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Ask Dave

No Pay, No Say

Anthony and his fiancée are planning their wedding. They budgeted $7,000 for the wedding. Their parents don't want to contribute but want to make decisions regarding what Anthony and his fiancée do.

QUESTION: Anthony in Texas and his fiancée are planning their wedding. They budgeted $7,000 for the wedding and talked to their parents about it. Their parents don’t want to contribute to the wedding but want to make decisions regarding what Anthony and his fiancée do. Dave disagrees that they have a say since they aren’t paying for it.

ANSWER: Why would they have choices if they don’t contribute? There’s always a limit to how many you can invite to the wedding, and who doesn’t make the list is always a painful discussion. We’ve had it twice with two daughters who got married. You look at it, and you want everybody to come. I understand how your parents feel, but they’re not paying for it, and you don’t have the money, so the answer is just no.

They can only participate to the extent that it is within the budget. They get to voice their opinion, but that doesn’t mean we have to go with it. What if they decided that you needed to buy a $58,000 ring? That’s an absurd example, right? That’s ridiculous! You have to bite the bullet? You’ve got to be kidding me. I don’t have to bite the bullet. I’m not biting any bullet. They get to bite the bullet. That’s how that works.

No. You’re not children. You want to be courteous and kind, so gently but firmly explain that this is our budget amount, and based on that, we can’t have it. I would like to have 2,000 people too, but we can’t. We’re going to have this many. They can look at it with you, and you’ll try to talk it through. But we’re going to go through that painful process. No, you don’t have to go along with everything your parents say. As a matter of fact, this is a really good time in your marriage as part of your premarital counseling to discuss how you’re going to deal with interfering in-laws. You obviously have some.

It would be courteous on your part to involve, for instance, your wife’s mother in the planning. That would be courteous. But at the end of the day, she does not have veto power. Your fiancée has veto power. You have veto power. It has to fit the budget. That vetoes everything. Within the budget, what does Mom think you should do? You’d love to hear her opinion, and then you’re going to do—based on her opinion and your opinion—what you want to do. Your fiancée gets to pick out her dress, but it would be nice for her mom to look at dresses with her—but she picks the one she likes.

We involve their opinion, but to the extent that we have to do exactly what they say? Absolutely not. If they think that, then they have issues and that’s part of your premarital counseling.