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

Updated on September 21, 2013
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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 eachother, works well together, and there are no problems, Congratulations! However this is not the case for most couples. 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.

Who Pays for What?

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. Here's a great outline of all of the traditional financial responsibilities!

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.

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Asking Your Parents for Help

When setting your wedding budget it's nice to know what your options are. 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.

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 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, and 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 ensure them that you care about them and their feelings, and want them to be involved. If they do agree to help, thank you, 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.

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Parental Expectations and How to Handle Them

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 and spending it.

Some questions to ask: Did they have a specific category of the wedding they wanted to handle? Did 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?

(Personally I recommend taking the money only on the agreement that you can spend it how you want, whether 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.)

Are you going to have to approve your decisions through them or do you even get a say? Make sure to be respectful at all times, but truly try to understand where they are coming from. If you can't come to a compromise where everyone is happy (if you do, make sure to write everything down on an informal contract and have everyone sign it), 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 must turn them down, make 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.

Who Pays for What?

Put Your Foot Down

In the case that you feel like you truly need the help of your family in order to get married (there's no shame in this, only 36% of couples in 2012 paid for their wedding all on their own without the help of family), decide that the assistance is worth the cost, or even decide that refusing your family isn't worth the problems it would cause, 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.

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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However, this doesn't allow anyone, by any means, to hijack your entire 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. Even if you love your parents dearly and by no means want to do anything to hurt your relationship with them, this is a necessary step in every parent/child relationship, and they will respect you more for it.It's critical that you stand together on any decisions made regarding your parents, and that you always "take the side" of your relationship.

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 no 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.

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