When I think back to my wedding day seven years ago, there are a few things that stand out: I loved my dress, it rained and we got married in a church — because it’s what our parents wanted. We obliged because they were footing the bill, so we felt like we owed it to them.
My husband and I got married fresh out of college. It didn’t make much financial sense, but we’d been dating for eight years and wanted to make things official.
At 22 and 23 years old, my husband and I were younger than the average millennials saying “I do” — 27 for women and 29 for men. However, we weren’t alone in accepting financial help: In fact, parents of the bride and groom foot, on average, 58 percent of the total cost. Despite the fact that millennials are delaying marriage to prioritize financial independence, paying for the entire event is still out of reach for many.
But accepting outside funds can blur the lines of whose event this really is, and it can be difficult to prioritize your own wishes. That’s how we found ourselves getting married in the church where I grew up, despite not feeling a connection to it ourselves.
Luckily, it's possible to appease both parties. Here are some ways to strike a balance between your wedding wishes and those of your parents, or other family members helping to fund the big day.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
The first step in wedding planning is establishing a budget, and discussing it with anyone offering to contribute, said Aleisha McCormack, author and host of the Bridechilla podcast.
“When it comes to contributing funds to your wedding, it’s important to have a conversation about expectations,” McCormack says. “I liken accepting money for your wedding to accepting political donations. There will be people who generously offer money with no requests and others who offer money, but want something in return.”
Although it can be uncomfortable, McCormack suggests asking questions such as, “Is this a contribution to the overall budget, or is there a specific expectation for this contribution?” Being open from the start helps lay the framework for how to proceed with planning.
DESIGNATE FUNDS AND SET BOUNDARIES
One of the best ways to avoid a wedding power struggle is to designate funds for particular areas, said Meghan Brumbley, owner and lead planner at DC Engaged. Whenever someone gives money, they usually feel some ownership in how it’s spent. So, if there’s something you feel super strongly about — like the venue — plan to pay for it yourselves, while making it known what other areas your contributors’ money is going toward.
It’s also important to set boundaries from the beginning — and hold firm, says Hannah Schumm, a wedding planner in Kansas City, Missouri. Discuss with your partner beforehand what your non-negotiables are, make them known to your family and then stay consistent throughout the planning process.
LET THE PROS HELP
Wedding planners and event vendors are familiar with conflicts and can act as an impartial mediator when things get heated, said Taylor Kraai, a wedding planner in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“The vendors you are working with are great at what they do,” she says. “You can use them as a middle man to help your parents understand how excited you are about something and why it is important to you.”
Even if you’re paying for your wedding yourself, you’re likely to still get some unsolicited opinions. Weddings are big life events, and they’re not just about the dress, the party or the cake, but also about blending two families. While your vision is important, it’s also important to consider your loved ones and hear them out — whether or not you decide to act on their wishes.
Personally, I wish my husband and I had waited a few more years to get our finances in order and talked to our parents about what we really wanted. There are certainly things I would change if I were to plan a wedding again, but who I chose as my life partner is not one of them. At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.