setting a pattern here. Make it a good one.
posted by alms at 7:41 AM on May 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
Thanks for the insights so far. Just to be emphasize something I already noted in the original question: everyone's parents are extremely chill (and also live very far way away from where the wedding is happening) and neither couple would disrespect our wedding plans. Please assume for now that parental contributions won't snowball into arguments over the color of the tablecloths.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:44 AM on May 25, 2011

My parents are paying for about 60% of the costs

My fiancé's parents have offered to help, but he turned them down because he says he's an adult who doesn't need their money.

Wait, what? He's ok with financial help from YOUR parents, but not his?

If he wants to remain true to his ideals, than he shouldn't accept your parents' money either, no?

This sounds like more of a temper tantrum than a rational adult decision. And that's totally understandable - weddings and wedding planning can bring out the worst in the parent-child relationship (btdt myself). Perhaps he can consider any financial help from his parents as a loan to be repaid, if that will help him get over this ideological hump.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:56 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Having his parents host a rehearsal or pre-wedding family dinner sounds like a nice idea. As for your Mom, she is paying for what she wants to pay for. If she's mad about paying for something she offered to pay for, that's not your fault, your fiance's fault, or his parent's fault. She can resent anyone she likes, but you don't have to accept personal responsibility for her resentment.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:05 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is a difficult situation. It sounds like your husband is trying hard to be a "provider" here as well as start his marriage off by being "responsible" and both of these are noble things. Your husband is obviously an honorable man. That being said, I think he is clearly in the wrong here. I just got married about 5 months ago. My Wife's parents paid for about 60% of the wedding and my parents paid for the rest. I think one way to approach this with your husband is to tell him what you said here about your parents possibly being offended if his parents didn't chip in for the wedding. Traditionally, the groom's parents usually pay for the rehearsal dinner and often alcohol at the wedding. He may flip this on you and say, "I'll just tell your parents my parents wanted to give us money but I turned them down." If he says that, it's time to break out all the costs and show it to him on paper. Then explain to him without his parents help, you guys will be struggling to have this wedding the way you want to have it. Then tell him either he needs to allow his parents to chip in, or you need to scale down. I think that perhaps a fair compromise would be to have his parents put in 20% and then you guys come up with the rest. This way maybe your husband will still feel like he's paying his own way and his honor won't be lost. Even with this, I still feel like your husband is being way too stubborn. Allowing both your parents to cover the cost of most of the wedding will help you guys for the future. Perhaps you'll use your own money for a down payment on a house, money for kids, etc. I will also leave you with this...I loved my wedding. We were very economical about it. And it was an amazing day. But at the end of the day, it went by so quickly and some of the hassles that came along with it really make it hard to come up with a good reason to drop tons of money on one day...several hours....worth of events. It's not worth it. And although most people may not say that, I guarantee you many of them think it. So be careful not to go past your comfort zone in terms of what you can afford.
posted by ljs30 at 8:14 AM on May 25, 2011

Seconding the "his parents take care of the rehearsal dinner." Because that is also traditional -- but fewer people know that detail (my own parents were almost caught short with that in the lead-up to my brother's wedding -- it wasn't until the bride's family started asking what they'd planned for this that my mother realized, "....that's....our job? Oh.")

Then, how you define "rehearsal dinner" can be kind of....broad. My own brother's dinner ended up being where the best man and father of the bride and everyone made all the toasts, and it was as much a part of the event as the wedding proper. Actually, everyone was jumping out of the woodwork to host all these extraneous parties for them -- a brunch the morning of, a dinner two nights before, a brunch the day after, a rehearsal dinner after-party...technically not "the wedding," but just as much a part of the event. This could also be how they contribute, by hosting an auxiliary party.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:25 AM on May 25, 2011

I don't get how he doesn't realize how much things will cost.

Sit him down. With a big ol' budget. Tell him how much it will cost. He needs to know.

Whether or not that leads to him taking his parents' money is another story, but it blows my mind that he simply has no idea of this major expense.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:31 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you two can't sit down and talk about this rationally, you two have no business getting married in the first place.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:32 AM on May 25, 2011 [9 favorites]

Along with the other posters who mentioned it, I don't understand how he doesn't know how much things cost. Have you told him? Have you showed him the actual numbers? I would start there.
posted by Majorita at 8:54 AM on May 25, 2011

Nthing breaking down the costs. We're going through this too - hello Google shared google spreadsheet!

Show him the lump sums, but also how it breaks down per head. These figures sound astronomical and unreasonable as a chunk. When we put together our budget we were convinced we overestimated for everything and were giving ourselves huge cushions, until we broke it down per person and realized we were being extremely unrealistic. It is, for most of us who aren't insane professional party planners, the first time that we are encountering making purchases in such bulk quantities, even when we're being "economical."

It makes more sense that it costs $5 a person to enjoy a large slice of nice cake than to face a $250 cake cost and be befuddled as to how in god's name a baked good could be so expensive.

If you've never ordered flowers before for a single person, it's hard to conceptualize how much it costs to put even a little bouquet on every table.

If you've never hired a photographer or know what you're getting for an eight-hour package and how much work it takes to retouch hundreds of stills, it's hard to understand what a reasonable hourly rate is!

You can do most of the planning if you care about some of the details more, but the costs aren't a detail and he needs to be on board the whole way - and even to take ownership of dealing with a vendor with something he cares about. My SO cares only about the photography - and so that's his lead assignment, and in making calls and pricing out the photos, it's dawning on him in a big way how costs add up for everything else too.

tldr you guys need to be looking at the same continually updated spreadsheet.
posted by sestaaak at 9:15 AM on May 25, 2011

If you haven't yet broken down the costs with him, and you two are paying for part of the wedding, do so. Even if it's not a constant update of costs, at least clue him into how much the elements of the wedding will cost. And to give it perspective, you may want to include some examples of similar, but costlier, options.

But if he's still against his parents paying for any part of the wedding (even the rehearsal dinner), have you talked about having his parents provide a gift of money towards the honeymoon?
posted by filthy light thief at 9:42 AM on May 25, 2011

Repeating what others have said, you need to feel comfortable talking about money and other issues with your future husband. If his stubbornness won't fall to a rational appeal, you need to know that sooner than later. It's his wedding, too, and he should be aware of what is happening and realistic about the cost of things. And the sooner the better, because his parents might already have plans for whatever they can spare now that they are not helping with a wedding.
posted by provoliminal at 10:01 AM on May 25, 2011

Also wanted to say that it is very honorable and grown up to want to pay for your own wedding, you are independent income-generating adults, of course.

It is easy to forget, though, that as much as this is about you and your SOs marriage and it's your day etc etc, in a lot of ways it's symbolically both your parents' day as well.

Your SO might not realize how utterly and deeply excited his parents are about this whole thing - not specifically about planning it, or paying for it, but that it's so totally happening! His parents might never have expressed this outright - but if you think about it, however strange it is in our unfortunately heteronormative dominant culture - this is kind of the last big hooray for parents that you've turned out ok and are going to be an adult with another adult and start your own family together. Explicitly or not, many parents think and wonder and look forward to this moment in their children's lives from the very beginning and want to be a part of seeing you to THROUGH this milestone, not just up to the brink, and this might mean offering the means they have to help pay for it.

Parents can't always afford to help, or want to, of course there are always complications, etc etc, but if they can and want to, I would consider their desire to contribute in some ways an acknowledgement that this is the last great gift they give to you, of all the gifts they have given to you in some form or another to raise you in your lifetime, and a kind of reward to themselves for a parenting job well done.

Any future excitement they throw your direction is going to probably be about grandkids, which is not at all about you two anymore.
posted by sestaaak at 10:24 AM on May 25, 2011

1. Your parents' feelings about contributing to your wedding should not be dependent on the contributions that anyone else makes. If your mother can't feel happy at helping support your wedding - regardless of what anyone else does - your fiance was right that you are better off without her money.

2. Forcing your fiance into a position he is uncomfortable in to keep your mother placated is a bad idea. You're going to be spending your life with him - not with her.

3. He knows his parents and the dynamics of his relationship with them 100 times better than you do. If he doesn't want to accept money from them, you should assume he has a good reason for doing so. Respect his judgement.

4. No one - including you - will remember many details about your wedding. It's not worth incurring financial or emotional debts over. If necessary, elope.
posted by Trurl at 10:35 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Talk to him about why this is important to him. Sounds like you guys have the ability to have the wedding you want, but that you think it would be pretty nice to allow hi parents to help, while he wants to not ask them. Both points of view are reasonable. This is good practice for how you will resolve conflict in your marriage.
posted by theora55 at 10:57 AM on May 25, 2011

I worry that my fiancé, because he's less involved in the wedding planning process, simply doesn't know how costly this will be.

Get him involved in the wedding planning process.

Your hubby-to-be seems to be having a little bit of cognitive dissonance. It's great to want to pay for your own wedding and refuse parental money (that's what the Lady Lurgi and I did), but you have to have the resources for it and if your parents are paying for half of it and you are still stretched thin then it would appear that you don't. He needs to be aware of that.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:00 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

In our community, the tradition is that the groom (or his parents) pay for "FLOP" - Flowers, Liquor, Officiant (I've also heard this one as Orchestra), Photographer. Maybe an arrangement like that could work?

The other possibility is to just be honest. If he's like most grooms and doesn't want to be involved with the details of planning, that's his choice (if it's fine with you). But as a co-payer, he should be kept apprised of the budget and all the overages. Maybe you should sit down with a pad and paper and break down the projected and actual costs, and either a) set a budget you already know you can stick to without asking for help, or b) show him that it's going to be more expensive than he thought, and let him draw the natural conclusion - or tell you that the money you think is astronomical is well within what he's willing to spend without help from his folks.

Going behind his back is a bad idea, not because his parents would mind helping, but because you're not being a partner with him in this. If he wants to be the wallet, he has to be involved in the planning (at least financially), or it's not fair to either of you.
posted by Mchelly at 11:02 AM on May 25, 2011

anonymous: I worry that my fiancé, because he's less involved in the wedding planning process, simply doesn't know how costly this will be.

Marriage: you're doing it wrong.

That sounds trite but it isn't. While it is common for the bride to take the lead and be point-man on wedding planning, this is supposed to be a team effort. You need a spreadsheet, and he needs to understand and be fully on board with this plans and the costs involved. If you are doing anything else, something is awry.

If the reason you are not doing this is because you are in some way attempting to hide or gloss over the cost of specific things that are important to you but you don't think he'll value or agree you two should be paying for, you have way bigger issues than who is paying the bar tab.

Please clarify.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:24 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

"If you two can't sit down and talk about this rationally, you two have no business getting married in the first place."

Quoted for truth
posted by Blasdelb at 12:14 PM on May 25, 2011

He has a history of being extremely stubborn/idealistic about certain matters without considering the basic logic of the situation

He has a "I am not taking handouts" attitude but your parents are paying for half the wedding. This dynamic will be an issue during the marriage. It defeats the purpose of not accepting money from someone if your spouse accepts it and you benefit from it.

What will happen when you buy a house/have it renovated? Sounds like you need to talk with him about his stubborn/idealistic deal.
posted by mlis at 2:57 PM on May 25, 2011

It sounds to me like the issue at heart here is basically that you and both sets of parents want a bigger wedding than your husband really wants.Hvae you guys discussed this in detail? If all the thought of money flying around makes you uncomfortable, have a smaller wedding and pay for it yourselves.
posted by smoke at 4:08 PM on May 25, 2011

He knows his parents and the dynamics of his relationship with them 100 times better than you do. If he doesn't want to accept money from them, you should assume he has a good reason for doing so. Respect his judgement.

Yes, and/but...

If there's a minefield there (and for many families, there is, nothing wrong with that,) then I find it odd that you don't know the score already, one way or the other. I'm a keep-family-at-arms-length kind of guy myself and know how that is. Contributing money to your wedding seems to create an obligation, not to repay, but to be more close-friendly than he might be comfortable with. My wife knew that about me before we got married, though.

I think you want to have a talk about the finances, but ALSO about the root of this - his relationship with his family and how it's going to be later. Would he rather forgo your parents' help and just go to a justice of the peace, or get married with 5 witnesses on the beach or something, than let his family get to be a (financial, which is kind of intimate) part of his wedding? It may not be at all that he doesn't know what weddings cost.

In any case, you're going to have to explain that you can maybe come up with something where nobody's parents pay anything, or both sets contribute to a fund, or let his parents pay for something specific, but that having your parents pay while refusing money from his is rude to your parents. I'm sure he doesn't want to be rude to your parents- he's just thinking of his own.
posted by ctmf at 5:32 PM on May 25, 2011

I know this isn't a direct answer to your question, but my husband had nothing at all to do with our wedding except to show up at the right time. I now really wish that I had set a different precedent and told him that he had to participate in the planning and worked through that then. I was trying to be nice and I knew he didn't really care about what kind of flowers we had or what food we had. But I cared and the fact that he refused to participate even minimally (e.g., wouldn't go and look at venues, etc.) is something that should've mattered more to me then. It does matter now (with other issues) and it's a hard habit to break.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:50 AM on May 26, 2011

Is it possible that, on some level, he doesn't think his family can afford it? They may have offered and want to help, but he might still resist the offer if he thought it were beyond their means (even if it isn't, or if it's important enough to them to make it work). That would explain why he's OK accepting money from your parents and not his. And of course he could never say, "Mom and Dad, I don't think you can afford this right now"--much easier to argue he's "too adult" to accept their offer.
posted by SuperNova at 3:55 PM on May 27, 2011

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