The Ultimate Guide to Navigating the "Wedding Budget Talk" with Family

Here's how to break the ice and have this tricky wedding-planning conversation.

wedding party
Photo: Amanda K Photography via Bridal Bliss

Call an official "wedding budget" meeting. "Finding out who's eager to contribute to your wedding is a good first step in calculating your overall budget. And the best way to do this is to schedule a meeting (or separate meetings) with your parents, your partner's parents, and/or whomever else has offered to chip in. Let them know that you’d like to sit down to discuss wedding finances in order to nail down your budget. This will give your loved ones the heads up that you'll be having the 'money talk' and ample time to prepare. You don't want to spring this serious conversation on anyone without a bit of warning!" —Jenna Miller, Creative Director of Here Comes The Guide

Try to ascertain how much each party is willing to spend, or what particular aspect of the wedding they'd like to finance. (For example, maybe Grandma has her heart set on buying you a wedding dress.) Yes, budget talks can be awkward, but having these open and honest discussions is essential to figuring out your bottom line. Just be sure to approach these conversations in a respectful way, and be okay with hearing 'Sorry, I'd love to help, but I can't.'" —Miller

Leave a little room for variance. "Budgeting is an incredibly important piece of the wedding, and it's one of the first details a couple should agree upon before planning. Set a budget, and set a budget before booking a venue or any vendors! Many couples tend to get excited when they are first engaged and book a venue that is not realistic within their budget. They are setting themselves up for failure before they've really begun. So, work with your planner to set a realistic budget and stick with it. Leave a little room for variance, and be sure to cut back in areas if you splurge in others." —Nora Sheils, Founder Bridal Bliss, Co-Founder Rock Paper Coin

dad with empty pockets at wedding
Photo: Jessica Hill Photography via Bridal Bliss

Be aware of any strings attached. "I always say to my couples to have this conversation sooner rather than later and understand from early on if there are any strings attached. Is it that your parents are participating but expecting something in exchange? If so, be clear on this and if you agree with it. Otherwise, it can get messy, and you just don't want that around your wedding. Or is it that a family member has wanted to pay for something specific? Then involve them as much as you feel comfortable as a way of acknowledging their donation and interest. Overall, regardless of the inputs, the reasons and the strings attached, just ask for clarity when receiving any money from anyone towards your wedding. That way, the planning will be as smooth as possible." —Charlotte Ricard-Quesada, La Fête

Bring your heart into it. "Weddings are emotional. They're one of the most emotional days you'll participate in, and one of the most emotional parties you'll ever throw. If something is important to you, lead with your heart in explaining that to your family. If someone is spinning out over the cost of a plated meal, explain why you want that experience for your guests and why that's important to you and your significant other. I know few family members that can hear another member's heart on something and completely invalidate their opinion just for the sake of disagreeing." —Ashley Lachney, Owner of Alston Mayger Events

Use online budgeting and planning tools together. "It's stressful to think about all the expenses that go along with planning your wedding, but as you prepare for wedding budget conversations with your sweetie, or with your family, use WedBrilliant to set budgets for each aspect of your wedding (from DJs and catering to photography and decor!) and then take comfort knowing that you will receive customized proposals from vendors who can work within your budget. Not only does this point to your financial savvy-ness, but it also helps you avoid entering your marriage in debt." —Melissa Wilmot, Founder & CEO of WedBrilliant

mom and bride
Photo: Amanda K Photography via Bridal Bliss

Talk openly and put everything out on the table. "When trying to determine how much your budget will be, or who is contributing, there are a lot of hard conversations that have to take place. When connecting with parents who want to contribute, be clear on their expectations. Are they expecting to have a say in planning? To invite a certain number of guests? To have veto power? With money sometimes comes power, and it can quickly ruin relationships. Talk openly and get it all out on the table so everyone is on the same page and understanding what giving/receiving money entails." —Nora Sheils, Founder Bridal Bliss, Co-Founder Rock Paper Coin

Set realistic expectations from the beginning. "Discussing your wedding budget with family and friends can be challenging but is an important step in the planning process. It's helpful to set realistic expectations from the beginning. Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life, and your family will want to help you make it extra special. It's important to have an open and honest conversation about what you are hoping to achieve with your wedding and the cost involved, while being realistic about the amount your contributors can afford." —Anna Rodenbeck, Whitehead + Co.

Don't do anything that will jeopardize important relationships. "Wedding budget conversations can be difficult, but it's important to keep in mind that at the end of the day, the wedding is simply a way to celebrate your relationship with your loved ones nearby. No cake design, ceremony arch, or wedding gown is worth harming relationships that are important to you and your partner. Be firm in the choices that are important to you, but be willing to have honest conversations and remain open to hearing what family members have to say if they're contributing financially to your wedding — it doesn’t mean that you have to implement everything they suggest or request, but an open mind and a willingness to take their suggestions seriously can go a long way in showing that you value their ideas and contributions and are thankful that they’re participating in this process with you!" —AJ Williams, Founder & Creative Director, AJ Events

bride and groom first kiss
Photo: Rebecca Yale Photography via Bridal Bliss