I DON’T WANT YOUR STUPID MONEY, MOM: How to turn down financial help

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D*Face - Dollar - Urban Affairs
My parents offered to pay for most of our wedding next summer, which seemed great at first. But within four days of being engaged, my mom had already used the phrase “If I'm paying for it I will have X” and is being very very pushy about choosing a venue.

I've decided that letting my folks foot the bill would mean that we are going to have to have my mom's wedding and not our wedding. My fiance and I talked about it and decided that we can afford to save up and throw the wedding we want with out my parents financial help. How can I tell my mom Thanks but no thanks on the offer to pay without completely alienating her? -Lisa

I think the best way to frame the discussion is to make this clear that you're doing this out of respect for your relationship with her and because you respect her too much to cause friction with wedding planning. Emphasize that you're doing this to reduce her anxiety — perhaps if you can point to a few examples of times when you've had disagreements over wedding planning, and let her know that you love her too much to cause her that kind of frustration. Accept full responsibilities for any and all disagreements. Apologize.

And then … … once you've made it clear that your motivations are driven in part by concern for her, let her know that you've decided you want to pay for the wedding yourself. Don't make it about refusing her money! That's reactive (i.e. “you forced me to do this!”) and a set-up for a fight. You've gotta be proactive on this one, phrasing it so that you're not rejecting her money, but rather that it's a way of taking responsibility for your own opinions.

Let her know that you've come to see that paying for the wedding yourself is an important part of establishing the marriage and relationship with your new husband. Since you're facing a lifetime of financial responsibility together, let her know that you want to start it off now.

What ever you do, don't make this about who's in control of the wedding, how she's been pushy, or how you're making this decision in response to her behavior. You don't want to come off as bratty (I DON'T WANT YOUR STUPID MONEY, MOM! *hurrumph*) but rather that you've made a decision to be fiscally responsible and respectful of your differing opinions.

Make it clear that this isn't up for debate; the decision has been made. Let her know how much you appreciate her generosity and don't get triggered if she gets sad or pouty! Don't argue. Don't get defensive. If she tries to engage you in a debate, just be firm and clear that you love her and appreciate her so much, but that you're paying for the wedding yourself.

Be gracious and grateful and firm. And say “I love you” a lot.

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Comments on I DON’T WANT YOUR STUPID MONEY, MOM: How to turn down financial help

  1. I wish we had done this. Our wedding is in July and accepting our families’ money has turned our wedding into a HUGE event we really didn’t want. We’ve compromised on a lot and I think we will be happy with what we have planned, but if we had just gone with something we could afford on our own it may have been basic, but it would have saved alot of hurt feelings and frustration.

  2. another thing that i found worked for us is to find things that you want (or don’t really care about) that your parents want and let them pay for that expense. my parents wanted to help us financially. we did not care too much about a photographer, my parents did. my sister recommended a photographer, we met him, really liked him, my parents like him too.

    my parents will be paying for him to shoot our wedding. they feel happy because they get to help us out and contribute to our wedding (and get photos), we’re happy because we get photos seemingly for free.

  3. You’re so right. Letting someone else pay is letting someone else lead the charge, and above all else, the bride and groom should be happy on the big day. I’d also say that giving the parental units another outlet — say the honeymoon — might help too. 🙂

  4. My sister also went the route of picking specific things (photography, flowers) that she knew she and our mom could agree on, and let her pay for those things. She and her fiance paid for the things that they thought would be a source of dissension, and just told our parents that they were uncomfortable accepting so much money from them, given that they could pay for quite a bit of the wedding themselves. This was particularly brilliant because it was true – my BIL’s family really is not well off, and he’s just not used to taking big sums of money – in his family, he’s the one who sends money home to help everyone else out. But it also served to let my sister make most of the decisions, excepting the ones she didn’t care much about.

  5. The paying for specific things is what we did. It was important to my parents to pay for something as my mum’s parents payed for her sister’s wedding (which was the wedding of mum’s dreams) but not for hers.

    – I didn’t care about the hassle of arranging the food, so that became a mum and dad thing…turns out that mum didn’t care for it either so they are putting some money on a credit card and just giving it to us, no string attatched. We had a pretty firm idea about what we wanted (including venue), so we came into the discussion with a lot of “well, we’ve actually considered something simular and think that X would suit us better”

  6. I wrote a business proposal for my parents that included an itemized budget along with a long, even list of pros and cons where each of the cons had a proposed work around.

    It was three pages long but it really appealed to my parents’ senses and helped them to clearly and rationally see why certain things were important to me and it also helped us to compromise on things that we had VERY different opinions about.

    I think having something written out on paper that expresses no emotion helps a lot, expecially once you start running numbers. Oh, and of course saying, “I love you” doesn’t hurt either. lots of hugs too.

    • We kept a detailed record of how we spent money on our wedding, too. It turned out well for us.

      When Hubs and I were engaged, we asked my parents to help us with half of our wedding costs and presented them with the following information:
      1) The average wedding budget from the national statistics office.
      2) our proposed budget, and what type of wedding we wanted.
      3) a general breakdown of how that budget would be spent, so they could see the reasoning behind the budget we decided upon.
      They seemed happy with this. Hubs and feel like we didn’t just ask them for a cheque, we were able to include them in some parts of the planning process and justify all the other expenses so nothing was a surprise. There were some things I wanted my parents to choose/plan, and there were some things that Hubs and I wanted to choose/plan on our own, but having the detailed “expense report” made it so no one was in the dark about what had been spent.

  7. Gosh, after reading this, I feel like this girl is so freakin’ lucky. I’m in a far worse position (in my opinion).

    My fiance and I are paying for the wedding and that was our intention from the very beginning. We set a VERY reasonable budget of $50,000 for ~500 guests. When we start talking about our plans with my parents (his parents are not involved as they have disowned him for choosing to marry me. HA!), my parents started strong arminging me the way they have ALWAYS done and guilting me about my wedding choices. I understand that at their wedding, they had to do what their parents told them because it’s a cultural thing to be obedient, but MAN!!!

    I’m so livid because my parents have literally taken us OVER the $80,000 mark. YES, $30,000+ more than what we had planned. They’ve chosen the venue, the priest, the NINE COURSE MEAL, the expensive bottles of Cognac at EVERY SINGLE TABLE. I’m literally going into debt because it is what my parents want and I must be obedient.

    That’s not to say that I don’t have my own mind and I can’t form my own opinions about things (I do every day), I just can’t say no to them. Neither can my fiance. It’s so hard trying to be respectful and obedient! I’ve discussed this with many of my other friends who have been in the SAME position with their parents and cultural habits and they all just went with what their parents told them because “it’s the last thing you’ll ever do for [your] parents.” THAT IS A LIE!! My sister has been married for over ten years and she STILL has to be respectful/obedient!

    I feel so torn! I want to elope and just runaway, but then MY parents would disown me. I want to tear my hair out because I’m just so frustrated. I’m 9 months away and I kid you not, I’ve already written over $50,000 in checks and credit card payments (everyone wants payment up front!!!).

    I’m so miserable. It’s like the happiest day of my life, and when I look around, I know that ALL I WILL SEE IS DOLLAR SIGNS. Everywhere I go. It is times like this I wish I was born into an American family or just not be Asian.

    And so you don’t think that my parents are totally horrible, they WANTED to pay for the wedding (the whole shebang), but my fiance refused since technically, HIS PARENTS are supposed to pay (but obviously, they are not since they disowned him and will no longer even speak to or see him). We knew his parents weren’t going to pay regardless because they have their own financial issues whereas my parents are … hmm… very, very comfortable.

    So now, here I am, looking at a defunct savings account and a checking account bordering on $0.06. I am literally living paycheck to paycheck and I’m going out of my mind (I have never lived paycheck to paycheck in my life until now!). Thank goodness today is Friday, which means we’re getting paid today.


    sorry for the long vent…

    • I can’t address everything you’re feeling here, but I can offer this: going along with your parents’ wishes doesn’t have to mean doing it silently.
      Every time my future mother-in-law mentions the guest list she bloated, I tell her (again) that the amount of people she’s added to the list stresses me out: “I will go along with this because you want it and I’d like to make you happy, but I always wanted a much smaller wedding, and having strangers at my wedding makes me uncomfortable.” Respectful and obedient, but honest about my disappointment as well.
      Not only has it made her get off our case about pretty much everything else, it’s also prevented me from feeling like I got walked over completely. Which is really important in preventing long-term resentment.
      And girrrrrrl, I feel you on the elopement. If I could go back and do this all over again, I’d already be married. 🙂

  8. This is really awesome advice. I love our families, I really and truly do, but early in the decision process we let ourselves get talked into doing things their way for financial reasons (I work a low paying publishing job and my fiance, at the time, was interning for a video game company).
    Anyway, pretty much any of the wedding fights we’ve had are due to this decision, so if you can swing it, choose for yourself without interferance!

  9. We’ve run into this issue as well. At first no one offered us any money up until it came time to deciding on the menu and we wanted to go a different buffet route (we could even have a taco buffet), but his parents seem to think that we should have Prime rib because it’s expected.

    And if we do they’ll pay for it.


  10. My MIL (I’m actually already married – having a ceremony to bring the two families together after the fact) is freaking out because we’re not serving a full dinner meal. In the part of the country I’m from, it’s very acceptable just to have cake and punch at the reception. We are having an afternoon tea – which I think is so cute, and gives me lots of room for creativity to boot (East Indian tea sandwiches or cookies shaped like the bride and groom, anyone?) But she’s from another country, a quite wealthy island tax haven country where they have elaborate weddings. My husband got a call from his godmother scolding him for worrying his mother to tears over the goddam food! We’re on a tight budget already after spending so much of my savings on filing fees and attorney’s fees for husband’s green card.

    I appreciate my own parents more than ever – my parents gave me what I consider a reasonable sum to help with the wedding and told me to do as I pleased. Mum even suggested I could elope and use the money towards our first home. I wish we would have!

    But MIL gave husband a generous sum for our honeymoon, so I don’t feel I can complain.

    Just gonna bite my tongue and do what I want… I refuse to go thousands of dollars in debt for a silly thing like a meal that most people won’t even remember in a year or two.

    Any hubby’s doing a decent job of keeping MIL at bay – bless him!

  11. I sent my dad an email and very clearly thanked him for offering to pay for the wedding, but told him that we felt it was really important for us as a couple to start our lives together by establishing our independence in the wedding. We felt that taking money from him and my stepmom would mean we’d be beholden to their ideas of how the wedding should go. I think they were secretly relieved and offered to do the dinner for the out-of-town folks, which has been fantastic and totally helpful. Win-win all around (though I’m not telling them we took money from my mom because that money would never ever come with strings like their money always does!!!)

  12. I always believed that Independent Women (and Men)were usually raised by Independent thinking Mothers. I find it disheartening and discouraging that so many of you young women are finding that your parents of my generation are less than flexible in helping you with your weddings. I know that it is not a universal condition for I have watched nieces and young friends marry with their parents joyfully supporting their plans. I do know that for many parents it is emotionally and psychologically difficult to have their child marry; they feel it as the final end of childhood, the changing of their roles in life and even the beginning of their own old age. For some (not all but some) parents even as they try to celebrate their childrens joy they are grieving their own losses and aging. And yes, sometimes they do get unreasonable and controlling – particularly if they had a tendency to that kind of behavior to start with. Yes, it is wrong and unfair and unkind but of course much of human behavior is all of that. Your parents lives are changing with your marriage. Perhaps as you talk to them you can keep in mind how the marriage is affecting them. It might make these conversations go easier. Or perhaps not. Any family therapist will tell you that money is the number one cause of discord – it has so many meanings. Remember this is about the marriage and not the wedding, if you need to do something simpler or smaller to not accept money with strings, you may be benfitting the strenghth of the marriage you are creating.

  13. That’s really awesome advice about wanting to start off your fiscal marriage with paying for the wedding. What parent could have a problem with that? We’re lucky in that our parents want to help us out, but don’t want to help plan at all. They wrote us checks 🙂

  14. I’m the mom–looking forward to my second family wedding. I donated money to my son for his wedding and now for my daughter for hers. No strings. No work!! It is their money to use as they please. My son and now daughter in law said that when the two families made the offer, they were estatic and then later amazed at how much work it was without our help. BUT–they wouldn’t have done it anyother way. My daughter is planning an October wedding and lives in another state…..she is doing it all on her own. I listen, support, give solicited suggestions and feel no remorse if she makes a different decision. And…She has all the work and planning and fun. We love it this way!

  15. Oh my goodness. . . I wish I had done this in the beginning. I’m getting married next Saturday, and this whole “small, bohemian, diy, light-hearted, non-traditional, rock and roll” wedding has turned into this posh, white, traditional-looking, fancy event! It’s mostly out of my hands, now, which is unfortunate. I’m just hoping that we’ll have enough of our own quirky personal touches throughout the event that the character itself will trump the traditionalism. But do what you can on your own. I wish we had done the city hall thing, and then followed it up with a giant party.

  16. Hmmm. Be careful about how you approach this topic, because my fiance and i are paying for the entire shebang ourselves, and it has actually caused friction in my family. of course, it’s because they’re very held to tradition and think that you need to spend $30,000 or more and my fiance and i just simply refuse to do that.
    i’ve heard everything from “that’s stupid” to “why don’t you just let me take care of it” (which is a slippery slope) and “why don’t you just tell me when it is and i might show up.”
    HOWEVER. a good solution is to give them something to DO rather than something to pay for.
    for instance, my mom is growing the flowers that we want. my dad is going to make food. they’re already both really excited about their part, and they didn’t even need to cut a check to do it, and it’s one less thing that we have to worry about, so it’s a win-win!

  17. Whoah. I guess I’m lucky.

    Me and my mom have good relationship. If she starts to panic or boss, I can just ask her to calm down and tell her I love her so very much and wish she would enjoy herself and have a good time. Pre emptively I’ve made remarks of how strange it is one of my friends well over her 20’s still asks her mother’s opinion for everything. 😉

  18. I have to add to what Ariel said, “Emphasize that you’re doing this to reduce her anxiety.” Many poeple will quickly reply to that saying, “Oh, it’s no trouble at all! I’m HAPPY to help.” I think that it is also important to include that, for the sake of your relationship with her(as Ariel said) AND for the sake of your OWN emotional health, you would rather finance/plan the wedding with your “to-be.” Who could deny your desire to celebrate the UNION about to take place? Let’s hope she understands how important it is to you to get to make decisions with the one you’re about to spend the rest of your life with…
    Good Luck!

  19. Hi Ladies,

    I wanted to add my perspective on some of the conflicts that seem to be bubbling to the surface. It seems like obligation, guilt, and face are the fuel driving most of the brides comments. As a new family unit, it is critical to be able to say no to harmful decisions and influences and yes to love, peace, and helpfulness. While the wedding day is important, it also set the tone for your marriage. I recommend getting some support in finding your voice, strength, and solid values for your family and marriage.

    I am proud that me and my fiance have realized that our mother’s are covertly aggressive, controlling, and manipulative towards each of us..and our marriage as a unit. We have learned to say no to the harmful their tactics to undermine as adults. We have set limits on their negative influences. That includes we are having a small wedding, paying for it ourselves, and not inviting them to our wedding. We have the courage to stand on our own to feet. We will be full of respect, love, peace and resolve to not begin our marriage, on our wedding day in debt, stressed, worried, fearful.

    Clearly, there is more going on than paying the bills or inviting more people. It seems like some parents and in-laws are controlling you through money. Where else in life is that acceptable for someone to drive you nearly mad, to the poor house, and a therapist over money and strangers? I dare say, your wedding day and marriage should be the stomping ground of this emotional and financial blackmail.

    Good Luck!

  20. What about giving your Mom an evening to have the party of her choice, on her dollar? Some event where she gets it all her way, and you go there and stand around like a prop. Then when she insists on gold brocade, you say, wonderful! You should do that at the bonus reception on the separate day!

    I love seeing the literal meaning of sayings that have become idioms. I was watching the parents of the groom rock out to some cover band that they had selected and paid for. No one in the generation of the people getting married was dancing. The groom made some comment like “they paid for it” and I thought… hey… he who pays the piper calls the tune! Look, right there, in front of my eyes!

  21. I personally wouldn’t be apologising for not accepting the money like suggested above or even pointing out it has anything to do with any conflicts that may or may not have occured. I would just tell my parents “Bob and I have spoken and have decided we want to pay for our wedding ourselves. So thanks very much for the offer to pay mum and dad but there is no need. We are both adults, we both have jobs and it’s 2014 not 1930. It is our wedding, we decided to have it and we couldn’t possibly let you and mum feel like you are obligated to pay for it. We want you to show up and enjoy yourselves and just be happy for us, not worried about costs and about if everything is going to go to plan.”

    My parents wouldn’t care at all but I can envision having to have a conversation like this with my partners family (or more likely them tryimg to demand and book things but still expecting us to pay for it). I wouldn’t have any trouble refusing money however because personally I cannot accept the idea of anyone else paying for my wedding, it just seems wrong to me.

  22. For as long as I’ve thought of the practical aspects of a wedding, I’ve been terrified of this money part, who pays for what. Currently, although I don’t have consistent employment, my partner and I are doing better than my parents. His are doing better in some ways than us all, but they are carefully saving up for retirement and probably just want us to have a teeny-tiny event (which will be hard to do with how many people we know). I don’t want to accept help from anyone, even though it would help us out. I feel too bad about it. I’ve had a check from my parents sitting in a bag for two weeks and I feel like my heart will break as I deposit it, even though it’s a tiny percent of some of the amounts mentioned above. I also want total control over how things will be as I’m picky, so I’d rather not experience friction later because of taste. I felt tacky doing it, but I had to negotiate with my mom. Maybe I was a bit snippy, but I felt so strongly about this because I care. I could not have my parents do so much just because they did for my sisters. The reality of the situation, where we are all now cannot be ignored. I assured Mom that I’ll have her help with something more when the time comes. But I’d prefer that she just do more relaxing and saving at this point of her life.

  23. Our parents offered us money and we accepted (my fiance quickly, I hesitantly) with much thanks. However, I don’t give in to feeling obliged to parents to do things their way — if the money is a gift, it should have no strings attached! I respectfully but firmly express this to my mother when disagreements arise. Of course I want to and will compromise and do some special things to show appreciation for all of our parents at the wedding. For the bulk of the wedding though, I let them know that I don’t want to hurt their feelings, but simply would be happy or more comfortable doing things another way.

  24. If the money is a gift it shouldn’t have strings attached. I have had fights with my mum throughout the wedding process, not about money as we are paying for most of it, while I conceded a few points because I knew she was going to be miserable and hard to deal with on my wedding day, for the most part I have stuck to my guns. I basically let her know this is my day, my way and she has the choice to go along with it or not participate. Your mom clearly wants to be involved with the wedding, she has shown this by offering to pay and giving her opinions. I would simply tell her that you think it is really generous of her to offer to pay for your wedding, but that you have firm ideas of what you want for your wedding, and that if she doesn’t support those ideas she is free to withdraw her monetary support. Put the choice back on her.

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