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Today's Budget Realities

If your daughter is earning more money than you ever dreamed she would, should you still be expected to pay for her wedding? And what about the groom's parents? Wouldn't it be ideal if the two families could come together and agree to divvy up the final bill? It would certainly lighten your financial load, and it would also allow the groom's family to get involved in the planning of the wedding. Fortunately (for you), the realities of who pays for what in a typical wedding are not always bound by tradition.
Common Sense Today, more couples are waiting until they're a bit older and established in their careers before they get married. Where once a bride was either fresh out of college or even younger when she took her wedding vows, it's more likely these days to see a bride who has been out in the real world, earning some real bucks for quite some time. As a result, she can afford to contribute extensively to her own wedding — or perhaps (along with her fiancĂ©) even pay for the entire thing. Your parents may have scrimped and saved for your wedding — but it doesn't have to be that way for today's brides.
Alert You shouldn't feel guilty about your daughter paying for her own wedding. It's not a matter of what you're not doing for her — it's what she's able to do for herself, which is exactly the way women of her generation have been raised to think. You will be able to help in other ways during the planning process.
Another bonus for a bride who has the money to spend on her own wedding is that she can either go all out and plan an extravagant affair or go to the other extreme and plan a very simple affair. Whatever the case, if the bride and groom are bound and determined to pay for most of this wedding by themselves, don't wallow in guilt. If you want to offer them a contribution, they may accept it or they may refuse it. Don't push the issue. You don't want to end up fighting over expenses.
One Big Happy Planning Session What about the bride and groom who are able to pay for part of the wedding, but who are also expecting some help from one or both sets of parents? How do you go about splitting the bill three ways? Does it have to be exactly even? Who takes the initiative on which parts? First off, you need to know if the groom's parents are even interested in making a major contribution to the wedding. You will not call and ask the groom's parents; it's up to your daughter and her fiancé to take care of these arrangements. Then, several situations present themselves:

  • You and the groom's family can simply hand your wedding contributions to the bride and groom, and the kids can go ahead and plan their wedding.

  • The groom's family might agree to pay for certain aspects of the wedding (for example, they might want to pay for the bar bill and the limousine — or any other expense of their choice).

  • You might go ahead and plan the entire wedding and then accept payment from the bride and groom and/ or the groom's family.

  • What happens in the end will be the result of who trusts whom and who feels comfortable doing what. In other words, if you and the groom's family barely know one another, don't expect them to hand you a check for several thousand dollars a whole year before the reception.
    Did Someone Say Happy? Alas, what happens when three different parties converge in an attempt to pull off the wedding of everyone's dreams? Sometimes, the end result is a fairytale wedding; other times, the planning process is so nightmarish that the bride and groom wish they had eloped. Your role as MOB, you'll remember, is to help your daughter. You're trying to help her pull off the wedding she wants. The groom's family, however, may not be in touch with this minimum standard of conduct, and if they're pitching in on the event, they may just feel as though they've been given the green light to do whatever they want.
    Essential Try not to judge the groom's family — or their intentions — too harshly. Everyone has different tastes. As long as they mean well, find a way to work it out without establishing a lifetime of hard feelings between the two families.
    While it's very difficult to set ground rules for adults who are laying their own money down on the table in an effort to assist in the planning and lessen the financial strain on your pocketbook, it is possible to be tactful about the whole situation.
    The Rules of Planning So, how does one diplomatically dictate the terms of planning? Very carefully. Your job here is to stay out of the head planner's seat, even if you really are the one who is doing all the legwork and making all the calls for your daughter. The bride and groom are the ones who need to express their wants and needs to his parents. After all, the money the groom's parents are handing over is really a gift to the happy couple — it doesn't belong to you, per se, even if its real purpose is to alleviate your financial burden.
    You really shouldn't get involved in this particular matter until the bride gives you the go-ahead. (Hopefully, she will have made the first foray into the topic with her future in-laws already.) Once the bride and groom have some idea of where his family stands on the issue of money as it relates to this wedding, they can either give you the go-ahead to contact the future in-laws, or they'll let you know that you're on your own.

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