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Families Helping You Pay for Your Wedding? You'll Want These Tips

Updated on October 10, 2018
VVanNess profile image

Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, blogger at Healthy at Home, and educator. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.

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Money is already a tough subject to breach without involving another potentially chaotic subject along with it. When families get involved in financing a wedding, everything usually get dicey and quickly. If you've got the type of family situation where everyone likes each other, works well together, and there are no problems, Congratulations! However this is not the case for most couples.

This doesn't mean that you're bound for drama and problems if your family wants to help you pay for your wedding. There are many ways that you can broach this subject with them and keep things cordial. Think of it as a chance to have some of the things you really wanted for your wedding but couldn't afford on your own, and your family will feel good being able to supply it for you. However, you'll really want to have some critical tips under your belt before careening headlong into this potentially volatile situation, in order to come out in one piece on the other side.

Let's see how to have a win win on both sides with some simple tips!

Who is Responsible for Paying for a Wedding?

Throughout history children traditionally lived with their parents until they were married. This meant that they didn't have their own jobs, homes, or money to pay for their own weddings. At that time, wedding costs were divided out between the families, with the parents of the bride paying the majority of the costs (because it was traditionally considered a financial burden to take a woman into your household at that time).

In this situation, the bride's family would be responsible for taking care of all reception and ceremony costs like food, rentals, decorations, and music, flowers, bridal attire, all wedding stationary, favors, photography, and transportation. The groom's family would be responsible for the rehearsal dinner and everything that goes with it. All other costs would be taken care of by the bride and groom.

Times have obviously changed a great deal. Couples are marrying older and very few of them are still living at home needing their parents' financial help. However, just because you can support yourself doesn't mean it wouldn't be nice to have a little help. And just because there were rules for which side of the family paid for certain parts of the wedding long ago, this doesn't mean that you can't be creative, find some compromises, and allow families to pay for those items they truly want to help you with.

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How to Ask Your Parents for Help with Wedding Expenses

When setting your wedding budget it's nice to know what your options are. It may turn out that you need a little extra help in order to truly have the wedding you desire. How you're going to ask your parents for help is the tricky part though. Maybe you'll get lucky and they'll offer to help, but if not, just know that favors usually don't come without strings, especially ones involving money.

Setting Boundaries From the Beginning

You might take each of your parents out for lunch separately (each person take their own parents), just so your parents aren't put in an uncomfortable position in front of the others. Talk to them about your plans to get married and let them know that you are working on your budget.

Let them know the ideas you discussed for your wedding with your fiance' so that they can decide ahead of time whether it is something they want to participate in. (This will also set the foundation for the kind of wedding you and your fiance' want ahead of time.) It's important that throughout the conversation, it is clear that you already have a vision that you've been working on for a while.

Gently Seeking Help Financially

It's probably best not to come out and ask for money. Instead, let them know that you understand how excited they are about your upcoming nuptials. You simply wanted to make sure, before you got started planning, that they didn't have their hearts set on something that they wanted to take care of. Hopefully this will assure them that you care about them and their feelings, and want them to be involved.

If they do agree to help, thank them, but make sure that you find out what they expect before accepting anything from them. I know you love your parents and know that they wouldn't do anything to hurt you, but money and weddings both tend to stir up tons of unexpected emotions. This is simply to safeguard both of you.

Wedding Poll

Have you had one or more parents attempt to hijack your wedding planning so far?

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Parental Expectations and How to Handle Them

Considering All of Your Options Before the First Meeting

Most likely (of course not always) your parents will expect some level of control for the money they are donating. These details need to be worked out ahead of time before you even think of taking their money or spending it. Hopefully they will generously donate money to the cause without any expectations. However, what if they want to be able to choose the vendor you're working with in a particular area? What if they want to choose the colors, theme, decorations, etc?

Some great questions you could ask may be:

Do they have a specific category of the wedding they want to handle?

Do they just have a specific amount they were thinking of donating?

Are there certain decisions they would want to make about the wedding or are they letting you handle all of the decisions?

Was there anything they expected in return for their donation to your wedding?

Are you going to have to approve your decisions through them or do you even get a say?

(Personally I recommend accepting their generosity only with the agreement that you can spend it how you want, whether they want it spent only on a certain category or simply on the wedding in general. However, it usually doesn't work that way.)

Be Respectful

Make sure to be respectful at all times, but truly try to understand where they are coming from.There's nothing wrong with letting them know that you would like their help, but you hope that they will be understanding that this is your wedding and that you and your fiance' have a vision for what the two of you want. You would appreciate and consider their advice and suggestions but would like to reserve the right to make the final decisions regarding the wedding.

If you can't come to a compromise where everyone is happy, you then have a difficult decision to make with your fiance'. Do you accept their gift and abide by their desires, or do you find another way to finance your wedding? If you do come to a compromise, wonderful! Make sure to write everything down on an informal contract and have everyone sign it, including your fiance'.

If you must turn them down, be sure you express to them how grateful you are for their help, but make sure they honestly know why you and your fiance' made the decision you did in the end.

Decide on What's Really Important Together

Regardless of what you decide, a decision will need to be made. You may feel like you truly need the help of your family in order to get married, decide that the assistance is worth the cost, or even decide that refusing your family isn't worth the problems it would cause. There's no shame in getting help, only 36% of couples traditionally pay for their wedding all on their own without the help of family.

Either way, you and your fiance' will need to sit down and have a serious discussion about what issues and items you are going to stand on during your wedding planning. What is truly important to you and what are you willing to budge on? This is where it really gets dicey. Your communication together, how you defend your relationship and your wedding to your individual families, and how you communicate with your parents, will set the stage for your future marriage.

I know this sounds dramatic, but this is one of the biggest issues I have to help my brides and grooms work through, regardless of whether the parents are helping to pay for the wedding or not. Granted, if one or both of your families are helping to fund your celebration, and you've discussed the terms of the donation ahead of time, you should do everything you can to be gracious.

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Stand Up For Your Relationship

If you do decide to let family help, don't let anyone hijack your wedding, bully either of you, be disrespectful in any way, or or force you to do something you don't want to do. I've walked many a bride and/or groom through standing up to their parents in an effort to become one with their soon-to-be spouse and have the wedding they really want.

I know you love your parents dearly and by no means want to do anything to hurt your relationship with them, but this is a necessary step in every parent/child relationship. I promise that a show by you and your future spouse of strength in your relationship should not offend anyone. In fact, they will likely respect you more for it. It's critical though that you stand together on any decisions made regarding your parents, and that you always "take the side" of your relationship.

Helping Parents to Understand

I've also had to remind at least one parent in every single wedding I've planned that this was his or her child's wedding and not theirs. Ultimately, what was truly important in the very end was that their children were happy and had a wedding they would remember fondly for years.

Too many parents get far more emotional than planned and lose focus during the whole process. They want so badly for their child to have the "perfect" wedding that they don't realize what they are doing. Reminding them gently in their child's best interest usually brings them back to focus. They really do care about you.

Make sure to handle any problems with your own parents to keep the damage to a minimum. Remember you will be spending holidays with these people. However, it's important that you know, if you don't stand together on these minor issues now, you will be giving your families the impression that this is a pattern and you will succumb to them later. This means your family(ies) having a say on when you have children, how they are raised and where they go to school, what jobs you have, where you live, and most importantly decisions regarding your relationship.

Create a strong foundation for your marriage now and you won't regret it.

Although asking your parents for help paying for your wedding, or accepting the help they offer, sounds like a good idea, it might not turn out quite as well as you'd like. 1) Make sure to find out what specific expectations come with the monetary donation. 2) Write them down, discuss them with your fiance', and get signatures from all parties before accepting. 3) If you accept, make sure to stand firmly on the side of your relationship at all times, and get the wedding you ultimately want.

Good luck on the rocky hills of wedding finances and family! Next we'll tackle Creating Your Wedding Guest List.

Quick Poll

If you have experienced a hijacking of any size, who was it that tried to intervene?

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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness

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