Help, My Partner Is Cleaning out His Bank Account for His Daughter’s Wedding


She spent $20K on her bridal shower alone

by Amy March

Low angle view of bride in the middle of the room, alone, facing you the viewer.

Q: DEAR AMY,

My partner’s daughter is way over budget for her upcoming wedding. She has had an engagement party that cost her parents $15,000 (the couple took home $17,000), and her bridal shower that cost $20,000 (she took home $13,000).

Her father is terrible at budgeting and saying no. Her mom had addiction issues in the past, and her daughter takes advantage of this, asking her mom to make up for it. My partner is struggling to pay monthly for the costs already incurred. The bride quit her job about three months ago, and the wedding is in October. We live an hour away from her. I have repeatedly invited her, her sister, and her fiancé over to visit us and get to know each other. It’s too far; they are too busy. Christmas, family birthdays, celebrations—I am never invited.

Yesterday she asked her father to ask me if I wanted to buy her wedding shoes as her gift—they cost $950. I am struggling to keep respecting my partner and his ex, who is a lovely lady. Anything I can do to help out in this situation? Or do I just keep quiet?

—COSTS ARE STAGGERINGLY HIGH

A: DEAR CASH,

Well, it certainly sounds like this wedding is going to be quite expensive. Though that in and of itself… who cares?

But beyond that, I have questions. You say Daughter is “way over budget” for the wedding: Whose budget is this? Your partner’s budget for how much he is willing to spend? You and your partner’s budget for how much of your joint finances you are willing to contribute? Her own personal “budget” she set and is now exceeding? Ultimately, does it actually matter if she is “over budget”? Not really, as far as I can tell—at least not to you. What matters is whether your partner is spending too much money on this.

The amounts involved are certainly eye popping. In a way though, the fact that she, apparently, received gifts totaling $17,000 for her engagement party and $13,000 for her bridal shower makes me wonder if this wedding actually isn’t shockingly over the top in the context of her culture? The numbers are staggering to me, but perhaps not her guests, since they are also giving really generously. Just something to ponder as you think about this. Your partner may have different cultural values about weddings that are influencing his spending decisions. (Side note: How do you know how much money they “made” on these parties? Is that something that you need to know?)

The real problem isn’t that her wedding is costing a lot of cash. It’s this right here:

“My partner is struggling to pay monthly for the costs already incurred,” and “Her father is terrible at budgeting and saying no.” Well that sucks for him. But it’s not actually his daughter’s fault that he is in this mess. It is his, because he is responsible for taking care of his own wallet. Do you two share finances? Your letter doesn’t specify whether you are married or not, but either way, if you are committed to each other, how you both spend your money impacts both of you. Obviously if you have shared finances you’re completely within bounds to demand more control over how those funds are spent. However, even if you have separate finances, you might have joint financial goals and joint long-term plans. Focus on that. Does he want to budget? Or does he want to give his daughter everything her heart desires? Those are all things worth speaking up about.

But there is a third option here. If you two have totally separate finances, at the end of the day it’s just not your business. That may be a hard pill to swallow, but it’s true. People can spend their money however they want, and that includes on lavish weddings for their daughter.

I can appreciate that it must be hard to see someone you love really struggling with saying no and potentially spending money he doesn’t have. This may be particularly hard since his daughter hasn’t been receptive to forming a relationship with you. At least one part of this question is easy. When someone invites you to gift her $950 shoes, “Absolutely not! That is bananas. If you want $950 shoes you can spend your own money on them,” is a completely reasonable response. Also, you can just say, “No, I think that’s not going to work for me,” and leave it there.

I think you need to get loud. Use your words. Say many, many things. And 100 percent of them should be privately to your partner.

Here is what you should say to your step-daughter: you should congratulate her, express excitement about the wedding, and politely decline opportunities to gift her expensive things without bringing all your judgment about the whole wedding to the table.

You say you’re struggling to respect your partner, and yeah. It can be hard to respect someone you’re in a relationship with whose financial values you fundamentally don’t respect. Money matters in partnerships. You’re looking at this as an issue with his relationship with his daughter, but she’s going to be married in October. What about the rest of your life with him?

—Amy March

DO YOU FEEL LIKE EVERYWHERE YOU TURN, MORE PEOPLE ARE GETTING MARRIED? LIKE ATTENDING WEDDINGS HAS SOMEHOW BECOME YOUR HOBBY? IS “EXPENSIVE CRAP FOR OTHER PEOPLE’S WEDDINGS” A BIGGER BUDGET CATEGORY THAN “MANICURES, BOOKS, AND CHEESE”? EMAIL ME: AMYMARCH [AT] APRACTICALWEDDING [DOT] COM.

Amy March

Amy has loved weddings at least since the second grade when she made an epic diorama of Charles and Diana’s wedding for “important historical event” day. She has purchased every issue of Martha Stewart Weddings ever published and will happily talk to you for an hour about the relative merits of blush and bashful. Her happy place is poolside with a glass of rosé and a good book. 

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  • anonymous

    oh my GAWD get some couples counseling! Your partner is making crappy decisions (and his financial decisions do affect you) and you aren’t doing anything to let him know it. The TLDR for this letter is “my spouse makes crappy financial decisions that are stressing me out”……. I swear, the most useful advice for ANYONE in ANY interpersonal relationship is to “use your words”.

    The sex/romance/companionship must be pretty damn good if he is using his finances in the way you describe and doesn’t accommodate you getting to know his family of origin and you still want to be with him.

    • ManderGimlet

      Yes! I agree with other commenters in that she really wants people to agree that the daughter is a dickhead.

      That was the one thing that seemed understandable, the disinterested adult daughters, particularly since we know nothing of their relationship to him or what kind of father he was when they were growing up or how he behaved when he divorced their mother (like, LW was real quick to throw out that mom had addiction issues and how daughter expects “her to make up for it”, but does not seem to recognize any of that same compulsive behavior in Daddy Warbucks over here throwing $20k bridal showers. What is he having to make up for??). They don’t owe anything to this random adult woman who has been in their fathers’ life for an indeterminate amount of time, particularly one who is CLEARLY very resentful of them.

      • YesThatHappened

        “particularly since we know nothing of their relationship to him or what kind of father he was when they were growing up or how he behaved when he divorced their mother”

        Thanks for this…I’m totally the daughter of a man who buys things for his kids because he doesn’t know how else to dad, and whose girlfriend/now wife used to text me like “you should send him birthday cards, he’s really sad that you don’t!”

        Since you weren’t there when he abandoned our dog in a state park on my 9th birthday during my parents’ ugly divorce, lady, I really don’t think you know what needs to happen around birthdays in our relationship. But yes, if he insists on buying me a sewing machine for mine, I’ll fucking take it.

        (I didn’t actually say that to her. She has since stopped. Things are OK.)

        • ManderGimlet

          I am not in such an extreme boat (I am so sorry!!!!) but yeah, same here. I get really frustrated when partners of parents with adult children (which really is not the same as a step-parent) write in for advice on how the kids “should” be acting or how anyone other than the person writing for advice should be conducting themselves. If your partner has a strained relationship with his kids, set boundaries in your relationship with him and support him in his efforts to regain trust in his relationships with his kids. AND THEN BUTT OUT! Lol!

          • YesThatHappened

            Seriously. I did pick one of the most heart-rending episodes to mention, and 20+ years later our relationship is about a lot more than that sort of stuff, but yeah…I really don’t need her advice on how (or like, why…) to be a good daughter?

            Writing about this reminds me of a former girlfriend of his, different woman who I never met, who when I was in college had her teenage daughter find me on facebook to relay her mom’s offer to pay for a studio portrait session for me + sibling, the results of which would be a Christmas gift to my dad. Not really our style, but kind of sweet! Until it was clarified that they would be MY and MY SIBLING’s gift to my dad, and we were not to breathe a word of girlfriend’s involvement in the process, because she wanted him to think it was 100% coming from us. UM NOPE.

            People are so weird.

          • ManderGimlet

            I think people try too hard! Like, you are all adults, there are no power dynamics here, no little lives to steward into adulthood, everyone is already at that point. Treat them like coworkers: people you will be in a lot of close contact with and need to present a pleasant, polite, respectful relationship in the name of a common goal.

      • z

        +1000! My dad had this girlfriend who totally bought into the idea that my dad is perfect and my mom was to blame for the divorce. Lol! It is so extremely irritating to be scolded by a newcomer who is not just clueless but outright self-deluding about her partner’s choices.

        Also, is the LW the latest in a long string of dad relationships? My dad has every right to date, but they come and go. I have my mother, my own spouse and children, my siblings, a job, etc.–sorry but Dad’s Girlfriend ranks pretty low sometimes. No animosity towards her, but I am just fresh outta f*cks sometime. Having divorced parents involves a lot of emotional labor and I get tired.

    • toomanybooks

      Yeah either the couple has like actually pretty recently started dating and LW has no reason to expect she should be hanging out with his family or commenting on his ability to stay afloat financially – though it kind of seems like probably that’s not the case – or, more likely, LW’s partner has not been great about including LW in his family OR managing his money.

  • z

    I think money issues can be really fraught in older adult relationships. Can a serious relationship really have “totally separate finances” if one person is not financially secure for retirement?

    My mom had this issue with a former boyfriend, financially he was just awful, and she would always insist that they were 100% separate financially. But when you try to think through what it’s actually like to be in a serious relationship with an elderly person who doesn’t have anywhere near enough to support himself, it is really hard to come up with any good options. Fortunately they broke up before any hard questions had to be faced.

    • Amandalikeshummus

      I agree. Partnership itself means talking about finances is on the table. It sounds like LW and her partner should have some real heart-to-hearts. I think the wedding should be left out of it, though.

    • Jess

      “Can a serious relationship really have “totally separate finances” if one person is not financially secure for retirement?”

      This question was echoing in my head THE WHOLE LETTER.

      Because, realistically, the partner is going to be paying a huge amount for this wedding at this point, no matter what. Like, they will not be able to back out now after all the expenses and planning that have been done or committed to. The question and conversation that LW and Partner need to have is what happens next? What about when daughter needs a new car or a house? What about when they want to vacation? What about when LW or Partner get sick? What about when they can’t work anymore and still have to buy food?

      • ManderGimlet

        Agreed. I feel like LW is trying to make this issue about the daughter, but it’s him, the father. He is the one throwing what LW sees (possibly very rightfully) as their future financial security towards the daughter and her wedding events. The focus needs to be on the partner. Whether the money were going to his daughter, his ex-wife, or his bookie, he is the one that is the issue LW needs to focus on. Of course it’s a lot easier to make a villain out of an aloof daughter than your partner who you ultimately are facing these problems with. I definitely feel for the LW, that’s a sucky time to find out a glaring gap in your values.

    • AmandaBee

      This was my gut instinct too. Like at some point, if he can’t make bills and save, this shit will catch up with him. Is LW gonna feel obligated to help him out, or is she comfortable walking away at that point? Being totally financially independent seems tricky in any serious relationship beyond perhaps ones early 20s.

  • savannnah

    Who is giving money as a shower gift and how did I miss out on 13K?

    • emmers

      I have a New Jersey friend who got invited to a black tie baby shower. Maybe this is along the same lines?

      • Kaitlyn

        I think we all need more details on this hahaha

      • K. is skittish about disqus

        That is the Jersey-est thing I’ve ever read!

        (Source: Family is from New Jersey)

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          North* Jersey-est thing.(Source: from South Jersey.)

          • Alli

            Good clarification

            (Source: from South Jersey, went to college in North Jersey)

          • K. is skittish about disqus

            Ha! Fair. My South Jersey family would concur for sure.

          • laddibugg

            That sounds like a Bergen County thing.

            (from North Jersey but not that far north)

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            That’s so specific! I’m here for it. Let’s figure out exactly where this family is from, down to the neighborhood.

          • Amy March

            Alpine?

      • Katie

        My sister-in-law had her baby shower in a restaurant with a live violin! Honestly, I was very sad to miss it. But yeah… Black tie?

      • Jan

        This is so weird. But I’m also always a yes for any black tie affair because I adore any and all opportunities to get really dressed up.

    • Jan

      Right though?

  • Cleo

    “Money matters in partnerships. You’re looking at this as an issue with his relationship with his daughter, but she’s going to be married in October. What about the rest of your life with him?”

    This right here is a gut punch of advice. Serious applause to Amy March for getting to the heart of this letter (as usual).

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    Anybody else really curious about those shoes?

    • Katharine Parker

      I think these would be cute, and they’d be a bargain at $795! https://www.net-a-porter.com/us/en/product/972451/valentino/crushed-velvet-sandals

    • penguin

      For $950 I hope they levitate.

    • Kat
      • Kaitlyn

        I wish they weren’t $965 cuz that’s exactly what I’m looking for womp wompppppppp

        • Kat

          SJP made a version for way less called the “Angelica”, you may be able to hunt down a pair. Alternatively, I had a friend in college who bought a pair of satin pumps, had them dyed blue, and added some vintage jewelry to the front to make a surprisingly stylish knockoff, if that’s your kind of project.

        • topscallop

          I got these for $160: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00VAVNOOC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&th=1&psc=1

          It’s kind of bullshit though that the price is different depending on your shoe size.

        • Abfab

          Also Badgeley Mischka has really similar styles in the under $200 range – still a good amount, but much easier to wrap your mind around than nearly $1000.

          • suchbrightlights

            Also relevant, Badgley Mischka goes on sale. (I just got a pair of $300 flats for $70 at Bloomingdales over Labor Day weekend, and some of their heels are still 40-50% off.)

            I am not in the income bracket for Manolo Blahniks but I suspect that they probably do not go on sale?

        • lamarsh

          My cousin bought a pair of vintage shoe clips, clipped them onto a pair of Nine West blue heels, and they were perfect for a fraction of the cost and looked great. Plus, then she had a pair of less dressy heels she could wear to work after the wedding.

      • Amandalikeshummus

        Those better have magic secret comfort technology. Cause I could never pay that much to be that uncomfortable.

        • Kat

          Like I loveeee fancy shoes but can’t imagine a scenario where I’m financially comfortable enough to buy something that expensive to put on my feet, let alone ask someone else to buy them for me!

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          They’d better reimburse my insurance deductible when I snap and ankle.

    • LAinTexas

      LOL. My BFF literally wore bejeweled flip flop sandals on her wedding day. Her husband isn’t that much taller than her, and she’s a little above average in height for a female anyway, so she didn’t want to wear heels. I offered, as a bridesmaid, to help however I could several times, given that I live halfway across the country and wouldn’t be able to help much for in-person projects, and one of the things she had me do was search for wedding shoes for her – flats or sandals. I sent her a bunch of options I found that I thought she’d like, mostly under $50, but some that were above. This post has made me realize I tend to be judgy about these kinds of things (as in how much money someone spends on their wedding), so I don’t want to be judgy…but I also can’t wrap my head around spending that much on a pair of shoes you’re literally wearing for maybe 10 hours or so?! If that?!

      • Violet

        If I spent $950 on shoes, I wouldn’t just wear them for 10 hours. I’d wear them to fancy dinners, the grocery store, and to bed. I’d also see if I could send them to college to earn a degree to get a little return on my investment. ; )

        • LAinTexas

          Bahahaha. You make a good point! If she does get those $950 shoes, I sure hope she finds other opportunities to wear them!

          • Violet

            One day in 2072:
            “Grandma, why do you care what shoes you want us to bury you in?” “Well, let me tell you about those shoes…”

          • LAinTexas

            You’re my new favorite person. Your comments are on point! You have me LOLing over here in my home office! :P

          • Violet

            Haha, thanks!

      • Cleo

        But if you get a nice, comfortable pair of heels, you could potentially re-wear them for events (or even to the office!) for years.

        I’m very frugal with my clothing purchases, but when I get married, I’m going to splurge on a pair of designer shoes because PRETTY (and also more practical than a wedding dress for after the wedding)!

        • Katharine Parker

          I splurged on some cute pink heels for my wedding (I no longer remember the exact price. More than free, less than $950) and I love wearing them again! I’m wearing them to a wedding this month.

        • Jan

          I’d spend a dirty amount of money for literally ANY comfortable heels. I cannot wear heels without limping by 10pm.

          ETA: But because I have, like, to buy food, “a dirty amount of money,” for me, would be way, way, way less than $950.

      • Amy March

        I can see it! Not my personal splurge but if you can afford it and you love them and you’re more likely to re-wear them than the dress at least!

        • LAinTexas

          That is a good point. Who am I to judge what feels important and necessary to someone else? Lessons in letting others be who they are, haha!

        • savannnah

          Yes I had a friend wear a $95 dress and $500 shoes and she was very happy.

          • sarah

            Yep, my shoes were about the same cost as my dress ($300 dress, $200 shoes), and while I loved my dress, the shoes I’ve worn many times again versus obviously the dress was a one-time thing. I can definitely see investing more in the item you will know you’ll wear multiple times.

    • toomanybooks

      I bet they’re Louboutins and my only other thought is that sure, the daughter can want $900 shoes, I mean after all most wedding dresses cost more than that, but no way does LW have to buy them for her.

      • penguin

        Right this pulled me up short. I was sitting here thinking “wow $950 shoes so wasteful”… but my wedding dress was $2k before alterations and I’m only wearing that for one day. Shoes you’d wear again, so there goes my high horse haha.

    • BSM

      A woman I went to college with just wore these to her wedding: http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/christian-louboutin-douce-du-desert-ankle-tie-pump-women/4612476

      • ManderGimlet

        Those are gorgeous!

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        Ok, but legit, HOW DO YOU STAND OR WALK IN THOSE.

        • penguin

          If I wore those shoes, I would have to just find a nice chair to sit in and show off my shoes to all passersby.

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            Great excuse to buy the fainting couch I’ve always wanted.

        • BSM

          She admitted that they were nooooot the most comfortable, lol.

    • ManderGimlet

      I have very expensive shoes I am going to gift myself if I come under budget in other areas. However I will go to my grave before I tell anyone how much I paid for them lol! But yes, just out of curiosity I want to know what they are. Honestly, I want pictures of the showers, the wedding, everything of this chick because I want to know what a $20k bridal shower looks like!!!

    • I’m super curious about them, although I do think it’s funny the “how can shoes cost that much” factor hit me so hard… Like, I spent more than that on my wedding dress, and shoes you can at least hypothetically wear again?

  • emilyg25

    This sounds like it’s about way more than just a wedding. What are you and your partner’s goals together, both financial and otherwise?

    This part jumped out to me: “I have repeatedly invited her, her sister, and her fiancé over to visit us and get to know each other. It’s too far; they are too busy. Christmas, family birthdays, celebrations—I am never invited.”

    Does your partner want you to be more involved with his family? He can’t make them come to your house, but he can stop going to their houses if you’re not invited.

    • Katharine Parker

      Yes to all of this. The relationship between the LW and her partner is unclear, but when I hear someone refer to their significant other as their partner, I assume that means they are in a committed, serious relationship–that they’re partners in life, romantically, socially, etc. Not being welcome at your partner’s family holidays and celebrations suggests things are happening with this relationship and this family that extend beyond how much money is being spent on his daughter’s wedding. A discussion about what each person understand the nature of this partnership, this relationship, to be and what they want from it is in order.

      • toomanybooks

        Yes, I realized that I assumed that the LW and their partner were in a relationship akin to marriage – long term, serious, living together, and if not a joint bank account then at least paying for things like groceries and rent/mortgage/etc together and concerned about each other’s budgeting because they are in a lifelong partnership where one person’s finances affect the others. I thought the “daughter doesn’t want to spend time with me” comments meant that the daughter wasn’t spending time with LW+partner, yet demanding money from them (him in particular).

        However, thinking about it again especially with the point in mind that LW doesn’t even get invited to partner’s family celebrations (on top of the daughter not spending time with her) do make me question the state of the LW’s relationship, which I realize was never specified in the letter. How long has LW been with Partner? How joined are their lives?

        If the relationship is less serious/long term/”permanent” than I initially thought, LW has less standing with how much Partner is spending on his daughter’s wedding. I mean, sure, if I was dating someone and they couldn’t afford to eat or pay rent or something because they were paying for someone’s wedding – and not in a “so she can have a wedding” way, but in a “she thinks money is no object and her dad has not told her otherwise but it absolutely is an object, a diminishing one” way… yeah, I’d probably say something.

        But if you’re in a “joined finances, joined future, if you go broke over giving your daughter an expensive wedding then I’m going to be in trouble too” type of relationship, ya gotta lay down the law. The cost of the pre-wedding activities has already outpaced the cost of many people’s full weddings. And maybe that’s not totally the daughters fault because nothing has ever led her to believe her dad doesn’t have endless amounts of money to give her. Dad’s got to tell her he can’t afford to do this anymore, if you ask me.

        I can absolutely see how this happened – this family lives in a… wealthy culture? where the daughter has never had to want for anything and her dad has been able to protect her from worrying about money and she quit her job because when you get married your husband supports you and she needs all that time away from work to plan the wedding now. And her dad is giving her the money because he’d be embarrassed if it appeared to his daughter or to anyone else that he couldn’t afford it, and he wants to be able to give her what she wants. But it’s time for the daughter to learn the truth.

        Did the LW say the couple somehow MADE thousands of dollars on their parties? Is that literal cash gifts? I have so many questions, but if that is cash they took home, it seems like the dad should just tell them to use that on their wedding.

        • penguin

          I was confused about the daughter taking home that much money from the parties too – if that’s literal cash gifts then definitely I think she should use those towards the wedding. Although it sounds like LW doesn’t really have the standing to suggest that, but LW’s partner (the dad) could.

          • Amandalikeshummus

            This is one spot where I wonder if we have an unreliable narrator. Using the term “made” rather than “was given” has a certain negative shade to it. And how does LW have this information? If the couple’s shower gifts are valued at that amount, they don’t really have them in liquid assets. I wonder if LW is making an assumption based on number of people who went or something.

          • Katie

            just to be fair, the LW never used the term “made”, but “took home”. To me, it does suggest that somebody else spent money on their showers, but the cash gifts (?) were received by the couple only.

          • Yeah, my assumption is LWs figured out the value based on what was on the registry to start with and what was marked as purchased. She doesn’t say if she attended the shower herself; in her list of events that she’s held the daughter hasn’t attended (and the daughter’s held to which she wasn’t invited) the wedding is absent, so it’s hard to judge whether she was invited to wedding related events.

      • Mrrpaderp

        Totally agree. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it seems like LW is getting mixed messages. Partner is relying on LW for at least emotional support by venting about these expenses. Daughter is (indirectly) asking for financial help from LW. But at the same time, LW is getting shut out of family holidays and events, and Partner isn’t including LW in decisions about financial planning for the future (esp. retirement – which it sounds like is being impacted by this wedding). I’d be really confused in LW’s shoes. I’d also feel really used. I’m good enough to take from but not good enough to be invited to Christmas? I think LW and Partner should have a long chat about their relationship.

    • Her Lindsayship

      It’s important to separate the two issues. LW is concerned that partner’s family doesn’t include her, and seems to connect that with a concern that this wedding costs too much. Those are totally unrelated. Also, sure, the daughter should show some appreciation for the money her father is putting up for her wedding, but I don’t think one should expect that that money is also buying a relationship with the daughter. (Then again, the daughter seems to encourage this thinking by suggesting the ridiculous shoe gift, but even so.)

      • Jess

        I don’t think gifts should buy relationships, as a preface. They don’t when my mom gives me them, and they shouldn’t here.

        Unfortunately, it sounds like maybe the daughter lets her mother buy her gifts to “make up for” substance issues in the past, so there’s a bit of a precedent set of just that thing. It makes this situation even stickier to untangle because working with the partner to set $ boundaries either with the wedding or future expenses (something tells me backing out of wedding payments is not gonna happen at this point) could somehow be seen as LW asking partner to lessen the relationship.

        I could see it being worst-case-scenarioed out like that by either Partner or Daughter. I still think this is two separate issues that need to be addressed, desperately.

  • e.e.hersh

    Aw, I feel sad for the LW here. She comes across to me as hurt about her exclusion from her partner’s family and possibly envious about the huge chunks of money her partner is spending on this seemingly spoiled/ungrateful daughter. I feel like the LW wants us all to say “daughter is awful!!” (and she sure does sound that way)… but as Amy said, the deeper issue lies with the LW/partner relationship.

    • Amandalikeshummus

      Yeah, I think the letter is more her saying, “I feel hurt” than needing advice. LW, you can feel how you feel! I’d be hurt, too, by being excluded, no matter what the reason is.

      • Abby

        Agreed that LW deserves validation here– partnering into an existing family is a tricky and fraught process, and especially if it’s one-sided (i.e. if LW doesn’t have kids of their own that Partner also has to win over), I imagine it’s terribly isolating for LW. I really wonder where on the divorce/repartnering timeline the family is here– how long ago did partner and ex split up? How long has LW been with partner?

        Both my parents re-partnered very soon after their divorce was official, and their new partners coming to feel like part of the family was a very long, slow process. My siblings and I kept our distance from them for a long time. It wasn’t that we didn’t think our stepmom was great for my dad– it was that we had just had to re-form our idea of what our family was, and we weren’t ready to be forced into yet another new definition of it so soon. I know that once you’re all-in on a relationship, you also want to be all-in with their family, but it’s gonna take some time. I have no idea how frequent LW’s repeated invitations to Partner’s daughters have been, but 1) the invitations should be coming from their dad, not from LW. They may make more of an effort if they see you’re important to him, rather than that you’re trying to shoehorn your way into their family; 2) if they’re not responding, back off for a bit and try to let it happen more gradually. A decade-plus later, I am incredibly grateful that my stepmom didn’t push it and let our relationship develop at its own pace (she’s completely a part of the family now).

        And I know this is getting really long, but re the wedding costs specifically: I remember being particularly annoyed with my stepmom when our dad mentioned she had suggested he start cutting back on certain supports (financial and otherwise– borrowing his car is the main one that sticks in my mind). Who was she, without kids of her own, to tell our family how to define its parent-child relationships? Though she was totally right — we were acting pretty entitled — I’m so glad she raised that with him (i.e. “I’m not comfortable with your kids driving my car, and I think it’s totally weird that you always let them borrow yours, but you do you”) and not us, because he was able to present it to us in a way that didn’t feel like we were losing him as our dad, and ultimately we came around to her point of view (and respect her for calling us out).

        I imagine a similar conversation for LW might work well here: “hey, this wedding has me reeling, as I’m just not used to seeing this kind of money flowing so freely– can we talk about our budgets and boundaries so I can understand where you’re coming from and get on the same page going forward?” might give Partner the reality check he needs while letting him balance what’s best for his relationship with what’s best for his family.

  • Violet

    I feel for you that you’ve extended yourself to try to form a relationship with this woman, but at this point it’s clear she’s not interested. While that can sting, I don’t actually think it has anything to do with the issue at hand.
    Nor is the fact that this woman is spending lots of money on a wedding really all that relevant to your particular issue. If she were spending only her mother’s money, or only hers, would you care quite so much? Or if your partner had set out a whopping budget at the outset that he could afford and stuck to it, that would still be his call, presumably.
    I think what’s bothering you is that he’s a. spending more than he can afford and b. not holding firm about what he can and can’t afford. Both of those are definitely issues, but they’re more about how your partnership works and whether or not you can respect your partner for being this way. The fact that he’s doing it for someone who’s been cold to you and has different priorities than you is just confusing the matter. It seems like it bothers you that he’s this way, but you haven’t spoken with him about it. Time to get talking! I think the conversation will go much more productively if you focus on those two things he is doing that unnerve you, rather than the why of his doing it (ie, his daughter). In my experience, bringing up how people relate to their kids and make decisions about them is likely to get him on the defensive real quick. It’s the difference between, “I think you’re letting your daughter take advantage of you” and “Sometimes I’m not sure of your thought process when you originally say you’re only going to spend $X on something, but then routinely end up spending multiples of that. Can you help me understand?”

    • e.e.hersh

      “In my experience, bringing up how people relate to their kids and make decisions about them is likely to get him on the defensive real quick.”

      Yep. There’s not a great way to do this. Especially as someone “outside” the nuclear family relationship. I really like your alternative wording.

  • laddibugg

    “Yesterday she asked her father to ask me if I wanted to buy her wedding shoes as her gift—they cost $950.”

    She asked her dad to ask you. She asked her dad to ask you. I cannot get past that.

    • Amandalikeshummus

      But what if he was bugging her to give him something to ask LW to contribute? There are so many more perspectives we don’t know. It’s an insane amount for shoes, surely, which is also why I feel like there must be more to it.

      • Jessica

        Yes, but if the LW is continually reaching out to get to know her and she continues to decline the opportunities (and they only live an hour away, ffs), that is a ridiculous way to ask for an overpriced pair of shoes.

        • Amandalikeshummus

          Oh, I don’t think she should have asked at all. But it just seems weird for her to be like, “Don’t be around me ever, but still buy me an insane gift.” I know some people have no emotional intelligence; but there had to be some other step in there.

          There aren’t like father’s girlfriend tradition rules that she’s blindly following, so where would she even get the idea that this would be reasonable?

          • NotMotherTheresa

            Meh, again, “insane gift” is a matter of perspective.

            Do *I* think $950 shoes are insane! YES! I spent $40 on my wedding shoes, and I felt like Imelda Marcos for doing something so extravagant. But…it was also a $5k wedding, and most of my guests gifted me $20-50 apiece. I’m frugal. My friends are frugal. My family is frugal. We’re all relatively comfortable financially, but none of us are rolling in money, and in our world, a place setting of Fiestaware or a couple of nice-ish towels is a normal wedding gift.

            But…if daughter has received $30k in gifts between her bridal shower and engagement party, I can see that a $950 gift would seem perfectly reasonable, especially from her dad’s long term partner! If there was one thing I learned from planning my own wedding, it’s that different cultures have vastly different ideas of what’s “normal”, and almost none of those people realize how unusual those ideas sound to everyone outside their culture! (I’m looking at you, normally SUPER frugal bridesmaid who asked if $500 would be a large enough contribution towards the shower, or if she would need to save up a bit more.)

            Yes, if the daughter was just the epitome of social intelligence, she might have stopped to think through the possibility than other people don’t normally spend $950 on gifts, but I’m guessing that in her world, that was no different than my mom asking what her partner could give as a gift, and me suggesting the $60 Tiffany wine decanter I’d registered for.

        • Emily

          I wonder though if 1) this is the way daughter+father+mother-ish role have always operated. LW mentioned that there are issues with the mom too, and so I wonder if this whole thing comes down to TERRIBLE patterns of communication that we started long-before LW was in the fam. 2) Everything about this wedding sounds over the top, so maybe for the daughter it’s not ridiculous to want $950 wedding shoes to match her (probably) couture gown. 3) Perhaps LW comes from a different culture/social station/generation and this whole family is just living in a different stratosphere (one that maybe dad can’t afford anymore but has to keep up with the Joneses?)

          • z

            It does seem like it could be a cultural difference. If she is getting these massive cash gifts at the shower, that would indicate that others are on board with the idea of high-cost weddings and gifts. There are cultures where people spend a huge amount on weddings even if it’s very hard for them. LW cannot expect to change the extended family culture to fit her own cultural norms just because she is dating the dad. Real talk with the dad is long overdue, but that’s all.

        • ManderGimlet

          I dunno, so much of this screams “absentee dad trying to make up for many missed years by throwing money at the problem” and LW is conflating her partner’s relationship with his daughter as having anything to do with her.
          Maybe she refuses to listen to the daughters’ account of their own childhood or their previous experiences with their father; maybe she plays the victim a lot and they have no patience for their dad’s whiney girlfriend. They don’t owe her anything other than politeness, she had no hand in raising them and just because she is dad’s partner does not mean they have to all be friends and hang out with her. HE should be inviting them to things if he wants a relationship with his daughters, not LW.
          I agree with a lot of commenters that this sounds like LW asked dad to ask daughter how she can help (yet again trying to hard to insert herself in a situation she was not invited into and doing it in a passive aggressive manner) and this is what the daughter said, probably assuming it would actually be Dad who would pay for the shoes.

          • Michelle

            We’re definitely missing some information about LW’s relationship with her partner’s daughter, and how long they’ve been together etc. but personally, my parents divorced when I was in my twenties and now are both in serious relationships. Unless I had a personal relationship with their respective partners, I would find it weird for them to reach out to me directly so I can get to know them. If that’s important to them or my parents, it would come through my parents, not directly. A direct phone call/text from them to hang out would be weird, unless it was about a surprise party or similar for one of my parents.

    • Mrrpaderp

      I still fault Partner more than Daughter. Partner didn’t have to tell LW that Daughter asked for shoes. Partner should’ve told Daughter, if you want to ask LW for a gift/suggest how LW can help out, then you need to talk to LW directly.

      • Jan

        I feel like this is on of those times where everyone sort of messed up, regardless of how it came about. Bride made an unrealistic request of LW through her father. Father relayed it to LW when he probably shouldn’t have. LW didn’t immediately decline and offer some alternative contribution more aligned with her values.

      • another lady face

        this is how things ‘should’ go, but the discussion from LW sounds like what would happen with my family. step parent and father’s partner relationships get complicated and there is often not a lot of direct communication between the kids and the parent’s partner.

    • Katharine Parker

      This is definitely insane, but I wonder exactly how it came about. Did the LW say to partner, “I would like to be more involved with your daughter. Maybe there is something I can do for the wedding?” and partner relayed this to daughter and daughter said, “shoes would help; these are the ones I’m planning to get.” This is still pretty out there as a request, but also the daughter seems to be someone who is comfortable with large sums of money–$950 shoes probably seem normal to her. It’s not great, but it’s also not quite as insane as “tell your girlfriend to buy me these shoes, Daddy Warbucks.”

      • Abs

        Yeah, I don’t think this is that insane. Well, $950 shoes is insane, but the idea that all of this communication went through the parent is not that insane. We don’t know how long LW and Partner have been together, LW and Daughter are clearly not close (LW says she’s been trying on that, but it’s hard to know what that looks like from the other side). For years my stepmother would tell my dad about anything she wanted to talk to me about, and then he would talk to me for her. For all we know, the dad was asking what his partner could do. Or LW was looking for ways to be included, and the daughter thought that this was a way. Not the way I would choose, but again, we don’t know the whole story of this relationship.

        Once again, I’m always suspicious of someone coming from outside a divorce (and, it sounds like, addiction) situation and complaining about why everyone’s being weird and not being nice to them. Divorce is awful and crazy and makes its own weird rules, and while LW might have come into this situation just because she met someone she loves, everyone else may be walking their own much darker paths.

        • z

          Totally. Joining into a complicated family is not for everyone! But you do have a choice about it. One of my dad’s serious girlfriends had a really hard time with it, and I had some Real Talk with her. Nobody is happy with how our family is, so why should she expect to be? if a happy family is so important to her, joining our family is not the way to get one!

  • ManderGimlet

    As always, Amy is spot on. Your issues with her, his issues with her, his issues with money, and your issues with his money issues are all separately occurring things. I think this shoe business is a perfect jumping off point to discuss all of this money business with your partner. Get on the same page about money (or determine if that is even a possibility), discuss at what level of knowledge/involvement do you want to have about this wedding once those money boundaries are established (does your partner anticipate that you will be assisting him in daily expenses while he pays for this wedding? Does he want to talk to you about what she’s asking for/he’s spending or are you involving yourself out of money panic?)

    But 2 things you should absolutely not discuss with him: his relationship with her and your relationship with her. You’ve made attempts to put yourself out there and for whatever reason those efforts were not received enthusiastically. It doesn’t mean you have to slam the door on her forever, but it does tell you to stop trying so hard and focus on your relationship with him, not his kids. If they come around, great. If not, who cares, you are all adults and you are in no way responsible for them or their lives. As for his relationship to her, it’s not abusive even if it isn’t “healthy” (by your outside view), stay out of it. These patterns have been in the making long before you ever came into the picture, do not try to weave yourself into it. If you truly cannot stand the way they interact and have grave fears about the future financial health of your relationship, it is you who will need to change (most likely into a single person who has left their partner and his money grubbing adult daughters.)

    • Emily

      Yep, all of this

  • Jan

    This entire letter just reeks of a whoooole lot of mismatched perspectives on money.

    I also agree that LW needs to consider these things as separate issues. Though when I think about what all those issues are (her lack of relationship with her partner’s daughter; her horror about the bride’s outlandish wedding; her partner’s inability to say no; and the clear lack of agreement on finances and spending between LW and her partner), I get a little tired. That’s a lot of shit.

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