Your parents promised to pay for your wedding day, and then, for any number of reasons, backed out. You likely feel betrayed, and ever-so-slightly panicked over how you'll pull off this fancy fête without their finances. Repeat after us: It will be OK. Here's how to deal, emotionally and financially.
When your parents break the news, "take the high road, eschewing any anger or ill will, and approach the topic graciously," says John Duffy, clinical psychologist and relationship expert. Ask calmly for an explanation if a promise was made and broken, but "it's critical for a couple to recognize when the answer is final, and will not change," Duffy says. "This will provide you time to regroup, and weigh how to manage the considerable finances surrounding your wedding, and perhaps revisit plans in light of a new, and likely smaller, budget."
Give any negative emotions you may feel — betrayal, hurt, or ill will — time to heal, Duffy says. "Reacting immediately to such news can be regrettable, and a bride or groom is likely to say something negative to a parent that they might regret," he says. But at the same time, "don't let too much time pass, or the feelings will fester. My rule of thumb is to approach this kind of loaded topic once you feel you can discuss it reasonably. Expressing disappointment is perfectly reasonable."
It's also important to assure your parents that this too shall pass. "I think it's critical that the couple be clear that they fully intend to move past this issue," Duffy says. "After all, nobody wants their relationship with their parents or in-laws to be governed for years over the issue of money. This issue drives a wedge far too easily between people, and many of us can cite the finances around the wedding as the impetus for a divide between generations for decades, or even lifetimes."
Now, it's time to assess where you are in your planning process, says Amy Nichols, owner of California-based Amy Nichols Special Events. "If you're in the beginning of the process and you haven't booked your venue, you can reassess your guest count and your priorities for your day," she says. You may decide to decrease your budget and move forward with a smaller wedding depending on what you yourselves can afford.
If you've "already booked a venue and sent out invitations, you may have to do more damage control and finagling," Nichols warns. Because you should never un-invite wedding guests who've already received their invitations, it'll be time to get creative with your budget. "Try to think about remaining wedding expenses as nice-to-haves, such as programs, versus need-to-haves, such as food," says Nichols.
In between getting creative, "remind yourself the process is about the marriage, not the wedding," says Nichols. "Ultimately, guests would rather share in the big day and eat an inexpensive meal than have a couple go into debt to pay for a meal they cannot afford. Your guests want to celebrate your marriage, not your centerpieces."