Should Parents Pay for a Wedding (if they want to)?

With marriage on the mind and the remainder of my single friends getting wedded up and knocked up at full throttle, I’m more than ready for matrimony (with the exception of what it will cost me in taxes, but sans that thought, I’m ready to “settle down,” so to speak. While once upon a time I dreamed of a fancy ceremony and traditional large wedding, I’m kind of over that at the moment. I’m not sure if I’d regret not having a big wedding, but one thing is for sure, my parents want that big fancy ceremony, and they want to pay for it.

Now, wanting to pay for it is not synonymous with wanting to arrange a day that will be a symbol of my love and dedication to Mr. Right. To be fair to them their wedding day was quite horrible thanks to my mother’s mother who not only planned the entire thing to her liking but also joined my parents on their honeymoon to boot. I guess they’re thinking everything they do isn’t remotely as bad as what she inflicted on them. It’s just a bad and quite terrifying baseline to begin with.

Maybe in my 20s a big wedding with a poofy dress would have made sense. Even seeing my good friend married off at 32 recently in a fairytale ballgown hasn’t changed my heart. Perhaps if I was marrying someone different – someone who liked to dance or who enjoyed social events with many people who he barely knows then a big wedding would make sense. But if I have a big fancy wedding it’s surely going to only be applicable to one half of us, and given my latest take on the whole wedding industry, one half of a half of us.

It also comes down to whether or not I feel comfortable having my parents spend a huge chunk on my wedding. In order to have the wedding *they* want in an area that makes sense, we’re looking at a $50k wedding, easy. The personal finance blogger brain of mine is jumping up and down banging my head with pots and pans saying “WHAT ARE YOU CRAZYCAKES?” Yes, you can have a lovely wedding for much less than that, but the thing is if I accept their money for it then it’s going to become their show — and costs will add up whether I like it or not. Dad wants a band – god forbid we have a cheaper DJ or playlist (I’d love a band as I do enjoy live music but it seems wasteful with a groom who doesn’t dance.) Mom rambles on and on about how I’m going to have to spend $5k+ on a wedding dress because it’s impossible anyone under that amount could possible look good on someone like me with my bugling stomach issues. [Thanks mom.] And ultimately I’m picky about the wedding venue — I’d rather get married in a lovely park setting than a tight-laced ballroom with icky carpeting. But mom says, at least for the reception, “no tents, no outdoors.”

Well, it’s clear that if I want any sort of wedding representing my actual relationship I need to take the reigns and open my own wallet, which, despite sucking in the sense of my networth goals, seems like the right thing to do at the moment. Mom and dad, for all their crazy, have been very kind to me financially throughout the years. My private college was not exactly cheap and neither was my weekly art supplies budget. I already feel indebted to my parents and part of me just wants to hand over a check for my $100k undergraduate education (but the gesture would surely offend dad, so it’s better left untouched.)

However, my future wedding is an open opportunity to just come out and say I want to pay for the ceremony and reception myself. I’ll accept gifts if they want to perhaps chip in for the band or my dress (if mom wants to buy me a $5k dress because I’m too fat to look good in one cheaper than that then I won’t refuse despite disliking the logic,) but the actual party is something that I feel incredibly guilty to even think of letting them pay for, even though that’s the traditional way it’s done and even though theoretically they have over $1M in savings and a pension + social security of $7k after tax / month to boot. It isn’t about who has the money or whatnot. It’s just principle and the fact that I’m 31, a grown woman with a grown up job and I can pay for my own damn wedding.

This brings about a whole host of other issues that I’m not looking forward to… mom and dad will still complain… because that is what they do. If I decide to have a lower cost wedding, say in a park, with delicious catering but perhaps no live music or dancing, they’ll think I’ve lost my mind and my mom just might explode. For as much as they’ll eternally guilt trip me for having paid for my wedding, it may be worse to have them feel like I’m hosting a nice yet frugal affair that, in their mind, reflects bad on them as hosts (because everyone will just think they were being stingy, and yes, my parents care way more about what other people think than how I feel about anything at all.)

Meanwhile I have so many people throwing ideas and directions at me about my future possible potential wedding that I think it’s better to just avoid this whole ceremony thing altogether. At Thanksgiving my aunt basically told me that if I have my wedding on the west coast she probably won’t come, and neither will my cousins. I understand the costs are an issue, but I LIVE on the west coast and think it’s not her place to tell me where I get married. I’ve considered east coast venues and they just don’t represent the relationship my boyfriend and I share. The only reason to get married on the east coast would be to have that big fancy wedding with a lot of my family and probably not a lot of his.

At this point all of this preliminary wedding planning is so overwhelming I’m only semi jokingly considering eloping. That isn’t really what I want either. I do want a day where our good friends and close family can join together to witness our formal commitment to each other in all of it’s awkward silliness. And I want to celebrate the likely 10 years we’ll be looking at that we’ve shared together to that point, if we get married in spring 2016, and the many more years ahead that we’ll have to grow and grow old together. That’s what a wedding should be.

I don’t know, though. Will I completely regret not having some big shin dig? Should I just splurge and spend, I don’t know, $30k of my own savings to throw a relatively big party but pay for enough of it that I feel ok calling the shots (along with my groom, of course) vs my parents always thinking they own this event, that it’s their big event and their show. I know I’ll be uncomfortable with the situation then and if I’m uncomfortable my boyfriend will be absolutely miserable. It may be a farce worthy of reflecting in a memoir at some point in my future once I’m willing to put a face to this insanity, but I’m not sure I’m willing to trade my wedding day for a book contract and movie deal. Well, maybe for that…

In any case, I hadn’t really seriously thought about paying for my own wedding until today. I mean, I thought about it, but I also thought that if my parents want to pay for it I should let them. Then today as I was shopping for new mattresses for both my sister and my bedrooms in our childhood home (that are now guest rooms) and wanted to purchase something of quality, my father seemed quite upset that I didn’t want to replace crappy old mattresses with crappy new ones. My take on the situation is that my parents never travel to visit me as my dad is ill, but it’s not really impossible for him to visit, they just don’t make the effort to visit — and so I come home quite often, twice or three times a year, and make sure to spend quality time with them. For all the money they are saving on not having to fly out to visit me and stay in a hotel room, etc, it would be nice of them to splurge on a bed that my boyfriend and I can stay in comfortably. I don’t know, does that make me an awful person? I think it’s ridiculous for them to want to pay for my wedding but I’d like them to be willing to spend on a nice-ish bed as it would be lovely if they were to say something like “we want you to be comfortable when you visit, even if it’s just once or twice a year.”

Nah. That would never happen. I bought a mattress that was on sale for black friday – still overpriced, surely, as mattresses always are, but it’s one that I look forward to sleeping on during future visits. Other guests will stay on the bed as well and my old bedroom will finally be converted into a more formal guest room, so it’s really not just for my short-term, infrequent visits.

Meanwhile I know I should start buying my parents gifts for things like their birthdays and other holidays, but whatever I get them they’ll complain about. Well, my father would be appreciative for a minute perhaps, my mother would just find something wrong with whatever I got her. We’re not really a gift giving family. I think the best gift I can give to my parents is paying for my own wedding. They’d be surprised if I actually go through with it. But that just feels right. I’m scared of what that means overall… I have the money (I mean, I’m 31 and have $300k-ish saved up, which isn’t bad for my age) and the LAST thing I want is my mother to run out of money in the future and for her to blame me and my big fancy wedding that she wanted in the first place.

All I want is to just have a formal commitment ceremony and really start my life. I’m not getting any younger. I want children and I feel just about ready to have kids. Life shouldn’t be held up or put off for pomp and circumstance. But regardless of who foots the bill for this possible potential wedding, it’s going to be, it just may be a cleaner path to moving forward if I am the one writing the checks.


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One thought on “Should Parents Pay for a Wedding (if they want to)?”

  1. Since you sound as though you stress easily, best option is to just elope somewhere instead of bringing upon additional source of great stress of wedding planning. Later on, you can have some sort of scaled down party with your family and your bf’s family celebrating your marriage.

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