Paying towards the wedding: should I get a say?
It’s pretty standard for a parent to help foot the bill for their kid’s wedding. And most nearlyweds understand that a paying parent’s opinion should count for something. But what level of influence is appropriate? Does it change depending on how much money the parent pays?
There aren’t really any established limits for this. There’s a parent out there somewhere who’s paying tens of thousands for an entire wedding and is feeling a tad uneasy about questioning the colour of the napkins. There’s also, no doubt, a parent who’s paid only a nominal amount towards the wedding, but is nonetheless trying to Malcolm Tucker the entire planning process.
So let’s have a think about where you can expect the reasonable limits to fall.
There are two possible scenarios here
If you’re worried about where the limits are, you’re probably either a) going to offer to pay towards the wedding, and are wondering what kind of control you’ll have over how your money’s spent; or b) already committed to paying, and not sure how involved you can get before the bride and groom sit you down for a ‘quick chat’.
Let’s start with the first one.
If you’re not yet committed to paying
This scenario means you still have a certain amount of control. You can chat freely with the bride and groom about what’s appropriate and even (crass though it sounds) negotiate a bit.
Get a very clear agreement on what your role will be
Some nearlyweds take your money and disappear off to do their own thing. Others will expect to have you there to sign off every tiny expenditure. So this is the kind of thing you want to be very clear about from the start. It’s not rude to ask: how involved will I be with the decision making?
Talk figures, right from the off
Weddings are rooted in tradition, and many cultures think it’s vulgar to talk about money in precise terms. But that’s just a recipe for misunderstanding. So cut to the chase and ask specific questions: What kind of wedding do you have in mind? How much do you expect it to cost?
Speak to the other parents
This is a moot point if you’re the only one paying, but lots of couples get money towards their wedding from both parents. If that’s the case, don’t be scared to get everyone around the table and thrash out the details. The last thing you want is to be left guessing at how much the other side are paying and how much influence they have.
If you’re already committed to paying
This is where you need to be careful. If you’ve agreed to pay towards the wedding but haven’t established any clear figures or rules, it can be very awkward when you don’t like how your money’s being spent.
Know what’s too much control (and too little)
Let’s establish some ballpark limits here.
If you’re trying to exercise a veto on every little thing that isn’t to your taste, like decorative choices or seating arrangements, you’re probably being too domineering. Likewise, if you’re trying to get someone you don’t like uninvited or trying to influence big decisions for selfish reasons, you’re being too controlling. Stop it.
On the flip side, if you’ve completely handed over your credit card and the figures you’re seeing are obscene, you must step in. If your worries about ‘being a bother’ or ‘ruining their big day’ are putting you in financial trouble, you’re exerting far too little control.
Think of your own son or daughter as your go-to person
This might sound a bit manipulative, but difficult chats are much easier to have without your future son or daughter-in-law in the room. When you’re speaking to a nearlywed couple, there’s a lot of pressure to be supportive beyond reason and put a gloss of romanticism over everything.
When it’s just a parent and son/daughter chat, you can be far more direct. Think about it – “You’re spending way too much on this wedding.” “I feel like you’ve shut me out of a process I’m paying for.” “I really don’t like the way you’re planning this wedding.” – These are all things you can easily say to your own child, but might feel rude about saying to the two of them as a couple.
Don’t let things fester
The crux of this issue is that no one wants to be the bossy parent who interferes with their kid’s big day. That’s why we might question certain decisions in our heads, but support them out loud. That’s why we might cringe at a surprisingly high quote, but think to ourselves ‘it’s what they want and I can’t disappoint them’.
But these things rarely arrive as major problems out of the blue. You usually get little signs, early on – ones that make you want to step in and bestow some parental wisdom. If you have major misgivings about what your money’s paying for, it’ll usually get harder to speak up after every time you bite your tongue.
It’s all about communication
Some people have very frank, direct relationships with their parents. Those parents rarely have any problems figuring our what is and isn’t an appropriate level of interference – especially when money’s involved.
But if your relationship with your son or daughter is a bit more restrained, it just means you might have to be a bit more assertive than usual if things start concerning you. And it’ll be their responsibility to rein you in if you’re being a bit too controlling.
Because no (good) son or daughter wants to feel they’re taking advantage of their parents generosity. Just like no parent wants to feel like they’re stomping all over their kid’s big day.
So just keep communicating and you should be fine.
Have you had a nightmare time paying for your kid’s wedding? Did your parents get a bit too involved in your planning? Let us know in the comments.
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