My fiancé and I are planning a wedding this winter, and luckily his parents are helping us pay for it. As in, pretty much paying for the whole shebang because we’d be waiting a year or more to get married without their assistance. While we are both extremely grateful for their help, we also feel that we are slowly losing what we envisioned as our wedding. They prefer a more high-end event than what we imagined (insisting on a fully catered event, expensive wine and champagne for toasts, elaborate florals, etc.). We are not opposed to the extra details and while the wedding we are having is going to be stunning, it’s less and less US. Our biggest issue is that now his parents want us to pare down the guest list to help control this ballooning budget, and the “family and friends” they want to cut are heavily on the side of “friends.” How do we let them know that we aren’t ungrateful, but we’d rather have our friends there than the other “must haves” like canapés and a cocktail hour?
-Really Irritated (and yet still) Thankful, ARGH!
RITA, this is a situation we know well, and the added layer of the issue being with your in-laws and not your parents can make discussions tough. The thing about family financial contributions is that generally he or she who gives the money gets to have a say in how it is spent. This is not always the case—if you set up boundaries beforehand and have loads up upfront discussions, future conflicts can be avoided. Usually. Sometimes. Occasionally. Hopefully. The problem comes in when those boundaries aren’t established or just get run the hell over by over-exuberant relatives. Remember, “Sure honey, we’ll pay for everything as long as it doesn’t cost too much,” never did anyone any favors. So how do you deal with reconciling the wedding you’d like to have with the wedding your relative is willing to pay for?
Well, luckily for you, you have some time. (You have loads of time. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Weddings can be planned in a matter of weeks or even less.) What you and your partner need to do is sit down and figure out, without outside help, what YOU both want. (Need a guide? Oh, lookee what we have here and here, and oh yeah the book.) Are you two willing to forgo your in-laws’ assistance in order to have the wedding that you both want? If so, you’ve got a tough conversation coming up. You both will need to sit down with them and let them know that although you are incredibly grateful, this dream wedding they are giving you is someone else’s dream. You both want to ensure that they are happy too, but not at the price of your own happiness. And even though you love them, you’re going to have to pay for the wedding on your own. (I’m not even going to talk about how your wedding is not a show. Or an imposition. Or how you don’t need favors. Or details aren’t what people really remember. And don’t get me started on weddings and alcohol.)
And then you HAVE TO DO IT. If the wedding that you both want and need is worth some major sacrificing, then make those sacrifices and stand up for your baby family. This isn’t the first time that you will need to face opposition as a couple, and this is not the last. And yes, you should do this together. While it may be easier for your partner to talk to his parents without you, there are family dynamics that can destroy calm civilized conversations and turn two adults talking into yelling parent and sobbing child. Or vice versa. You both need each other’s strength in tough or uncomfortable situations like this.
However, it also seems like you both aren’t necessarily unhappy with the wedding as a whole, but just the possible cutting of friends to include high-end hooch and fancy finger foods. That’s when you both (again, without outside help) need to look at the budget breakdown and find areas where you can cut. Are there details, possibly some that you never wanted in the first place, that you can do without? Can you pony up some money to make up for the budget overage? Exactly how much more money do you need to make sure you include X amount of guests? Where can that money come from? Don’t guess, you need solid numbers.
Your next step is to have a little sit-down with your in-laws. Let them know that you are definitely grateful for all they’ve done, but you just aren’t willing to sacrifice your friends for more formal or upscale elements in your wedding. And because you know how much this means to not only you two, but to them as well, you want to work on a plan to let all of you have what you want. (Pro-tip: Whenever dealing with a potential problem, always come prepared with a solution. Saves your bacon every time.) Show them the areas that you found to save money and show how that money can go towards having another person at your wedding. Don’t worry if they don’t agree right away; if things get heated or upsetting, just step back and say you’ll discuss it later. Continue to reiterate that you are grateful for their assistance, but these friends aren’t an area you are willing to budge on.
And from here on out, remember that you have months more of these discussions. Figure out what you both are willing to let go and what you really want. Allowing someone else to pay for your wedding means giving up a measure of control in how that money is spent, unless you establish (and keep enforcing) boundaries with the contributors. It is not rude to say, “I’m sorry, but I do not want that at my wedding,” but know that by saying that, you need to be prepared to deal with how you will replace their contribution if they decide to withdraw it. Yeah, it’d be great if you could just get carte blache on how a family contribution is being spent, but it’d also be great if I looked like Janet Jackson circa 1993. I don’t think either of us should hold our breath…
RITA, this is going to be harder for you because it’s not your family of origin that you are disagreeing with, but remember, they will be (and perhaps already are) your family. You love and respect them just as much as you want to rip their faces off. That’s how families work, bless them. In the end, the important thing is you two sticking together. This may feel rough, but you’ll both be better for having worked it out than having sat aside and letting your family run the show. These boundaries that you’re establishing right now? You’ll keep them for the rest of your marriage, so you’re off to a good start.
Oh, there are readers racing to their keyboards to comment right now, I can feel it. How’d you put up with overbearing family financial contributions? Did you compromise or cave?
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh). Seriously. We love sign-offs. Make your editors happy.