Talking about money is uncomfortable.
Talking about large sums of money is excrutiatingly painful.
Talking to your parents about the specific amount of money they can afford to spend on your wedding and still retire as planned would have you choosing to perform surgery on yourself without anesthetic instead.
I got married young – two weeks after graduating from college, to be exact. Our wedding was a relatively simple affair that took place on my father-in-law’s property. We had very few requests, and much of what got incorporated into the ceremony and celebration were our parents’ ideas (they would just call and announce that they’d hired a string quartet or a band, for example).
As a result, we took to viewing the financing of our wedding like this: If you really feel it’s important to have a pastry table, mom, then you can foot the bill for it. And they did. In hindsight, I think they all realized they got away with a pretty inexpensive soiree, and that most of the frills brought to the occasion were hired by them, not requested by us (that’s a whole ‘nother post subject).
My brother’s wedding was not so simple. He married a girl in a ginormous, expensive, real-life version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. There was caviar. And carving stations. And that wasn’t even dinner. (My husband thought that the reception room we entered with two carving stations, two (open) bars and 24 feet of hors d’oeuvres was dinner, so he gorged himself. He was shocked when we were ushered into a second room and seated for a plated dinner.)
The reception required my brother’s new father-in-law to take a second mortgage on his house.
Was it worth it? I would say no. It was great, don’t get me wrong. It was a rare treat for 90% of the guests. But I couldn’t imagine putting my parents in a position to leverage their home in order to grant my every desire. Seems a wee bit selfish. I mean, we are talking about folks who are a stone’s throw from retirement.
Which brings me to the point of this post.
Before being swept away by every whim and signing contracts, have a conversation with your parents about what they are comfortable spending on Your Day – if anything. (The Plunge has a really good article about approaching the subject without hurting feelings and stepping on pride.)
It might shock you, but your parents may not have stashed money away for your wedding like they did for college. As a parent myself, I can attest that we strive to provide every thing our kids want, so it may seem like we’re a fountain of never-ending cash, but it all comes at a trade off. The odds are better-than-good that financing your wedding is going to be a game of robbing Peter to pay Paul for your folks.
To steal a line from The Goonies:
Your parents want the best of stuff for you. Especially on your day, they really, really want to give you every whim and trinket. But instead of greedily just accepting all the goodwill, take a step back and remember that the money they spend may be coming from Peter – aka credit cards, retirement funds, the value of their home.
Do you really want to be saddled with the knowledge that this one day means your dad will have to work another five years? I didn’t think so.
There’s nothing wrong with weddings on a budget. In fact, sometimes the classiest weddings we see all season are the ones on the lower end of the budget scale…it doesn’t make them any less precious or memorable.
P.S. Not intended to be a buzz-kill, but to underscore the importance of this issue – my brother and his Big Fat Greek wife got divorced earlier this year. I’m sure her dad is still paying off the second mortgage. So as not to leave you on a negative note, my husband and I just celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary.