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.

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.

    le sigh. TAKE ME OUT OF MY MISERY, PLEASE!!!

    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.

    *sigh*

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