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May 28

My parents want to help pay for my wedding. Should I let them?

wedding#firstworldproblems, right? First of all I should start by saying that Eric and I are thrilled to be engaged! After dating for 6 years, we know each other really well and feel that we’re ready to make this big and important commitment to each other, yay!

Shortly after we got engaged, my mom (and step-dad) and dad (and step-mom), both said they wanted to help pay for our wedding. My first gut reaction was, “No thanks, we’ve got this.” I have to admit I’m a little prideful and I don’t the idea of taking money from my parents, even if it’s for a wedding (yes I realize it’s traditional for the bride’s family to help pay for the wedding.)

Although we’re incredibly thankful and humbled that they’d even offer to help pay for the wedding, we’re not sure if that’s something we’re personally comfortable with. Don’t get me wrong, we’re so glad that they love us and support us and want to be involved in the, “big day” (and even want to help foot the bill!), but Eric and I are both, “adults” and have been living financially independent from our parents for a combined total of several decades.

While it would be nice to have some financial support from my family, we certainly don’t, “need it” nor do we want them to feel burdened by having to pay for our celebration. Really, we’d rather they spend their money on themselves and/or save that money for their retirement.

Just to be clear, I’m not judging people who accept financial help from their families, nor am I saying that parents shouldn’t help adult children pay for their weddings (if they want to). In fact, I think it’s amazing when parents want to help pay for the wedding…We just want having my parents’ financial support would, “look” and feel like.

Here are a few of the things we’ve been thinking about:
  1. If your parents pay for your wedding, how much input should you accept from them? i.e. Do they get to decide who to invite/not invite? Do they get to choose the venue and caterer? Does it depend on how much money they give you e.g. the more they pay the more input they’ve “bought?”
  2. If your parents don’t pay (but want to) will they feel slighted? Some families are more traditional about this than others. If the father of the bride is, “supposed” to pay for the wedding, but the bride doesn’t allow him, will his pride be hurt (like I said, I know all about pride-wink).
  3. If your parents are divorced and both sides want to help pay for the wedding, how do you decide who pays for what?
  4. What if your parents offer to pay for the wedding but you want something more expensive or extravagant then then had planned on paying for? What if they *your parents* want something much larger and more extravagant then you want?

I’ve had friends who have come across the same questions/issues/dilemmas and they’ve all told me that honest and open communication, not who pays for what, is usually what matters the most (and I’m sure they’re right, so I’m going to take their advice and talk to the family about what we want and how they can be involved and we can all feel good about it).

And if you’re curious, we haven’t chosen a wedding venue yet, but have decided that we will most likely be getting married in Maine next summer/fall (2016). Some of our top choices for venues have been nontraditional locations like a small library and my parent’s backyard. I love the idea of all the personal touches we could put on either location, and of course it helps that the cost of both would be really affordable. Free for my parent’s place and inexpensive for the library rental.

That said, we’d still have to hire a caterer and bring in all the tables etc. separately, which can really add up fast. So we’ll run some numbers and figure out which location makes the most cents (pun intended). Since we’ll be planning from many states away we’ll also be thinking about convenience. A wedding that costs a little more but has less moving pieces and less headache is definitely worth a little extra cost it in my opinion.

Did your parents help pay for your wedding? Did you want them to? If they did, did you have any problems/issues communicating about expectations?

23 comments

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  1. Catherine

    Our parents helped a bit in the end. For instance my mom insisted on buying my dress.My very frugal mom thought my very plain $400dress wasn’t “weddingy: enough and insisted on helping. We bought a beautiful dress im an off the rack sale for less than $800. My inlaws also demanded they help and became involved with the catering and helping with the bill. I think its an individual situation and depends on each family!

    1. KK

      That’s really nice that your mom and in laws were able to help. I know my mom is dying to go wedding dress shopping (too many episodes of “say yes to the dress” lol). It’s definitely something that varies on a case to case basis, but if it all works out and everyone is happy with the plan, even better!

  2. Amanda @ My Life, I Guess

    I’m only still engaged myself, but I know for my sister’s wedding my parents both chipped in. They weren’t really involved in the planning much and just sort of handed over cash and/or voluntarily paid for specific items. My sister’s in-laws, on the otherhand, wanted to be more involved especially for the things they were helping pay for. So like Catherine said, it depends on each family!
    If you think accepting money from one or both parents won’t be worth the hassle of meeting their expectations, then maybe declining is the right thing to do. 🙂

    1. KK

      That’s really nice that your parents were able to help with your sister’s wedding. I would like for my family to be involved in the planning (they are really easy going and not the type who care what other people think-they just want me to be happy-which I’m so thankful for). I’m also an only child (two step-sisters, but only child to my parents) so I know that this is a “big deal” for them.

  3. Janine

    I’m getting married, very soon! Both sets of our parents are helping out with the wedding and in return they are able to invite some of the people they want. By no means did they get to invite everyone becuase we made it clear we wanted a relatively small wedding ~100 people. At the end of the day both sides have been pretty good, my mother isn’t thrill we are serving fish, but oh well. Another point on contention was whether or not we would have an open bar. My fiance and decided we wanted a $2 bar but our parents weren’t happy. We told them if they wanted it to be open then they would have to pay for it, which they were happy to do. We set out a budget and outlined what was important to us and what we were willing to compromise and I think everything is going to work out just fine!

    1. KK

      Sounds like you’ve come up with some good compromises. We want to have a small wedding (60 or less probably) but even with a small wedding, costs add up so fast. I’d like to do an open bar, but we’ll see how much that actually costs (if we have the wedding at the library and can buy the liquor ourselves it would be way less expensive, then buying from a hotel). I see nothing wrong wish serving fish (a lot of people prefer fish to meat these days), Plus I’m from Maine so we’ll probably be serving lobster.

  4. Emily @ evolvingPF

    These are exactly the right questions to be asking. I do think money should come with creative control, whether demanded or given as thanks. Our wedding was paid for approximately 1/3 by us, 1/3 by my parents, and 1/3 by my husband’s parents. We were pretty young and broke so we were happy to accept their financial help and their input, and plenty of the guests were extended family and their friends. I think some years later I would want to do it all on my own. We did have conflict over what the wedding should be like, and in the end things generally went the way we wanted them to but we gave in on some matters of lesser importance to us. In some ways, my parents wanted a more extravagant wedding than we did and what they were willing to pay for, so I had to help them adjust their expectations of what things cost.

    1. KK

      If we’d gotten married younger, we certainly would have needed help from our parents. Because we’ve waited a while and are more financially secure, it’s really a matter of deciding if I want my parents to spend that much money (I don’t think they’d try to take control or would want anything extravagant-I just feel weird about taking money from my parents now that I’m able to pay for the wedding myself). That being said, I know they’re really excited to be able to be a part of the planning (or watching us plan, I guess I should say) and I want to include them as much as possible-especially my mom who is super stoked to go wedding dress shopping (more excited then I am-lol).

  5. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    As a parent, I would totally want to help with our kids’ weddings, but if they didn’t feel comfy with that, I’d probably just give them the amount I’d set aside to help with the wedding as a wedding gift. Our parents all helped with the wedding (4 sets) but none expected or wanted to be involved in any of the decision making, which was nice. 🙂 Can’t wait to hear more about your upcoming nuptials, KK and Eric!

    1. KK

      That sounds perfect to me Laurie! Although I feel a little weird having my parents want to help, I know I’d want to help my kids when they get married (so I guess I should just be thankful they want to help and stop worrying about it). I also want my parents to be involved and I know they are excited to see what we plan. If I wouldn’t break my mom’s heart I might just elope and throw a big party-wink.

  6. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank

    I see that there’s nothing wrong if you let your parents pay for your wedding. Just make sure that it’s not more than what you contribute. In our wedding, I think I spent 60% of the total cost, the rest was paid by my parents. It was really great because I was able to get a better wedding, which I wouldn’t have gotten if paid alone,

    1. KK

      That’s a great point Jayson. What I’d be willing to spend alone would be much less than what our total budget may end up being with my folks involved. That said, I’m trying to be really cost conscious because the thought of, “wasting” money on certain wedding things makes me nuts. The food, drinks and family are the most important things to me. The rest is like, “meh, whatever”.

  7. Lisa

    My mom gifted my wedding dress to me and is also paying for a significant portion of the wedding. At first, like you, I didn’t want to accept. But then a lot of crap started happening in regards to my fiance’s family and money, and all of a sudden we needed the help.

    If I were you, I’d get married in your parents’ backyard! If that option was available to me, I’d have my wedding there, no question. Either way, I’m sure it would be fabulous 🙂 Congrats again!

  8. Michelle

    I think it’s great that your parents can help! Just figure out a nice compromise-and set boundaries.

  9. Elle @ New Graduate Finance

    I would let them! I believe that parents take pride in saving up for such a big moment in their childrens’ lives, and that they may even think it is an honor to chip in.

  10. Karen

    Since my mom had paid for my sister’s wedding dress when she got married a couple of years, she felt it was only fair to pay for mine.

    We had a small-ish wedding, just over 100 people, which I know is still somewhat big compared to weddings half the size. My husband’s family is small, but I have a large extended family. My parents helped paid for a small portion in the sense that they gave us our wedding gift a few months earlier than the wedding. however, we, meaning me paid for the majority of the wedding expenses.

    I love the idea of getting married in a library! It’s a bookworm’s dream come true! 🙂

  11. Derek @ MoneyAhoy

    I think the best approach is just to accept a flat amount before/after the wedding. Having them pay for a particular piece of the wedding means that they would naturally want to influence the decision for this piece of the wedding. It is best to make it more open and not targeted to minimize conflict IMHO.

  12. NZ Muse

    Small wedding – about 40 people, all self funded.

    However my parents just loaned me close to 6 figures to help me out as a single income home buyer – an offer it was hard to accept but that I’m grateful for and that I sense would have hurt them to turn down.

    Who pays does get a say. All my friends who had parental help funding weddings had to make some choices/concessions to their folks. Mine got a say in what kind of house they would be willing to chip in for, and fair enough.

  13. Finance Solver

    Congratulations on your engagement! I just stumbled onto the blog and am looking forward to following along 🙂 as for the marriage thing, I just turned 21 6 months ago with no thoughts of marriage until the distant future.. I would have no trouble accepting if my parents DID offer to pay (I don’t think they would, they would just say “yeah, good luck” :p). Deep inside, I would want them to NOT pay because they’ve sacrificed and risked everything for me and I want to repay them somehow. I’m working every day to make them proud and I want to give them the future they deserve in 10-15 years. Time will tell!

  14. Mustard Seed Money

    My wife’s family helped pay for our wedding. There were never any expectations that they would pay for the wedding but when they offered we happily accepted.I looked at it as a blessing from them since that’s what they wanted to do. Anyway that’s our story. I really appreciate sharing your perspective!!!

  15. Derek @ MoneyAhoy

    One word – Yes!

  16. Millennial Money

    I think it’s important to understand why you’re getting married in the first place. Understanding this will help put the money issue into perspective – rejecting financial help out of pride doesn’t suit the atmosphere of giving and love that weddings are about. I’ve heard people complain about paying for weddings, but not a single person complains after the ceremony. If you don’t need financial help and it’s not important to you to have a lot of the more expensive elements of a wedding, then fine, but don’t tune out those who wish to extend their love by gift giving.

  17. TPOHappiness

    Yes.

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