Most parents want to do everything they possibly can for their children. This often includes paying for their wedding. It’s wonderful if your parents can write a check for ten or fifteen or twenty or thirty thousand dollars (or, yes, sometimes even more) without some mental preparation. Most can’t. That’s a lot of money for most families. We need to work up to it. It takes some planning. At the very least, They may need to move some money around. The morning of the day in which you’d like them to start writing checks is not the best time to introduce the topic.
Many families have difficulty discussing money – my parents certainly did – and all the more so when there are lots of emotions involved. Take those things, add the element of significant quantity (the cost of a car, more or less) and urgency, and the possibility exists for world-class stress. Which is, truly, avoidable. Here are some ways to avoid angst in the family:
1. Get the numbers. Have a good idea of what your wedding is likely to cost, at least within a range. I have this kind of discussion all the time with couples. I’ve developed a Cost Estimate Worksheet that we work through together, detailing out the fixed and variable costs so they have a good idea of the overall cost of their wedding. This is something worth doing with a local expert in the wedding industry. Not only does seeing the numbers on paper help you understand the costs, it also helps the stress melt away. Decisions become easier when the unknowns become knowns. Most local wedding professionals should be able to give you a ballpark idea of your overall costs based on asking you a few questions and their knowledge of the business.
2. Sort out your guest list to within, say, ten people. The sooner you’re able to do this, the better. The size of your guest list has a significant bearing on cost and guides the venue-selection process. Also, avoid the common thinking that 20% of your guest list will decline your invitation. Even if that happens, you won’t know until a month or less before your wedding. Expect everyone you invite to attend, and budget accordingly.
3. Know the time line. About half of your money is spent in the first few months of planning, in the form of deposits. Moreover, the two expenses that are commonly the largest, venue and catering, are the first to come up. You need to know not only how much money you have available overall but when it is available to you. A good chunk of it needs to be accessible as soon as you’re ready to sign contracts.
4. Start the whole discussion early. Parents, and especially fathers, who haven’t been involved in wedding planning in a while may need some education about why you need to know a year in advance of your wedding exactly how much support they plan to offer. So start educating your parents early on – which is to say, well before the day upon which you’d like them to write the first check – about the costs of putting on a wedding and reception nowadays. Most parents of couples getting married today were married on the order of thirty years ago. Things cost less back in the twentieth century. Make that doubly so if their marriage took place in a small town in, well, anywhere.
Your wedding planning can be stress-free, with family harmony. The wedding planning process is meant to be fun and exciting. Educating everyone involved, including yourself, early on can make a huge difference in your happiness.
—David Egan, Steward of the Castle at Chase Court
P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this!