Who pays for a wedding?
August 23, 2007 8:03 PM   Subscribe

Wedding Etiquette filter: Who pays for what in a traditional wedding? Specifically I am looking for anything to back up the claim of my future parents in law that the costs for the reception is split between the two families.

So I have been engaged for almost 2 years and it is coming down to the time when the fun wedding planning starts. Except that in my case NOTHING has been fun yet. There have been too many fights about different aspects of the wedding. My fiancee seems to get stressed out because of all the things we need to do without realizing that not everything can be done today. I think that some of my worries stem from the fact that my bride to be's parents want my parents to pay for their wedding guests. This is putting real stress on me and I do not think their request is appropriate.

I have less on my guest list than my fiancee does. I also have two younger sisters that my parents will be financially responsible for. My one sister is engaged and the decision has already been made that they will take care of 99% of the finances. My fiancee has told me that splitting the cost of the reception is the new tradition. When I ask around NO ONE that I have brought this up to says it is normal.

I am just frustrated because my parents should not be paying for as much as they are. More than just paying for the wedding her parents are being very controlling about things. I am afraid that the money that her parents spent on the wedding will be held over our heads in the future.

It is getting to the point where I am not sure that I should be getting married at this point. I love my fiancee but I am not sure I can live happily ever after with her parents. I have talked to my fiancee about pre marital counseling and I am in the process of setting appointments up. In the mean time can any MeFiers confirm or deny that splitting the costs of wedding guests is a new tradition? I have seen the following websites and they all state the opposite.




The knot article does have an "Everyone Pays" option but in the article it specifically states that "But just because his family, for example, is giving four times as much money as yours doesn't mean they get four times more say" This is what I am seeing happening. Her parents are paying more so they think they get all the say. HELP ME!
posted by remthewanderer to Human Relations (71 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Do both families a favor and pay for it youself. You are not "entitled" to have anyone pay for it.
posted by JayRwv at 8:09 PM on August 23, 2007 [7 favorites]

I think if it's that much stress that you're seriously not considering marrying eloping is your best option. It will piss some people off but in the end it's about what is best for you and your partner and not your families.
posted by Octoparrot at 8:12 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

It doesn't matter what the tradition is, was, or will be in the future. What matters is that bride's family wants to split the cost, based on the idea that it's a new tradition, even though it's a traditional wedding.

Do YOU want a traditional wedding? Do you want the do the work of one? If so, put your foot down, it's your day, what you (and your wife) say goes, no matter who's paying. If they're going to be controlling about it, then it's better to find out now, than later. You're an adult, no one can control you or hold things over your head unless you allow them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:19 PM on August 23, 2007

I can't believe people are telling you to elope. To rush into a marriage to escape the problems of a wedding would be a huge mistake. You and your fiancee need to figure out a plan on how to handle the stress of this wedding together. Because life ain't no fairy tale once you say "I Do". Think of it as practice for the rest of your life.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:20 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I read recently that the bride's parents pay for the entire wedding 30% of the time these days. I don't remember where I read that, but I am sure that you can google it.

Having a big, elaborate, fancy wedding doesn't make you any more married.

My parents were on the verge of retirement when I got married. So, here's what we did - We didn't ask them to pay for anything. My husband and I paid for everything ourselves. Perhaps you should consider this, especially if it would preserve family harmony.

If the parents still want to contribute, take the money and use it for a down payment on a house. There are a lot of bargains in real estate these days.
posted by Ostara at 8:24 PM on August 23, 2007

First of all, it's been said that the first real test of a marriage is whether you're able to get through planning the wedding. You're not alone, these are sensitive issues, and it can be a stressful time. It's also a wonderful opportunity to fine-hone your communication and planning skills with each other. Buying a house and having kids are no less stressful than a wedding, so you're going to have to learn to work with each other, and each other's family.

Secondly, I'm in the process of planning a wedding with my fiancee, and if there's one thing I've learned, it's that it's YOUR wedding, so YOU make the rules and work with what you have.

Yes, it's somewhat traditional for the bride's parents to pay for most of the reception, and the groom's parents to pay for the rehearsal dinner and honeymoon. However, things like dowries are also traditional, and you don't see people doing that anymore. The point is, that they don't owe you anything. Be thankful for whatever money either set of parents are willing to give you, and then use your own funds to pay for the rest.

(Side note: If you're broke, One of the first things you do to save money is reduce the number of guests. I suspect that if you guys have to axe half of her extended family to make ends meet, her parents might be more forthcoming with the money.)

Also remember that you can do quite beautiful weddings on the cheap, as long as you're not too tied down to tradition and aren't afraid to do some work yourself.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:25 PM on August 23, 2007

I think you need to get away from both of your families. It's your (you and your bride's) wedding. The parents/families/whoever need to realize that by making it into their little event, they're risking messing up your relationship. That said, if you want to make this yours, you have to stop taking other people's money.

I think that you need to sit down with your fiancé and tell her that the way things are headed is just not happening.

Tell the parents to butt out and elope (paying for it yourselves), or call it off until you can really work things out. Nothing good is going to come of continuing on the path you're on; you're right to think that her family may hold whatever you do over your head for decades to come (I've seen it happen).

Good luck.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:26 PM on August 23, 2007

You have these absolute powers by yourself:

1) Call off the wedding entirely;

2) Refuse to pay for anything;

3) Be completely submissive and do what your bride & her parents decide;

4) Be completely submissive and do what your own parents say.

None sound particularly attractive, to put it mildly.

As a couple, you have these powers:

1) Stop caring, let the parents settle it, be grateful they're willing to take care of you, and just go with the flow (planning to control other parts of your lives instead);

2) Elope;

3) Pay for everything yourselves and do the wedding however you like.

The first option here could potentially lead to embarrassment and disaster, but it could make everything a lot easier.

The threat of options two and three could be used as leverage to get the parents-in-law into counseling.

Actually doing two and three could be strangely liberating.
posted by amtho at 8:26 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

You should get married at the courthouse. The actual getting married only takes a few minutes - the rest of it is supposed to be fun, and if it's not, there's no point in doing it.

(Also, traditionally, the bride's parents pay for things because: the couple is just starting out in life and really doesn't have money; the bride is still living with her parents and therefore the base of operations is at the parents' house; the bride does not actually bring an income into the wedding and the price of the wedding is part of the brideprice. Are any of these things true for you?)
posted by frobozz at 8:29 PM on August 23, 2007

That's strange - I thought it was tradition for the bride's family to pay for things? That gem of knowledge, however, is from watching "Father of the Bride" so further citation is probably needed. Okay, here, here, and here.

For mine, my mother is paying for her guests, my fiance's parents are paying for theirs, and we are paying for our guests. But if this is such an irreconcilable issue, you should take Octoparrot's advice and elope. Bad form to start a marriage when the families are bickering over money already.
posted by krippledkonscious at 8:32 PM on August 23, 2007

This sounds way too stressful for the beginning of the planning; can you imagine what'll happen as the date gets closer?

I have a friend who had a similar problem. They sent invitations, were in the process of planning, the different families started wresting control, having fights, etc. The couple ended up canceling the wedding, sending out new invitations that said, "We're getting married in Vegas, please join us, it'll be great." The families were pissed, but it saved the relationship(s) eventually.

So elope or take control by paying for it yourself. One thing to keep in mind is that how you handle this sets the precedent for how the extended family interacts: will they be able to push you around? Will it be an agonizing decision where you spend Thanksgiving/Xmas and then will one party sulk? And, boy, if/when you have kids....
posted by sfkiddo at 8:32 PM on August 23, 2007

I doubt her parents will give much weight to the advice of a bunch of website links in determining what the "new traditions" are. They are going to make up whatever justifications they want to do what they want. You and your future inlaws will simply continue to trade resentments back and forth, tagged to each dollar and perceived slight.

You are on the threshold of starting your own family, of formalizing a relationship where the obligations to each other outweigh the obligations to your parents and her parents. You'll both feel much better about it if you and your fiancee wed on terms you agree upon with each other and only each other. Talk to your fiancee, come to an agreement of what is doable and then relay this back to both sets of parents.

To strictly answer the question: traditionally, the bride's family pays for the reception, the groom's family pays for the honeymoon. Also traditionally, engaged couples who encountered difficulty with wedding planning and/or resistant families eloped.

Non-traditionally, anything goes, including for wedding costs to be paid by the couple. For sanity sake, I highly recommend this last approach. If that means you and your fiancee agree that the wedding gets scaled back to 2 witnesses and a justice of the peace, that's what it means.
posted by jamaro at 8:36 PM on August 23, 2007

Well, TRADITIONALLY, in Americans-of-European-descent culture, the bride's parents pay for the wedding.

But then TRADITIONALLY, young Americans did not believe that they needed to have giant weddings that would previously have only been considered appropriate for members of the aristocracy.

Young middle-class couples got married in the bride's mother's living room or at the courthouse, and then there was cake and punch. And people gave them gifts of household items, because they didn't have households of their own, and they certainly didn't live together before marriage but still expect 200-dollar toasters upon tying the knot.

People seem to enjoy picking and choosing from "tradition" in a way that makes it most possible for them to have an obscenely materialistic Very Special Day.

So take your pick, I guess.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 8:40 PM on August 23, 2007 [20 favorites]

So the way we are working this in our wedding to take place in 3 weeks is as follows:

Groom - that's me - parents are funding the following:
1) Any travel/hotel for them or my family where my family could otherwise not afford it, excluding reception costs unless otherwise noted.
2) Rehearsal dinner (50 or so people) and a nice restaurant.
3) All beverages, alcoholic and otherwise for the reception.
4) Possibly shuttles to/from hotel..this is yet to be determined on the field of marital-parental combat.

The rest if coming from the generalized wedding fund and consists of at a high level:
1) Site
2) Catering (food, service/etc)
3) Entertainment
4) Flowers
5) Everything else really (rentals/trash/insurance/etc)

We are paying for most of the miscellaneous stuff we come up with along the way that is not going to run in to the multi thousand dollar range, we've been in the same household for years now and engaged for the same amount of time as you. I would guess without opening THE ONE SPREADSHEET TO RULE THEM ALL that the cost break down is roughly across all wedding associated activies, excluding honeymoon.
Grooms Parents - 20%
Brides Parents 70%
Bride and Groom - 10%

Our cost in total for everything is under 20k for roughly 100 people. God. why did I even write that out. See, I hate weddings just like you. That's insane.

You really have to work this out your selves and set expectations, resetting expectations can be difficult.

I'm sorry to spring it on you, but most of the wedding planning...well sucks. It can be a challenge to find any fun with the planning of this event. At the end of the day you and your future partner just kind of have to shrug and have a glass of wine. The goal is to plan it to a point where you don't drive yourself batshit insane and when the big day happens you have enough of the plan together that someone else (family member) can pick up the pieces and deal with any crises that arise.

Email is in the profile if you have questions, we're lucky to some extent as we told the folks early on that things were going to be one way or the other. The hardest part is to remember that when this is all send it done it might be a huge expense, but in the grand scheme of expenses and life you'll encounter with someone over the next 50 years, it's not even the change in your couch cushions.

Work with your friends, not parents if they are presenting planning problems, to get your fiance some assistance, find someone who is strangely organized and get them on board. Parents of your future wife aren't going anywhere, they've been around longer and know the buttons to push.

Best of luck!
posted by iamabot at 8:50 PM on August 23, 2007

In my experience, "traditional expenses" might be: bride's family pays for wedding/reception full out, groom's family pays for rehearsal dinner (or maybe a pre-party, the morning-after brunch, honeymoon, etc).

But I've been to weddings where the groom's family paid for everything, and others where the couple paid for it themselves.

One of the first things my best (married) friend said to me when I got engaged, other than congratulations, was, "Make sure you sit down with all the parents before you start planning and spell out how it will work. Who will be paying for what, who will have control over what decisions, what you need/don't need, etc." She explained that when you work all that stuff out in the beginning, you run into fewer surprises like this one.

Sooo...can you start over with the planning? Sit everyone down around the table (or you both sit down with each individual set of parents) and work out expectations. Then you can come to compromises before everyone starts freaking out. You might also be able to get to the logic behind some of the actions. For example, if her parents are worried about expenses ballooning out of control and that's why they want your parents to chip in, well maybe you need to trim the guest list or get rid of a costly element. But you won't know why unless you ask. Or maybe if your parents knew up-front that they were expected to pay for their guests, your planning might have progressed differently.

Or you need to be prepared to talk with her parents and explain that even though they are being generous, the "strings" are not working for you guys. Then you figure out with them how to compromise. Maybe they'll just say, "fine, we don't want to pay" (honestly, sounds like they don't) so be prepared for that. I think that almost sounds like a better option for both of you - we had some friends that did that. They rented a room mid-day in a decent restaurant, had a buffet with a little beer and wine, and loaded up an ipod. There were 50-70 people there, and it was one of the most fun weddings I've ever been to.

I'm sort of rambling, so I apologize. I hope this was somewhat helpful. Good luck.
posted by ml98tu at 8:51 PM on August 23, 2007

Assert your independence and refuse to take sides by getting married at City Hall and paying for it yourselves.

Dunno where you are, but some cities have a really beautiful old City Hall or courthouse that can be a grand spot for a wedding.
posted by Quietgal at 8:52 PM on August 23, 2007

I should add that my younger sister got married about 2 months ago and blazed the expectation setting trail with parents and helped us figure out roughly where the sticky points would be. I hope things work out well, serious about emailing if you need advice or have questions. Cheers!
posted by iamabot at 8:55 PM on August 23, 2007

Agree with people who say that if you dont' want the fighting, then pay for it yourselves. Then it comes down to what you want more: a big fancy wedding, or happy families.

We paid for about 40% of our wedding, with my husband's family paying for the rest. My mother paid for nothing, because she couldn't afford it. Everyone was cool with that.

I suggest the forums at indiebride as well. They are excellent for stuff like this.
posted by gaspode at 8:57 PM on August 23, 2007

I got married when I was young and broke and here's what we did:

1. Limit the total guests to 50, max.
2. Throw the wedding in one of your parents' backyard
3. Find some nice food and cake to cater it with
4. Save up your own money to pay for as much as possible

In the end, we saved up about $2,000 over a year and spent it on the major parts. My wife's dad wanted to foot the bill for the food, so he did. All told the entire wedding including travel and hotel was about $5k in the end (counting the food bill picked up by her dad).

Some uncles and aunts couldn't come because we didn't have room and I didn't invite any coworkers (it was a rule we both made up -- only super close friends, no coworkers allowed), but whatever, we threw a party for ourselves and our friends with mostly our money, and our families got to attend and celebrate with us.

Also, no dancing, because I hate doing it in the daytime in front of family.
posted by mathowie at 9:00 PM on August 23, 2007

Mostly, this is between your parents and her parents. If they want your folks to contribute, the right answer is probably "Here's their address and phone number. Good luck with that." There's no reason for you to get frustrated about something that's between your parents and her parents -- they are all grownups and can manage their affairs as they see fit without needing you to take offense for them.

But your bride seems to think that too. Which is to say that you're disagreeing about money and the respective roles of your two families. Echoing TPS, you are actually having a serious disagreement with your bride. For real. You should talk to a counselor or minister or something, since these sorts of problems are not the kind that go away after the stress of getting married drops away.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:04 PM on August 23, 2007

You are throwing a party to celebrate your wedding. If your parents or her parents would like to contribute financially, that is a generous gift, but you should not be using "tradition," new, old, or internet to try to extort money out of either set of parents. Find out from each set of parents what financial contribution they feel comfortable making, and then either have a wedding with that as the budget or pay for the difference yourselves. If you can't find a way to work this out, then yes, I would seek counseling and not get married until you and your fiancee can find a way to discuss these issues and resolve them together.

Oh, and this is definitely not a disagreement between your parents and her parents. You and your fiancee are both asking each set of parents for a gift. Her parents are not asking your parents for a gift. Do not ask them to bicker amongst themselves about it. Keep this between you and each set of parents.

Do not get married unless and until you feel ready. Don't let finances or families or anything else push you into getting married when you feel like issues remain unresolved. At the same time, don't let your fiancee's family stop you from marrying the woman you love. If she agrees with you that this is all nuts and is willing to work with you to find ways to manage the nuts, that shouldn't be a deal breaker for the relationship. Everyone's family is crazy, and you shouldn't let a fight over the fact that her family wants to budget for your wedding prevent you from getting married.
posted by decathecting at 9:24 PM on August 23, 2007 [3 favorites]

As it happens, our wedding was four years ago today.

My mom paid for my dress, his folks paid for the rehearsal dinner at our favorite local Chinese place, and a good friend with restaurant connections paid for the booze at the reception. Aside from that, we paid for the wedding. It was about 8K for about 125 people. I think our biggest single expense was probably a really, really good photographer. We had a great time.

I wouldn't want to do it any other way. Not only does it make planning the wedding much easier, but psychologically I believe it helps establish that you are building an independent household, not just playing house. I think you are right to be concerned that the money her parents are spending may be held over your heads, unless you cut the Gordian knot by paying for the wedding yourselves.

Sure, you could have a fancier wedding with the 'rents paying, but it's really not necessary. Generally speaking, at least among the people I know, everybody's pretty happy if there's enough food, they aren't being rained on, and there are no major accidents. Get people in a room or outdoor space, feed them, and try not to set the bride's veil on fire, and you've covered the major points.
posted by sculpin at 9:38 PM on August 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

Don't elope, but try to pay for everything yourselves. It is easier and causes less headaches, although it may result in a less fancy wedding. If either of your parents want to kick in to help pay the caterer or other parts of the wedding/reception, then that's just a cherry on top of the icing. No parent should be expected to pay the tab on something so huge. I think the tradition of the parents paying for just about everything is seriously outdated and does reflect on the fact that there are so many marriages taking place these days that cross socio-economic boundaries.

I mean seriously, pre-1960, a beautiful wedding meant a great dress, some professional photos, a cake and a small reception (with punch an coffee) in the basement in a church.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:51 PM on August 23, 2007

All the other details after the jump are moot as to your original question. The answer to you question is "No, your future in-laws are wrong or deluding themselves, the traditional approach is that the bride's family pays for the reception."

Like many others have stated, though, you can't really just rely on tradition or overbearing parents or in-laws or not figuring this out. In this day and age, if you are old enough to get married, you are old enough to work this out and address it in a way that is comfortable and appropriate for you and your bride-to-be.
posted by jcwagner at 10:11 PM on August 23, 2007

tradition extends to a white dress and both of you being virgins on the wedding night if that's the way you want to play it.

in australia, people are usually grateful for whatever they are given. and it's split 50/50 or parents give a token and the ADULTS who are getting married pay for their own wedding.

but maybe that's a cultural thing. i odn't know where you are... but you're a dinosaur by australian standards.... by about 30 years.... pay for your own... it's liberating and will stop any future bitterness in the extended in-law family.

this kind of stuff breaks families forever. be very careful how you handle it.... one day you may be making these people grandparents...
posted by taff at 10:11 PM on August 23, 2007

To answer your question, I do think it's a newish tradition that the cost of the wedding is split between the two families.

My sister got married around 5 years ago and the wedding was split an even 50-50 between my family and the guy's family. Yeah, weddings cost a lot, but thats why you have to budget your wedding within your limits.

I've been to a LOT of wedding recently, and heard about some more, and most of them seem to have the cost split 50-50. Sometimes, when one family has a whole lot of family members more than the other family, they'll tend to pay extra for those guests.

But listen to some of the good advice here and think about what you're doing. Dont start your marriage with so many doubts about your soon to be wife and your soon to be family.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:17 PM on August 23, 2007

The hardest part is to remember that when this is all send it done it might be a huge expense, but in the grand scheme of expenses and life you'll encounter with someone over the next 50 years, it's not even the change in your couch cushions.

I don't agree with this at all (at least for those of us whose last name is not "Gates," "Hilton," or "Rockefeller"). lamabat's $20,000 wedding is significantly more than the downpayment on my house and is more than I spent getting two degrees.

I would say, instead, that the money involved is totally real and has real importance, and the choices about how to spend it -- bigger flowers? new car? longer dress train? -- have tremendous meaning for your future lives, and deserve to be made with great care. Your families may be very wealthy, and the money may be a trivial amount to them, but a gift of that magnitude deserves some respect to make sure that it is really going to make you happy in the way you hope.

The central question you need to grapple with is not your immediate question about apportioning bride vs bridegroom's family payments. Instead, I think you and your fiance need to get on the same page about your relationships to your families, finances, etc. If the two of you have a united front on this (no matter what that front is), and are in agreement about your financial priorities, you will then be in a much more comfortable position with your respective families. Instead, right now the various in-laws are basically doing a divide-and-conquer to get what they want, your fiance is playing you against them and you are probably doing the same with her, and everyone will end up unhappy.

I don't think eloping is a one-size-fits-all solution, but it has been an effective response for many centuries to overly involved relatives, and you might want to consider it. At a minimum, though, I think that you and your fiance need to yank on the emergency wedding brake and (once you've talked and figured things out) tell everyone that things are being redone from scratch. If you want total control, you have to take on the responsibility of paying for the event (knowing that your families might, as a gift, decide to help out with small or large parts of it). If you don't want to have that financial responsibility, then give up the control of those parts of the wedding. Smile and go along, hoping that someone is made happy by the process. But I don't think that you can complain about having no control without being willing to take on a very real financial or organizational role.
posted by Forktine at 10:18 PM on August 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

Traditionally, the groom's family pays for the marriage license, rehearsal dinner, the fee for the clergyman, the accommodations for out-of-town attendants on his side. The bride's family covers the cost of her dress and accessories as well as the ceremony and reception, photographer, etc etc. If your bride's family cannot afford all this, you might consider paring down your guest list, or paying for the bulk of stuff yourselves. (You've been engaged for two years; quite frankly, both of you should've been saving up for this occasion.)

There's no sense in starting out in married life with both sets of parents resenting each other. Scale down your event to something that everyone can afford. Trust me, five, ten or however many years down the road, you very rarely pull out that wedding photo album or watch the video tape. The guests that were there won't remember what color the flowers were. My advice is to save some of that money for a honeymoon or a down payment on a house.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:18 PM on August 23, 2007

My husband and I were broke - and I mean totally broke - when we got married. We paid for the honeymoon, rent for the new place (we both lived with our parents), rings, license, counselling, celebrant, cake decorating and suit hire for him. His parents did invitations and orders of service. My parents paid for reception food, booze, flowers, dress, site, church, hair and makeup. In total, it was about 7kAUD, and we had around 100 people. It was awesome and zero stress. And we did it in 7 months (would have done it in two, but we couldn't fit the pre-marital counselling in).

I can't imagine how stressful it must be to have a big, expensive wedding (rehersal dinner? wtf? rehersal makeup and hair? double wtf?). Sure, there were a couple of snafus (mostly windows xp eating some photos a couple weeks later), but otherwise ... it was a pretty laid-back, fun day.
posted by ysabet at 10:41 PM on August 23, 2007

You and your bride to be should sit down and figure out what you could do on your own budget, what you want to do, and how far apart those two realities are. If either set of parents -- or anyone else, for that matter -- would like to contribute, then thank them for their generosity, and add their contribution to your budget.

As a couple, you need to make it absolutely clear to everyone involved BEFORE you accept the contribution, that the money is a gift and does NOT entitle the giver to control or decision-making authority. They're not buying a voting share in a public company, they're giving a gift. If they can't agree to those terms, then you really need to think about whether or not you want to take them up on their offer to contribute.

And your fiancee should gently and firmly inform her parents that your parents' contribution is none of their concern. It has to come from her, and she has to believe it when she says it, otherwise you become the bad guy.

People freak out about weddings, it's nothing new. Just make sure you and your fiancee can reconcile your different perspectives and come to agreement on what's really important.
posted by nadise at 10:51 PM on August 23, 2007

Don't tie the money to the details of the ceremony. Tell the parents, we're starting to plan the wedding, and need a target value for the budget. If you would be willing to contribute some money, that would be great, but not required. It's totally up to you.

Add up the money from the two sets of parents, plus any you want to throw in. Now you know how much wedding to plan, and nobody has to fight over who pays for what. It's all coming out of the combined money pot.

That might mean a cake, dress, and someone's back yard. But no family bickering. Really, the big princess show ceremonies are kind of ridiculous anyway, if you ask me.

On preview, exactly what nadise said.
posted by ctmf at 10:53 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

My one sister is engaged and the decision has already been made that they will take care of 99% of the finances. My fiancee has told me that splitting the cost of the reception is the new tradition.

Well, that's the crux of your problem - your two families have completely different values about who pays for weddings. There's no way to make everyone happy in that scenario, so just decide right now that if you proceed with the wedding that you want, there will be arguments, tension, and stress.

I got married 25 years ago, and my parents payed for everything. At that time, the groom's parents were starting to pay for some things, and Bride's magazines were writing about splitting the cost of weddings. We still went the "traditional" route that you're advocating, and let me tell you, - there were still loads of fights, tension, pettiness, and downright nastiness. Over everything. It was a very lovely (large) wedding and everyone had a great time, but I still look at certain pictures where people are smiling and think "Boy, (insert name here) was really pissed when that picture was taken." Oy.

Here's the thing - this is really only one day in your life, and as sculpin stated above, most people just want to eat good food and have a good time. They don't care about center pieces that are the same color as the bride's cake flowers, they don't care about the hand-made personalized chocolates at the table.

I would just sit down with everyone, and scale way back on the plans so that everyone's parents are more comfortable with the amount of money you're spending. But, don't expect the fighting to end, dear. It's only just begun.
posted by Flakypastry at 4:12 AM on August 24, 2007

is eloping out of the question?

traditionally, the bride's family pays for the wedding, because they used to pay a dowry (also, it sort of offsets the engagement ring, i guess).

what you might do is just get money out of the way: figure out how much you're willing to put in, how much your partner's parents are willing to put in, and how much your parents are willing to put in. don't tell anyone the amount--there's no point. your families may be in different financial circumstances, have different philiosophies about weddings or financial obligations to adult children, or whatever. it's not for anyone to judge.

but that's your budget. go from there.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:29 AM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's a different world today. Men and women work. It's okay to have a first child much later in life than it used to be (and more medically possible.) People generally get married later. People are more aware of the fact that money is the number one stress factor in a marriage and the number one root cause of divorce. People are more aware of the statistical reality that marriages at a young age are more likely to end in divorce.

With all that in mind, I'm appalled that anyone today *expects* anyone but the couple-to-be-married to pay for anything. If parents offer, swell! But that's a gift and should be treated with the same grace, gratefulness and joy one would with any other gift.

If you can't get married without someone else footing the bill *willingly* and *purely from their unasked-for generosity* then either your wedding budget is out of wack, or you are too immature to be married. It's that simple.

As many people have mentioned or implied, it's pretty sad to talk about wedding "tradition" in light of the many changes which have occurred relative to all the things which created these often archaic and pointless traditions - short lifespans, the desire/necessity for childbirth at a relatively young age, the traditional young age for a marriage, the historical lack of extra income to set up a home, the inequality in culture and the workplace between men and women, etc. When I hear people ask about "tradition" with the purpose not being to have a traditional wedding but to save yourself or your family some bucks, I know it's totally disingenuous.

When weddings aren't able to be planned perfectly and with only minor problems, there are three grand traditions:

1) Some party or multiple parties get pissed off because of the greed, selfishness and outlandish behavior of another party of parties. Maybe this is representative of why contentious weddings often result in failed marriages. Or

2) Realizing that the wedding is symbolic of a future life, and wishing to avoid any sort of nastiness or unpleasantness, the couple scales it back to budgetary levels which can be managed with the money people are *voluntarily* willing to provide. Or

3) The couple decides that the sanest thing to do is elope and spare everyone a lot of hassles.

NO ONE owes you a damned thing for your wedding. If you can't make your wedding work without causing problems in important relationships, YOU are not doing things right, or you simply shouldn't be getting wed.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:49 AM on August 24, 2007 [3 favorites]

The answer is to pay for everything yourself. Give your parents and parents in law a quota for the guests they can invite. Scale everything back to the level you can afford.
posted by sid at 6:07 AM on August 24, 2007

You need to talk to your fiance.

Find out if she's 'set' on a huge wedding, etc. If she is, put her into the breach, let her talk to your parents, their money concerns and make it her problem. Seriously.

Oh, you want things to work out? Have a meeting. First discuss with your fiance, what your frustrations are. Come to a consensus (Should both families split equally? 60/40 if her parents are inviting more people?) Sit both couples down, explain the stress, give them your (you and your fiances) thoughts, and budget the damn thing.

And then Budget your wedding. And then plan it within the budget. Get both families to put whatever amount as total, and spend as you need (you saved money with the rehearsal dinner? Great - apply it to the wedding.)

If they balk, threaten to elope.

This is your happy time, moreso than theirs. Start your marriage right; and keep coming back to that idea - that this is supposed to be a happy event.

Be warned - these PEOPLE will be your new family.
posted by filmgeek at 6:27 AM on August 24, 2007

It would seem to me the thing to do in this modern age would be to partition the reception into its natural parts. The grafting of a celebratory party with two family reunions has never made much sense to me; each reception attendee is really only there for one aspect of the reception, and the other two just get in the way of having a good time.

In this system, the day-of-wedding reception would be paid for by the couple and only friends and perhaps close family would be invited -- it would be for the people you care enough for to give them the gift of a fun party. Later, after the honeymoon, each family could have a party in honor of the couple at a time and place of its choosing.

The couple is happy. The friends get a fun reception. The families get to spend more time with their new in-law in a relaxed environment. It's a win all around.

(NB: It may be this kind of thinking that's keeping me single.)
posted by backupjesus at 6:32 AM on August 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

My parents paid for the reception (I was the bride). His parents paid for the rehearsal dinner. Out of respect for our parents, we did everything in our power to keep the cost of the whole shebang down, and we still had a beautiful wedding that we were happy with. If the problem is that there are so many people that the cost will be astronomical, then you need to trim the guest list. Your family and her family need to decide who is invited, and you all need to be prepared to explain why the guest list is the way it is, because people are nosy (and also sometimes they suck) and they will ask.

This is about compromise, the whole thing. If you guys can't work this out in a way that is respectful of your relationship and deal with your respective families in a respectful way, then you have bigger problems than who pays for the wedding.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:49 AM on August 24, 2007

thank you all so much for your advice. I am sure this topic has been debated over and over again but it is nice to hear outside opinions.

One big thing I neglected to mention is that my fiance is in medical school so if we decided to pay for the whole wedding then it would be ME paying for the whole wedding and that is not something I can afford.

I have mentioned eloping several times in a half joking half serious manner but I think doing so would cause a bigger rift between me and her parents.

What I want to try and do is get through to her parents that this is OUR WEDDING DAY, not theirs. Contributing financially is generous but that does not give them the final say about things.
posted by remthewanderer at 6:55 AM on August 24, 2007

I don't know, I think the point people are trying to make is that if you can't afford to pay for a big, fancy wedding yourself, then scale down to a wedding you can afford to pay for. Since she's in medical school and you'd be needing to pay for it, this would not be a princess-in-Disneyland style wedding. But this will eliminate the control issues with the parents.

The fact is, this is THE best way to deal with the control issues without getting everyone upset.
posted by schroedinger at 7:04 AM on August 24, 2007

Since the bride's family has declined the option of paying for the bulk of the traditional wedding & reception, then it's up to you, the bride herself, and anything else your parents wish to contribute. If you love her, then her parents' being, shall we say, frugal, is just a detail.

There's a huge industry dedicated to making people believe that a wedding has to cost a fortune. It's 2 things: a legal and maybe religious event, and a celebration/party. You don't have to buy into the wedding industry. If you choose to, the parents of the bride don't have to pay for it. Although not paying for all of it means not making all the choices.

Toughen up and say NO to all the demands of families. Have the wedding you want on the budget available.
posted by theora55 at 7:11 AM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

The idea of paying for things myself is more and more tempting. I just have to figure out how to do it without any money :)

1. The photographer is running around 4500
2. The caterer should be taken care of with the help of the two sets of parents.
3. wedding bands are going to cost 3500
4. church is 500

Unfortunately since we have already made plans these things are in concrete. The caterer(which includes the cost of the hall and the DJ), church, photographer have all been booked.

Would anyone want to suggest how to pay for all of this by myself? I have no savings to speak of because we just moved in together and all of my money went to things like furniture.

I took out a new credit card with a limit of 4300 and o% APR on balance transfers and purchases for ONE year. I was going to try and get a personal loan from my credit union for 5000. I have 2 other credit cards, one is a joint account with a 7100 balance and one other card that is just mine with a limit of 3000. I pay off these 2 cards every month because there is never an extremely high balance so I have no debt at all but I also have no savings.

What I am thinking of doing is as follows:

1. find out how much her parents have paid already for the joint items above
2. reimburse them
3. see what is still owed to the people we have already booked to determine my costs.
4. ask her parents to pay for their guests, my parents to pay for my side of the guest list, and then take care of everything else on my own.

I think this might be the plan that works. The problem is that her mother and father are notorious for saying something like, "well if we want something then we will pay for it" How do I get it through their thick skulls that this can not and will not happen?

Thanks again for all the great responses.
posted by remthewanderer at 7:25 AM on August 24, 2007

Look, we at AskMe, or the people at Indiebride, can help you plan a wedding to any budget, that's easy. First, though, you need to do the hard part, which is getting onto the same page with your fiance. Until then, this just isn't a substantive discussion to be having. (I will say, though, that the key to "paying for it yourself" is to first figure out what your budget is, and then plan a wedding that fits within that budget. You are doing this backwards, giving costs and then trying to find a way to pay for it.)
posted by Forktine at 7:40 AM on August 24, 2007

Forktine, I completely agree that I am going about things backwards. If I knew this was going to be such a struggle I would have taken control earlier.

Unfortunately things are the way they are and I have to move forward with planning. Deposits have been paid and I do not want to cancel.

I am going to be laying everything out with my fiance tonight. From there we will see.

I am using this thread as more of a community brainstorm. I am sorry if that is not appropriate but I like to get it all out there. If I should not be planning my wedding through MeFi let me know. I do not want to waste anyone's time or upset the community.

I have to repeat that all of the responses so far have been great!!! They all really make me feel better.
posted by remthewanderer at 7:57 AM on August 24, 2007

Unfortunately since we have already made plans these things are in concrete. The caterer(which includes the cost of the hall and the DJ), church, photographer have all been booked.

Surely plans can be changed? After all, you originally posted that you even thought about calling off the wedding. That sort of thing does happen from time to time, and there must be a way to cancel and get some (if not all) of the money back. The thing is, if you've made plans already without settling how things will be paid for, then you've put the cart before the horse.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:59 AM on August 24, 2007

I have a friend who hired a really great professional photographer who does loads of photos of bands as his profession. The cost? $500. The pictures were amazing.

And bands? Do you need a band? Do you really need more than one? I have a friend who hired one of the greatest bands on Earth - who've toured Europe, the US and Asia, released more than a dozen albums and, while they have not sold a million copies, have been written about in books and covered in magazines from Spin to Mojo to Rolling Stone. They happened to be in town with a day off, and played an astoundingly fun and sweet set for about $2000, plus loads of food. I myself know dozens of interesting and excellent bands who'd play for $500 or so.

(I have a friend who was in a band with several hit records. He maintained that, in reality, he probably made more money per gig doing new wave covers at proms in a high school band than he did as a "rock star." This is a common wedding conundrum - people think they have to hire "wedding" bands for $3500, when they could get a far better "real" band for less than 20% of that.)

I think your figures are way out of line with what you should be spending. *Way* out of line. Maybe it's too late to change this, but I'd try.

What I am thinking of doing is as follows:

1. find out how much her parents have paid already for the joint items above
2. reimburse them
3. see what is still owed to the people we have already booked to determine my costs.
4. ask her parents to pay for their guests, my parents to pay for my side of the guest list, and then take care of everything else on my own.

I think this might be the plan that works. The problem is that her mother and father are notorious for saying something like, "well if we want something then we will pay for it" How do I get it through their thick skulls that this can not and will not happen?

This is a way better and more mature plan, and I think in the long run, you'll be happier.

If they pull the "if we want something then we will pay for it" line, remind them that this is *your* wedding, you want to be mature and handle most of the expenses yourselves, and that if they *need* to be overly generous, then you do accept wedding gifts. Say it with a smile, and there's not much they can do.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:19 AM on August 24, 2007

1. The photographer is running around 4500
2. The caterer should be taken care of with the help of the two sets of parents.
3. wedding bands are going to cost 3500
4. church is 500

I'm pretty astonished at the prices here. Mind you, I didn't have a traditional wedding, but our photographer was a family friend that did it for free as a present to us, but I've heard ~$2k is about normal for that. Our wedding bands cost about 300 total, since I simply wanted a silver ring and my wife wanted a tiny gold one.

If you have no money and you'll be taking out loans (!!!), scale down the party instead of trying to put it all on a credit card. Trust me on this -- credit card debt can ruin a marriage. We had an emergency $4k on a card, and it literally took 5 years to pay off in full, because of the way credit card companies backload your existing purchases in front of any advances. In the end, after all that interest, we probably paid over ten grand for that 4k borrowed.
posted by mathowie at 8:25 AM on August 24, 2007

Taking out debt to pay for your wedding is INSANE.
posted by k8t at 9:14 AM on August 24, 2007

First, planning ANY wedding is going to be stressful and I don't personally know any couple that has not at one point in the planning process had the idea of calling the whole thing off.

My son was just married in March and we broke it down like this:

Her parents paid for the wedding expenses (church, pastor, rehearsal hall and food, dj, flowers, centerpieces and linen rental)

I paid for the rehearsal dinner, pictures, my daughter's bridesmaids dress and invitations.

My ex husband paid for the alcohol.

The honeymoon was a cruise that my family and inlaws (including extended family like cousins) all chipped in together for in lieu of a gift off their registry.

It seemed to have worked out well. The wedding was beautiful and fit their personalities perfectly and they just bought their first house (2 big stresses in 6 months) and everyone still gets along. I do have to admit that there were times that Sara wanted to call it off and times Patrick did too-we're all terribly happy that they didn't.
posted by hollygoheavy at 9:18 AM on August 24, 2007

hollygoheavy, Ideally that is what I wanted to do as well but the level of control I am giving away is not worth it.

Dee Xtrovert and Mathowie, I agree with you 2 as well. The costs are insane. The photographers we looked at in our area all ran between 3 and 6 K for a standard package. The area that really stresses me is the wedding bands. 3500 for both but my ring costs 300. The fiance wants the matching wedding band to the engagement ring that i bought. She knows this is a lot of money and she may be footing the bill for her own ring. This is still up in the air.

K8t you are right that taking out debt is INSANE but in my situation I think the best balance between paying for things myself and keeping what we have it is worth it.

As things stand right now we are going to have a 30K wedding. I have ideas about how to get that number down to a more reasonable level while at the same time leave in the things that we really want (like great photos).
posted by remthewanderer at 9:36 AM on August 24, 2007

I'm pretty astonished at the prices here.

Weddings are a huge expense these days. Simply add the word "wedding" in front of any item and the price more than doubles. (cake photography, dress)

When researching our budget, I found out that the average wedding in the US runs well over 20 grand. We're doing ours for around half of that by being smart about our choices and by doing some legwork ourselves, but I completely see how it's possible.

Most exclusively wedding photographers run 2500-3500 dollars, and that doesn't include very many prints. I could easily see some people spending 5 grand or so all together on pictures. That said, if you shop around a little more, I can almost guarantee that you'll find a good photographer cheaper than that.

Also remember, OP, that it may be possible to lose your deposit and still end up paying less overall.

Absolutely do not put this event on a credit card. Is one party worth a mountain of debt? Because ultimately, that's what this wedding is. It's a big party for all your family and friends to announce that "hey, we're married". You don't have to impress anyone, because all of these people know you already. Work with what you have.

Like I said, the easiest way to cut costs is to cut guests. If you haven't talked to great-aunt edna in 10 years, there's no reason to invite her. That college roomate that you haven't seen in a while? Nix them. Tell people that you're having a small, intimate ceremony, and they'll understand.
posted by chrisamiller at 9:38 AM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

1. The photographer is running around 4500
2. The caterer should be taken care of with the help of the two sets of parents.
3. wedding bands are going to cost 3500
4. church is 500

Holy smokes! This seems insane to me. I'm from the midwest, and I know things are more expensive elsewhere, but do you really need to spend 4500 on a photographer? Are you getting 1 carat stones in your wedding bands?

Given your situation, why in the world are you spending so much when neither you nor either of your parents are in a position to afford it?
posted by jpdoane at 9:39 AM on August 24, 2007

jpdoane, Her parents are in a position to afford the wedding as it is planned now. her father is a very successful business owner. this adds to the problem and resentment.

We are from south NJ so I guess the prices are a little higher but like chrisamiller said a photography package for 2500 does not include a lot.
posted by remthewanderer at 9:44 AM on August 24, 2007

jpdoane, Her parents are in a position to afford the wedding as it is planned now.

So then, what the hell are you doing? Don't cut off your nose to spite your face. To go into debt just to win the power battle with her parents is just.... insane. If letting them run the wedding is the way to have them pay for it, is that really so bad? It's just one day, you have the rest of your life with your wife to do things your way, and it'll be easier without a moutain of wedding debt on your shoulders. The only thing I worry about is your parents- you mentioned in the original question that your parents might have to pay some of the reception costs- would paying half the costs for the wedding your future in-laws want be a financial hardship for them?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:49 AM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

TPS, you just put the guy right back to the beginning of his question!

Ren, you want to figure out a way for your in-laws to put in more money but have less control. The way you lay things out now, it doesn't look like that is happening. While we all wish large gifts of money were graciously given with no strings attached, that is rarely the case.

I echo those who say it is ridiculous to have such an expensive wedding. "Weddings are expensive" is just a way of saying "I want my wedding the way I want it". You need to look at all the things you're spending the money on and figure out whether it is really worth it. The extra-fancy linens? The expensive bachelor and bachelorette party? The professional makeup, instead of just doing it at home? The thousands of dollars on floral arrangements? What prevents you from going to a justice of the peace or having a small number of people at a church, and then do a potluck/barbecue in your backyard or a local park?

You need to ask yourself: Is it worth giving up your independence to either credit card debt or your in-laws to have a 30K wedding, and will the extra floral arrangements bring you enough joy to outweigh the stress of your extra obligations?

I would suggest you cancel everything. Yes, everything. Start from the beginning. Lay out what you can afford. Budget things out. If parents--yours or hers--protest, then tell them politely that it is your wedding, and while their financial contributions are greatly appreciated plans will proceed as you have laid them out whether large gifts of money are given or not.
posted by schroedinger at 10:09 AM on August 24, 2007

PinkSuperhero, I would be cutting off my nose to spite my face but it would be the first step in ensuring that her parents are not always involved in the rest of our life. I may not be right but it is all I can think to do.

In the future I am thinking about buying a house and raising children. If this is how they treat a wedding imagine what having a child would be like... I love my fiance very much but I am not just marrying her I am marrying her family as well and right now I am not a fan of her parents.

This is the underlying issue that worries me the most. If I marry this girl that I love will her parents be too involved in our life forever?
posted by remthewanderer at 10:10 AM on August 24, 2007

Also I am hoping that any loan or credit card debt is only temporary since we could use the cash wedding gifts to pay that down. Plus my one card has 0% interest for one year and that would help as well.
posted by remthewanderer at 10:18 AM on August 24, 2007

Here's how we did my wedding 2 weeks ago:

Her family paid for most of the wedding expenses, including tent rental, catering, and rings (our rings together were less than $500- avoiding gold and diamonds does wonders for your budget). My family paid for the hooch, the help (2 bartenders I work with), and the groom's dinner. We had the whole thing at my parents' house in the backyard, and my sister did the photography (the photos are amazing, but she has some college-level photography experience).

Total cost for the whole shindig was under $5000, and we had an absolute blast. Pretty much everybody who attended has told us that it was the best wedding they'd ever been to.

The wedding industry, as others have said, love to make a big deal out of the whole "most important day of your life" perception, and while it very well could be, what is it that really matters to you, in the long run, about your wedding? Is it the fancy catering, the $50/plate groom's dinner, the charms on the invitations, the overpriced professional photography? No, what matters is that you and your fiancee and your friends and your family have a great time. You can have an astonishingly fun wedding without spending $20k on it...the wedding industry just doesn't want you to think you can. We did.

You and your fiancee really need to talk about whether or not all the supposedly "traditional" aspects of a wedding (which as others have pointed out are not really traditional, just manufactured) are important enough to you that you're willing to start your life together in debt for it. Paying for it with the cash gifts is kind of against the point of the cash gifts too, in our perception- we spent some of the money on fun stuff but we're saving most of it so we can have something in the bank long-term to start our lives with. If those guests wanted to help you pay for your wedding they would have offered.
posted by baphomet at 10:48 AM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

If I marry this girl that I love will her parents be too involved in our life forever?

Look, the first thing that you have to remember is that weddings are different. You sound like you're still pretty young, and not far off from being under your parents' wings. Unless you take complete control over the entire wedding (including costs), you have to realize that this is being looked at as a social occasion for the respective families. Add to that the fact that your parents and hers are paying for it, and it's inevitable that you will see loads of interference.

Family relationships, particularly those between parents and offspring, evolve and change over time. Your parents and hers will need time to adjust (as will you - no more panicked phone calls to Mom and Dad when the furnace breaks down!). Parents are human too and it's a huge transition to go from sponsor and protector to bystander. Right now it doesn't look any different to them because they're still footing the bill, but over time, and as you step forward on your own, it will and they will adjust. Your job is to thank them profusely for this gift that they are giving you (if you choose to still take it), and then assert your independence in the future by standing on your own two feet.
posted by Flakypastry at 10:50 AM on August 24, 2007

Just to illustrate the point, a co-worker of mine had a wedding that cost well over 90 grand. That's right, 90 thousand dollars. They had it in some fancy space in Downtown Minneapolis on New Year's Eve. The whole thing was absurdly ostentatious. Their marriage didn't last 6 months, and a big part of that was that the stress of planning, organizing, and paying for such an over the top wedding really wore down their ability to effectively communicate and work with one another. They'd been together for 5 years when they tied the knot. Don't let this happen to you! As others have said, if you see the wedding you're planning as being potentially disastrous, you might need to really consider just breaking the whole thing down and starting over with some very specific budgets/goals in mind.
posted by baphomet at 10:53 AM on August 24, 2007

sounds like postponing the wedding is a good idea, in any event. you've just admitted to a very serious thing: that you're not sure you should be getting married. so, postpone, resign yourself to losing the deposits, and take the time you need to figure out how to go forward with the marriage -- as well as the wedding.
posted by footnote at 11:41 AM on August 24, 2007

Baphomet, your second point there is a very good anecdote.

Flakypastry, I guess I am still young, 26, but I do feel that I am very independent and do not need my parents for things. I support myself completely and if it was not for moving in with my fiance I would have had a very nice nest egg in the bank.

My fiance on the other had is very emotional dependent on her parents. She is still in med school and I think she still sees herself as a child even though she is 25.

I feel that she runs to her parents when something bad happens. This is something I want to talk to a premarital counselor about.
posted by remthewanderer at 11:50 AM on August 24, 2007

Why did moving in with your fiancee wipe out your nest egg? Did you buy a house? If you own a house together, you may have bigger problems than your wedding, because you are tied financially to someone who doesn't seem willing to be financially independent. And if you've just spent a bunch of money on household goods, wiping out your nest egg to buy household items that are only going to go down in value (and that you likely would have received in wedding gifts anyway), that's not a good thing. I would add financial counseling to the steps you and your fiancee should take before getting married. You should make sure you're on the same page about money (which is one of the number one causes of divorce) before you get married.

DO NOT go into debt for this wedding. Whether that means getting married at the courthouse or giving in to her parents or whatever, it is not a smart financial decision or a sign of independent, adult thinking to incur debt to have a party, even if you have a temporarily good interest rate. It is also not smart to depend on your guests' presents to bail you out of debt. Find a way to have a wedding that you and your families can afford without borrowing money.
posted by decathecting at 12:30 PM on August 24, 2007

Might it make sense to actually get married _after_ she's done with med school? Then you both could afford to do the wedding as you want.
posted by amtho at 12:57 PM on August 24, 2007

Her parents want to split the cost with your by the number of guests. But they also want to decide how everything will be? It doesn't work that way. Your parents have an amount that they're willing to donate for the wedding. If 'their share' came below that amount, that's great. If she/her parents want a lavish wedding that is beyond that amount, that is their own issue and will mean that they aren't splitting everything proportionally anymore.

This isn't just about her parents though; it's also about her. If this has uncovered that your finance is very dependent on her parents and is not ready to say "no" to things that she can't afford, then maybe you should put the whole thing off. I don't know where she is in school (3rd year?) but you know that there are decent odds that she'll have to move for residency, right? And that it's an incredible stress load every day? And that she'll make shit for money for 4 years? Adding a pile of debt and outside interference will not make life pleasant.

Just because it's a big stress doesn't mean that planning a huge wedding and starting out with a load of debt is a good way to test your relationship. People deeply in love go nuts when they have debt and meddling family.

And yes, your expenses are out of control. A $3200 wedding band is not traditional at all. Nor was there Ye Olden $4500 Photographer. My wedding-on-the-cheap friends got a photography student from a local university. Pictures came out GREAT.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:24 PM on August 24, 2007

2. The caterer should be taken care of with the help of the two sets of parents.
3. wedding bands are going to cost 3500

The caterer(which includes the cost of the hall and the DJ), church, photographer have all been booked.

Wait a minute. A DJ is included in the catering costs and you're looking at getting a band?! And going in debt to do so? Seriously. You guys need to re-evaluate here.

You can certainly scale back. You've hit nearly $10,000 already without including catering costs, the dress/tux and related items/services, rings, any favors, or really anything else. The fact that the parental support only covers catering (is booze included?) and parents are balking at that cost is a sign that you really need to cut back.

Even if you lose the deposits, you'll probably still do better than you're doing now. You don't need a band if you are considering going into debt AND YOU ALREADY HAVE A DJ. You don't need a $4500 photographer if you are considering going into debt. There are plenty of awesome photographers who won't charge you an arm and a leg. Particularly younger ones that haven't built a wedding empire yet. Technically, you don't really need the "package" - you need someone to take photos, retouch them, give you proofs, the final images on CD, and the rights. You don't need special proof albums, digital albums, oversize prints, photo thank-you notes, DVD slideshows, or coffee table books (though that last one does sounds neat, but you can make it yourself for less than $100) of your special day.

Is your fiancee's family worried about their "image"? That's the impression I'm getting from your question and responses. If so, that's a whole 'nother can of worms and you'd have to respond differently. Taking matters into your own hands and doing it yourselves would probably not go over well at all. Is that really what this is about? Them wanting a big affair to impress everyone (which would explain their overly-active planning role) but not wanting/being able to pay for it?
posted by ml98tu at 3:55 PM on August 24, 2007

Wait a minute. A DJ is included in the catering costs and you're looking at getting a band?! And going in debt to do so? Seriously. You guys need to re-evaluate here.

I think he means the rings, not a music band. Although now I want to know which band played on the wedding Dee Xtrovert posted about.
posted by clearlydemon at 6:25 PM on August 24, 2007

Ooooh. Feeling sheepish now. I thought he meant the bands they're interested in having perform are all approx. $3500. So scratch my tirade over musical excess.

Though $3200 is a lot for a wedding ring. Can the official matching ring be a first anniversary gift? Or can you get a solid matching band and add any stones later?
posted by ml98tu at 7:39 PM on August 24, 2007

ml98tu has a good point; deferring certain expenditures (such as the matching wedding band [3K, good christ. Our entire wedding for 100 guests was 7K, including rings and we still get compliments from guests over how much fun they had] for a future Significant Anniversary is a reasonable compromise.
posted by jamaro at 8:52 PM on August 24, 2007

Being engaged for two years is insane. Being engaged for *one* year is nearly as insane. Engagement is insane until you've got a date and rings picked out and planned your life courses together. All you are doing is discovering it the hard way.

Aww hell, marriage is insane. Face it. No one wins in the end.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:54 AM on August 26, 2007

2. The caterer should be taken care of with the help of the two sets of parents.

Do what you can to change this, as it sounds like your parents and her parents are not able to negotiate effectively. From now on, your parents are giving X-dollars, and you are incredibly grateful. Her parents are giving a certain percent of the catering, and you are also incredibly grateful for this. If her parents complain about the lack of flexibility in your parents, remember, you are incredibly grateful to your parents for giving you what they have. Because you should be. They may see your parents as being tight, but at least you'll come across as a decent human being.

Also, pick your battles. If your in-laws to be want to increase the guest list to an unaffordable number, then fight for it. The colour of the flowers, not so much.
posted by kjs4 at 7:31 AM on August 26, 2007

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