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Would You Pay For An Extravagant Wedding?

October 27, 2010 · 43 comments

in Commentary, Personal Finance

Pretend you are well off and your daughter is about to get married. Would you splurge on an expensive wedding just because you can afford it?

I am asking this question because I was reading a letter that was written to Kiplinger’s the other day.    The letter was written by a ‘rich’ couple, whose daughter just got engaged and was expecting an extravagant wedding.  The parents were not too thrilled because they were frugal at heart, and didn’t see the point in spending a huge amount of money for a wedding.  It was nothing personal, it was just that the daughter and her fiancee were somewhat expecting them to go against their core values by wanting a big, fancy wedding,  and the parents were really struggling with how to handle the situation.  The parents preferred to give a gift that would go towards the couple’s future, or even donate to charity, in lieu of using the money for an expensive wedding.

So what was Kiplinger’s response?  Well, their answer was to instead offer a sizable wedding present (cash) instead, in which the couple could do whatever they want with.  (Including using it to pay for the wedding and honeymoon.  Not sure how this advice is helpful since the end result is the same- the parent’s money may still be used to pay for an expensive wedding.)

I don’t know why, but this just hit me the wrong way. Why does this daughter deserve anything sizable from the parents at all?  She is graduated from college and starting her own life.   Why does she expect anything from her parents?   More importantly, why do the people at Kiplinger’s think the parents should provide money to the daughter too?  I can totally picture this bride wanting a $5000 dress and the finest of everything.  Maybe I am not being fair, but I guess I have never been comfortable with people that feel they are entitled to things.  The parents are ‘rich’ for a reason; they worked hard and saved their money.

What do you think? Should the parents just pony up the cash and tell their daughter to buy what she wants?  Is it possible that the parents never taught their daughter the value of a dollar while growing up, and now they are reaping what they sowed?  Or, has the tradition of the bride’s parents absorbing most the wedding costs caused this expectation?  (By the way, I think this age-old tradition needs to be re-evaluated.  People don’t get married at 18 anymore- most are much older and are established in their career before getting married now.)

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Roshawn @ Watson Inc October 27, 2010 at 6:53 am

That advice was out of line in my opinion. I do think that if you want to provide for your child’s wedding and can afford to, then do it. However, it’s your prerogative, and if a daughter doesn’t know her parents well enough to see how such a request would violate their core beliefs, then I think it perfectly reasonable that they gently and lovingly tell her what they will and will not do. Essentially, the daughter and the Kiplinger author are telling the parents that their “money boundaries” don’t matter. That’s a slippery slope.

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Money Reasons October 27, 2010 at 7:01 am

If the couple are so frugal, how does the daughter even know that they are loaded? I think they aren’t as frugal as they would like us to think they are!

If I were mega rich, I’d be willing to spend some money on my daughter’s wedding. I would want to make it an event that’s not easily forgotten. Not cheezy like the ones on TV mind you…

I guess I would sit down with my daughter (or son) and come to an agreement…

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc October 27, 2010 at 7:26 am

Money Reasons,

Maybe the daughter knows about their finances because they discuss money with the daughter. It sounds like they probably were hoping to instill their same values into their daughter. Hopefully, they also have a backbone to stand up to Kiplinger’s authors. I don’t think that gives the daughter a right to tell them how to spend their money, parents or not. She’s grown and somehow feels “entitled” to what she hasn’t earned. Yuck! BTW, if they want to contribute to this extravagant wedding, by all means do so (just not a requirement or even an expectation, given their values). I just think it should be of their own accord.

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Money Reasons October 27, 2010 at 7:55 am

I went back and read the kiplinger article. Apparently, it’s not just the girl (perhaps she doesn’t even was a lavish wedding), the groom and his rich parents are also involved. The article is brief, but but here’s how this will play out and my take on how the girl thinks.
1.) I think the girl is frugal since she was raised to be so, but as the article says it’s a group decision going on. Perhaps the groom is more demanding (or more likely the groom’s mother). It could even be that the groom is an only child…
2.) Even if the girl’s parents don’t put up the money, I’m pretty sure the grooms parents will… This would, of course, cause family friction, especially with the girls parents being considered cheap etc…
3.) First weddings (not the keyword first lol) are a once in a lifetime occurance (again, in theory) so if you have the means, this is one of those area where spending a bit more is worth it… Why not?

That said, my pet peeve is when families (or couples) go into debt to have a rich wedding, that is a no-no in my book.

I wish they would have provided numbers in the kiplinger article… I’m just guessing about the numbers being throw around…

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Kris October 27, 2010 at 10:26 am

MR – you are right, it is both the daughter and fiancee. Maybe he is pressuring her to get some cash from the parents? Hard to say because it reads to me like she is putting some pressure on herself. I want to smack them both because I am guessing they are both college educated and should be able to pay for a wedding themselves. Anything the parents are willing to contribute should be considered a gift.

I like the part in the article from the mother, who states her daughter, fiancee, and his parents all expect their to be a lavish wedding and honeymoon, but at her and her husband’s expense. I would be pretty offended if that were me too. I am sure we will contribute to my daughter’s wedding one day, but I hope she approaches me first to see what I was thinking in terms of helping with the wedding instead of just assuming I will write a blank check. Maybe it is the presumption that is bugging the brides parents more than paying the money itself?

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Money Reasons October 27, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Yes, I think it would be more appropriate for her to make sure her parents were cool that. If I were her, I would try to paying for it ourselves instead of supposing my parents would pick it up (of course hoping that they would)…

I’m sure when it’s time for my little girl to get married, I’ll try my best to make it as great a time as possible…

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Kris October 27, 2010 at 10:21 am

Shawn – I totally agree. It should be up to the parents to decide how to share their money. Daughter and fiancee need to realize that it isn’t about the party, but about the commitment itself.

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Kris October 27, 2010 at 10:20 am

Well, maybe the parents easily paid for her college or have gone on nice vacations. Or, maybe dad is an exec and everyone knows they have money. Therefore, daughter wants some of cash spent on the wedding. I don’t get that they are mega rich, but who knows.

I have known people that basically got married for the wedding, even though they probably didn’t realize it. One friend of mine designed the wedding cake she wanted and she wasn’t even dating anyone. Maybe the parents want the daughter to marry for the right reasons? Who knows.

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Nicole October 27, 2010 at 8:07 am

I’ll have to go back and read the article, but the comments here with more detail make it sound like a recipe for disaster with the groom’s parents involved. It does not sound like it will be a fun wedding at all. Or make for fun in-laws. Money Reason’s points are good, and Kiplinger’s advice may be the best given that situation if they want to keep peace in the extended family. My husband’s brother was in a similar situation except that the mother of his bride didn’t have any money to put up, and they ended up having to go into debt to please her idea of an ideal wedding day. It was a nightmare and the bride was constantly crying. When any party cares about having a fairy tale wedding, moneyed or not, it always turns out tense and awful for the guests and bride and groom.

Update on my friend in the wedding situation: She never got the courage up to say she didn’t want a huge wedding and her mom is in planning mode. Friend is unhappy and stressed already even though the wedding isn’t until August.

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Kris October 27, 2010 at 10:27 am

Nicole – that sounds like a terrible situation!

I know what you are saying, but it is probably very hard for mom and dad to go against their core values, especially since they are full-grown adults are being pressured to pay for a lavish wedding. I personally think lavish weddings are wholly unnecessary, but maybe that is just me. What will the couple expect next, a down payment on a house?

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The Biz of Life October 27, 2010 at 8:35 am

I don’t believe in extravagant weddings myself, even if you or your parents are loaded. That being said, I don’t have a problem with the advice from Kiplinger and would prefer that approach over blowing a boat-load of money on a one-time event (at least you hope it is one-time). But the decision is ultimately up to the family, and if they want to put on a big show they are free to do that.

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Kris October 27, 2010 at 10:29 am

Biz – I think what bothered me most about Kiplinger’s advice is that it basically ignored the feelings of the parents. What is the difference between paying for the wedding, or giving them a giant check that will ultimately pay for the wedding?

In the end, I think the parents feel pressured to do something they don’t believe in, and they are probably very concerned about their daughter getting involved in a family that has totally different values than them. Maybe they are worried about this wedding taking place period? Hard to know.

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Aloysa October 27, 2010 at 10:26 am

Very interesting… I guess if they want to do it and can afford it without going into debt, then why not? I don’t like big and extravagnat weddings because I always think what matters is what happens after. Luxurious weddings, expensive gifts, outrageous honeymoons do not determine how happy they will be in their marriage.

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Kris October 27, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Aloysa – I think the parents can afford it, but don’t want to spend their money that way. The think is, everyone else wants to spend THEIR money. I would probably take issue with that too! Actually, I guess I already have it isn’t even my money.

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Suba @ Wealth Informatics October 27, 2010 at 11:32 am

I have a post scheduled on this for next week 🙂

Personally if they “expect” they get nothing from me. If they don’t expect and are planning for a small frugal wedding on their own, I will give a very generous gift because I know they will use it well instead of a cake topper with a diamond ring to match the brides ring (I can’t find the link of that, it was outrageously expensive wedding and this was mentioned in a wedding board asking for advice, she is a common person not a celebrity).

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Kris October 27, 2010 at 12:13 pm

I am with you Suba- it is the expectation that set me off from the daughter. The Kiplinger guy also made me mad though because he basically just suggested they cave.

If I saw that cake topper, I would go insane. I would probably take my gift and run out of the reception!

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Invest It Wisely October 27, 2010 at 12:54 pm

I don’t know. I personally don’t believe in extravagant weddings either, and I don’t think the daughter should feel entitled. In fact, should I have a wedding someday, I expect that I will probably pay much of the costs. If the girlfriend’s parent’s chip in then that’s great, but I’m honestly not expecting it, and therefore planning for a nice but not extravagant wedding. 🙂 I won’t impoverish myself over one day when it’s really just a ceremony and what is real is the days and days you spend together. Ceremonies are nice but they shouldn’t cost a fortune.

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Kris October 27, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Kevin – I was thinking of a wedding discussion we had over on the Samurai’s blog when I was writing this. Tips for weddings is coming up next week!

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Crystal @ BFS October 27, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I hate that sense of entitlement! I would say that the parents need to be upfront about their feelings so their daughter understands she’ll need to budget for her own wedding…

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Kris October 27, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Yes the parents should get to speak their mind, instead of just handing over a bunch of cash saying ‘do what you wish, see ya’.

The poor parents are getting ganged up by the future family too (or perceived pressure from them). I would just tell them to elope!

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retirebyforty October 27, 2010 at 2:51 pm

No way! Extravagant weddings are dime a dozen these days. The most memorable wedding I’ve been to is at a small church and the party went back to the house for the rest of the celebration.
Take my opinion with a grain of salt though because this is coming from a cheap dude who married at the city hall. 😉

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Kris October 27, 2010 at 4:42 pm

I like your plan just fine RB40. I wonder if a study has been done of divorce rates of people who have huge weddings vs. smaller or inexpensive one. I know which one I put money on to be higher…

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Squirrelers October 27, 2010 at 7:12 pm

As parents of the daughter, these people are “traditionally” the ones who take on the burden of spending on the wedding, or else their daughter and her fiancee do. Either way is fine, depending on the circumstance of the family.

The guy’s parents should have no influence in how much money their future daughter in law’s parents spend on a wedding. That’s none of their business.

So, my take is that the girl’s parents should talk with her openly and honestly about what they’re willing to do, and the girl should be thankful for whatever her parents are willing and able to do. If it’s not enough to meet her needs, then she and her fiancee can discuss what they want to do. He in no way should be expecting his future inlaws to be paying for him – it’s generosity, not a requirement.

When my daughter gets older, I will be willing to pay a certain amount, and that’s it. I can hope that she will know my best intentions and be appreciative. Also, I can hope that she will be sensible and responsible, and won’t want a lavish wedding. We’ll see:)

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Kris October 28, 2010 at 8:06 am

Squirrel- I am sure I will do something similar. Tell my daughter they have ‘x’ amount of money to spend, and that is it. I think the more the couple has to spend, the more out of control the wedding will be. Maybe they want hundreds of presents? What a mess.

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First Gen American October 27, 2010 at 7:36 pm

The entitlement bugs me too. As a parent, I would want to contribute some money, but I would never support a crazy stupid wedding on my dime. If they want a big wedding then they can pay for the balance themselves. Frankly, I could give a rat’s ass about my daughter’s future in laws. They sound like shallow horrible people. The only thing I’d worry about is having them make my daughter miserable. If the future son in law is a decent guy then he would shield her from the sillyness. I guess I’m being judgmental here.

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Kris October 28, 2010 at 8:07 am

No worries First Gen, I am feeling judgmental too. I just hate that these nice parents that have saved their whole lives are being asked to do something that goes against their beliefs. Maybe if everyone was more reasonable, they would be more willing to contribute more. I wouldn’t care about what the inlaws thought either. Since they are of similar means, they can cough up some cash too.

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Little House October 27, 2010 at 7:54 pm

I think the daughter is feeling much too entitled! Kiplinger’s advice is poor – like you mentioned the outcome will be the same. Now, it’s too bad the daughter didn’t learn to be frugal from her parents (maybe they did a poor job teaching it to her, or hoped she’d learn through osmosis). And, in my experience, big, out-of-control spending-spree weddings don’t last long, another reasons the parents may be hesitating on the cost of the wedding.

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Kris October 28, 2010 at 8:10 am

I totally agree that the parents might be nervous about what their daughter is getting herself into. Maybe the daughter did learn but is getting pressured, who knows. However, the couple and the inlaws are making it seem like the parents have no choice but to pay because they are the parents of the bride. Well, that is just stupid in my opinion. That is a dumb tradition in this day and age anyway. I think that you should pay for your own party if you are getting married. If mom wants to buy you the dress, fine. The rest should be up to you.

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Khaleef @ KNS Financial October 28, 2010 at 3:56 pm

I hate when people waste money on expensive weddings, and I also hate people who feel entitled to things like this. So you can imagine my thoughts toward this couple. The parents should only do what they are comfortable with doing. Of course the advice that Kiplinger gave is silly because it doesn’t solve anything!

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Financial Samurai October 30, 2010 at 11:36 am

Kris, it’s a good question you pose. Those of us who don’t believe in extravagant wedding, or had something simple of our own, find this entitlement offputting. Others, it’s just the way it is.

What about the groom paying for it like a man!

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Panda November 4, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I guess I’m reading the response differently than most people, because I think it’s great advice. A “significant” financial wedding gift is likely well below the expense of covering a “lavish” wedding. It allows the bride’s parents to spend exactly what they think is reasonable and the bride/groom to spend it in line with their own values.

This is essentially the exact arrangement I have with my own parents. They’ve set the amount, I’m allowed to spend/pocket it as I choose.

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Notorius April 22, 2011 at 3:18 pm

I personally don’t believe in extravagant weddings either, and I don’t think the daughter should feel entitled. In fact, should I have a wedding someday, I expect that I will probably pay much of the costs. If the girlfriend’s parent’s chip in then that’s great, but I’m honestly not expecting it, and therefore planning for a nice but not extravagant wedding. I won’t impoverish myself over one day when it’s really just a ceremony and what is real is the days and days you spend together. Ceremonies are nice but they shouldn’t cost a fortune. Thanks.

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Kris April 24, 2011 at 10:27 pm

I couldn’t agree more Notorius. Some people seem to forget that it is a marriage celebration, not just an opportunity to party. If I can’t make it to both the reception and the wedding for some reason, I always pick going to the wedding because that is the important part. (I still bring a gift though! 🙂 )

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