Ask the Experts: Do the Parents of the Bride Still Pay for the Wedding?

by Marta
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Dear Panel,
My sister and I both got engaged this year.

My parents are happy for both of us, but feel very guilty and even ashamed that their financial situation doesn't allow them to pitch in to help fund our ceremonies or receptions. In their view, it is the bride's side of the family that pays for the wedding. I know that isn't the case these days, but it is ingrained in them so much that they just feel bad about not having more to give.

Is there anything I can say to help them feel better? Are there any statistics on weddings that show a downward trend in brides' families paying for the event? Any ancient ceremonies I can point to where the bride and groom must prove that they can fend for themselves? Any personal experiences with this? It is painful to hear my mom cry about something that I can't help, and I'd really like her to be able to focus on the happiness of the events rather than her perceived shortcomings.
Thanks,

Brandi from All Events Planned says:
It’s wonderful that your parents want to help you. The fact that they are not able to, doesn’t change their importance to you or to your wedding day. If you could you let your mother know that, it might help her feel better. Also, you should let her know that her disappointment and sadness are making it hard for you to enjoy the process. Tell your parents that you want them involved in all the details and the planning and having their time and support will matter more to you than their money.

After 10 years of planning weddings, I have ended up only having a handful of weddings paid for by the parents. The reason why parents, typically, pay for the wedding is so the event can be used as a social event for them as well. Paying for the event allows the parents to invite all of their friends and family (and work associates) to the wedding day. These days, weddings are no longer a time for the parents to show off their children, it is more just a celebration of the love between the two people. The love between you and your fiancé is what you want to celebrate, not how many people you can squeeze into a ballroom.

You can’t change their disappointment but you can include them, so that they can enjoy what you are doing. If they really aren’t able to enjoy the process because they are too devastated by their financial situation, then they will then be missing out on your event, for reasons that can’t even be changed.

Jeff from Blackbird Images says:
First I think it’s awesome that you empathize with your parents; lots of couples seem to feel entitled to a “dream” wedding regardless of their parents’ (or their own) financial abilities.

I’m not sure there is anything you can say that will completely change how they feel. Parents want to make their kids happy. Parents want to provide for their kids. It’s what we do. It’s what we care about most. So the thought that they can’t do something for you they would love to do is both heartbreaking and understandable. What you can do is say, “Mom, I’ve never wanted an expensive wedding. I just want my family and friends around me as I celebrate my marriage. You and dad made me the person I am today; I could never ask for anything more from you. My only dream is to have a wonderful day and see that everyone is happy for us – as long as that happens, that’s all I need.”

Not perfect – but if you say something along those lines with sincerity, and never give your parents reason to feel you’re upset they didn’t contribute more… it will all work out. Families are forever, and time will smooth things over.

OneWed’s Wedding Maven says:
Here’s the statistic that you’re looking for, according to Get Married Media, 92% of today’s couples pay for some portion of their weddings themselves.

Is there any part of your wedding that your mother can take charge of? For example, is there a DIY project she could do, or is there other planning help she can give? Giving her a job may help make her feel more like she’s contributing to the wedding.

However, you and your sister should also keep a close eye on your mom’s behavior. If the crying over things is normal behavior for your mom (let's face it, for some moms turning on the waterworks it the go to method for getting what they want), then at some point you may want to try and talk to her and explain that it’s preventing you from enjoying your engagement and she needs to knock it off.

But, if this is new or unusual behavior then you should take it seriously. If your parents are having financial problems, then her crying may have less to do with your weddings, and more with general feelings of depression. She’s struggling financially, and her two daughters are exhibiting their independence at the same time. This is a difficult time for her and it’s likely that she’s becoming depressed. If you have any concerns for her safety or health, you should act on them immediately.

About our Experts
Brandi Hamerstone is the owner & senior wedding planner for All Events Planned. In her ten years of experience in the wedding industry, she has planned over 300 weddings.

Jeff Haden is President of BlackBird Images, wedding photographers based in Harrisonburg, VA. Not only is he a well-respected and talented photographer, but has also gained recognition as a ghostwriter.

About the Wedding Maven

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