Have the Money Talk with Your Folks

Planning to ask Mom and Dad to contribute financially to your wedding? Here’s how to tactfully broach this touchy topic.

bride and dad
Photo Credit: Nikki Cole Photography

Money’s an incredibly tough subject these days, especially when dealing with such an expensive event as a wedding.  We checked in with financial pro Pam Krueger, author of The Moneytrack Method (John Wiley & Sons, 2008) to lay out the wedding etiquette of asking for money.

Talk to Your Fiance
Before saying anything to Mom and Dad, sit down with your fiancé and discuss your expectations. “Make sure you get to a point where you both agree on your vision and how much it will cost,” says Krueger. Be honest with each other about both families’ financial situations; you may find that you have to scale back on your original idea.

Be Polite
Whether you speak to Mom and Dad by phone or in person, you need to be very polite when asking for money, Krueger says. “Ask, ‘Do you feel comfortable making a contribution to the wedding?’ Then let them suggest what’s best for them.” 

Spell Out the Details
Once money is offered and accepted, other issues arise. Will your parents assume that they’ll have more control than you’d like? You’ll have to be clear that the buck stops with you and your fiancé. At the same time, be aware that their contribution does mean that they’re involved. Also, make sure they know that you’re asking for a gift, not a loan. “Don’t borrow money,” says Krueger. “You don’t want to start your marriage in debt.”

Avoid Hurt Feelings
Remember that there are two sides of the family now: yours and his. If your own mom and dad offer to pay for half the wedding, you should run it by your future in-laws before you agree. Bruised feelings may result whenever people are put in a position to pay more or less than other people. This isn't always about wedding etiquette, make sure you're comfortable with who pays for what at the wedding. The same goes for divorced parents—discuss asking for money with both separately in order to see what each is comfortable with.

Budget Wisely
Once you’ve accepted family contributions, create your wedding budget. “Your job as a couple is to stay on track,” says Krueger. “It wouldn’t be proper wedding etiquette asking for money from your parents and then go over budget.” If you’re planning to save up money yourselves during your engagement, decide how much you can set aside each month and keep a running total as you go; for each couple this will be different. For extra motivation, keep your tally displayed on your fridge. Krueger suggests using a debit card for wedding-related purchases, so that these costs are immediately deducted from your account, making it easier for you to stay on top of what you have left.

Plus: Who pays for what? ►