Your Family & Your Budget: How to Handle Both When They're at Odds

Budget, Etiquette
Wedding Party at a Farm in Maryland

Photo: Heidi Geldhauser of Our Labor of Love

You love your family, but sometimes they get in the way. Namely, when it comes to your wedding budget. Whether your parents are paying but your in-laws want to invite every neighbor, friend, former co-worker under the sun, you need to ask your future in-laws for help, or you have to cut your guest list due to financial reasons after you've already sent out your save-the-dates, our etiquette experts are here to help!

My parents are paying for the wedding, and they can afford to invite 150 people with the guest list split equally between my family and my fiancé's family. But my future MIL thinks she should be able to invite whomever she wants, and based on tradition my father should pay for any additional guests. How do we handle this?
That "tradition" of the bride's family footing the whole wedding bill has pretty much passed. So first, give your parents a really big hug for paying for the whole shindig. Now, how to handle your future mother-in-law: She is being unreasonable and needs to be told that, but to protect your relationship with her, your fiancĂ© should do the talking. He should express support for what your parents are doing and explain that the guest list is equally split between the two families. Hopefully that will be enough to get her to trim her list. If not, your parents, working with your fiancé, have a right to whittle down her guest list themselves. Another option is for your fiancĂ©é to go to his mother with the reception's per-person cost (including tax and gratuity). Then she can decide how important it is to her to invite the extra guests and write a check (before the wedding) to cover those costs.

My fiancé's folks are saving up to pay for his sister's wedding, which is four months before ours, but they have not offered to contribute to our budget. My parents afford can't foot the entire bill, and we're broke. Can we ask them for help?
Yes, but have your fiance sit down with his mom and dad alone, since they may feel awkward talking about such a touchy subject around you. He should discuss the type of wedding you would like to have and the estimated budget, then ask them if they were thinking of contributing anything toward it and, if so, how much. Maybe they are the old-fashioned types who think that the bride's family will pay for the whole enchilada (which is a rarity these days). Whatever their response, he should be gracious and not gripe. If the amount is meager, you may have to get creative: Consider scaling back your wedding, or start brainstorming on the best ways to save.

When we originally planned our wedding, we wanted it to be much larger and sent out a lot of save-the-date magnets. Financially, our situation has changed, and we have to cut anyone who is not family or an extremely close friend. How do I tell those who are no longer invited?
As with everything else in the world, honesty is the best way to handle your change of plans. Invite the smaller number of family and close friends to your wedding. Send those other magnet people a letter (handwritten is best, but if that's not possible, printed but individually addressed) saying exactly what you told me: Your financial situation has changed, and you have to sacrifice the large wedding reception you had wanted to host for a very small family ceremony. Perhaps you can invite everyone else to an informal reception after you return home from your honeymoon.

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