Ask Team Practical: Family Financial Contributions, Part II

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?

Photo  from the APW Flickr stream by Leah and Mark.

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.


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  • Umm… I would say compromise. But like Alysa says, it is going to take a calm and neutral place to talk things out, to really get over the spreadsheet and see what things can be taken out that are not necessary. Like Meg has been saying here since the beginning, cutting down the guest list, contrary to popular repetition is not the only or the easiest way to pull the budget down. We had a rather simple day affair, but in my experience what helped was finding places / venues that included all (food, service, decorations, place) so that you do not have to do extra contracts every time, logistically it can also simplify things a lot. But this is just our particular experience.

  • We were firm on some things and compromised on others. And they threw the things we were firm on in our faces so that is always worth being prepared for.

    We are five months away from getting married and my parents are making a big contribution.

    They pictures thier little girl getting married from her father’s house, in a church, in white, with lots of pastel colours and a DJ and a three course formal meal that half the guests would hate and fancy transport and all sorts of stuff as that is what my cousins’ weddings looked like.

    They are getting me marrying an atheist in a ballroom with a buffet, no pastels, a beautiful platinum dress, bridesmaids in black, fake flowers, a taxi to the venue and so on.

    When it came to the guest list they threw all this in our face as things they had been forced to let go of. And to a degree they had a point. But so did we.

    But as they had a bit of a point we compromised. Which means we need to spend a lot more money. They were HORRIBLE. Properly awful about the compromise. It was a truly nasty experience which took a massive toll on our health but which I think trained us well in the communication skills and stuff we need for when we are married.

    We care more about the marriage, they are more invested in the wedding, so we are gaving them some of that. And thier apology for the bad behaviour will never come but they are giving us more money.

    So it can be hard. And I know it was particularly tough for M, as he had never had my parents act that badly towards him (they had to me) but if you want compromise rather than to go your own way you have to understand why they value those things (in my parents case, they wanted all my cousins children who none of us know because they feel they owe my aunts and uncles for the weddings we attended. They don’t but they feel they do).

    I wish you the best of luck. And we did work out a plan for how we could afford the wedding we wanted on our own terms. And we knew we could. And that really helped with the negotiations as if they had continued to act like toddlers we knew we could pull away and reiterate one more time how grateful we were for the contribution but that we could not take it with the conditions they attached and walk away.

    As it is, I am stoked to be having a big wedding now. I would never have chosen it, but we are planning on working into our vows a bit where the masses of people there vow to support us as a baby family. I actually know some of my cousins would stick to that too. So I think the compromise could work out.

    I hope it works for you. If I can convince M to come here he can talk from his point of view but I know it really made him stressed and upset and that upset me.

    Final thing: the team leader thing suggested a while ago is good. I think you and your fiance need to discuss this but the main communication needs to be all four of you if possible. And I see it as my parents put me in a position where I had to choose between them and the man I am lucky enought to get to choose as my family. So I had to choose my baby family while honouring thier generosity and kindness (as it was all meant kindly – my parents really think that if you don’t have that stuff you regret it later, and maybe we will but that is our choice to make – it may be the same in your case).

    Good luck. I hope you feel you can rock whatever wedding you end up having as the most important bit – getting married should be able to happen regardless.

  • One thing that might add to these conversations is specifically verbalizing that their opinion does matter, but not as attached to money. Something like (if this is true for you), “It is very important to us that our parents be comfortable before and during our wedding, and therefore we want input and feedback from all of you because your opinions matter to us. However, we are respectfully asking for that input from you as our parents, not as financial contributors. So please do keep us in the loop if you are really uncomfortable with something, but we are making decisions as a couple.” Ensuring them that their opinion does matter, genuinely, might help? Just an idea!

  • Sara C.

    Hey-oh. Oh, for the love of compromise and money. While I think good communication is key with your inlaws and the planning process, I also want to offer a slightly different perspective. To be short – sometimes the most practical wedding (the one that is truest to our practical sensibilities) doesn’t always look like the way we imagine prior to this whole process. For some of us, it means it’s a more simplified affair. And for some of us more grandiose. But regardless, we make the details work – we make them us – because its also a practical option.

    That said, I think community is the most important, and that you should seek a compromise with your parents on the extra guests. I’d not only negotiate with them, but I’d think of offering money yourself. And don’t forget the venue – what if you were able to negotiate a $5 less each person (say, by switching some vegetable for beef option in the canapes?) Then your parents get what they want, you get what you need, and the neutral party still has your business.

    • Julia W

      We nixed the twice baked potatoes and stuffed mushrooms in favor of easier to prepare foods and saved a bunch of time and money! I think looking carefully at your food budget could help a lot as that is usually the biggest thing that flexes with guest list. (unless of course your exceed your venue space.)

      And careful planning on how to broach the subject is key here too. Respect will get you a long way. Perhaps you could offer to say, pay for your own photography while the relatives foot the extra food bill. Then you actually have a say in who you hire and how much it costs.

  • I think part of what might be going on here is that your future in-laws stepped up to wedding planning without quite realising how much it costs. Happens to all of us :) Hence committing to the idea of canapes before realising what it takes to give canapes to that many people…and therefore trying to reduce the people.

    My point is, I’m sure it’s not their *intention* to leave out people, but maybe they don’t quite see a better way out. And I know you already know this, but I just find that sometimes it helps to approach these things remembering that they’re not your adversaries, and everybody’s actually on the same side.

    • E

      “I think part of what might be going on here is that your future in-laws stepped up to wedding planning without quite realizing how much it costs”

      THIS. So true. A good friend of mine is just starting out as a photographer and I asked her to do our photos. We’ll basically be paying her enough to fly herself and her husband to our wedding, stay in a nice place, and then a little extra. My mom thought that seemed really expensive, until I told her most wedding photogs start at DOUBLE what we will be paying.

      For me what has worked so far is being super prepared with the research before I have any direct conversations about budget. Like, here is what you will get for X dollars, here is what you get that’s a little bit nicer for X more dollars.

      • Sarah

        Absolutely. My mom was freaking out about how much everything cost, until I had her figure out the inflation for what her wedding would cost today.

        I think it was something like 10,000 more then our budget. She stopped complaining real fast.

        I think that’s really helpful. Most parents got married around 20 years ago and if they haven’t kept up with the wedding industry or wedding prices, it can be a real shock to the system.

        • 20 years doesn’t give them much time to do anything! ;) mine were actually married 40 years before my wedding, and they had a tiny church wedding. Our expenses were small, but a lot more than they spent, for sure.

          • my parents had the same issue as well – we showed them some costings we had got, including the most decent one we had, but not some of the more expensive venues.
            They then suggested the more expensive venues as they assumed (being out of town) that they wouldnt be too expensive. I let Mum do her own research on that one. The shock in her email was almost comical…

            Mum and Dad married on a budget about $3k less than we ended up spending, and had a very similar wedding (church, sit down dinner, guest numbers) nearly 30 years before. We managed to do that while spending nearly $3k on our photographer alone…

        • Hannah

          My mom was horrified by how much my fiance and I are planning to spend on our wedding (which is actually less than half what the average wedding in the area costs) because her wedding cost $2000. In 1980. But, based on inflation and “wedding inflation” and my research, if we duplicated her wedding today it would cost at least as much as what we’re doing. Luckily, once she started looking at some “alternative venues” on her own, she realized that what we’ve decided on is actually more than reasonable!

    • Alyssa

      YES. There’s such a disconnect between what you think things should cost and what they actually do and the realization can be jarring.

  • Newtie

    I think it can be helpful to remember, too, that compromising on canapes can feel like a BIG compromise to some people. I know my mom has struggled with our wedding planning because, starting out, she really didn’t believe you could have a wedding without canapes, a champagne toast, a sit down dinner, etc. It was PAINFUL for her to come to terms with the fact that she & my father can’t give me the wedding she wishes she could give me. I couldn’t care less about those things, and wouldn’t want them even if we could afford them, and in the beginning of this process it was really hard for me not to think, “UGH, why is my mom focusing on stuff like that, it doesn’t matter!” For my mom, it wasn’t about “keeping up with the joneses” so much as wanting this big, important event in my life to be “perfect,” and only having one very traditional idea of what “perfect” looks like.

    Explaining to her that we can’t afford those things if we want to invite all our loved ones wasn’t just about compromise, it was also about her giving up a very, very big vision/dream – essentially, although it sounds silly, giving up canapes to make sure we could invite everyone was a sacrifice for my mom, not just a compromise. When you talk to your in-laws, be prepared that to them the wedding they want you to have might be much more emotional/symbolic to them than it is to you, and it might actually be very painful for them to give up their ideas. After all, they haven’t been reading apw all these months. ;)

    • PA

      This is spot on! We can’t quite understand our parents’ perspective because we don’t have grown children of our own (well, the vast majority of us, I’m guessing). We don’t *quite* understand what it is to want to “provide” for a child and make their day perfect for them.

      Maybe thankfulness* should be a major theme in the discussion: “It is so generous of you to help us create this celebration. Weddings can be so stressful to plan, and it means a lot that you’re willing to get into the planning process with us.” Keep emphasizing that their emotional investment is just the greatest thing!

      * I hate it when I hear, “you should be grateful that…” and so on, so that’s not where I’m trying to go with this!

      • Alyssa

        Definitely. And while parents shouldn’t be jerks about their opinions or contributions, it’s also good to remember that familial pressure does NOT stop just because you’re a parent yourself. Your grandmother that nagged your mom into submission on her own wedding most likely will not be quiet about her granddaughter’s wedding. And if your mom is taking the brunt of that, it may be hard for her not to give in and therefore nag YOU.

        • PA

          Oh, yes – your mother (or father, or aunt, or whatever) may be getting plaintive calls from family members also! “Why wasn’t I invited?” “What do you MEAN there’s no alcohol?” “A wedding without a cocktail hour? That’s … interesting.” (“Interesting,” and, “different,” are two words that often mean “horrific,” in MN-speak. As a transplant, I’ve had to learn this.)

          • Oh my god, I’m an East Coast transplant to Minnesota, and hear my upcoming wedding described as “different” and “interesting” allllllllllllllllllllll the time.

          • jessie

            Too funny. My mom would not stop describing my wedding as “non-traditional” to absolutely everyone, and it was definitely code. She finally stopped once she did this to someone in her church who had recently been married, and who had done many of the same things we’re choosing to do! Le sigh.

            Now, we’ve been upgraded to “different”. I feel it’s a step up. ;)

          • Sasha

            Oh man, this! My mother got a call from my aunt with my mom freaking out because we were planning on doing something on the east coast (where most of our people are) and something on the west coast (where my aunts and uncles are) and she wanted to be invited to the real wedding. My aunt is my dad’s sister, not my mom’s, is not friends with my mother, my parents have been divorced for 25 years, and my mom was sick. Also, is not planning the wedding.

            It sounds terrible, but when we first started planning we all expressed a very small amount of gratitude that my grandmother was not around for this. Not that she was not wonderful, strong, brilliant, and incredibly supportive of me but because she was–picture Emily Gilmore from Gilmore Girls. Picture her reaction to most weddings here. . .

        • “…familial pressure does NOT stop just because you’re a parent yourself.”

          This is what I keep telling my fiancé when we have parental disagreements about wedding planning. I tell him it’s a good thing we’re learning these lessons now (i.e. learning to communicate with each other so we can present a united front to his/my parents) because when we have kids, we will face this non-stop.

    • Marina

      Absolutely this. One of the things I realized while compromising with my parents (and major financial contributors) about wedding planning was that some of the things that seemed like not a big deal to me really were things they were significantly emotionally invested in. Because they were paying for the wedding, my parents felt like not only parents of the bride, but hosts of a large party, and as hosts they felt like they had obligations to hold to. For me it was about whether I was married to the man I love at the end of the day; for them it was about that AND about their friends and relatives feeling taken care of and honored.

      I have a good relationship with my parents and they are awesome people, so what worked for me was to first acknowledge and honor that some of the issues that felt minor to me really were important to them. I compromised as much as I felt I could, and for issues that were emotionally important to me as well I tried my best to explain how something wasn’t “just” about saving money or taking the easy way, but really represented the values I wanted to have in my life and in my baby family. When I put it that way, it was easier for my parents to support me and my choices.

    • Emily

      This is a good point. When I was looking into used wedding dresses online, my father was disturbed and said, “Are you really saying that after 26 years we can’t afford a wedding for our daughter?” We wound up putting a lot of things in terms of investing in community rather than appearance, which helped a lot – when you put it in terms of “would we really rather focus on a flower arrangement or more artistic photographer versus making it possible for more of our family and friends to come and be comfortable?” it’s really, really hard to say yes to the first options.

  • I think Alyssa’s advice is spot-on, particularly the part about walking into a conversation with concrete suggestions for cutting costs. Hopefully they will be receptive to those suggestions. I tried this with my stepmom a few weeks ago, not so much because of the size of our guest list but because I’ve been feeling so guilty about how much they’re spending. The conversation went something like this:

    Me: I think we should cut the carving station.
    Stepmom: But I love carving stations!
    Me: Okay…then maybe we could take the butternut squash ravioli off the buffet, and just have it as a separate meal for the vegetarians.
    Stepmom: But I love that ravioli!

    Even though we talk about this here all the time, I’m finally realizing that when they say they want to do this, maybe they really do want to do this. (I recognize that doesn’t so much apply to your situation RITA, but perhaps it does for others).

    Good luck, lady!

    • K

      I was in the exact same boat in planning our wedding. My parents were incredibly generous and paid for just about all of it, but that included paying for all sorts of things that I didn’t think were necessary, but they did. I also felt really guilty about how much they were spending (it was way more than I was comfortable spending), but it came down to they could afford it, and I think they would have been honestly embarrassed to host the sort of wedding I was thinking of in front of some of our relatives and their friends.

      Six months later, I have to say, the wedding was amazing. As much fun as I’m sure a “budget” wedding would have been, our not-so-budget wedding was still a blast, and probably helped keep the peace with my parents a lot better than if I had forced my way on them! I know not everyone is lucky enough to have parents willing to pay for your wedding, but if you do, just remember that all the money-saving/money-spending details that you worry about right now really don’t matter in the end. At the end of the day, you’ll be married, it will be fun and amazing, and you won’t even notice whether or not the centerpieces cost $2 or $200.

  • PA

    “Pro-tip: Whenever dealing with a potential problem, always come prepared with a solution. Saves your bacon every time.”

    So true! My suggestion is to sit down and brainstorm with your fiance (and maybe a close friend) about possible solutions to this. I’d echo other commenters who say that your in-laws probably took this on without a clear idea of how much it would cost.

    A few thoughts (some, all, or none of which may be applicable or useful):

    a) First, choose a sentence that eloquently sums up your feelings about having your friends at your wedding. Rehearse it. Rehearse saying it calmly. Repeat it as necessary in the conversation with your in-laws, and don’t budge. This is a good way to avoid getting talked into a corner.
    b) If there is an item that you KNOW costs more than your in-laws expected, this might be a good place to make a cut. This would be something such as, “I was reading this cute wedding blog the other day, and it’s gotten really trendy to have a signature drink at the wedding. The bonus is, by having only the signature drink and then just beer and wine, we’ll save a lot on the alcohol costs!” or, “You know, I’ve been thinking – you mentioned the appetizers the other day, and the caterer has really high prices on those. If we’re doing a large dinner, maybe it’s best not to have the appetizers.”
    c) Finally, KEEP communicating with your partner. No matter how supportive you’ve been through this, he may feel extra pressure that he has to “keep the peace,” or that he’s “responsible” because it’s his family. Try to avoid phrases like, “your family,” and stick to phrases like, “I think/feel…” and “it’s important to me.”

    Best of luck! Remember: it’s going to be an awesome wedding!

  • This was a BIG reason we eloped. After we said, “thanks, but no thanks” to my husband’s parents, we took all the money we were saving to pay for our wedding (one that was US), and put it into the honeymoon instead. The in-laws insisted on throwing us a party where at the verylastminute we were allowed to invite one table’s worth of friends, but I didn’t get mad, because by then, the reception wasn’t for us, it was for our in-laws and *their* friends. And I was really happy about it.

    It all comes down to what you really want, and how much it matters (because, let’s be real: by the time it’s over, you’ll realize a lot of what you thought mattered, didn’t).

    And people might be upset to hear this, but for me, it was an opportune time to make a power-play that laid some groundwork for the future. Hey, it’s the truth.

    • M

      Hi Nina! My long term boyfriend and I plan on doing the exact same thing in the next couple of years. The elopement/honeymoon part sounds great but I’m worried about someone throwing us a reception that is totally just so they can have a party, be in control of it, and look like a shining star in front of family and family friends (I’m sure you can tell that I have one specific person in mind, haha). I’m worried that this will really really bug me and take away from the beginning of our marriage/our wedding. We have a rocky relationship with this person to begin with and she’s quite pushy/opinionated/fake… Was it hard for you to accept? How did things go? I’m just wondering what your experience was like and if you have any tips for us. Thanks! :)

  • My in-laws offered us money to help pay for our reception. Unfortunately, it felt more like ransom. “We’ll give you x amount if you have the party on this day at this location.” Yikes.

    My husband and I had a sit down with them to discuss things. It got ugly. The upside was that my man and I presented a united front. We determined ahead of time what we would accept and what we wouldn’t. (Ultimately, we paid for everything ourselves.) I also think it was a big part of the in-laws seeing my husband as a grown up and not as a little boy any more.*

  • Ashley B

    My parents kindly offered contribute the cost of the wedding and at the beginning there was a lot of friction on what the wedding was going to look like. For me, the most helpful thing was sitting down with them and just asking what was most important to them. I knew what was most important to me, but by learning what was important to them, I got a much better perspective on the type of wedding they envision. No, I don’t really want a band, but it was super important to my dad and by compromising there, we get to have our pie and eat it too.

  • In an odd way, the fact that my older sister (essentially) eloped has been my biggest saving grace in the wedding planning process. When my sister started trying to plan her wedding, my mother got heavily involved in trying to influence what type of wedding my sister had, and where she would have it. My sister got incredibly frustrated and instead decided to get married by her friend (who is a justice of the peace) in their living room. So far the most judgmental comment my mother has made in regards to my wedding has been expressing her disappointment at the fact that I won’t be having fresh flowers (but no pressure to do anything differently).

    Since my parents are very graciously paying for the food and the venue fee, I worked very hard to keep those costs low. One tactic I used was when first contacting vendors, I gave them a firm budget for food. If they couldn’t figure out a way to accommodate it, we didn’t try to work with them at all. We found a (very nice, amazing) wedding venue that is affiliated with a lower-cost caterer, who was able to give us fantastic pricing on a plated dinner without all the spendy bells and whistles (no salad course, no red meat, simpler appetizers), and even a vegan menu option to accommodate our vegan and vegetarian guests.

    It might be a good idea to talk to the caterer (since that is a large chunk of the budget) and see if there are some more economical options available for portions of the menu. Fewer passed hors d’oeuvres, substituting a veggie tray for a more expensive cheese plate, or offering fewer meal options, can help cut costs for food.

  • Yes, Alyssa. Awesome advice.

    And just like the specifics with the money, I think it really helps to get specific about feelings in a nonjudgmental, non-critical way, especially for the things that you feel most strongly about (i.e., the guest list). For example, I might say something along the lines of, “We are so grateful for the assistance with the wedding. We also worry that by cutting the guest list, we won’t have the people there that have been integral to our relationship. That would make us really sad. We’d like to figure out an alternative solution.” I might even say, “You guys have been so great and so it’s hard to talk about this, but I’m wondering if we can come up with a way to plan this wedding so WE still feel like it’s ours without it seeming like are ungrateful.”

  • liz

    Our parents on both sides chipped to help us out. We covered the majority, but I can’t overlook how freaking generous they were.

    What we did is sit down with each set of parents and show them what we were getting. They had the option of covering what they wanted to cover- but presenting things this way negated the real possibility of them nixing anything “because they were paying for it.” Here’s what we’re getting and what it’s going to cost. If you’d like to help, we’d really appreciate it, let us know what you’d like to do. Bam.

  • Rhubarb

    — This stuff is super, super stressful. Honestly it’s stressful even when it’s going well, let alone when problems come up.

    — It sounds like you’re already compromising a lot. The canapés, expensive wine, and florist are for them. It kind of looks like it’s for you, but it’s not. I don’t think there’s a tactful way to remind them of this, but just remembering it will help you remember that you’re not being ungrateful or anything.

    — Depending on your family, it might or might not be the best idea to talk to his parents together. If I talked about money with my parents with my partner in the room, she’d be incredibly stressed and not say anything. If we tried to talk to her parents about money together, I’d probably give mortal offense. We just have very different family cultures around money. My family is super upfront and talks about money and how to deal with it all the time; her family is, um, NOT.

    — Come up with multiple ways to cut spending by the amount you need. That way, if they turn out to be super attached to some element, you can offer alternatives.

  • I’m kind of running into this a bit. My future in-laws are paying for 1/3 of the wedding. (We’re paying for 1/3 and my parents are paying for 1/3.) My future in-laws want to invite about a dozen family friends to the wedding. We basically said that this wasn’t allowed because we only wanted it to be friends and family, but they keep insisting. To make matters worse, my family is a lot bigger than my fiancé’s family, so his parents keep saying that it’s only fair that they should be able to invite a few more people. In the end (well, I hope it’s the end. We’re still 8 months out, though.), we decided it wasn’t worth all the fighting. We got them to pare it down a bit, and then told them that if they want anyone else there, it’s not happening.

    The key is to make sure you and your partner are on the same page about things before having the conversation, and then be willing to compromise. This is the #1 thing I’ve learned during wedding planning. Communication is king!

    Good luck!

  • Sarah H.

    This was also an issue for us at the beginning of the planning process, but both sets of parents have turned out to be pretty great about the whole thing. My parents didn’t say “We’ll pay for everything.” or “We’ll pay for this and that.” Instead, they gave us a set amount of money (equal to the amount they spent on a car for my younger sister a few years ago). And D’s parents gave us an early wedding present of cash. We didn’t ask them for anything, they just volunteered it.

    So instead of leaving it open-ended and then having them grow concerned about the ballooning costs, I think the idea of a cash gift might help change the conversation. It’s a one-time gift, and then you can supplement that with your own funds. It just seems like it should be a lot harder to tell someone what to do with a gift you’ve given them. Of course, that’s in a perfect world, and my mom definitely still has opinions about things. (Would Girl Scout cookies for dessert really look cheap??) But it might help.

    Anyway, maybe one of those pre-paid debit cards with the wedding funds on it could work- then it’s really a physical gift they’re giving you. They know they’re supporting your union, but they don’t have to get stuck in the hole they’ve dug for themselves- both financially and in their relationship with you two.

    Hope everything works out for you RITA!

    • PA

      Girl Scout cookies for dessert would be AWESOME, and everyone would remember how amazing it was. Who doesn’t love Girl Scout cookies, after all?

      I know that wasn’t your whole point, but I just wanted to say it!

      • Liz

        I bet people would get into fun and friendly debates about their favorites too!

        Samoas and Tagalogs are clearly the boss.

        • PA

          I’ll give you the samoas, but we need to swap those tagalogs for thin mints ;)

          • Denzi

            No, no, no, it’s definitely Thin Mints and Tagalongs! No Samoas necessary. :-P

  • Emily

    In the very beginning I told my parents, who helped us out a great deal financially, that if it came down to taking their money or having a great relationship, that I would always choose relationship. I said this in the nicest way, and it let them know that, absolutely first of all, they are important to me, and second, that my partner and I were not going to let the gift of their financial support control our desires.

  • Offbalance

    I’d love it if APW actually got some real parents to report on why the hell so many* seem hell-bent on hijacking their kid’s weddings. Now, I know you had some mom come on here some time ago, but she really didn’t give any details (and went on some bizarre tangent about breastfeeding). Do they want to show off? Recapture their own glory? Is it because they’re immature? Selfish? Jealous of not being in the spotlight? Jealous that their parents hijacked their wedding, and are too selfish and immature to break the cycle? Is it a sense of entitlement? Guilt? What causes them to want to take over so badly, whether they’re contributing financially or not? Do they just not realize how insulting and hurtful it is for them to try to get the COUPLE ACTUALLY GETTING MARRIED to eliminate the friends who make up such a huge part of their lives in favor of relatives they barely see, like or know? Is this out of jealousy of said friends? I really and truly want to know where this horrifyingly bad behavior that I’ve seen stories of here, on Offbeat Bride and other wedding planning communities comes from. Also, to see if bringing it to light can stop it at all.

    (*thankfully, my parents were APW trailblazers back in the 1970s – small ceremony in judges’ chambers then a small lunch at my mom’s apartment with less than 30 people. She inherited money that was intended for a big Italian wedding when her parents died, said screw it and used the money for a nice honeymoon in Jamaica and the downpayment on a house that they still live in. She’s told me hair-curling stories of parental bad behavior of weddings she was involved in once upon a time, though.)

    • Alyssa

      A lot of the content on here is submission based, so if you (or anyone else!) know of some crazyface parents willing to write, send ’em here! :-)

      • Offbalance

        I’ll do what I can!

    • Rachelle

      There was a lovely wedding graduate post a while back that included a part where the bride realized that while her wedding was obviously a very important transition in her life, it was also a very important transition in her mother’s life. I think the conflict was that the mother wanted to plan the wedding with her daughter, but the bride wanted to plan the wedding with her groom. The bride finally realized that her mom saw the wedding as her “send off” for her daughter into adult life and it was important to her to do it the best she could. Very emotionally charged stuff.

      I think it’s good to remember that parents are going through the wedding process too – the wedding of their child. I don’t think most parents intend to go all crazy, any more than brides and grooms and bridesmaids and anyone else INTEND to go crazy over a wedding, it just happens because of all the pressure and emotions and changing roles.

    • Emily

      I think parents often, really, kindly think that what looks like “taking over” to couples is actually “helping,” or even “compromising.” Like, they are trying to make concessions and give you what you want, while still feeling like hosts who have to “do it right.”

      For a really small example, I wanted to make origami flowers for our church (in part for budgetary reasons), and it was a lot of work but the really frustrating part was that my mom thought it would look “inappropriate,” and after disagreeing about this over a few phone calls she said, “Look, this just seems like it’s worrying you too much, let me just take it off your plate. I’ll order arrangements for the altar and we’ll call it off budget. I’d really prefer real flowers myself.” My mom thought the issue was that I wanted real flowers, but was being so careful about staying within our budget number that I was willing to go to a lot of trouble for something less good, so by offering to get something “off budget” she was making it easier and nicer for both of us, while still letting me do my origami for the reception. Whereas I was pretty proud of my efforts to stay on-budget, and was enjoying the process of making flowers even if they didn’t look that amazing, and the part that was worrying me was just disagreeing with her. (I won that one because I was half done at that point. But her intentions were very very kind.)

  • I don’t have a lot to add to Alyssa’s great advice, except this: perhaps, when going to your in-laws, tell them that you appreciate everything they are doing, and you know it’s going to be beautiful, but the one thing that you are not willing to compromise on is the inclusion of your friends, that the inclusion of the people you love is extremely important to you, more important than anything else.

    Is there a way, perhaps, that you could afford a couple grand to put toward some of the extra people? At $100/head, $2K would cover 20 guests. (For example.) I think if you’re honest and genuine, they’ll be receptive. Good luck – and let us know how you fare.

    Also, there are ways to incorporate YOU in other ways besides the fancy. The fancy is just food and drink, really – and your guests will appreciate that. I don’t tend to remember details that are just pretty (though I do remember details that are creative and encapsulate the couple), but I DO remember the food and drink. The song list, the favors, the centerpieces (for example). And, actually, if you offer to take that on, that may alleviate some nuisance costs for your in-laws.

  • Chelsea

    I’m just writing to back you up/high five you/tell you to hang in there.
    We’re lucky in that we’re getting completely unconditional help but it has turned our event from a low key, off the grid type of thing to a really traditional thing.
    I’m loving it at times, feeling like I’m going against myself at times.
    Hang in there.
    Read the parts of the book that talk about weddings and how they’re magical and make things beautiful where you didn’t expect it.
    Allow yourself to have a voice and trust that you will have an amazing wedding because you are marrying the one you love.

  • I’m late to the game, but I’d like to share our experience. For our part, we did a lot of compromising, but we did not compromise on the guests/guest list. I let my parents (and his) add a few people that were important for them. But I also gave in other areas. My mom really wanted a quartet, and she wanted us to have a horse-drawn carriage. Even though that added $1200 to the cost of our wedding, I just said “if that’s where you want to spend your money, that works.” And, honestly, both details were awesome to have.

    We had a sit down dinner, at her request, but we had cupcakes at ours (and for the sake of budget — cupcakes + a tiny cutting cake were half the cost of a big wedding cake). We actually ended up with an open bar, somewhat unintentionally, but were pleased to see that we spent less than $700 on alcohol all night (keg + open bar for 120). The guys wore mismatched suits rather than renting tuxes, and I wore shoes I already owned. There’s lots of little ways to go one way or the other and adjust the budget.

    I think the big conversation needed is the overall budget and number of guests. Unless you’re wanting to have 150 friends in addition to their social “we’re inviting 200 colleagues and family,” you’re not being unreasonable (nor are they). I agree with Alyssa that these are hard conversations to have, but they will also be good. Also, if there is some money you guys can bring to the table to keep some important guests, see what you can do there.

    Best wishes!

  • Kyley

    Can you do some number crunching and identify something you’d like to let go of (canapés or cocktail hour) so your friends can be there? In my experience, providing specifics with your request makes it a lot more palatable, and will make it clear that you are not asking for more, just a redistribution of funds,