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Son’s Wedding – Who Pays?

Is The Groom’s Family Obligated To Contribute To Wedding Expenses?

My son is to be married in two weeks. Our relationship has been a bit strained since we had a disagreement at a time when my mother (his grandmother) was in hospice care and dying from a brain tumor; I was the only child and sole caregiver, and obviously this was a very difficult and stressful time for me. Prior to our estrangement my husband (his stepfather) and I offered to host a wedding reception in our home and to cater it, but they declined our offer, as our home did not meet their desires for a venue, and said that instead they wanted financial help with a honeymoon.

As a result of our disagreement, my husband and I were disinvited from the wedding, until just this past weekend. I have not been involved in any of the planning or decisions. My son and his fiance came to our home and apologized for what happened, and told us they would like to have both of us (and my 2 stepchildren) at their wedding.

The following day my son telephoned and told me that his fiance’s family had already spent $10,000 on the wedding and reception, that his father had contributed $300 and that he wanted to know if I could do so as well, as it would “make a way” for us to attend the reception. Our finances are tight, due largely in part to the financial strain of not being able to work full time while caring for my mom. Furthermore, I thought it was customary to include in the planning those people that you expected to assist financially. What is my obligation here? As it stands, I told my son that if it created a financial difficult for us to attend the reception that we would not attend.

Donna, Wedding Queen

Parents aren’t obligated to give their children a wedding and are not obligated to offer to help in any way. It’s nice if parent’s can help, but it’s also nice to have children who appreciate whatever help is offered.

Honestly, I don’t see how $300 helps with a $10K wedding, and I think it’s a bit petty (after all, you’re invited guests!), but if you’re okay with offering that amount, and you really want to attend and keep the peace, then I’d agree. if you really can’t afford this, please let your son know. I’d hope that no son would ever want his mother to get into a financial hardship over a wedding.

Jay Remer, The Etiquette Guy, International Protocol and Corporate & Social Etiquette

I must admit I am confused. If you could have afforded to host a catered reception at one point in time, why is $300 all of the sudden an issue? The intentions and motivations swarming throughout family dynamics can bring out the worst in people. I always encourage people who become embroiled in this sort of unpleasantness to always take the high road. Do the right thing and stop pouring negative energy into a process which is dividing a family. This is not about financial obligations. Financial arrangements can vary from one wedding to the next depending on a number of circumstances. Here you are facing issues of compassion, respect, and gratitude. I recommend an attitude adjustment. Give the $300 with gratitude and love and don’t even consider not attending the reception! This milestone in your son’s life needs to be met with support from you, not support for you. Family connections are important and need to be nurtured. Lead your family by setting a good example. I wish you and the young couple every good wish.

At the time we offered the reception (last fall) it was to be a very casual barbeque event for only about 30 people at our home, and we planned to cater it ourselves (my husband is an accomplished cook) and have 8 months to budget and plan. Obviously we would have been able to control and manage costs and get the most “bang for our buck” by doing it in this way. Since that time, as a result of my mother’s death and resulting financial obligations, our situation has changd. Furthermore, had I been approached prior than 2 weeks before the wedding, I could have planned to contribute, but it is short notice and cash flow is an issue.

I appreciate my son “manning up” and apologizing for his behavior during my mother’s time of passing away, but for 5 months he would not communicate with me and include me in the wedding plans. In fact, the wedding plans changed completely from what we were originally told about; the date, venue and scope of the wedding are all different. I have even tried to call in favors from clients, one of whom would have provided professional DJ services at the reception, and another who would have provided a groom’s cake (I would have bartered my professional accounting services for these things) but that was declined and they only want a check.

Donna, Wedding Queen, President

Sounds like you’ve done everything you can to be try to be involved. If you’ve spoken to your son the way you’ve explained yourself here he should be “getting it” by now. Hopefully, your son learns that it really isn’t all about how much is spent which determines the value or level of care of his family.

Frankly, this entire situation is breaking my heart. If I had the money, I would give that and more! I simply do not. I feel as if I am not an involved party, but only an invited guest, and am being asked to pay to attend a party. Just sick about all of this…..

Dr. Meredith Hansen Find Love. Get Love. Keep Love.
Psychologist and relationship expert helping you learn how to live happily ever after!

After reading your initial post and your follow up reply, it is clear that the issue at hand has little to do with money. In relationships, money is often symbolic of a deeper issue or need (power, security, safety, etc). Although you and your son have made up since your disagreement, it sounds like there are still unresolved feelings that need to be addressed.

The fact, however, is that your son is getting married. This is an important day in his life and not being there will cause more damage to the relationship. He needs you there (just as your mother needed you) and you will regret it forever if you are not present at his wedding. Try not to fixate on the $300. This is a small amount that, for whatever reason, he has asked for. Find a way to get him the money and show up for him the day of his wedding. Show him that you care, that you love him, and that he matters to you. Once the wedding has passed, take steps to begin repairing the relationship together.

Reader Response

The issue here for me is not giving money – had I the means, I would give much more than he is even asking; the issue is that this was presented to me on extremely short notice, and when cash flow is a serious issue; I am unable to even purchase a dress for the event, and am borrowing one from a friend. I am absolutely invited to and attending the actual wedding; it is the reception which is an issue for him (and possibly for his fiance and her family, but I do not know that to be the case or not). Apparently catering must be re-counted if we are to attend, but as I understand it the reception is casual and the food is heavy hors doerves (not even cake), so I don’t know precisely.

Undoubtedly there are issues in the relationship; I was willing to accept with good grace his refusal to invite me, and now am thrilled to be officially invited.

Donna, Wedding Queen, President

Of course, we’re not hearing all sides of the story, but I can’t imagine that your son can’t come up with the money to pay for his own mother to attend his wedding. Please speak to him, if possible, face to face to get all of the issues out on the table.