Wedding planning can be stressful, especially when it comes to conversations about money. If you and your partner are financing all the festivities, you have complete control over how the celebrations look. But when there are other sources of money, specifically if it’s your parents or in-laws, the dynamic can get more complicated. While some parents see financing a wedding as a no-strings-attached gift, others want a say in some (or all) of the details of the event.
Navigating these family dynamics can be confusing and stressful, so to help you get through them in one piece we turned to Landis Bejar, therapist and founder of AisleTalk, a service that provides therapy specifically for wedding planning. She gave concrete advice on how to talk about money, the expectations that surround it, and what to do if a conflict arises.
Meet the expert
Landis Bejar is a licensed therapist in New York City and the founder of AisleTalk, therapy specifically for wedding planning.
How much do your parents (or in-laws) earn?
Having your in-laws or parents pay for your wedding is a wonderful gift. It means that they are supporting your union and want to help celebrate the beginning of your life as a couple. It’s also nice to have another party help pay for what can be an expensive affair of course! But having a funder can also invite complicated power dynamics. If your parents or in-laws are paying, they may be hoping to have a say in what happens on your big day.
You may be wondering: how much they say they get Béjar says that, of course, the answer varies. “This is really unique to each family,” she says. “It’s usually uncharted territory for both couples and parents.” For some parents, paying for a wedding is equivalent to giving a generous gift; they don’t expect anything in return. For other parents, however, paying for the wedding means it’s their event, too, and so they’ll want a say in matters big or small.
Bejar said it’s important to approach this budget conversation up front, so you have a clear picture of the situation. “Start by talking openly about what it means to contribute financially to a wedding,” he says. “Ask your parents directly about their expectations of how much power and control they expect to have in decision-making as the payers for the event. Whether the expectation is that they have a say in all things, nothing, or some things, you want to know this ahead of time and try to have the conversations early before more emotions are invested,” he adds. “Most likely, they haven’t even thought about this consciously. By asking directly, you’re giving everyone involved a chance to reflect on how they’d ideally like this process to look, rather than ending up in an unanticipated situation and financially motivated. struggle for power, which is not pleasant for anyone”.
Having this information early can also help you make a decision about how you want to proceed. “In certain cases, learning that strained family dynamics will be the secondary cost of a lavish wedding paid for by the parents is a reason to sacrifice some or all of the contribution in favor of footing the bill themselves, having something more modest, keep the family.” peace and maintaining creative control,” says Bejar.
How to approach budget conversations with your parents or in-laws
There are steps you can take to keep these conversations running smoothly for everyone.
Have the initial conversation about money in person
“For better or worse, money, when applied to weddings, is often emotionally charged,” says Bejar. “Any emotionally charged conversation is best had in person, where you can get the full picture of someone’s communication and feeling, rather than relying on interpretations that can come from not being able to see body language, facial expressions, or tone.” from a person through e-mail or other means”. It may seem easier to text or email, but that could lead to problems later on.
Have the money talk early
“It’s better to know what you’re dealing with early, rather than when you’ve started paying for things or become emotionally involved in the planning process or the items that these finances cover,” says Bejar. Again, knowing the situation you are dealing with will help you figure out how to proceed. It may not be worth the money for you if you want total control over your wedding.
Normalize talking about money
“Bring it up to parents or family members as a normal topic of conversation,” suggests Bejar. “Plan a regular ‘wedding party’ where budget and budget status are not taboo phrases, but a regular part of the dialogue. Use normalizing language like, ‘let’s talk budget!’ instead of going round and round on the subject.
ask don’t tell
“No one likes to be told what to do, especially parents by their children and especially not about the large sums of money they are expected to spend on a special day,” says Bejar. He opens with questions like “Can you help us with the cost of the wedding?” or “Did you have a budget in mind or specific items you’d like to contribute to?”
“Have a little deference here,” adds Bejar. “After all, it is a generous gift, not a birthright. This approach allows parents want to contribute and not feel like an ATM.
“Even with the clearest or most concise plan, these are not one-time conversations,” Bejar says. Many times weddings end up being more expensive than previously thought. So be prepared to revisit the topic and have open and honest conversations with your family about who pays and what this means for all parties involved.
What to do if a conflict occurs
Even if you follow all of these tips, you may still encounter some conflict. Money, after all, is a complicated subject for everyone. If things heat up, Bejar recommends taking a break. “If he anticipates that a conversation like this will be difficult, you can also make sure you have ‘scripts’ on hand for the need to take a break or communicate to your partner that he needs to get away so they can help advocate for it.” she said. “Something simple like, ‘We seem to be on different pages on this and I feel like this is taking a negative turn. Let’s pause the conversation here, we’ll all sleep on it and try to talk about it more.
Use the break to reflect on what made you feel motivated and what you want to say to your parents or in-laws. If you decide you need to communicate your frustration, Bejar recommends making sure to use I statements to share how someone’s behavior made you feel.
“Finally, a little bit of validation goes a long way,” says Bejar. “If you disagree with the parents, take a few minutes to really try to put yourself in their shoes.” He says things like, “I can understand why you would feel X, based on your perspective.” Showing the other person that you understand how they feel and that you’re not dismissing them can go a long way in changing the tone and helping everyone come to a satisfactory agreement.