Q: My parents are separated and remarried, and while my dad has always been financially conscientious, my mom has not been. She’s in a lot of debt and is a very frivolous spender, so I had no expectations about getting any help from her as far as the wedding (we are paying for it ourselves). But my struggle has been she doesn’t seem to want to pay for anything at all.
I ended up returning the first wedding dress I bought (venue change), but I could only get store credit. I earmarked the money for decorations and veil and other things we need. When I told my mom, she got upset and said she wanted to use the store credit for her dress. When we sent out information about our hotel block, she balked at the price and said she would just stay in our house because she couldn’t afford the hotel, to which we quickly said no. She also asked us to pay for her flight to our city for our shower and her flight for the wedding (she technically lives driving distance away, but really wants to fly for some reason). My brother got married a few years ago, and they did not pay for her dress. Their hotel block was also only $15 a night cheaper than ours, and she paid it without complaint.
The kicker in all this is that over the last year we’ve been engaged, she’s purchased a new motorcycle, several guns, and paid for a custom paint job for her new husband’s truck as an anniversary present, which I know was not cheap. If she had even set aside $50 a month since we got engaged, she could pay for all of the things related to the wedding. She’s not contributing anything to the wedding, and she is refusing to pay for anything related to it.
Am I wrong to put my foot down, and tell her I can’t pay for her too? We just bought a house, which needed multiple repairs we didn’t anticipate, and we are paying for the entire wedding and honeymoon alone. We don’t have the bandwidth to help her, but I still want her involved. It wouldn’t hurt as much if I knew she genuinely couldn’t afford it, but she chose to spend her money on other things the year we were engaged and is acting surprised there are expenses associated with the wedding. I feel like I’m at a loss for how to deal with her and like I’m being an asshole for saying, “Sorry, I can’t pay for your dress, and no, you can’t stay with us.” I feel like there’s no good way to say, “Be more responsible with money,” and not be a giant jerk.
You’re not an asshole, or even a giant jerk. It’s really hurtful to feel like your mom hasn’t prioritized your wedding at all. That would be painful enough, but lay that next to all of the gun and motorcycle purchases, juxtapose it to how she acted during your brother’s wedding, and, oof, it’s pretty bad. It is completely normal for you to want to establish some boundaries in response to that.
And the boundaries you suggest are really just fine. If she’s not able to buy a dress, she can wear an old one or maybe borrow from a friend. If there’s no money for flights, it sounds like she can drive.
But, you have to acknowledge the reality of how this will be received. Will your mom borrow a dress and hop in the car? I mean, just based on this letter, I’d say no. You have to face that standing firm on this may mean that your mom won’t be at your wedding.
The question is: Is that what you want? There’s no right answer. Laying boundaries and enforcing them is really important and healthy and smart. And it’s completely fair and valid if having your mom at your wedding is also be important to you. If your mom doesn’t come to the wedding, will it be a relief to you that you used an important day to hammer home a point? Or will missing your mom be one more pain piled on top of so many others? I’m worried for you that, as much as you resent being asked for this financial help, you’ll be more upset by the compounded pain of mom’s absence, when she (predictably) “can’t afford” to come.
You’re not likely to change how your mom handles her money. And the truly painful part is you’re even less likely to change how she prioritizes you. So, ruling out those options, make a choice according to which will cause the least amount of pain moving forward. Which will you resent more? Forking over the cash for something she, by all rights, should have anticipated and prioritized? Or not having your mom around on your wedding day?