Monday, March 15, 2010

Ask Me Anything: Wedding Daze

In case you are new here, Ask Me Anything is a feature on this site where I field reader questions to the best of my ability. The questioners get moderately useful information, and I get out of thinking up my own topic for one day, and get to act like a total know-it-all. So everybody wins. Email your own burning questions to lily@acharmedwife.com, or leave a comment on the site, and I will do my best to relieve the burning. Today's question comes from Chloe, who writes me on behalf of her engaged friend. I know what you're thinking- "Sure, Chloe. It's for your 'friend'" - But actually, Chloe is one of my lifelong besties, and she's already been married for years and has a baby, so unless she's leading some crazy double life, this one actually is for a friend. I hope her friend still likes her after she gets my advice.

Dear Charmed Wife,
I am a bridesmaid in a wedding this summer. The bride's parents are divorced and her mom is footing the bill for the wedding without her father's help. Her concern is that her fiance's family has not offered to help in any way. They haven't offered to pay for the rehearsal dinner or any portion of the wedding expenses, so her mom is bearing the burden for everything. How does she tactfully ask her soon to be in-laws to pitch in without coming across as a rude, spoiled bridezilla (which she is not)? Yikes, please help! Sincerely, Chloe


Chlo, I'm going to address this one directly to the bride, since I imagine you will probably just send her the link to this, anyway, right? Right.

On The Bright Side: First off, congratulations! I always say that one of the best things about weddings is that, through the process of planning one - working together with your intended and one another's families and taking into account all the relatives and wishes of the parents- you actually are forced to learn to BE a family. Without realizing it, this event that technically unites two families can actually serve to emotionally and spiritually unite them- it's the best kind of irony. So instead of chewing your fingernails and rolling your eyes over these interpersonal relationships, take this as an opportunity for you and your husband-to-be to hone your dialogue skills and connection and to forge an open line of communication with both sets of your folks. (Got lemons? Ta-Da: lemonade!)

Great Expectations: I'm guessing the reason your future in-laws haven't ponied up to offer their cash and their services is because they don't really know what is expected of them. Times have changed since the era in which our parents got married. Couples frequently front the cash for their own nuptials, and a lot of tradition has been turned on it's head. My parents had what was, in their day, a pretty large and elaborate tented wedding. But they had little input in the planning, it took place in the afternoon, and was a cocktail party- they tied the knot, took off for their honeymoon, and the whole thing was over before dinner. No seating cards, no favors, no "geegaws," as my mom calls them. When I got engaged, my folks and my husband's were incredibly generous and accommodating of everything we wanted, but they were a little surprised by the elaborateness and level of detail that has become the norm in today's weddings. It's quite possible that your future in-laws would be happy to help, but just don't even know where to start. Conversely, it's possible that they have reservations about the marriage, or have been feeling left out of the planning process. This might be particularly true if you and your groom have not sought their input into matters of tradition and aesthetic. In any case, the solution to this is to be open-minded and open-hearted and to open the lines of communication between you, your fiancé and them. One place to start the conversation is to include them in the personal side of the wedding plans- I invited my mother-in-law to go dress shopping with my mom and me and asked her to show me family wedding photos. If their religious or cultural background is different from yours, take the opportunity to learn about their traditions. Who knows? You might end up wanting to include a flower she had in her bouquet into yours, his favorite reading into your ceremony, or use family photos as decor at your reception. The more connected and involved they feel in the wedding plans, the more likely they are to want to help.

Money Matters: But, getting down to brass tacks, really, the responsibility of talking to the future in-laws about money should fall to your husband-to-be, not you. Assuming he has a decent relationship with them, he should just gently hint at the fact that the groom's family traditionally throws a rehearsal dinner, and that you guys would really love and appreciate their involvement in the wedding in general. If you would rather they contribute to the wedding costs, you can suggest that you and your groom throw a casual barbecue-style rehearsal dinner yourselves, and ask that they help host the wedding. An honest conversation about the pressure your mother is under financially should help motivate them. (Keep in mind that if they agree to co-host the wedding, you will need to include their names on the invitation, and incorporate their creative and traditional input into the event). Here's something important to remember- the amount of money or style of help they choose to give is entirely up to them. If you ask them to host the rehearsal dinner, then you must be prepared for them to do so how, where, and when they want. Ideally, they will seek your input, but don't expect to just be handed a credit card to throw the party you want for yourselves. And the same is true for the wedding- if you are getting married in a Wiccan ceremony and having a full bar (when they're Orthodox Jews who don't drink), it's not really fair or appropriate to ask them to split the check.

The Bright Side, Again: As awkward and stressful as this may feel, think of it this way: It's great practice. You may not want to have to hash things out with your fiancé's folks, but these people are about to become your family. Forever (hopefully). Down the road, when it comes time ask them to stop giving your kids candy and violent toys, or when you have to tell your elderly father-in-law that he can't drive himself anymore, you will be grateful that you built a foundation of open communication in the beginning. Good luck, and here's wishing you a lifetime of marital (and familial) bliss.

7 comments:

Sarah said...

Holy entitlement, Batman! The problem here isn't that the groom's family isn't pitching in, it's that the bride's mother hasn't made it clear how much money she's willing to spend, and the couple to be married isn't either working within that budget or adding to it themselves. The response shouldn't be, "Oh no! My mom has to spend more because they're not ponying up!" but rather "Hmm, looks like we need to pare down."

Susan said...

I disagree, Sarah. If they haven't even offered to host the rehearsal dinner, which is the traditional (and rather minimal) purview of the groom's family, then they are either clueless with good intentions or holding back for some reason. I agree with ACW that open, honest communication, with the fiance taking the lead, is the way to go.

Chloe said...

Susan hit the nail on the head! The wedding is already pared down, simple and rustic....Thanks Lil-

Christine said...

Very well written...you stole my thunder because I also have a friend dealing with the same dilemma...perhaps I'll come up with a flashy title and just include a link to your post! :) Just kidding...but I will send it to my friend as well!

Chloe said...

Just wanted to say that the bride was so thankful for your post and honored that you took the time to answer in such detail. She has resolved it! Thanks-

PaperFlora2 said...

WOW, been there done that...
Weddings are too expensive for one family to take on. Especially when the other family wants input on what the money should be spent on but not willing to pay for anything.
We paid for almost everything, the bride and groom both contributed but his mother didn't send a penny- in fact she didn't even come to the wedding because she didn't get to pick out the wedding dress. YEAH, you read that right...
Grooms father and wife did pay for the rehearsal dinner. The couple gave them a list of who should be invited, the date and times and presented it to them and it all worked out fine.
check out my blog . I posted my daughters 4 min. sneak peek wedding video. It is really amazing if I do say so myself, even though all I did way pay for it :)

Lily said...

Thanks for all your input, folks. It seems the bride and groom sat down and had a frank and heartfelt discussion with his folks and they all worked it out together. And then they all lived happily ever after.