Q: Dear Jareesa,
My fiancx and I are trying to decide whether to accept his parents’ offer of money. He and I set ourselves a budget for this wedding, made a plan with some money-wise concessions (Durable plates be damned! Come at me Spotify!), and then his parents offered to cover a few specific parts of the wedding, plus quite a bit more money to fill in some gaps.
On principle, my fiancx and I feel a little unsettled about spending this much on a wedding to begin with, and we always assumed we’d pay for most of it ourselves. But we are kinda broke. And I have some other layers of feelings. My family immigrated from one of those countries whose food is suddenly cool now, and his parents are white and upper-middle class. We’re privileged to have family who want to contribute and are able to, though my parents’ financial contribution will be fractional compared to his. Spending and talking about this much money is weird to begin with. Talking about money with future in-laws has been even more new and foreign. Talking about money with rich, white future in-laws when my family and I are coming from a different background is loaded.
Knowing his parents, I don’t believe their money would come with expectations to serve the finest hors d’oeuvres on exquisite china, but they might still have different ideas of what’s necessary than my partner and I, or than my own parents. Honestly, I’m nervous about the power dynamics of rich white people funding our wedding, as I start the rest of my life with a white man, building an interracial family together. But they’ll be my family soon, too.
Is it foolish to turn away their financial help? Is it ethical to take it?
A: Dear anonymous,
After reading your question, my first thought was that you two are overdue for some big picture, dig-deep kinds of conversations.
But before you even broach this subject with your partner, you’ve got to start with yourself. When you get really honest with yourself, how do you feel about differences in background between you and your fiancx’s family? How do you feel about them, specifically? How does their money make you feel about yourself? Are you feeling ashamed, or like you don’t measure up, or are you worried about fitting in and knowing which fork to use?
If you’re feeling any of these things, that’s totally normal. But you need to do the work to figure out what they are projecting on you, versus what may be coming from your own history, fears, and insecurities. All are valid. More than valid. But it’s important to identify which part of the work is yours to do, and which part of it is just their shit—or if you’re projecting assumptions onto yourself, you know?
Then you gotta communicate that to your partner and see where he’s coming from as well. You mention that you and your fiancx feel uneasy about taking money from your in-laws, yet you don’t think they will impose any crazy demands on you. So what is causing the uneasiness? Is it that you just want to retain complete control and pay for everything yourselves? Is it that you feel like your friends will judge you for spending money? It doesn’t matter what the answer is. What matters is that you dig down and figure it out, together.
Because here’s the thing. You’ve gotta get over the uneasiness about talking about money, at least with your partner. Your life together will hopefully be long. And class and money differences are a thing, and they will always be a thing, and you have to be able to have honest conversations at least with your fiancx about money-related matters.
Finally, keep some sage wisdom in mind: don’t borrow trouble. Your in-laws’ offer to help with wedding expenses could just be a gracious, no-strings-attached offer. If they haven’t given you a reason to believe they have ulterior motives or less-than-genuine motivations, don’t go looking for something that isn’t there. Some people just do nice things, and it’s a gracious thing to offer to help you host the wedding that you want. I think as long as you aren’t taking your in-laws’ money as some type of personal reparations fund, you’re ethically in the clear.
—Jareesa Tucker McClure
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