Is It Sexist That My In-Laws Expect MY Parents to Bankroll Our Wedding?

If they don't pay, they don't get to participate in planning, right?

Q: How do I address/wrap my mind around/share with my parents that my fiancé’s parents believe that the bride’s family is responsible for paying for our entire wedding?

My fiancé and I got engaged on Thanksgiving, and we spent the day celebrating with his parents, who could not have seemed more overjoyed for our engagement. Our celebration dragged on into a dinner later that week, where the four of us talked about everyone’s wedding dreams and excitement. Throughout all of our conversations, there was a clear undercurrent of “we all want to prevent breaking the bank on this wedding,” but other than that no finances were discussed. Fast-forward to a week later, and my fiancé is alone with his parents. They get on the general topic of wedding expenses, and they tell him that they believe that the bride’s family is wholly responsible for wedding costs, as per “tradition.” They tell him that they’ve been saving for his sister’s wedding (she is not engaged and has no plans of marrying anytime soon) but only believe they need to contribute to a rehearsal dinner for his. They then follow these declarations with venue, location, and other suggestions—implying that they still expect to have a large role in the planning process.

I can honestly say that their position is both hurtful and infuriating. The money part of this is truly not what matters to me. This would be a very different conversation if his parents simply stated that they couldn’t afford to help, or if they believed that we should pay for our own wedding as a couple. What is offensive is the entitlement and, let’s face it, sexism that follows with their adherence to this tradition. My parents aren’t, per “tradition,” providing a dowry, nor are we going to live with my in-laws post-wedding. I am also not the burden that unmarried women were once considered to be on their family. So why is the wedding payment aspect of this tradition still valid? And why do they get to feel entitled to free food, drinks, and a party care of my family? I struggle to find a way to come to terms with their position myself, but can’t imagine how hard it will be to tell my parents that their future in-laws believe they need to bankroll a joint celebration. His parents are not supremely “traditional” people, and they have been supportive of my fiancé and I living together, not getting married in a church, and a myriad of other “non-traditional” choices regarding our lives and our wedding. So why do they get to pick-and-choose what tradition matters?

Our wedding will be a celebration not only of the love my fiancé and I have for each other, but also of two families joining together. Over half of our guest list will be members of my fiancé’s family, and my future in-laws clearly still want to participate in planning the event. My fiancé’s reaction at this point is to tell his parents that they will not be allowed to help plan the wedding, and they may not even get an invitation for themselves or their kin. That is, obviously, not the kind of attitude I have, nor is that I want to bring into what should be a joyous day spent with friends and family. I want to have everyone involved, and I want everyone to have a great time and bond at the wedding. But I also don’t want to resent, or have my parents resent, my future in-laws, which right now feels like an inevitability unless something gives.

So what do I do? Do I or my fiancé try to confront my in-laws and express to them why we believe that gender shouldn’t have anything to do with family support of this wedding? Do we cut them out of the process to reflect the way they’ve cut us off from financial support? Or do we just accept that while we might be insulted and hurt, that ultimately the wedding must still go on, and try to forget about it?

The last thing I want is to start this marriage out with a family feud. I need your help!

—Bride, Not Piggy Bank

A:Dear BNPB,

Before we go about confronting and cutting, try to remember that weddings can be intimidating. Realistically, how many weddings can one person expect to be involved in over the course of their lifetime? Not all that many. I’d guess your in-laws haven’t planned a wedding since maybe the ’80s, right? It’s been awhile. And they haven’t spent the years since reading awesome wedding sites, so it can be expected that they don’t know what’s been going on or how things have changed. Add to that the fact that weddings feel Very Important, and so steeped in etiquette and tradition and expectation, and your average person will feel like, “Whoa, I haven’t done too much of this, but I know there’s a Right Way to do it, so I’d better stick to those rules pretty strictly!” Right?

Just imagine that this is true for your in-laws. Just between us, I think we know it’s not the case. But go ahead and try to scoot yourself over to the benefit of the doubt, because it’ll make any further conversations easier for you. And while you’re there, imagine that they’re not even noticing the sexist, antiquated dowry angle of this. It’s not that they consider you personally a burden, it’s just an easy (albeit self-serving) rule to latch onto in a giant complicated event.

Even if that’s not the case, as weird and outdated as their ideas are, you’re not entitled to their money. At all. Yes, you can let them know that this decision hurt you. But I don’t think I’d call it a confrontation, and I think I’d tread very carefully.

Before you speak to them, consider how they’re likely to respond. Walk through this conversation in your mind. “We appreciate your support throughout our entire relationship, and we’re excited to celebrate the families joining together. We had hoped that gender wouldn’t affect the ways in which you further offer support. It hurt us to know you’d considered that a good reason not to help us out.” Then think about how you expect them to answer. Because, honestly, they’re likely to stand firm in their decision, and you’re likely to walk away with even more resentment. Not only will your bitterness be compounded, but maybe they’ll resent you for bringing it up (you know how petty it can feel to talk money), or resent your family for not “carrying their share.” Not that either of those things would be valid, but ask yourself this question: Is this conversation going to resolve something, or will it make an uncomfortable situation worse?

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How To Create A Perfect (For You) Wedding Budget

If it’s likely that this chat won’t go well, I’d skip it and carry on with wedding planning. Chalk it up to being old-fashioned, remind yourself that it wasn’t your money, anyway, and continue to loop them in on what you’re planning. Your parents don’t need to know how much his family is contributing (or in this case, not contributing), and it may be hard, but you’d better hold yourself back from telling them (it’s pretty common to keep parental contributions confidential, because money is complicated stuff).

Instead, consider reworking your outlook on the finances. Instead of making plans and then expecting each family to pay half, ask your parents what they’re willing to contribute, figure out what you have to spend yourselves, and then work your planning around that budget. No letting either set of parents know about the other’s finances, no cutting anyone out of the planning based on what they give. But, if his parents make some expensive requests that will jack up the price of the wedding, let them know it’s not within the budget, and they’re welcome to cover the additional cost.

That’s the financial stuff, but the real answer to your question is this. There isn’t always a way to avoid icky feelings. You mention not wanting to start off the wedding with an ultimatum, but that you also don’t want to resent your in-laws. Frankly, resentment may not be something you can avoid. It’s their money, they’re allowed to do whatever they want with it (no matter how much you disagree). Sure, you can do things like chat about your hurt feelings, but there are times when even that doesn’t resolve anything. The only thing you can really, honestly do is remind yourself that this isn’t your call. Understanding that there are some things you aren’t in charge of, some things you can’t make better with a reasonable talk, can be even harder than swallowing some outdated and inconvenient opinions about wedding finances. But you need to do it.

Ultimately you can’t change their decision, or even their values. The very best you can do is consider what’s going to make coexistence easiest moving forward. Right now, that probably means shutting up about the money.

—Liz Moorhead

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  • Amy March

    I don’t think their assumption that the bride’s family pays is any more outdated than your assumption that parents pay. Unlike Liz though I’d be open with your parents about it. It’s not shameful or wrong for them to, generously!, offer to host a rehearsal dinner. Tell your parents that’s the deal, and figure out what that means for the budget. I still think they should get to be invited and include a reasonable number of guests, but nope, they aren’t entitled to expensive demands. Just listen and then don’t do it.

    • Zoya

      “I don’t think their assumption that the bride’s family pays is any more outdated than your assumption that parents pay, generally.”

      Yes! I was gonna say, this letter seems to rest on the assumption that parents should contribute financially to their children’s weddings. That may be common, but it’s by no means required. If you are hoping for financial support from either set of parents, approach it as a request and be prepared to take no for an answer.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        No one is entitled to money that isn’t theirs. All you can do is ask. The worst that happens is they say no.

        • Sara

          “All you can do is ask. The worst that happens is they say no.”

          This is my dad’s life motto for everything. I’ve repeated it so many times that I accidentally inspired a friend to ask for a raise (that she got!)

      • Erica

        Yes! I can’t get over this aspect of the question. You’re an adult, you assume the cost of your wedding and plan for what you can afford. My fiancé and I are just beginning the wedding planning process and our assumption from the beginning was that we (I – he’s finishing his degree and I’m the breadwinner for now) will be paying for the whole shebang. My mom has (so!!) generously offered to pay for food because she wants to feel involved and contribute. We haven’t talked money with his family and have ZERO intention to – I feel crass just thinking about it.

        • Abby

          I totally feel you. I was just talking to a coworker who said something like “We’re sitting down with my parents tonight to ask how much we can expect them to contribute” (to their wedding) and I just felt my entire body cringe.

          • Anne

            I don’t know though, some version of that conversation is pretty much a given for a lot of people. Maybe it seems a little crass to be that open about it, but it’s just a fact that the average net worth of baby boomers is orders of magnitude larger than millennials and that many parents want to contribute towards their children’s weddings. We sat down with both of our families (not at the same time) and said, “Hey, we’d like to have an inclusive, fun family wedding but as grad students, doing so would require your help. Based on our research we can afford x, and we think including y people and being able to pay for z would require something like abc. Let us know what you think about that and how/to what extend you’d be comfortable helping.” They were certainly expecting such a conversation and I think they appreciated that we brought it up directly rather than dancing around the topic.

          • flashphase

            Yes. With partner’s parent, he simply said, “we are putting together our budget for the wedding and were wondering if you would like to contribute.” It opened the door without expectations.

          • Abby

            You’re totally right. I think her approach and expectations just made it a little more cringeworthy. (This is the girl who cried ((at work)) because the carat size she got from her now fiance was too small.)

            We knew that we would be paying for the wedding ourselves because we understood our parents financial situations so in some ways, we were able to avoid those conversations. As a side note – I would WANT to contribute if I could to a child’s wedding so I don’t think anyone should deny their parents the opportunity if they want to have that conversation.)

          • Abby

            This is absolutely the right phrasing for this conversation if you need to have it – rests on the assumption that you’ll do x regardless, and opens the door to discussing the event in a way that gets them involved with more fun ideas than their wallets.

          • Pickle

            Agreed. Both sets of our parents had paid for siblings’ weddings, so it was really natural to just ask them how much they felt comfortable contributing. If they had said zero, we would have had a very different wedding and that would be fine, but I don’t see what’s so crass about asking the question in itself. It all depends on your family.

          • PAJane

            My parents wanted to contribute financially, but didn’t know how much. My mom kept asking, “I don’t know how much a wedding is these days, what’s the per-head cost?” Well, Mom, that depends entirely on how much money we have in our budget, because we’re not planning a damned thing before we know how much money we have to work with. We went back and forth a few times before she finally asked her friends whose kids had already planned weddings and she came back with what they assumed it would cost to host 100 people. I am suuuuuuper thankful for their contribution, and I refused to be the person who asked for any particular number, but we really, really couldn’t plan much until we knew what they were gifting us. Without that amount, we would be having a completely different party.

          • Abby

            It’s so true! Wedding’s have changed so much and the budget is so important to determining the event. I also didn’t want to tell my parents how much a wedding roughly cost per head (in 2017) because I knew they’d feel bad about what they could give. It’s a minefield.

          • Anon

            We had a really similar back and forth – “how much do you need?” is like, “well, that’s really up to you, because it depends what kind of wedding we throw, and before we know what kind of wedding we throw we need to know how much money we have”. We ended up looking up a few “wedding factory” type venues in our area (which was NOT what we wanted, but gave us a baseline), and how much their per head cost was so we could kind of estimate the plated meal/dinner/dancing style reception I knew they had in mind and went from there. It was……awkward.

          • PAJane

            Yeeeeeeah.

          • Lexipedia

            This totally where we ended up. Like, we could’ve thrown many different types of weddings. Our nearest and dearest in a great, but not too pricey restaurant; an outdoor wedding for 150 on the island where my family sails; 100 people at the trendiest downtown venue; 50 people at a historical site with a buffet dinner. All of these would’ve been great, and what we chose truly depended on how much people wanted to contribute. Eventually we just took a shot in the dark with a “build a wedding” venue price list to get started.

            Edit: I should note that we were fully prepared to pay for a specific type of wedding ourselves, but that idea was shot down by the parents who wanted something with more people + more accessible for them.

          • Lexipedia

            I got this too.

            Them: “We want to pay for your wedding”
            Us: “Great, what would you like to contribute?
            Them: “We aren’t sure until we know what your budget is”
            Us: “Our budget starts with however much you would like to contribute”

          • Pickle

            Haha, my Dad was like “you should decide what kind of wedding you want and then we’ll figure out what we can contribute”. I was like “oh honey, we live in LA and I know what you make, we cannot start by imagining the type of wedding I might want”.

          • Mer

            Fiance had a similar back and forth with his parents. It was incredibly frustrating.

        • quiet000001

          I think it does depend on your people – my mom really really wants to pay for a large part of my wedding, it’s super important to her to host a good event. I’ve never asked her, she just announced that’s what she wants to do when she determined my SO and I were headed that direction. It feels ruder to tell her no when it’s clearly something she feels strongly about.

      • Playing the devil’s advocate a little, wedding’s are in a tricky place culturally that make expectations realllly tricky. Like, is it required for parents to contribute financially to a wedding? Of course not. Is it required for the couple to extend their guest list to family members who they will never have a real relationship with but who are important to the parents? Nope. But in reality both these things are ways of cementing family bonds, and it can hurt when they aren’t there.

        • Zoya

          Oh, absolutely. The hurt is real, and thank you for pointing that out. But if the LW is already detached enough to identify and question the inherent sexism in her in-laws’ position–and to be hurt that they’re just blindly following a tradition–then it’s worth taking a hard look at her own assumptions around those traditions as well.

          • Violet

            It’s just not clear to me who even assumed the parents would chip in. There’s a difference in my mind between the fiance saying, “So, how much can we expect from you?” or the parents diving in with, “No money for you, but for your sister. ‘Ta!” I can imagine not assuming I’d be given something, but if someone then waved in my face they weren’t giving it to me but they were someone else because of sexism, I’d be peeved. (Not peeved enough to disinvite my parents though, wow!)

          • Pickle

            Yeah, I’m a little confused about the number of responses about how you shouldn’t assume parents pay for a wedding. This just really varies by family. I don’t feel entitled to my parents money, but I know that they have always planned to pay for it and that they paid for both of my brothers’ weddings, so if for some reason (other than financial circumstances) they decided not to pay for mine, it would be hurtful. That’s not me feeling entitled to someone else’s money, that’s having a grasp on my family culture surrounding weddings and ability to pay.

          • Irena Belaqua

            Totally agree with Pickle here. It is cultural. My parents were FURIOUS with me trying to limit the size of my wedding and making frugal choices, in an attempt to save them money. It was five years ago and my dad still brings it up in a bitter tone. How dare I try to deprive them of the opportunity to do this for me!

          • Jan

            Yeah, in my experience these conversations can come from a place of, “We aren’t expecting anything but are curious if you’d like to contribute.” That’s how it started with my in-laws and it still felt weird when LW’s exact situation unfolded.

    • Totally agree. My husband and I were both in our early 30s when we got married, and it never occured to us to expect/ask our parents to help with our wedding. Our families did offer graciously to pay for things, which was appreciated, but we didn’t go into it expecting them to contribute financially at all.

    • I agree with being open about the budget. While I don’t think weddings should be pay-to-play, I think one person’s family is paying for a lion share of expenses for an event, they should be looped in on that so they can figure out what that looks like for them.

    • Aimee

      I don’t think she’s assuming the parents should pay, the parents have explicitly said they WOULD pay, but only for their daughter. I don’t see how that’s much different than saying they would pay, but won’t because it’s a same sex wedding/they don’t support the choice of partner/some other hurtful reason.

    • Her Lindsayship

      Agree about being open with your own parents about it, although I guess it must depend on the relationship there. My mom helped us with wedding expenses (for which we were grateful – we’d assumed we were paying for everything ourselves and continued with that assumption until she physically wrote a check, because you never know what someone’s financial situation really is). Because my mother tends to err on the side of tradition, she was momentarily thrown off when she asked what his parents were planning for the rehearsal dinner and I told her they weren’t. I got her over this by drawing it up to the fact that husband is German, and they have no cultural expectation to even have a rehearsal dinner. But that cultural differences explanation holds true even for people who aren’t from another country, because everyone has different ideas around this stuff and guess what! No one is inherently responsible for paying for your wedding but you.

    • Eenie

      The LW specifically states “This would be a very different conversation if his parents simply stated that they couldn’t afford to help, or if they believed that we should pay for our own wedding as a couple.”

      The thing that really bothers the LW (and me, really) is the fact that they will pay for the future SIL’s wedding but won’t make the same contribution to their wedding because of the gender of the children. I think the LW’s feelings are very valid, but I think Liz has the right advice on whether to address it with them or not.

      • Ros

        Well, and they basically informed the LW that they expect her parents to pay for an event they want to participate in planning. I’d be peeved too, and not because I’m entitled to anyone else’s money, but because that attitude is just plain sucky.

    • Ros

      But she wasn’t assuming that anyone would pay. They’re the ones assuming her parents would pay!

      • Violet

        Right, I think fiance’s parents aren’t framing it in their minds as they’re not giving their son money; they’re thinking of it as not giving their future daughter-in-law’s parents money. Because they basically outright stated to their son that it’s LW’s parents’ responsibility to pay for the wedding.

      • THIS.

      • Em

        Well, she signed off as “Bridge, not piggy bank” which implies she thinks being expected to pay for her own wedding is unfair?

        • Irena Belaqua

          No, she thinks that his parents paying for their daughter’s wedding and not their son’s (which they have made no secret of declaring) is unfair, arbitrary and sexist. Which it is. If they were not planning on helping with the cost of either child’s wedding, that would be fair, and fine.

  • Jessica

    Oh wow, I see the references to Thanksgiving in this letter and I really hope that the LW got Liz’s response before there was any further confrontation with the in-laws. Because not contributing financially to the wedding is really really not a reason to uninvited them. Plus, the LW seems to feel like her fiancé’s family would be getting a free ride, but even if they stick with the plan of just paying for the rehearsal dinner, the groom’s family would be buying dinner for the bride’s family one night, and the bride’s family paying for dinner the next night. Obviously a rehearsal dinner doesn’t usually cost as much as the wedding, but if you look at just the catering bill, sometimes it can be close.

    Also, if anyone else needs to have this conversation, I’d suggest something like “we think you should treat your son’s and daughter’s wedding equally.” Gender can be a buzzword that can put people on edge and I don’t see a point in making a conversation with in-laws more confrontational than necessary.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      The whole notion of a “free ride” in this context REALLY bugs me.

      • That struck me as well. It’s right up there with the cringeworthy “pay for your plate” notion – makes me feel that the LW and fiancé are losing sight of this being an event where they are the hosts to people they presumably love.

    • Violet

      Overall I agree with you. But as a side note, the rehearsal dinner is *typically* close family and attendants only, whereas the wedding reception is the whole invite list. So it’s not really tit for tat, but then again, who says it should be? You can’t decide how other people spend their money, which is what LW and her fiance are essentially doing by expecting his parents to pay for two children’s weddings.

      • quiet000001

        This depends a bit – in some places anyone who travels much to get to the wedding who is in town when the rehearsal dinner is happening should be invited to the rehearsal dinner too. So it can be quite pricy.

        • Violet

          I used “typically” to try to hedge that of course it’s not always like this. But my broader point was a rehearsal dinner is not the same as a wedding. Of course factors can make each more or less expensive, but I was trying to refer to them in relative terms.

          • quiet000001

            The everyone invited is pretty typical for the area where I am – my guess is it’s a Midwest thing? So rehearsal dinner can be much bigger than people might think, was mostly my point. It’s not usually as fraught as the wedding itself because the stakes are lower, but especially for a family that expects a really nice rehearsal dinner, it can be a large production itself. (I’ve heard of situations where there’s tension between the families because the wedding is more casual and the groom’s family decides to do something fancier for the rehearsal – comes off as them trying to show up the bride’s family.)

            They are not, of course, the same. But LW seems pretty cranky as it is and it won’t do them any good with their relationship with the in-laws if they assume immediately that rehearsal dinner means cheap. Just from the people perspective, I think they’re better assuming the rehearsal dinner will be nice and in keeping with the rest of the wedding (more casual or more formal) and they aren’t contributing how the couple would like, but they are still wanting to contribute. Even if it turns out they only pay for hotdogs, assuming they’re not being totally awful is probably better for LW and her fiancé mentally.

          • Violet

            “But LW seems pretty cranky as it is and it won’t do them any good with their relationship with the in-laws if they assume immediately that rehearsal dinner means cheap.” That’s fair!

  • Lisa

    I don’t think this is the bride’s conversation to have with her in-laws. If the groom is willing to take things down a notch (not inviting his entire family is a pretty nuclear option!) and talk through his/the bride’s feelings on what feels like a sexist snub, then that’s the place the couple should go to first. It offers a chance for everyone’s opinions to be heard before going down a route that could lead to irreparable damage.

    A place where everyone might compromise is to ask whether the groom’s parents would be willing to alter the way they’re contributing. Since the ILs already said that they would be up for paying for the rehearsal dinner per tradition, maybe ILs could give give the couple a lump sum of money that they can put towards general wedding expenses, including the dinner. I was originally thinking this suggestion could be part of the conversation the groom has with his parents, but it might be better as another conversation so that it feels less like he’s seguing straight from “Feelings” to “Hitting the ‘Rents Up for $$$.”

    • flashphase

      My MIL said she would not give us any money for the wedding, but she was planning to give us a wedding gift of $X to be put towards a down payment on a house. My partner said, “that’s great, those dollars can sit in the savings account right next to the wedding dollars.” (which was basically his way of saying, we are happy to take your money but you don’t get to dictate what it gets spent on)

      • Lisa

        Yes, I appreciated my parents’ way of doing it, which was “We are giving you $X. Anything under that will be a cash wedding present. If you go over, we can talk about potentially contributing a bit more, but we’d expect you to start paying some at that point.” We took that as our wedding budget and ran with it.

        My husband’s parents offered to cover whatever the cost of the rehearsal dinner was and then gave us extra cash as a wedding present. We were thankful for whatever they wanted to contribute.

  • sofar

    Their views may be sexist, but it doesn’t matter because you can’t expect anyone to contribute to your wedding anyway. So it doesn’t matter why you’re not getting the money.

    As for them wanting to “help” plan, Liz’s advice is perfect. They shouldn’t get a say in anything that costs money. They want a champagne toast and you don’t? You can tell them they can pay for it. They want certain top-shelf liquor but you don’t? They can pay for it. They want certain types of pricey flowers and you don’t, “Well, MIL, that sounds just lovely, but it’s out of our budget. It seems like these flowers are very important to you because you’ve mentioned them five times, so I’d totally understand if you want to contract with a florist and own that expense.”

    As for things that don’t cost money, I say work with them because weddings are about joining two families. They want a certain song played for the mother and son dance? Let ’em have it. They want some songs from the homeland played so they can do a dance that’s important in their culture? Make that happen. They want a certain cultural tradition in the ceremony that you don’t have moral qualms with? Ask them how it’s done so you can include it.

    Guests they want to invite are more tricky. That costs money, but you want their family to feel included. Get their guest list well in advance and budget around that, if it’s reasonable. Your fiance needs to work with them to whittle it down if it’s not reasonable. LW doesn’t seem to have any qualms with the size of the in-law’s guest list per se. But if they try to add a bunch more guests down the line, that may warrant a conversation around the fact that you already created your budget based on the guest list they already submitted and unfortunately can’t increase it.

    • Jess

      The idea of “does what you want cost more money? are you paying for that or expecting me to pay for it?” is a big one.

      See: my mom wanting specific wines (this was a freaking THING), more dinner options, more desserts, more flowers that were clearly outside our original budget.

      She decided to pay extra for those things.

    • Lily

      YES. We’re been communicating a lot of our decisions to our parents and if they want to change something that costs more money, they are welcome to offer. This tends to be the hardest with the guest list, but it’s important to keep them involved by saying this is the plan and giving them room to decide if they want to pay for something additional.

    • AmandaBee

      I agree and like your phrasing for politely turning down suggestions/requests that cost too much money.

      With the guest list, I’d make a list of who you want to host first and then run it by them to see if there’s anyone important that you forgot. I would be careful about just asking for a list. I was in one wedding where the groom’s family expected the bride’s family to pay, but then were super offended when their 200+ guest list had to be cut down to 100 people because of the budget. If you’re concerned that their expectations may not be realistic, I’d set the expectation before opening the door for guest list additions. It’s easier psychologically to avoid adding people to the list in the first place than it is to take them off the list.

  • Rose_C

    I REALLY sympathize with the LW’s situation. I am frankly not at all over the hurt of my future mother in law saying that she thought it was my parents’ responsibility to pay for our wedding and it happened last June. We don’t have an easy relationship anyway and it has made it harder. We do loop her in on plans and she is interested in our wedding, I guess, but it’s put a strain on our communication with her overall. We have never had a confrontational conversation with her about it. We do have a sort of unofficial policy about her input being less than our other parents- especially when it came to the guest list. But she has never mentioned that she noticed. It sucks. I’m really sorry that you are facing this situation. I do remind myself that part of the deal with making a new family and partnership is taking on my fiance’s family as my own. And I know that my parents are also challenging for him. It also definitely helps that my fiance reaffirms our commitment to taking on equal roles in planning and in our life together. Which meant confronting his mom about her asking me- when he was right there!- about how the wedding planning is going, seeming surprised that he would be busy planning himself, etc. It has strengthened our partnership to have him so firmly on my side. Which it sounds like your fiance is too. Which is really the most important thing.

  • Katharine Parker

    I feel like there is something missing from this letter that would explain the LW and her fiancé’s reaction. Her fiancé wanting to not invite his parents over this seems to be a big overreaction. The LW’s suggestion that she and her family will resent the in-laws over this seems like an overreaction. They are offering to host a rehearsal dinner, which is contributing to the wedding. You don’t get to dictate terms upon which people offer you gifts–and hosting a wedding, giving you money for a wedding, or hosting a rehearsal dinner are all ultimately gifts. Is there a major wealth disparity that is adding fuel to this fire, or are there other slights that have gone unaddressed over the years?

    The issues of paying for weddings along gendered lines are complicated, but weddings are inherently complicated in gendered ways. They might be picking and choosing which elements of what traditions they value, but we all do that constantly, especially with weddings.

    • Sara

      This is how I felt reading it. I understand feeling slighted that your parents tell you they’re saving for your sister’s wedding but not yours. And also feeling like its a weird antiquated rule. But the reaction of ‘well if you don’t help pay, you can’t come’ seems very extreme.

    • Jess

      Filling in only from the fiance’s perspective, I think I would not necessarily be hurt… until they expressly say “We’ve been planning and saving to pay for all of your sister’s wedding.”

      That statement would hurt a lot, actually, especially if there’s a long history of favoring the sister, especially because the full costs of a wedding are rather less than those of a rehearsal dinner.

      Everything else? Wasn’t your money to spend in the first place, you don’t get to choose how people spend their money on you or what they offer you.

      • Katharine Parker

        A long history of favoring the sister would make a lot of sense here. But everything else being equal, without a history of favoring the sister, responding to hearing that your parents were planning on paying for their daughter’s wedding and not their son’s with “they shouldn’t even expect an invitation” seems excessive.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          I agree.

        • Jess

          Indeed it does.

    • lamarsh

      This is dead on. My parents split the cost of our wedding with my husband and me, and his mom paid for the rehearsal dinner (which I planned, at her request). There are many things about my MIL that drive my husband and I crazy, but honestly, this was not one of them. We just thought it was very generous whe was giving us any money at all.

    • Anony

      I get this – there is a LARGE financial discrepancy between my parents and my FI’s parents – think: his dad runs a hospital/bank/law firm and my parents are lifelong waiters/bartenders. So, it would have *hurt* if they had been like, “Well, her parents need to pay because tradition” and just basically served to make everyone feel terrible. Luckily, they offered a nice contribution with a minimum of “good thing our daughters are single har har har!” jokes

  • Elizabeth

    Oof. I feel you on this. My parents are separated, re-married, and retired, and they are all living on fixed and very small incomes.

    FH’s parents inherited millions of dollars when FH’s grandparents passed.

    So all we’re expecting is opinions. So far those have all gone in the suggestion box.

  • Sara

    While I see why it hurt to be told this, I don’t understand why your parents need to be told that the future in-laws aren’t contributing to the reception. The in-laws paying for the rehearsal dinner is a nice gesture that shouldn’t necessarily be discounted.

    I do agree its an outdated and sexist ‘tradition’, but I think that is a totally separate conversation from the money aspect. Perhaps talk to them about how their position on this makes you feel overall, but steer clear of any demands for money. Not inviting family seems like an extreme reaction to something that was once a common tradition. I actually know people who had this set up when they got married, with the bride’s parents chipping in for the reception and the groom’s covering all the rehearsal expenses. I get why its upsetting LW personally, but I also think people just do what they assume ‘everyone does’ until told otherwise.

    • Lisa

      And the fact that the groom said he wouldn’t invite anyone from his family unless his parents paid bothered me, too. Presumably he has a relationship with those people independent of his parents so why would he punish himself and them for his parents’ financial decision?

      • Katharine Parker

        It also suggests that their wedding is a sort of “pay to play” situation for the parents, which goes against the idea of two families joining together to celebrate a couple getting married.

        • Sara

          The fact that LW feels like the in-laws would “get to feel entitled to free food, drinks, and a party care of my family?” seems like an odd interpretation of a wedding in general.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            IT DOES. And it is bugging the crap out of me. What does that even mean??

          • Zoya

            In a way, this seems of a piece with last week’s Ask APW about the guest who “took full advantage of the open bar” and didn’t give a gift. There’s this transactional view of weddings that–to be fair–our culture doesn’t exactly discourage.

          • Violet

            Right. Isn’t every guest at a wedding partaking of free food, drinks, and a party? Because that’s what it means to be a guest? And if that bothers you, like, don’t host?

          • bananafanafofana

            Yeah….but most of them don’t expect to be able to tell you how to organize the party……. That does seem different. Like, I host a lot of parties. And I’m TOTALLY FINE with paying for all the booze and making all the snacks. I’m hosting! But I would be super weirded out if somebody was like “Oh you are planning on having a holiday party— you’d better have poinsettas, and one kind of cookie isn’t good enough and we need bourbon in addition to mulled wine, and you had better invite my friend Sam)

          • Pickle

            I don’t know, I think it makes sense in this particular context. These parents heard “my son and daughter are getting married” and essentially responded “great, I can’t wait for the nice wedding that her parents will throw for all of us! By the way, I think it should be on a boat.”

      • Violet

        He might have an independent relationship with them, but then again, he might not. Sometimes parents want to invite friends to their kids’ weddings that the kids have never met. It does happen.
        (Though overall, no! Don’t not invite anyone because your parents aren’t paying for your wedding! Decide on the wedding you can afford, then figure out the guest list.)

        • Not quite the same, but I met a third of the guests at our wedding AT our wedding. My husband knew them, but did not have strong relationships with them, the bonds were between them and his parents. Which is awesome! But the fact that his parents were contributing financially was relevant to their being there — If we’d been paying for the wedding ourselves we would have had a smaller guest list, and people who we didn’t have “1st level” relationships with would not have been as feasible to invite.

          • Violet

            Right, that’s exactly what I’m referring to.

        • Yes, my mom definitely added one or two of her friends to the guest list sort-of last minute who I had never met, but that was fine (also I wasn’t paying for it) and 2 extra parent-aged couples in our 100ish size wedding didn’t not make any noticeable impact. My husband hadn’t met SO MANY PEOPLE at our wedding, because we’ve lived out of state and there are extended (but still close) family and family friends who have known me all my life (but that I don’t really directly communicate with on my own) who were there.

      • bananafanafofana

        My MIL wanted to invite 40 people to our wedding (in addition to my Fiancee’s family), the vast majority of whom my fiancee had never met (they were friends in one way or another of his parents with whom he had no meaningful relationship, he had heard their names over the years and that is it.) She was willing to pay for the addition (but I really didn’t want them even if she did, which was……complicated)

    • Amy March

      I mean practically there’s no way that it wouldn’t come up that his parents were not contributing at all if my parents were paying for my wedding, and I’m not lying or keeping secrets from them about this either.

      • Sara

        That’s true. I guess I was focusing on the fact that her parents would resent them for not contributing? Which they still would be, just the rehearsal dinner aspect. I guess I meant that there should be less focus on ‘reception’ vs ‘rehearsal’ and see it all as one big celebration contribution.

        • Jess

          That’s pretty much exactly how we managed the conversation. My parents (very generously) offered to and paid for a lot of our wedding. R’s parents (also very generously) offered to and hosted a rehearsal dinner for our extended families and the wedding party, plus a day-after brunch.

          We framed the whole weekend as an event, and people volunteered for what they wanted to help with.

          It did come up, but only like once, and it was quick because we could say, “They have offered to do X, which is really nice of them!”

      • Liz

        I think it’s not only important the parental contributions stay confidential, but I think so BECAUSE LW needs to step back and approach the financial angle differently. How much are his parents willing to pay? $0. Now they need to get a hard number for what the other family is willing to pay, and then make up the difference (or squeeze into that budget) themselves.

        Not all wedding finances operate that way, and whatever, it can be healthy and open and fine other ways. But in this situation it seems crucial, crucial to me because there’s no way LW will be able to say, “They’re giving us nothing,” without a note of resentment which is not a great way to start out! The parents themselves may not resent it, but they’ll be colored by their daughter’s feelings, for sure.

        • Katharine Parker

          I think framing it as “they’re giving us nothing for the wedding” is a bad way to go. “They’re hosting the rehearsal dinner” IS still a wedding contribution, even if it isn’t precisely what the couple wants.

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    “So why do they get to pick-and-choose what tradition matters?”
    Because people get to pick and choose what matters to them. I would leave this alone and move forward with my wedding planning. I understand that their beliefs are hurtful but we are all entitled to believe and think what we want. Just like you, who is so offended by this. This does not have to cast a shadow over your wedding day. Plan your wedding and share and allow input from his parents as much as you want. Let them host the rehearsal dinner. Oh and invite his parents.

    • Jess

      Picking and choosing is pretty much exactly how traditions work? Like, “Oh, we did this one time and liked it” or “We tried that other thing and it wasn’t so great”

      Otherwise… we’d still be sacrificing people to volcanoes, probably.

    • PAJane

      I’m willing to bet they’re choosing which wedding traditions are important to them in planning their own wedding. And I bet they’re only spending time and money on the ones that are important to them.

  • theteenygirl

    I agree with others that there seems to be some piece of the story missing here.

    Perhaps the in-laws want to participate in the marriage but not the wedding per se. This is pretty anecdotal and likely isn’t the case here, but we didn’t ask either of our parents for money for the wedding. My parents surprised us with a cash gift specifically to be used toward to the wedding (not the honeymoon or savings) because that’s how they wanted to contribute. My in laws didn’t initially offer any money, but ended up spending a few hundred dollars on most of the food for the reception/other meals (it was a weekend long) which was awesome. Then after the wedding we got home and had a card from them, where they explained that they were giving us a very sizeable amount of money specifically to be used to put towards a down payment on a home. We’re not planning on buying any time soon, but it was their way of contributing to us as a couple.

  • While I obviously agree that limiting groom-side invites should be a total non-starter, I don’t actually think the groom’s reaction of limiting their planning input is a terrible one? Like if you are going retro, alongside the traditional role of the bride’s parents’ paying is a traditional role that they are also the one’s hosting. While I think it should be done in a chill, mature way and not as a threat to try to get more money, I personally don’t think the couple leaning into the dynamic of traditional having two sides is a bad move.

    • Violet

      I’m torn. On the one hand, yeah, if the fiance’s parents are going to follow certain traditions, then it makes sense that they go along with the limited decision-making that comes with it. On the other hand, isn’t that a little “two wrongs don’t make a right” if LW uses the same sexist tradition as her logic for excluding them from decision-making? (Referring to decisions that don’t impact the cost, naturally, as sofar lays out.)

      • Yeah, the two wrongs don’t make a right thing is super fair — And it did sound like LW wanted them involved in which case excluding them to make a point would be a cutting of your nose to spite your face thing.

        I guess to be honest, I do generally think it’s okay for there to be a correlation between who is paying and who is “hosting” weddings, and for that to have a role in (some) decisions. But I also understand why that’s not everyone’s view, and why that might not be useful in this case.

        • Zoya

          I mean, that’s the age-old tradeoff, isn’t it? Money comes with strings. You can expect free financial help, or you can expect to call all the shots yourself, but you can’t necessarily expect both.

          • For sure. It just sounds like the fiance’s family IS expecting both. But as others have pointed it out, it kinda sounds like everyone in this scenario is expecting all the things ¯_(ツ)_/¯.

        • I think that I sort of do think this as well. My parents paid for and hosted my wedding. They also were lovely enough to basically plan the whole thing for me. (But also, my parents were in a position to pay for the wedding and my inlaws were not, so although it fell back to very traditional terms in this method, it was also just due to circumstances).

          • Yeah, I’ll admit I have good “working relationships” with both my inlaws and parents, and we were fully prepared to pay for a (smaller) wedding before our parents offered to help, so I have a really privileged experience relative to family dynamics.

        • CII

          I agree with the correlation between financing and decision-making. When we paid from our wedding ourselves, I was fine with that — it was not a surprise given our financial circumstances as compared with that of our families — but it definitely made me feel like I was not interested in hearing critiques of our choices (including the choice to have a smaller wedding, to have a lunch-time wedding, to have a dress tailored for me rather than buying a more expensive dress). And that was particularly true when I was making choices that might not have matched up with my own idea of a “dream wedding,” but that did match up with the kind of wedding we wanted to have on the budget that we had decided upon.

    • PAJane

      It would be helpful, I think, to take their suggestions as just that — suggestions. They have a venue idea? Great, we’ll look into it, along with all the others, and make the choice we want. That’s what we do when our friends make suggestions, too. Oh, there’s a family tradition you’d like honored? Talk about it with the groom, consider whether it’s important to him, and decide from there. It would be less great to rule out a really good idea that they would enjoy purely out of spite, just because the inlaws suggested that.

      • This is 1000% how I’d handle this. But I think that if the groom is kind of over the combination of his parents and wedding planning at the moment, that’s maybe okay too? Like, I totally agree on not ruling out suggestions from spite, but I also think it’s fine if they aren’t, say, running every venue option by them at this point.

        • PAJane

          Oh, yeah, don’t ask their opinions. They don’t get to make the decision. But treat it like a friend who totally attended a wedding at this place downtown and you should check it out. Hey, thanks bro, we’ll look into it. And then look if it’s really a good idea, and ignore it if it’s not. Treat it like you’d treat anyone else who is interested in your plans and has Ideas For You but isn’t paying for things.

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    Also let us not forget: a wedding is an optional event. It is not necessary in order to get married. If you want a wedding, you should always be prepared to pay for it.

    • Kathy

      Sure, I think you are 100% correct. But that does not really address LW’s problem. I don’t read any sense of entitlement from her letter and it doesn’t seem to be about the money. She is hurt because her fiancé is being treated unfairly by his parents. And I think that’s the point: it is not about her, it’s about the fiancé. And he should be the one talking with the parents, explaining why he thinks his parents behaviour is unfair and hurtful. Apart from that, yes, they have to find the best solution for their own budget.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        I didn’t say she was entitled. I said a wedding isn’t necessary and if she wants one, be prepared to pay for it.

        • Em

          I think she does sound entitled in this line: “And why do they get to feel entitled to free food, drinks, and a party care of my family?” Her and her fiance decided to have a wedding, and she’s acting like it’s unfair that her in-laws expect an invitation unless they pay for it. That plus signing off as “Bride, not piggy bank.” I’m trying to assume it’s just the anger at the sexism clouding her thoughts.

          • laddibugg

            The in-laws want to invite who they want and make plans ‘care of her family’. It sounds like they want a seat at the table without putting up any money

          • Katharine Parker

            I don’t think not paying for the wedding means the in-laws cede all right to make suggestions or invite their side of the family. Making expensive demands would be rude, but offering ideas (e.g. have you thought about this venue? I went to a wedding with a great cake last year–you should look into this bakery!) isn’t. The LW and her fiancé don’t have to abide by their suggestions, but cutting them out of all planning conversations, begrudging them an invitation, and refusing to invite his side of the family or family friends suggests that the LW and her fiancé do think that the in-laws should be paying for part of the wedding if they want to participate.

          • Em

            I’m definitely not saying the in-laws’ behaviour is perfect, but there’s a big space between “having a large say in the plans” and “being invited and made to feel welcome”. It sounds like LW has decided not to give them much say in the planning, which I understand, but has then jumped to “I don’t feel happy about them even coming” (and the fiancé has gone even further to actually suggesting not inviting them) which is extreme.

  • Mrrpaderp

    Don’t call people sexist when you’re asking them for money. There’s a lot of entitlement going on in this letter – not just from LW, from ALL sides. His parents feel entitled to make demands and take up half the guest list plus control (and pay for) a rehearsal dinner. LW’s family feels entitled to split the bill with fiance’s parents. LW’s fiance feels entitled to support equal to what his parents plan to give his sister.

    LW and fiance are going to need to have some honest conversations about finances. Don’t throw his parents under the bus when you talk to your parents. If they ask, “They’re not helping with the wedding” is all the explanation they need. (Same for his parents btw – “they’re not covering the entire wedding.”) No possible good can come of, “they’re not helping because they expect YOU to pay” or “they’re helping fiance’s sister but not him”. Your parents are not the people to vent to about his parents.

    And also… this is not LW’s battle to fight. I can understand fiance feeling hurt that his parents prioritize his sister’s wedding over his; and that’s really not about the money. Straight cismen tend to get sidelined in the wedding planning process, and if he wasn’t expecting that, it must’ve really been a punch to the gut for him. For LW, focus on being supportive of him over that rather than being indignant about the cash.

  • Violet

    Maybe they believe all the sexist stuff, or maybe they just don’t want to spend too much money on weddings and are using this as a cop out. I’d try really hard not to take it personally. (And that goes for fiancé too; I doubt his parents really love his sister more or think of their daughter as chattel; they’re just trying to save a buck and using this tradition as an easy out.)

    Also, you might be close to your parents and plan on having wedding planning conversations with them that involve the budget. So I can see why you’re asking what to tell them when they inevitably ask in reference to a planning question, “Well, how much did you get from the Smiths?” In response, I’d pretend to be more okay about the decision than I really was. This will help them not to feel resentful of the other family, either. Because if they find out you’re upset, they’ll probably be upset on your behalf. They’ll probably be less ticked off if you present it more neutrally: “You were so generous to give us an amount towards the wedding. Parents helping to pay is not even an expectation these days, so we so appreciate that you’re contributing. Fiance’s parents were most excited to host the rehearsal dinner, so they’re going to pay for that.” Then leave it alone.

    And yeah, invite them to the wedding.

  • kazeegeyser

    No matter what, I encourage LW to include the in-laws in the wedding planning. As others have suggested, their say should be limited when it comes to costly add-ons or large additions to the guest list. However, I’ve watched my mom and her friends react to their sons getting married and it can be particularly hard on them. In their cases, the groom’s family was contributing equally (or in some cases, more) but had very little say in the wedding planning. My SIL basically left my mom out of it, and my brother was clueless about every detail other than the date and venue.

    Anyway, if your in-laws are paying a large chunk they may hold some resentment over not being involved, even if they didn’t explicitly ask to be. Just something to be aware of.

    • Violet

      Also, quick note that being “involved” doesn’t necessarily mean making decisions. I’m pretty sure I won’t want much of a say in my kid’s (hypothetical) wedding other than maybe some asks for the invite list. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to hear how planning is going! Some parts of wedding planning are fun and I’d want to be excited with the couple. Other parts are stressful and I’d want to be supportive.

      • kazeegeyser

        Agreed! My mom kept talking about how she wished she knew the dress code, menu, entertainment….and my SIL didn’t share anything with her. Granted, they weren’t super close, but it definitely hurt her that no details were offered.

        Meanwhile, my mom’s friend’s son got married and his wife planned the whole thing without any input. And she decided it was a good idea to choose a venue where the room was on the second floor and there was no elevator, but the groom’s grandma was in a wheelchair.

        • Violet

          *gasp* The elevator omission. That’s awful!

        • Lisa

          Oh, that’s terrible about not considering accessibility or at least questioning whether there was anyone who might need it.

          • kazeegeyser

            Yeah, it’s pretty dumb to begin with, but one of those things where talking to the in-laws during the planning might have brought up potential issues. Maybe the groom should’ve thought about it as well…

        • Amy March

          I mean, also the groom decided not to be involved and the groom didn’t communicate and the groom married her. Idk why the SILs are getting all the blame here.

          • kazeegeyser

            I’m not going to defend my brother for being out of the loop. I’m just saying this is one of those things where thinking about ways to include the in-laws can be a nice thing to do that they will appreciate.

          • Jess

            I feel like a lot of that resentment gets put on women in this kind of situation (pushy MIL tropes/withholding DIL tropes), but the guys in the equation get off free because “Weddings aren’t for dudes.”

  • Abby

    OH Liz. So spot on with the advice.

    I’m having Wedding PTSD right now and all kinds of sympathy for you LW

    I was also informed that my future MIL felt that my parents should pay for our entire wedding and that her daughter was going to get a sizeable sum of money for her own wedding. In the same day, she informed us that she had a guest list of 30 to add to whatever guest list we came up with.

    HARD STOP. There were lots of tears from my MIL and the ultimate resolution we came up with was that we told her if she wanted her friends (that we absolutely did not know or want at our ideally intimate celebration) that she could pay for them.

    On the flipside – Liz once said that you can’t dictate what someone does with their own money. This is totally valid on both sides. You can’t force them to give you money/change their view point and they can’t force you to pay money for wedding things you don’t want.

    Hang tight in your knowledge of this. It helps to be able to say “Sorry, we’re not including a fully paid lunch the day of the wedding for your friends because it’s not in the budget.”

  • Her Lindsayship

    “And why do they get to feel entitled to free food, drinks, and a party care of my family?”

    Huh. It kind of sounds like you feel entitled to have a giant party care of them, so maybe examine that for a sec before digging into this rage any longer? I mean, yes, in many cases, parents do pay for their kids’ weddings. But that assumption is not a good place to start, and it’s definitely not the place from which to judge his parents who have otherwise been super supportive. Also, they are well within their rights to “pick-and-choose what tradition matters” when it comes to how they spend their own money. Even when that tradition is rooted in the patriarchy – it’s their money.

    • Ros

      Well, no, since she specifically said that they’re not contributing to their wedding because they explicitly believe it’s her family’s responsibility to pay for it.

    • Tera

      This. That line really stuck out to me and I couldn’t help but think, ‘Um isn’t that exactly what a wedding is for ALL of your guests?’ No one is entitled to wedding money from their future in-laws and any monetary gift is a bonus, not a given.

  • jem

    Hiii this was exactly my situation (except for the weird comment about the nest egg for sister’s wedding). My solution was to… get over it and find appropriate people to vent to when my MIL was particularly obtuse. We didn’t do a lot of the expensive things she demanded but didn’t offer to pay for (e.g. elaborate wedding cake), and in the end everyone is pretty much over it. We gave her 100% control over the rehearsal dinner that she offered to plan and pay for and in retrospect, it was such a relief to not worry about that…

    TBH, I was not zen at the time and every time I saw her/she texted or emailed me, steam would pour out of all of my orifices. But now that the wedding is over, I think it was a great time for us to practice boundary-setting with her.

    • Zoya

      Good on you for setting those boundaries! I commented below that “money has strings,” and it really does run both ways! If you’re not contributing financially, don’t expect to have a say in how money is actually spent.

  • Anne

    This is a tough one. LW and fiance should definitely figure out a workable budget assuming no help from the in-laws.

    As things stand, they should not feel pressure to include the in-laws in planning conversations beyond what feels natural – keep them up to date, but no need to ask them for input on every decision.

    Also, I guess this might be controversial, but, assuming that 1) he has a generally good relationship with his parents and 2) they have a reasonable budget plan for the current circumstances, the groom should feel totally free and encouraged to have an honest, non-confrontational (and non-threatening!) conversation asking his parents why they are set on paying for sister’s wedding and not contributing to his beyond the dinner. I doubt it would be productive for LW to have a role in that conversation, especially given how tense this letter feels. And it might not change anything financially. But if the couple feels strongly, this is the kind of thing they might find themselves being resentful about this for years to come, and the parents might be clueless about why and how specifically hurtful the sexism was. So being tactfully honest might be a worthwhile risk for the sake of potentially having a better relationship going forward.

  • CatHerder

    The issue isn’t the money, as I read it. The issue is that they explicitly said they aren’t paying BECAUSE of gender AND they still expect to have say in what’s going on. As a gay man, I had to talk to my parents about why them only paying for sister’s wedding was sexist towards women and, in our case, kinda homophobic to me (though I envy theoretical highly traditional lesbian couples who would get double money).

    • PAJane

      How did your parents respond? Did they change their minds?

      • CatHerder

        They gave me some money for which I am very glad, but definitely less than my sister received. They are already struggling with a gay, non-christian, Northern wedding and I think that part of what they paid for with my sister was a wedding to their taste.

  • PAJane

    I know a family that had to deal with this. The parents had saved up for their daughter’s wedding, but not their son’s, because they assumed his bride’s family would take on the bulk of it. Surprise, he’s gay, and married a dude! Oops, there goes that theory. They contributed in the end, but were pretty open that they gave less than they would have given another daughter. We all recognized that it was unfair and kinda fucked up, but you also can’t really demand that someone gives you a bunch of money to throw a big party for you, for any reason. They still love their son, and their son in law, and are supportive of their marriage in a lot of the ways that really matter, so everyone just found a way to move on.

    • CatHerder

      Ding Ding Ding. If you are planning to pay for any kid, you gotta think about all the kids (especially the gay ones).

      • PAJane

        I’m comforted by the idea that the sexism around this kind of thing will die out a little more with each generation.

  • sara

    Great advice here, specifically on NOT sharing information on parental contributions with the other set of parents. Find out from each set of parents how much they plan to contribute, think about what your own budget is as a couple, and then use that to make your plans for the wedding. I wouldn’t cut anyone out of planning in the sense of “I refuse to tell you ANY PLANS and maybe you’re not even invited!” but ultimately you should be choosing the venue, setting the guest list, etc. with consideration for everyone’s preferences, but ultimately making the decisions yourself based on your own preferences and budget.

    I also think it’s a great suggestion to gently suggest to parents that if they want certain things that you can’t afford on your own and don’t personally prioritize, they can have that but they’ll have to pay (again, word this more gently than that!). In our case, my fiance’s parents REALLY wanted expensive professional photographs, and while we were fine with that, it was not necessarily our top priority and also was way out of our budget. So, they ended up paying the bulk of the money for the photographer, simply because they cared the most about having those photos taken.

  • Lily

    We are in the same situation. However, we knew this would likely be the case prior to getting engaged and told both parents we would be paying for our own wedding, they were not expected to contribute, and that as a result, we would have a limited guest list (i.e. they did not get to give us a list of their friends they wanted to invite). We never asked or expected either set of parents to contribute. Fiance’s parents were a little taken aback that my parents weren’t footing the bill, but whatever.

    While I was confident in our decision, there are definitely moments when it hurts. Some of our vendors have acted as if we needed to check with our parents before booking (a.k.a. assuming we aren’t paying) and that frustrates me. It’s definitely still very prevalent throughout the wedding process.

    • L.

      Wow. Like, hello? You are adults who are capable of paying for things yourselves? How presumptuous!

      • quiet000001

        I can kind of appreciate vendors being in an awkward spot if the couple paying themselves isn’t the majority case in their area, though. Because there are totally couples where they’d take up a lot of vendor time and have it all agreed but the contract, and then ‘oops, we’re not actually paying and parents say we have to use X.’ And it does sound like how much it’s shifted from the traditional ‘bride’s family pays’ is HIGHLY regional, going by comments on this post.

        Granted, there are polite ways to check on that and less polite ways, but I’d try not be offended at someone clarifying that point POLITELY.

        • L.

          You make a great point! Yes, if they can find a way to address that question politely, then absolutely. But when people assume…it makes it so awkward!

  • Alli

    Yeah it’s sexist and you’re allowed to be annoyed. When we visited my grandmother to tell her about our engagement, she sat down and said “You make enough money to pay for this yourselves. And don’t ask your dad for money. He pays enough in taxes.” It was confusing and felt like a slap in the face, but ultimately I decided to just share the strange story with friends and leave it at that (and accept my dad’s offer to pay for the DJ because I’m not going to say “no thanks dad, you pay enough in taxes”). I don’t think there’s much you can do when any retort makes you sound bitter and like you want their money.

    • Anna

      Also “he pays enough in taxes” like therefore he’s already contributed via all the public funds you will be drawing on for this wedding? What? Literally what do taxes have to do with it?

      • Alli

        I guess she was thinking he’s just so stretched thin by that dang government, he can’t possibly spend any more money on something as frivolous as a wedding? My grandmother is a strange person lol

    • Unless you are Ms M Markle, not sure how your parents taxes would be contributing to the wedding!

  • susannahdon

    This one hit home for me. I feel like the bride is feeling more hurt at the gendered language and…..kind of shitty way this was expressed. And she might be reflecting some hurt her partner is feeling too.

    My (extremely wealthy) FIL has made it clear to his son that “Its the bride’s family who pays for everything.” We had not asked for any money, but yes, we had expected some. A few years ago he (and middle-class ex-wife) paid quite a lot for their daughter’s extremely lavish wedding. We are both a little salty because their entire relationship lasted 18 months.

    We are planning the wedding we can afford, with a small sum from my parents. My futurehubs is extremely wounded by his father’s attitude, but I am allowing him to guide how we react to it.

    • Another Meg

      “…but I am allowing him to guide how we react to it.”

      This is an important point. It’s his family, and I’d take point from him and go from there.

    • laddibugg

      I hope your FIL doesn’t comment about what Sister had (and only was able to have it because he bankrolled her).

      • susannahdon

        Oh I hope not too! But knowing him, I am sure there will be comments. He’s the kind of person who expression any affection by teasing and criticizing. :/

        • Anneke Oosterink

          Oh man. I would be unable to hold back the snide comments about SOME people being able to afford stuff because RICH parents pay for it. OTHER people don’t get that kind of money because of STUPID. Or similar. :P I am not diplomatic in the slightest…

          • susannahdon

            :D me neither. We shall see!

  • AmandaBee

    It is 100% sexist. Not because they don’t want to spend money on your wedding (that’s well within their rights) but because they clearly stated that they would only do so for a female child, and expect your parents to foot the bill for the wedding of their male child. And because they seem to assume they still have a hand in planning the wedding. They are, in effect, trying to spend your parent’s money for them, and that’s shitty.

    That said, you just gotta carry on. Plan the wedding that you and fiance can afford, with your parent’s help if they’d like to offer it. Pick a budget, make decisions that fit your budget, and loop his family in on things that don’t cost money. If they have requests that would cost money, feel free to let them know if that’s just not in the budget.

    As for how this affects your relationship with fiance’s parents, I’d let him lead on that. If fiance generally has a good relationship with them, maybe this is a small blip that will some day largely be forgotten. If this is tied up with other clashes in their values or assumptions about marriage, maybe it’s a sign of a larger thing. But in the end, while I understand how intense wedding planning and budget can feel at the moment, I wouldn’t let this one decision ruin a relationship that you’ll probably have to maintain for a long time. Certainly, I would stay out of it as the fiance – coming across as demanding your in-laws money (even if that’s not your intent!) is not a good way to start marriage.

  • Violet

    I don’t know, the more I reflect, the more I feel bummed for LW’s fiance. (But ONLY assuming he didn’t ask his parents how much they were going to contribute for his wedding and they just let him know outright they only are going to pay for his sister’s). Here’s my thinking. Unless they saved a specific amount to pay for a specific wedding for their daughter, that she has to have at that amount or less or they withdraw the gift, then what are we talking about here? That they’ve saved some quantity of cash, earmarked for their daughter’s wedding. Cash is fungible, and can therefore be divided between two kids. They are not doing so because of gender, or so they say. But why does this reason make it any less hurtful for giving one child something and not the other? As a thought experiment, what if parents decided to contribute to the wedding of their bio kid but not their adopted one? What about their straight child but not their gay one? Why is it more okay for the parents to use this logic just because it’s based on an outdated tradition? Honestly asking. I still think the parents should be invited, that this isn’t LW’s issue to discuss with them, and if the couple in question went into this expecting money that’s not great. But I guess I can see how the imbalanced treatment of the kids is upsetting for LW’s fiance.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      I wouldn’t say it’s ok. I would say it’s what they decided based on their values apparently. It is what it is. If it bothers fiance, he should talk to his parents about it instead of uninviting them. I am also curious about whether this is the very first time for fiance this came up in his family. Like, did no one really know that his parents were paying for his sister’s wedding and not his?

      • Violet

        Oh, I’m still squarely on Team Uninviting is the Unadvisable Nuclear Option. Just… with more sympathy towards him, I guess.

      • PeaceIsTheWay

        Re: did no-one know his parents were paying for his sister’s wedding and not his – I just realized that my parents contributed significantly to our wedding (so did my husband’s) but I have no idea whether they intend to give similarly for my two younger brothers someday. And so part of me is thinking it will be none of my business how my brothers pay for their hypothetical weddings, and part of me wants to make sure my parents wouldn’t expect a daughter-in-law’s family to bear the brunt of wedding costs.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          I wonder. It not something ever discussed in my family but my parents never had any money. But in families where there is some money do parents let their kids know of it just comes up when wedding comes up. I wonder if you could casually ask your parents…

  • Anon

    I wonder if this is cultural/regional? Or if that even helps at all?

    For example, I’m from a small southern town, and attended a very conservative church growing up. Generally all weddings I heard about growing up had the same bride’s parents cover reception, groom’s parents cover rehearsal dinner formula.

    Yes, it’s totally sexist, and totally ignores the possibility of two grooms/ two brides. But when it’s the cultural norm, it’s easy to see how a family could spend literally decades saving (or not saving, depending on gender), assuming that this is how things will be, and then be very surprised, when lo and behold it’s 2018, and norms are changing.

    I’m not gonna lie, I’m a woman who assumed my parents would pay for my wedding, because that’s what I saw growing up. Now I have a different perspective, but that’s recent.

    I think this is something that will hopefully be different for the coming generations. I can just understand how the various cultural assumptions are there now.

    • PAJane

      Right. It sucks, and it’s not fair, but it’s hardly a shocking attitude to encounter.

    • I think it is easy to underestimate how much regional differences and cultural norms can make in how we see these things. Like I’m from the Western US and the idea that the bride’s family would always pay is fairly shocking to me… And I’m sure is coloring how I’m reading the letter.

      • Anon

        And even social circles within regions. I’m from San Francisco, with very progressive parents, and my parents expected to pay for my wedding. My parents absolutely would have been comfortable contributing to my brother’s wedding if his wife’s parents hadn’t planned on hosting in full, and maybe that’s a big difference here. But maybe it’s just that it hasn’t crossed his parent’s mind that this isn’t automatic, and sure, there is for sure a casual sexism to that, but it doesn’t mean they’re digging in their heels that this is the “right” way (though maybe that has been made clear in the conversations with the in-laws).

        • Anon from SF :)

          Just noticed the original poster in this thread is also “Anon” – I’m a different one!

    • This is exactly what I was going to say. I am from the south too, and that it was I saw growing up. This is how it worked for all of my close girlfriends, I think. And when I got married, my parents assumed they’d pay all or most of the wedding and the groom’s parents would do the rehearsal dinner. But I married someone from Quebec, where people don’t really get married anymore, and his parents were divorced, so they didn’t volunteer to contribute and we never discussed it. We decided we’d only plan what we could afford (and aimed for about $5000), and then if we got some from my parents, great, and if not, oh well. We managed to keep it under $6000, but that’s because we had a free band (friends), free venue, very inexpensive flowers and photos from people starting out, dessert reception, sandwiches for “welcome dinner” (no rehearsal dinner), etc. My parents took it pretty well that they were the only ones contributing, but I think that’s just because that’s what they were used to culturally. And I didn’t want to do anything we couldn’t pay for ourselves. (And my dad didn’t really want to talk money and said something like paying for it within reason or something. I think I had a cheaper wedding than he might have been expecting, but also I know they have NO CLUE what weddings actually cost these days, and mine didn’t really help with that since so many talented friends gifted aspects for free so it should have cost $10,000+…) But all that to say, I do think the groom’s family might have some cultural or regional expectations…

      If I were to do it again (I’m divorced now), I would again only plan what I could pay for with my partner… And I have no expectations of my parents wanting to contribute to a second wedding (even though I think they would like for us to get married).

    • ManderGimlet

      Same! I was very aware that my mother and basically all of the rest of my family was raised with this assumption (even though I do not share in this) so once I got engaged one of the first things I told my mom (after the news itself, of course) was that I had no expectation that she or any of our family would pay for the wedding. There is absolutely no way in hell my mom or dad (if they could get along well enough to hash it out together #divorcekid) could afford to pay for our wedding. Yet still, THEY were upset that they could not provide that for me, they felt they were supposed to as good parents (they did not have college funds for any of their kids). Traditions are hard to let go of.

    • bananafanafofana

      This all makes me super grateful for my parents. My brother and I are getting married within a month of each other this summer and my parents are very carefully giving us the exact same amount of money (including to the point of calculating the worth of the family engagement ring they gave my brother and giving me is worth, which I think is completely unnecessary overkill to demonstrate that they love us equally)

  • chartreuse

    LW, I am your SIL. My parents are registered Democrats; they marched in last year’s Women’s March, and they went to this year’s too; my mother kept her name; my mother out-earns my father. They raised me to believe women can do anything men can. They paid for my brother’s education and for mine. Aaaaaand… they’re paying for my wedding, and they don’t expect to pay for my brother’s, when and if he should marry. It’s a cultural thing. Their own wedding, their siblings’ weddings, the weddings of their friends’ children… all were financed by the bride’s parents.

    Now, granted, they also do not expect any say at all in wedding planning for a wedding they are not financing. My mother said to me recently, “Your brother’s future in-laws will probably just give us a number for our part of the guest list, and we’ll have to abide by it, no matter how small that number is.” My brother isn’t even dating anyone right now! We have no idea who his future in-laws might be, much less their ability or desire to pony up for a wedding. And if someone ever sat them down and talked to them about this and how weird it is, they would probably listen. If my brother and his future spouse came to them and said, “Hey, we’re having to pay for most of this ourselves, this is what we’re envisioning and how many people we’ll be able to feed. We know that means a lot of your side of the family won’t be able to come, but we’d love to celebrate with them. Could you help out?” my parents would probably listen and consider it.

    You know what they wouldn’t listen to or consider? “You paid for Chartreuse’s wedding, so this is not fair. Gimme.” That’s rude. You’re not entitled to their money. My brother had a rough start to his adulthood and he got plenty of financial help from my parents, who bailed him out of a lot of tight spots. I didn’t need that kind of help, so I didn’t get it. His education was also more expensive than mine, because I got scholarships he didn’t. Did I demand an equivalent sum from them, because of fairness? No. Good parents try to give each child what he or she needs when he or she needs it; that doesn’t always even out to the same dollar amount, or amount of time and attention.

    • Violet

      Obviously kids are different, so their parents will treat them differently. Equity rather than equality, and all that. But this is not really a case of the kids having different needs (like your college and young adulthood struggles examples). It’s a pretty fair apples to apples comparison that the parents themselves are making by saying “we saved for your sister to have a wedding funded by us, but not you.”

      • chartreuse

        I kinda see where you’re coming from here — a big party is not an education, nor is it rent money, etc. I am trying to express how my parents would see it if my brother and his hypothetical fiancé hypothetically came at my parents with such a demand. They would say: first of all, you’re not entitled to our money at all; secondly, we gave you a lot of help already. It may be technically correct but it is not at all likely to give rise to anything but hurt feelings.

        • A

          I get this. I’m also in the same position of my parents having money set aside for my wedding, and not my brother’s. My mother has recently told me that they’d help my brother out, now – I guess since they made that fund in the late 80s/early 90s they’ve had a chance to reflect upon the fact that my brother might not end up with someone whose parents could pay, and that’s it’s an unequal tradition – but for most of my life they just put money into this fund because it’s what you did for a daughter. To a logical, woke mind, it seems like one kid getting a birthday present and the other one missing out. To my parents’ minds it was more like taking me bra shopping and not taking my brother bra shopping, or buying my brother a cup for sport and me not getting one. It’s what they knew and how the world worked. Like your parents, they’re pretty open, “woke” people, but every day we all opt into traditions because it’s “just what you do”, and you can go a long time not questioning that, especially if you’ve never been challenged on it.

        • Violet

          I agree with you. This is a case of having to give advice to the person who wrote in (LW), not the people who could have probably gone about things differently (fiance’s parents). I think you and Liz are right that a convo like this probably won’t produce much other than more negativity all around.

    • Jess

      “And if someone ever sat them down and talked to them about this and how weird it is, they would probably listen.”

      Girl, be that someone.

      Assuming that an as-yet-hypothetical woman and her family would give them a number for a guest list sets them up for thinking the worst of somebody automatically. It implies that your brother is not a good partner because he wouldn’t be involved in wedding planning. It makes him appear inconsiderate for not thinking about what his parents would want.

      It sets him and his future-intended up to have to *beg* instead of be given something – can you imagine if her family is not well off or not in the picture and the emotional baggage of having to say, “What we can afford is not enough. Please help” when you were given something without having to do that?

      They can offer to contribute. They certainly don’t have to. The worst that happens from offering to contribute if the bride’s family has already volunteered to pay is that the couple says, “That is so meaningful. Thank you for offering. Everything is already being taken care of, but we would love to have you help in this way.”

      • chartreuse

        I’m prepared to go to bat for Little Bro when and if there is an actual fiancé and an actual conversation to be had. And I did at the time mention that it was a strange thing to say. But right now, when we’re in the middle of planning my wedding and my parents have just handed me a VERY generous gift, I am not about to throw down with them about how they spend the rest of their cash. Timing matters.

        • Jess

          Ha, timing is everything, as they say! But… you did say it was strange! That kind of already makes you that someone.

      • chartreuse

        Not to mention… this isn’t true at all: “Assuming that an as-yet-hypothetical woman and her family would give
        them a number for a guest list sets them up for thinking the worst of
        somebody automatically. It implies that your brother is not a good
        partner because he wouldn’t be involved in wedding planning. It makes
        him appear inconsiderate for not thinking about what his parents would
        want.” In their tradition, this is how this stuff works. They think it is normal that my brother and his fiancé will work with her parents to throw whatever kind of celebration they can afford — no judgment. They will not think poorly of said hypothetical family for not being able to throw the kind of party they would throw. That’s pretty ungenerous to my family.

        • Jess

          You’re right, that was ungenerous. I don’t know them. I know a lot of cultures are pretty steeped in the idea that a woman’s family hosts a wedding on her behalf, especially some outside the US.

          At least in the midwest and southern US, which is my frame of reference of experience, that sort of thing often paired with the “daughters are our little princesses” mentality and I’m pretty annoyed by it on behalf of men (who also should get permission to like weddings, regardless of who they’re marrying) and on behalf of women (who deserve partners who step up and plan things as a team).

          I hear a lot from women my mom’s age along the lines of “when your son gets married you lose him” and complaining about “not being involved” because some “daughter-in-law is excluding them”. I hear it regardless of what tenets they claim to hold about weddings being a moment for daughters and their moms, or about the role of the man’s parents in a wedding.

          • chartreuse

            Yup, this is the midwest US, although there are a lot of particular subcultures even within that. I definitely know families who treat the whole shindig as you describe — mine just isn’t one of them.

            Little Bro is not the MOST emotional-labor sensitive guy in the world, but he’s been really sweet about my wedding, actually, and I’ve been trying to involve him in planning more on the order of what a sister might “traditionally” do, precisely for these reasons (I want to have some fun with him, but also help him to understand that it doesn’t all happen by magic). He helped me pick out the engagement ring, came to every venue visit, and he’s coming to all the tastings. I think he’ll do all right when and if the time comes.

          • Jess

            Glad yours isn’t one of them!

            Honestly, I think he will do just fine. I think most guys do when they are given the chance/expected to.

          • quiet000001

            My SO was kind of baffled when we started talking about maybe getting married and I mentioned needing his opinions on things. His first wedding he didn’t even realize he got to have a vote, his ex’s family planned everything how they wanted it.

          • Jess

            The assumption is often “Men don’t want anything to do with weddings” but I truly think if they get the chance to be involved they like a lot of it (It’s a party! People love parties!). Like, maybe not “what kind of napkins should we have,” which honestly women struggle with too, but food? drinks? music? promises you make to each other? These things are not gendered.

            It makes me sad that he wasn’t able to be involved in choices – he was getting married too, he probably had things he liked and didn’t like.

            I hope he is (or was) all in for planning with you!

          • chartreuse

            Fiancé’s parents don’t subscribe to any of these traditions at all — he always assumed he’d be paying for and planning his own thing — so he does have some very decided opinions, and it has been really nice to watch him rise above the expectations of most grooms. He chose the photographer and the band, he chose what he would wear, he wants to choose drinks, he’s working on the ceremony script/order… it’s lovely (even when he sometimes disagrees with me). I would really love to see an APW article/thread about how to encourage grooms in het partnerships to get enthusiastic. I think there are some older ones on the subject on the site, but when I went to look, the new move seems to have eaten all the comments on them (and I love the comments).

          • quiet000001

            He is now, yes. He really doesn’t remember many details about his first wedding because he wasn’t involved in any of the choices. Like he doesn’t even remember where the reception was.

            I mean, per his mom it was a nice wedding, but what’s the point of a party in your honor where you don’t remember any of it because you mostly felt like a prop?

    • Jess

      I also super agree with the fact that demanding money is rude, end of story. Regardless of what a sibling was given at another time, regardless of what you need. Demanding money is not ok.

    • lamarsh

      Are you me? You are basically describing my parents, my brother, and me down to how much money we received for school. With the added fact that my brother just got engaged and my parents fully expect to pay for the rehearsal dinner and nothing else, when they just paid for a large portion of my husband and my wedding. (Though my brother is marrying someone who has more family wealth, so I’m not sure how this would play out if he were marrying someone who was less well-off than us — my mom was super critical of my cousins in-laws who make a big show of being wealthy and then when it came time to pay for my (female) cousin’s wedding to their son, sent my cousin an etiquette book with the “groom’s parents pay for the rehearsal dinner” part highlighted…)

      • chartreuse

        Glad to know I’m not alone!!

        This one is hard, because the kinds of families that assume the bride’s family will pay for the whole wedding also tend not to be the kinds of families that initiate conversations about this stuff. If my brother got engaged to a woman my parents perceived (correctly or incorrectly) to have more family wealth, they’d say, “great, so happy for you, let us know when you need us to start looking for a rehearsal dinner spot!” Which isn’t always fair, and appearances don’t always (or even usually) reflect the truth of a situation. So I’m ready to talk to my parents about this on my brother’s behalf when the time is right. But yeah, not every family that follows this tradition is composed of TERRIBLE SEXIST BACKWARD MONSTERS. Sometimes weird cultural stuff just… hangs around, and it takes some real pushing to get it to change.

    • chartreuse

      One other thing that I just thought of, LW:

      If your fiancé’s family is at all like mine, and this is the expectation in their whole family and in their community, they may be hanging onto that savings account for his sister’s wedding not because they prefer his sister or think she needs to be launched and out of their nest old-fashioned style, but because they believe that her wedding will reflect on them in their community in a way their son’s wedding won’t. So there may be a lot more pressure on them to throw a big shindig for your SIL. For them, her wedding may be a face-saving measure, not just a party.

      That’s not right, it’s kind of ugly and unfair, and if these customs are going to change, the changes have to start somewhere, even in these communities. Your in-laws SHOULD by rights be willing to help out both their kids, even if they aren’t sure they’ll get “credit” for it by the standards of their own community. But knowing this may at least help you understand where they are coming from, and maybe if they do give some money towards the event, think about putting “Together with their families” or their names on the invitation to throw a bone their way.

      • suchbrightlights

        You may have just said a mouthful about bride’s parents’ beliefs in how their daughter’s wedding will reflect upon them.

    • CatHerder

      What if your brother marries someone who’s entire family died in a tragic bumper car accident and has no family to pay? What if your brother marries a man? Or what if your brother transitions and then gets married? I know he has no right to say what they do with their money BUT that doesn’t make it not sexist, just their decision to be sexist.

      • chartreuse

        Wow, did you not read the rest of this thread… at all?

        If any of those things happened, obviously my parents would figure something out. They are not unreasonable or terrible people, and they love and support their son. I am not defending their assumptions — I and others in this thread are trying to explain how people who aren’t total reactionaries might wind up still believing this strange tradition, in the hopes that this may be helpful to LW and her fiancé in maintaining/repairing their relationship with his parents.

  • Nellie

    This is the exact situation I was in! Fiance had assumed his parents (who are slightly better off than my family and spends more money on things generally) would contribute about an equal amount to our wedding as my parents, if not more. As he’s the first kid to get married in his family and I’m the last kid to get married in mine, I was a bit more skeptical, and specifically went in with no expectations about whether they’d contribute anything. However, I was still pretty shocked when they flat out said “traditionally bride’s parents pay for the wedding, we’ll cover the rehearsal dinner, also [fiance], here’s this pile of bills we’ve been keeping track of that we paid for you initially that we’re going to forgive as part of our wedding gift to you, even though we never bothered to tell you that your savings account we were pulling money from to cover your bills was empty.” (yes, he should have kept better track of that account. but come out, why would you just add things to his “tab” without telling him?)

    They’ve popped in a few times making suggestions like “oh why are you trying to DIY your centerpieces, just hire someone to do that” or “oh the bridesmaids dresses should all be one length otherwise it might look tacky” that I tend to just politely pretend to consider and then refuse. They have since offered to pay for some of the rented tableware/glassware we need (since we’re not going the traditional caterer route). I do feel a bit better about the whole thing, but it still has left a sour taste in my mouth. My much more conservative parents contributed about equally to each wedding (mine, my sister’s, and my brother’s), so part of me is like, wait, how do you justify this sexist distribution of duties in your own head. Please explain.”

    I think the advice about how people just keep outdated views about weddings a long time because they don’t necessarily participate in them that often is very very true. That’s what I try to remember when I get annoyed.

    • Jess

      “just hire someone to do that” It would take all my strength to say, “Oh, just hire someone? With who’s money?”

  • Ros

    So I have no idea why everyone seems to be dinging the LW for expecting money from family – from what I can tell, she’s pretty explicitly clear that they’re fine with non-contribution from family, but that her fiancé is pissed about it and that she’s pissed that someone else is expecting her parents to bankroll something because she’s female (which: valid).

    In terms of the fiancé: what I’m seeing is actually pretty straightforward? In a world where money is literally how we show that we value something, he’s seeing his parents saying ‘we will pay for your sister’s wedding but not yours because she’s female’ as, LITERALLY, ‘we VALUE your sister and her relationships more than yours because she’s female and you’re not, and your life transitions therefore MATTER LESS TO US’. Like: no wonder he’s pissed? And his instinctive reaction is to say ‘FINE then you don’t matter to me either EFF YOU’ which is… profoundly less than productive, especially if (and that’s probably the case…) that’s not what his parents actually MEAN. But that’s a conversation that HE has to have with THEM, and it’s hard because it’s about feelings and not money (and it’s hard to make it clear that the problem is the hurt feelings, and that he’s not asking for money…) I have no productive suggestions for that conversation if he wants to have it, but… maybe at least realizing his emotions and processing them will remove the ‘eff you, uninvited!’ aspect of it?

    In terms of someone sticking you and your parents with a bill ’cause you’re female: yeah, I’d also be pissed. In practical response terms, though, are your parents contributing, or are you covering costs on your own? Because I’m not conflict-averse (um… at all) and I’d probably wait for the next time something wedding-related comes up and make a comment about how obviously we’re adults paying for things ourselves (or MOSTLY paying for things ourselves, whatever is accurate) and therefore our budget is what it is, and so we’re making the relevant decisions, thanks. Which, generally speaking, would lead to clarifications about how ‘the bride’s parent pays’ is not, actually, a Thing, and so you’re covering things yourself, OBV, *subject change*. Basically: make it clear you’re not asking for money, but also don’t let their delusion persist. (With most people, a few weeks later there’d be a really awkward offering of money; depending on family dynamics it may be best to refuse that…)

    • Violet

      I can see someone pointing out that the parents originally began saving for their daughter’s wedding because they assumed someone else would foot the bill for their son’s, so what are you gonna do. But times have changed. And luckily, money is fungible! The money is not in some “daughter only” lockbox. Given that money is literally how we value things, despite how they began the saving process, there’s nothing stopping them from showing that they value each of their children’s weddings equally… by dividing the sum they’d saved in half. They don’t have to, obviously, and I don’t think son should ask them to. But geez it’d be the right thing to do. Not giving someone a gift is not what’s going on. They’re pointedly giving their daughter a gift and not their son, for no other reason than gender. I can understand the hurt feelings, and agree with you that fiance should start processing those. (And that LW should largely stay out of it.)

      • Weddings (often) also kind of go beyond just “gifts” or “fancy parties.” They are a major rite of passage and an event that has a major social utility of building and strengthening kinship etc. ties (often). Financially investing in that with one kid but not the other is a little more fraught than if you like, bought one kid a nicer birthday dinner than the other.

        • Ros

          I mean, ‘traditionally’, it’d be kinda like saying ‘I’ll pay for your brother’s college education because he’s a guy. We’re not paying for yours, you’re a woman.’

          • Julia

            No, it’s not because in your analogy the woman wouldn’t get to go to college at all. Under the norm of “brides’ families pay for weddings”, both men and women do get to have a wedding.

            The more accurate analogy would be if there was some kind of guaranteed female-only college scholarship program, and all women got to go to college for free whereas men had to pay. In that case, parents would save up for their son’s college education but not their daughter’s.

            Then the world changes and this scholarship program no longer exists (i.e. we no longer live in a world where you can assume that brides’ families will always pay for weddings). In that case, of course the right thing to do would be to split your savings among all your children regardless of gender, and I think it’s right for the LW’s fiancé to have a chat with his parents about that. BUT I also feel like he can’t be too mad at them for saving up for his sister’s wedding but not his in the first place.

      • Ros

        I definitely agree that, if a large gift is going to be given, no matter what the intent, it’s appropriate to split it. However, what I think is appropriate is what I can do with my money, and what I can advise people who ask for my advice… In this case, if they’ve determined that they’re going to distribute their savings based on the gender of their kids, it’s their right, but that doesn’t mean that their kids can’t feel hurt about it. Maybe having someone lay it out for them would be a lightbulb moment, but maybe not.

        Families, money, feelings: all hard.

    • Julia

      I really disagree with this sentiment: “In a world where money is literally how we show that we value something, he’s seeing his parents saying ‘we will pay for your sister’s wedding but not yours because she’s female’ as, LITERALLY, ‘we VALUE your sister and her relationships more than yours because she’s female and you’re not, and your life transitions therefore MATTER LESS TO US'”.

      His parents hold a belief that brides’ families pay for weddings. Is this outdated and heteronormative? Yes, absolutely. But I don’t think it says in any way that his parents care more about his sister and less about him. To me, the fiancé’s parents are not being unfair towards him or even sexist; they’re just reacting to the world as they believe it works (e.g. brides’ families pay for weddings, therefore let’s save for our daughter’s wedding but not our son’s).

      To me, an analogy would be college education — parents in the U.S., if they have the financial means, will usually save as much as they can for their children’s college education because that ish is damn expensive here. But in Europe, people don’t do that because in most countries it’s free or very cheap. Does that mean people in Europe don’t love their children or value their education? Of course not, they’ve just been raised to expect that their kids will be able to go to college for free.

      Similarly, in this case the fiancé’s parents have the expectation that their son’s wedding will be paid for by someone else, whereas they will need to pay for their daughter’s wedding. So they saved accordingly. Doesn’t mean they love their son any less or are any less excited about his wedding.

      • Ros

        I didn’t say it MEANT that – but rather, that if he’s furious enough to consider not inviting them, there’s clearly some underlying emotional thing he could probably stand to address. Usually, fights about money aren’t about cash value, they’re about what people feel the money represents.

  • Meredith

    My parents paid for my wedding almost entirely. However, I contributed some, and my in-laws contributed some. When my MIL mentioned the tradition of paying for the rehearsal dinner, I let her know that they didn’t have to pay, and it would probably be easiest to just split costs with my parents at the end (mainly I didn’t want to have to do any planning and coordinating with her). We just had a small, pizza party rehearsal dinner so it was very cheap. The night of, the in-laws ended up picking up the bill for that and they also gave my parents a check to help with costs of the wedding.

    It wasn’t split 50%/50%, but it was better than no contribution! Just speak up (politely) but remember, maybe that’s all they can/want to spend, and a rehearsal dinner is better than no contribution!

  • macrain

    I wonder if “contribute to a rehearsal dinner” means they are paying for the rehearsal dinner!? If so, AWESOME. And that is not nothing! Depending on what you want, rehearsal dinners can be a hefty expense. My parents hosted our rehearsal dinner and it was glorious. Not only did we not have to worry about that expense, but they handled the logistics and when things went seriously haywire with the venue, I didn’t even know about it.
    I’m not sure that’s what she means, but given her future in laws have this more traditional take on weddings, I’m hoping so. Future in-laws paying for the cost of the rehearsal dinner sounds pretty sweet to me.

  • A

    When I was a teenager, my parents told me they’d been setting aside money since I was born for my wedding. Not my brother’s, just mine. It’s a tidy sum of money – not deposit on a house money, but “could easily cover a budget wedding” or “could buy a new house” money. We actually got into a massive fight about it, once. It felt really strange and conditional and insulting that if I did this one specific thing, I’d be financially helped out, but if I chose never to get married and wanted to start a business, for example, I would never see that money, and my brother didn’t get anything. It wasn’t about the money, it was about the principle. Now that I’m an adult and less hormonal I try to see it from my parents’ point of view. In setting up that fund in the late 80s, they were just doing what was a normal part in those days of caring for your baby daughter. When I do get married, I don’t know if I’ll accept the money. It still feels really weird to me. But this is just to say – I understand where his parents are coming from, even if I don’t agree. It’s what the rules were when they became parents, and they played their part by setting aside money for the sister. Now unbeknownst to them the rules have changed/the rulebook has gone out the window, and they need to catch up – but they should be caught up with understanding and grace.

    • A

      (To clarify – when I say they need to be caught up, I don’t mean they need to pay for anything, just that they need to catch up to the fact that those traditions aren’t really relevant anymore. They definitely don’t have to pay for anything and I’m a little confused as to why your fiance would be threatening not to invite them because of this????)

    • suchbrightlights

      My mother did the same thing for my sister and me, and I also had some feelings about it. It was very important to her that she contribute financially to our wedding. I think your framing of “this is how many parents of that generation cared for their baby daughter” is helpful here.

      My mom also expected that my husband’s parents would be paying for our rehearsal dinner, which they were not interested in doing. (They did not contribute to the wedding directly, as is their prerogative, and gave a very generous gift. I couldn’t say whether this was gender-based as their contribution to their daughter/my SIL’s wedding was none of my business… and I wouldn’t even want to know, because there was a certain level of “is your son’s excitement about his wedding actually important to you?” going on in my head about a couple of things leading up, and it’s better for my blood pressure if I don’t go there.) Mom in turn was a little put out that while It Was Very Important To Her To Pay For The Wedding, it was not very important to them to pay for the rehearsal dinner and uphold “their end of the tradition.” So this one might go both ways.

      • A

        That’s the thing about this tradition – it relies on other people caring about it and following it too. (and I guess also relies on cis men who fall in love with other cis men just…not having weddings??? And transgender women’s parents being psychic?) Like it’s all very well to say, “This is just what people did back when we became parents”, but if your son’s future wife, assuming he’s straight, doesn’t have parents who chose or were able to participate in this tradition, the whole thing falls to shit. It’s not a great system, ultimately. But in the 80s, before same-sex marriage, before a lot of the great work on transgender awareness was happening, before the culture of marriage got really reworked and people started marrying a lot later and living together beforehand as the norm, and back when this is Just What People Did, all the flaws in the system just wouldn’t have occurred to a lot of people. Of course our son’s going to marry a woman and of course her parents will have money put aside for their wedding! Who else would pay for it? What else would happen?

        • suchbrightlights

          Right, and somebody downthread said that this might be one of those things that gets better generationally, and I think that person is correct. In a lot of ways my mom is doing the right things on questioning whether “the way it’s always been” is equitable and kind, and in behaving according to the answers she finds for herself. But, in her head, provisioning my sister and me for our weddings was Her Responsibility As A Parent of Daughters, and not to do so would have been failing her children. It was part of how she would celebrate our marriage and send us out into the world with love (never mind that I flew the nest 10 years ago.) It was a parental duty and joy for her, one that she felt my in-laws were abrogating by not finding the rehearsal dinner important as a way to provide for their son. It felt very personal, and revisiting it would have meant reevaluating what it looks like to be a good mother of women. And I think she’d have saved up to throw a lovely rehearsal dinner for a son, and offered a certain amount towards the wedding for that son, but the wedding would have been icing to her whereas the rehearsal would have been the cake.

          Now, I’m a bi woman and I absolutely think that she’d have made the same financial provision had I married a woman and would have felt the same way about the in-laws if they’d made the same decision about not contributing financially towards the wedding, so at least in that sense she’s trying. Traditional cultural behaviors around showing love and acknowledging value have so much self and community meaning that they take a lot of introspection to change. Not saying that we should throw up our hands and wait on the next generation to be marginally better than we are, but challenging this with understanding and grace, as you say, is the best tack to take.

  • Rebekah Jane

    Oh, wow. That’s me and my mom in the header photo!

    Hire Raven, guys. She’s amazing!

    And now back to your regularly scheduled comments.

  • Pingback: Is It Sexist That My In-Laws Expect MY Parents to Bankroll Our Wedding? - Everything For Brides()

  • Julia

    I faced this same issue but in the other direction. My family is Chinese, and in Chinese tradition it’s the groom’s family who pays for the entire wedding. This tradition is rooted in just as much sexism as the American tradition of having the bride’s family pay. The concept is that once married, the bride now “belongs” to the groom’s family so paying for the wedding (and other things as well, like the couple’s house) is basically how the groom’s family “buys” the bride.

    At first my mother seemed willing to be open-minded (and my husband and I were paying for the wedding ourselves anyways) but it soon came out that she was very, very hurt that my in-laws hadn’t offered to pay for our entire wedding. To her, this was a huge insult and showed that they didn’t value me as a daughter-in-law.

    No amount of logic worked here — no matter how much I pointed out the fact that they had always been extremely nice to me and welcoming of me, that this tradition was sexist and bullshit anyways, it didn’t make a difference. Despite being a modern woman who subverts the patriarchy in many ways with her own life choices, she just had this deep-seated idea that groom’s families are supposed to pay for weddings, and she was upset that the world was not unfolding according to this script.

    In the end we just had to let her have her feelings. Now, 5 years later, she has a very good relationship with my in-laws and this whole thing has been I think more or less forgotten. Time (and grandchildren) heal many wounds!

    • PeaceIsTheWay

      As I read the letter, I was actually doing the thought experiment of “what if this cultural norm were the opposite, and fiancé’s parents had saved for their son’s wedding, but not their daughter’s?” Or, what if they offered to pay a son’s way through college and totally supported a daughter’s education, except financially, and thought her husband’s family should pay for her school? Not okay, obviously, and I think the expectation that parents pay more for a daughter’s wedding is also not okay, though in the context of fighting the patriarchy it’s not my hill to die on. In general, if you’re treating your kids exactly the same regardless of gender, then you’re supporting gender equality. I tend to view ‘separate but equal’ ideas around gender with the same amount of skepticism as that BS around race.

      • Jess

        I think there’s some balance in the idea of being equitable vs equal in raising kids.

        I went to 5 years of university and lived in a relatively expensive housing market during that time. My brother went to a trade program and lived in a relatively cheap housing market.

        The theme is that my parents planned and were willing to assist both of us in training for and starting careers, and while the dollar amounts may not be perfectly balanced, if my brother had wanted a different path it could have been.

        In the same way, my parents offered to pay for a lot of my wedding expenses (I did not know this was a thing they were planning to do until they offered). I would hope that if or when my brother gets married, they would offer to do the same for him. We may end up having different expenses for weddings, he may not be willing to take them up on it, his potential future spouse’s family may make a similar offer.

        My brother is currently renting a house that my parents own. He pays them, but at a rate that is probably less than market value. They are putting in renovations that they probably wouldn’t do for a different renter. I do not do this, but my parents have offered to help with a down payment when/if I buy a house. I probably won’t take them up on it, but they have offered something towards my housing in the same way they have offered and are giving it towards my brother.

        TL:DR- if the same kind of offer is extended in both cases for the same category of thing, I’m ok with what may end up being different values of the thing.

  • ManderGimlet

    I think there were a lot of assumptions made based on tradition on all sides (the expectation that any of your parents would be helping to finance the wedding at all, for example) and the advice is spot on. Take a step back, contextualize their words within their behavior (clearly they are very excited and supportive of your marriage), reevaluate your own expectations, realize that because they are not your parents that you do not necessarily have an emotional baseline for their values. Talk to them! You have no idea what their expectations are, you haven’t even had a direct conversation about this. This is a high emotion time, so give yourself time to find your empathy before reacting. Also, keep a close eye on the “cutting people out” stuff. What if roles were reversed? What if his parents offered to pay half of all expenses, whatever they may be, and your parents offered $2k, max? How would you handle that news, what involvement would you decide that amount was “worth”?
    This is a great opportunity for you you and your husband to talk about these types of family stresses, obligations, and differences that will only get bigger and more complicated in the future. Score-keeping is impossible when loved ones are in real need, so keep the big picture in mind when planning for the joyous days and the annoyances they still bring..

  • jl

    My dad is a very egalitarian kind of parent, even though in my families culture it is customary for the groom’s side to pay for most of the wedding. My dad had prepared to contribute financially to both my brothers and me. If he had been operating from a very Chinese centric cultural lens then it would’ve been a very interesting conversation with my Caucasian Husband’s family since their perspective is the bride pays for most of it. Money, expectations and culture make the finances/planning part tricky. Wishing you the best LW in your planning process!!

  • Fushigidane

    My husband’s mother asked me if my parents were paying for the wedding. I answered no. She exclaimed that the bride’s side pays and I told her the groom’s side pays in my culture and she answered that we were in America. I simply stated well that’s how it is, shrugged and let it hang. A few weeks later each set of parents volunteered an amount of money without any prodding so that conversation ended well.

  • Mooza

    I disagree with this advice. Why not talk to them? If we’re giving them the benefit of the doubt, then maybe they actually don’t understand how expensive weddings have become and think it’s on par with rehearsal dinners.
    Ignore what they said as they said it to your fiance, not you. Approach them (together) with concrete plans and an estimated budget, state as fact that your parents can only contribute X, Y, Z amount, and ask them if and how much are they planning to contribute to make up the difference. If they say – oh, we expected your parents to pay for it all, explain that that’s not how things are done where you come from, and that your parents are unable to do that, but if they cannot contribute you understand – you just may have to cut the guest list (their side…) or cut back on other things.
    Perhaps when reality hits them in the face, they will change their minds about “tradition” as it seems they are supportive and excited about this wedding, and want the best for you. Maybe just a tiny bit misguided/selfish. At least – it’s worth a shot before giving up on this, and them.

  • Jan

    We had his exact thing happen, and it was such a bizarre thing to me. I didn’t care about the money piece, it was just such a random thing to be traditional about. The thing that sucked, however, was that my in-laws are quite wealthy and my own parents are lower middle class at best and it felt like a weird power play. I never mentioned it to my parents (who would have been mortified at not being able to contribute but knowing it was expected of them). We just decided to plan a wedding my then-fiancé and I could pay for ourselves.

    In the end, his parents did end up contributing, after they threw a fit that we were serving heavy apps instead of a sit-down dinner. We ended up at, “You want a dinner? You’re paying for it.”

    If I could go back in time knowing what I now know, I would have never approached them about money and just planned the more affordable wedding (that was actually more in line with what we hadn both originally envisioned) from the start. WITH heavy apps.

  • Staria

    This is good advice. I feel you, I was in a similar situation. My attitude was, I will ask nicely if my parents want to contribute financially, my partner will ask his parents, and we will accept whatever they say gracefully. Because no one was really saying anything about money, but it’s a wedding, right? The one time when people may want to contribute financially. I just needed to know so I could plan. Also, we had sort of organised to use his family’s wedding venue, but no one had really organised it properly, so I needed to know if his mum wanted to charge us venue fees, celebrant fees, some nominal fee, anything, and I’d been planning to offer to pay for a cleaner. Anyway. My parents said they would like to contribute to one of our largest expenses, the catering. My partner threw an absolute fit and was highly offended at the thought of asking his parents for money and said it was a massive deal since they were offering us the venue for free… which no one ever told me. I ended up having to pay for a bunch of things which a venue would normally cover last minute because his parents didn’t organise them like I thought they would and I’d been terrorised into not asking anyone simple questions about money. The kicker is, my parents don’t have a lot of money, and scrimped and saved, and his parents are very well off, and basically organised AND paid for his sister’s wedding. So it was really confusing as to why everyone was so offended, when I footed the majority of the cost for the wedding and never expected otherwise. It speaks to a broader pattern over time though where his parents give heaps of financial and other assistance to his sisters, offer to my partner but don’t follow through – they REALLY have this idea that he doesn’t need it because he’s male. I spend a lot of time chanting ‘not my money, not my money’ but it is hard to have it rubbed in your face (this carries on to help for their kids, holidays etc).

  • Christine

    Weddings are still extremely sexist. This same situation happened to me (and fiance’s family was 4x the size of mine). They paid for the rehearsal dinner, and that was it (but wanted to control the wine choices, guest list, etc.). It was very awkward, and there is still resentment years later. We’re not close, and it’s mostly due to hurt feelings on both sides and miscommunication. God speed.

  • deislily

    Ya know, I’ve been married almost 7 years, and I’m *still* annoyed that my husband’s parents contributed nothing to our wedding costs. My MIL offered to pay for the rehearsal dinner, but when I told her we weren’t having one, there went that. I really hate that so many worthy wedding-related traditions have gone by the wayside (there was a time before every engagement ring had to be a diamond! read “Anne of the Island”!) but we’re still clinging to this gender-based payment split.