Monday, January 25

Your parents don't owe you a wedding

There have been a few stories about weddings, wedding budgets and wedding money from families lately. I would just like to throw in my own two cents, here.

Ninja over at Punch Debt in the Face is feeling a little weird about his fiancee's family offering up a large amount toward the wedding. Personally, I think it's admirable to be hesitant to take someone's money.

Don't get me wrong: He should take it. Clearly, it makes the parents happy to be able to help. And, heck, it's free money. My mom helped out here and there, and I was immensely grateful for it. Still, we weren't given a wedding budget. We just sat down and figured out what we were willing to pay for.

The second piece about weddings was over at Free Money Finance. FMF wrote about couples' attitudes toward parents' wedding donations. In a survey, more than half of the 1,000 people said they would take money from their parents in lieu of wedding contributions.

FMF thinks that's pretty cool. Personally, I'm more concerned. Why do so many couples expect parents' help with their weddings? I'm not even clear why parents think they have to save up for/help out with weddings costs.

People, we're adults. We pay rent, we buy our own clothes, we shop for groceries. All out of our own pocket. So why do people assume that parents will pay for something as big as a wedding?

Listen, if your parents can help, great. Fabulous. Take it with all due gratitude. But what worries me is that it seems so natural to most people that parents have money to throw at a wedding. It's your big day, not theirs.

Of course, it's an important day for them. It's one they'll remember for ages. Then again, so is the birth of your child. But you don't expect them to shell out for hospital co-pays do you?

Here's my proposal (no pun intended):

  • If you can't afford your wedding without financial help from your parents, scale it down!
  • If you have to go into debt for your wedding, scale it down!
  • And if you firmly believe that your parents are somehow obliged to pay for your wedding, give the ring back. You're not mature enough to get married!

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Blogger Red said...

I have to agree for the most part.
I had a smallish wedding at the registry, and then a party afterwards.
My parents didn't help a bit, nor did i go into debt.

However, when/if i have children, i think i will have savings for them, BUT, i think i will let them chose what they use it for, either towards a home, (which in my opinion is WAY more important then one day), or their wedding.

It does show to me, what peoples attitude to debt and money are, dependant on their wedding.

January 25, 2010 at 4:50 PM

Blogger Plothole Tsi said...

I see a lot of aspects not even covered in your post. In my case, my mother actually INSISTED on paying for the wedding, but at the same time, INSISTED on having the last word on 90% of it. Weddings are about traditional within the families being tied together. Yes, when it comes down to it, it's a party. But many people consider it a ritual, an example of the family's charity and wealth, and as a symbolic gesture.

I don't think ANYONE going into debt is a good idea for a wedding, whether it's the parents or the bride and groom taking out a credit card to pay for it, but I don't think it's a terrible crime to expect the parents to pay for it in some cases, especially when the party is mostly for the sake of everyone BUT the bride and groom. The bride and groom will know they're married, but many people won't recognize it socially without a big party.

January 25, 2010 at 5:46 PM

Anonymous Elizabeth said...

It would be interesting to know *where and when* the tradition came of parents paying for their daughters' weddings. Your post asks *why*. It's good to question everything, I guess, but the simple reason for most people is just long tradition; their parents paid for their daughters', etc, etc. Sort-of like asking: why do we put up evergreen trees in our homes at Christmas? It's just tradition.
All that said, I'm single, and I'm guessing that when my parents helped out by paying for my first year of graduate school (I did the rest with loans), it was sort-of "instead" of paying for a full wedding. There was no explicit conversation, but if that's the case, I'm fine with that.

January 25, 2010 at 6:52 PM

Blogger Abigail said...


If you're lucky, the kids will see the house as the better investment. Either way, if you're in the position to help out, swell! I just don't like how many people take it for granted.

Plothole Tsi,

In your circumstance, I suppose it's understandable to expect the parents to pay. You're forgetting the other possibility there, though: Refuse the money and do whatever you prefer. (Putting it delicately, of course, to avoid too many hard feelings.)

Then again, I speak from a privileged position. None of our family members tried to push for anything specific at the wedding. The closest it came was that my MIL was adamant we keep a piece of cake for the year anniversary. So I've never had to balance family interests with my own happiness.


I was going to touch on that and realized it was simply too long for this one post. My theory, and I will have to research it to verify, is that it is the modern equivalent of a dowry.

It used to be, as I understand it, that the groom would pay for the wedding, but received a dowry from the bride's family. Now, you get no dowry, per se, but you do get a bunch of money toward the wedding -- or the wedding paid for completely by the parents.

And, again, I don't think it's a bad thing if the parents want to pay for the wedding -- though it would be nice if they secured themselves financially first. I simply think it's weird that parents are still expected to fork over money for a kid they already raised and probably helped through college.

January 25, 2010 at 7:06 PM

Blogger Abigail said...


Found it:

Scroll to the bottom and it's explained.

January 25, 2010 at 7:13 PM

Anonymous Donna Freedman said...

I know because I was there that the wedding cake was DELICIOUS. How did it taste after a year in the freezer???

January 26, 2010 at 3:53 PM

Anonymous Elizabeth said...

This somewhat depends on the tradition in your family. My maternal grandparents paid for my parents' wedding, and on up the my parents' NOT paying for my wedding would actually make them be the ones who selfishly benefited, as everyone else "paid it forward." However - and this is big - traditionally the bride's parents, who are paying, are the hosts of the party - i.e. it's their party, thrown to celebrate the marriage of their daugher, but of course they would then determine the budget, and even all details, if they wanted to. The modern problem seems to have arisen as brides want the $ but want to take away all the other decisions (guest list, etc) from their parents, as hosts.

January 27, 2010 at 8:55 AM

Blogger Angelia said...

I agree! We paid 100% of our wedding costs. We held our celebration in my in-laws back yard. We had a beautiful ceremony with 4 attendants each, we bought all their attire, jewelery, etc. I had my dress custom made by a friend of the family, all in all a very nice outdoor affair all for less than 4k. We didn't ask for or accept money from any of our family. If you can't afford a wedding without begging or borrowing then you shouldn't be getting married. Parents don't "owe" grown children a party.

January 28, 2010 at 7:45 AM


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