Having the Money Talk With Parents

discussing a wedding buget with parents

One bride-to-be asks: How do you ask parents how much they plan to contribute to your wedding? I hate talking about money!

Does it help that you’re in good company? Discussing money matters with parents has filled many a bride and groom with dread. But if you do a little research and discuss the issue with your parents early on in the planning process, it can remove some of the stress from the situation.

Before you talk with the parents about money, get a sense of the cost of the major wedding expenses in your area. You don’t want your parents agreeing to finance a wedding and not understand that weddings cost way more than they used to. For example, just 15 years ago, weddings cost on average $6,000; in 2011 the average wedding costs $26,500.

I wouldn’t bog your parents down with numbers, but I’d give them a brief overview of what you’ve discovered. To start the conversation, tell them you and your fiance(e) have been talking about wedding expenses and you’d love to discuss it with them. Do this in person if possible. Tell them the average cost of a wedding if that helps your cause, a guesstimate of what you think your wedding will cost or what you’re aiming for (emphasize it’s a rough figure — there’s always unforeseen expenses). Give them a breakdown of some of the major wedding expenses, such as catering, the venue or whatever is most important to you. Vendor costs will help them see that you didn’t just pull the numbers out of the air.

In some cases, it may be helpful to provide the range of possible expenses. For example, a friend of mine who is having a wedding in Michigan recently discovered that photographers can cost from $200 to $4,000 plus. The photographer on the lower end of the scale was very inexperienced and didn’t have professional equipment. On the higher end was a very established photographer.  If you’ve check out a few photographers and have discovered that anyone under $1,000 isn’t offering the quality or experience you’re looking for, tell your parents that. But also tell them if you believe spending  more than $3,000 is out of the question. Hopefully, they’ll appreciate your honesty and understand that your decision to look for photographers in the $1,000-$3,000 range isn’t being extravagant and a fair assessment of what you’ll get for the money. If photos are important to you and you’d consider spending more on them but less on something else, say, the meal, say that too.

Once you’ve presented them with whatever version of the above you feel is helpful, then ask them if there’s any part the would like to contribute to. If they offer to help but are vague with the numbers, see if you can get something more solid without being pushy. Say something along the lines of: “Thank you so much for helping us out! But if you could give us a clearer sense of what you’ll be contributing, that would be so helpful when we break down our budget by vendor this weekend.” Btw, timelines always help. If you leave it at, “Get back to us whenever,” you’ll likely put yourself in a position where you’ll have to ask them about money again. (As if it wasn’t hard enough the first time!) If they’re not ready to commit — and that’s fair, maybe they need to crunch some numbers — either suggest a time for reconvening or ask when they think they can get back to you.

You also could ask whether they would feel comfortable covering a certain expense, the photographer for example, rather than committing to a specific monetary amount.

Obviously, you have a better sense of how your parents will react than I do, so keep this in mind: What I’ve written above is geared primarily toward pleasant parents who are unaware of the current costs of weddings and may be noncommittal.  Adjust as necessary, and please share any tips you have in the comments!

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