Let's face it: Even the most intimate weddings can add up to be the most expensive day of you and your partner's lives. Any financial aid that cuts your total cost is huge, and that sentiment can lead many engaged couples to ask their parents to throw them a bone—or a thousand bucks.
But let's also be honest: This isn't the easiest conversation to have, especially if you're a working adult living on his or her own. Because while some families consider asking for wedding donations as an appropriate tradition, many others expect they'll be financially free from their children the moment they become young adults, explains John Duffy, parenting expert and author of The Available Parent. "When a young adult asks his or her parents for money, it feels like a violation of this implied contract," he says, "and feelings of shame and embarrassment and failure often accompany this transaction."
If you find yourself in a position where you want or even need to ask your parents for financial help on your wedding day, you don't have to fear this uncomfortable conversation. As Duffy points out, "some parents want to see that the children have the resolve to ask them for their help. And frankly, in some families, this is a matter of pride. Parents want to feel good about helping their kids with their wedding. Being asked is part of that good feeling for many parents."
But there is a right and wrong way to ask for wedding-day donations, Duffy warns. "In my experience, this works best when the conversation comes, from the beginning, from a place of sincere gratitude," he says. Not only do parents tend to be more receptive to a child who already appears grateful for their help, but this helps to prevent parents from feeling taken for granted during the discussion. "So my initial advice would be to start with gratitude," Duffy says, "and then, I think it would be helpful to let your parents know how much their help means."
As important as it is to establish that you're incredibly appreciative of all your parents have already done to help you financially throughout your life—and how much their help now would mean to you—it's equally important to avoid other areas of discussion, Duffy warns. "For one, there should not be an insinuation that a parent has an obligation to help," he says. "This can draw unnecessary conflict. And I don't think it's useful to draw on promises from the past. I think the key to this conversation is gratitude, and to focus on how much their financial help would be useful in the lives of the newlyweds."
Think also about asking your parents if and how they would like to contribute, rather than suggesting what you'd like. This, too, can make your parents feel appreciated and not pressured into doing and giving more than they're capable. "The best way to ensure that everyone walks away happy enough, and certainly not angry, would be to set that tone from the beginning," Duffy says. "I think it's reasonable to suggest that we are going to ask you for your financial assistance, but it is not requisite in order for us to have a good relationship now and in the future."