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Etiquette: Financing Frustrations

Words by Elaine Hilbelink
Photos courtesy of Gideon Photography

When boundaries are blurred about who will be responsible for the expenses involved, the finances of weddings can become a stress to all of the family and friends participating. The best way to avoid disappointments, misunderstandings and frayed relationships is to communicate clearly ahead of time with all of the stakeholders.

Q: My family and my fiancé’s parents are sharing the cost of our destination wedding, but one family has more expendable income than the other. Is it fair that they have to split the costs equally?

A: Since the bride’s parents typically shoulder the majority of the bridal expenses, you should speak with your parents first and find out what your budget is from them. Your fiancé should separately speak to his parents and find out what they are comfortable spending. As a couple, you will then have an idea of what your total budget is and can plan accordingly, staying within everyone’s level of comfort for spending. Neither side has to know what the other side of the family is spending except for you and your fiancé.

Q: My future mother-in-law agreed to pay for our flowers, but now that the decisions have been made, she says she can’t afford it. How shall I handle this?

A: The best way to avoid a situation like this is to know before your decisions are made what your budget is from the person contributing. Most people are not comfortable permitting ‘carte blanche’ when offering to pay for something. I would ask your mother-in-law now what she is willing to pay toward the flowers since she wanted to be involved in that aspect of the wedding. You then would have a choice of adjusting your expectations down to her budget or making up the difference yourself.

Q: I’m a member of a large bridal party for a friend’s destination wedding. We have been planning the shower and bachelorette party together, but I am having a hard time getting the other girls to pay their fair share. Any suggestions?

A: The best way I have found to deal with this issue is to have another person in the group responsible for collecting the money and keeping track of the expenses…the banker for the group, if you will. In that way, she can call and remind people they need to get their money in and it is not the person to whom the money is owed that is giving the nudge to pay up. Now that the situation is at the point where the collection has started, perhaps send a friendly reminder to everyone (could be in the form of an email) and give specifics on what is owed. Sometimes a friendly note is all that is needed. If they all see who is on the email, they might not want to be “that girl” and have a little extra incentive to pay their portion.

Q: Now that we are engaged, my fiancé and I are having a difficult time agreeing on a budget. I want the wedding of my dreams and a honeymoon, and he does not want to take on any debt. Is there a middle ground?

A: Living within your means and your budget is a lifelong skill that builds a healthy foundation for any marriage. Communicating with your spouse-to-be and the family members who might be contributing to the wedding will give you a baseline budget of what type of wedding and honeymoon you will be able to afford. If you need to take on debt to fulfill your dreams and your fiancé is not in agreement, you will be starting your life together on shaky ground. I suggest you find a compromise, and find it fast.

Clear communication early on with all participants, along with reasonable expectations, can eliminate disgruntled feelings and start your life together with friends and families celebrating in harmony.

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