Money is one of the most difficult things to talk about, so how do you handle it when your parents contribute to or even pay for your wedding? We asked celebrity wedding planner Mark Niemierko, who has plenty of experience dealing with a wide roster of clients, how to tackle the tricky issue of paying for your wedding and balancing parental input. He answers some FFAQs (financial frequently asked questions) surrounding wedding planning and parents…
As the bride, does tradition still apply when it comes to my parents paying for the wedding?
Yes, it still does apply, but not massively nowadays. It depends on the couple’s financial situation; many couples today are financially independent and don’t necessarily need their parents to help them fund their wedding, but quite often the bride’s family will still contribute to or pay for a substantial item, such as the wedding dress.
It does depend on the situation – I have a very wealthy client and I did his daughter’s wedding for them. He said he couldn’t wait until his other daughter got engaged and I could plan her wedding. When I asked about his son, he said he wouldn’t be paying for his son’s wedding but that his son’s partner’s family would be paying. Simply adhering to tradition!
If my parents contribute, does this mean they get a say in the wedding planning?
Yes, definitely. You should involve your parents on some scale! A wedding is about you, and essentially you are you because of your parents and your upbringing.
I love it when my clients involve their parents – I love meeting the parents! You get to know more about a person when you know their parents and this helps to create a more personal feel to the wedding. You are creating a celebration of two families, so it should be about those families.
However, if you want to have control a good way to manage parental involvement is to give them choices. Invite your mum to the menu tasting, but decide ahead what you’re going to try. Say you want to have beef – have two beef dishes on the menu and let your mum decide between the two. That way they’re getting a say but you’re happy with the outcome.
My parents have offered to pay for the wedding but now they want a say over the guest list. Is this fair?
This one is about compromise. I’ve had clients who have wanted to invite all their business associates and everyone who has ever invited them to a wedding to their daughter’s wedding, but the bride and groom don’t know any of these people.
An intimate wedding of around 30 to 50 people can have the best atmosphere as everyone knows everyone and it creates the best feeling. If your parents have a list of people to invite that you don’t know, explain how much it will cost for their meal and the bar costs – this may cool their enthusiasm.
If not, another alternative is to have two celebrations. This works well if you have family in another country you’re not close to, for example. Have your intimate wedding with your guest list, but throw another wedding celebration where your parents can invite their guests.
Is there a way I can accept a financial contribution towards my wedding from my parents without relinquishing control of the wedding planning?
This is a hard thing to say. To say to your parents, ‘I don’t want any input from you’, well I think it’s quite sad. And the thing is, if you say no to someone about anything they will then want it more.
I’d suggest finding ways to involve your parents, as they are a big part of you. It’s a bold statement to not want them involved in your wedding planning decisions. I think it comes back to those preconceived ideas created by the media, of the demanding bridezilla and the interfering mother of the bride. Just because these are characters you’ve seen it doesn’t mean you have to or will live up to that stereotype.
Is it really that bad to involve your parents in the wedding planning? Alleviate those preconceptions and allow them to be involved in some way.
How do I say – or can I say – thank you for paying but this is how we want it and that’s how we’re having it?
A good parent will understand that this is their child’s wedding and they will want to make their own decisions. A good adult child will understand their parents still want to be involved and will say ‘I’d still love your input.’
The key is to find a way to honour your parents. One of my couples stayed in the honeymoon suite at Claridges, as this is where their parents had their wedding reception. They didn’t want their own reception there but still wanted to continue the Claridges tradition.
You can do this on a smaller scale by making them feel involved without having their direct input. From wearing your mother’s wedding dress (or even choosing a similar design or having a swatch of their fabric used) to even just opting for the same cake filling, it’s a way to honour them (and even your grandparents) and create new family traditions. Ask them what they did at their wedding for ideas as a way to cushion the blow that you don’t want their direct input.
What is the best way to keep the peace whilst planning a wedding my parents have contributed to?
Just involve them. A great task for the mother of the bride is to direct the RSVPs to her – she can record the RSVPs and feel like she’s helping with the planning. Also, don’t forget the mother of the groom. The mother of the bride gets attention for her outfit, the father of the bride gives his daughter away and makes a speech – the mother of the groom can be a little left out.
A good way to include her is to organise professional hair and makeup for her too on the morning of the wedding, even if it’s in her own room to give the bride the space she needs to get ready on the morning of the wedding.
Your parents are really important – not to be too dark, but they won’t be around forever so don’t push them out of your planning. Even if your parents are no longer around, there are still plenty of ways to include them and honour them at your wedding.
To find out more about Mark and the fabulous weddings he plans, visit his website.
If you are having help from the parents when it comes to your wedding budget, check out our traditional guide to who pays for what to help you understand the breakdown of the costs.