The Emily Post Institute is the foremost authority on all things etiquette, and when we get a chance to have our questions answered by one of the Posts, we don't hold back. I recently spoke to Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, about tough budget- and family-related questions. Read on to find out how to talk money with your parents, how to save up to pay for your own wedding, and more.
How much say should couples expect to have in wedding planning if their parents are footing the bill?
This is a really touchy question! I really respect the fact that parents are paying for the wedding and that this is something they really want to do. But we talk a lot to [parents, and remind them] that it's really important that they remember that this is the bride and groom's special day. So while some of their adult friends might be there -- people that the kids have grown up with -- it's really important that they remember that this isn't their party, it's the bride and groom's party; it's their wedding. It's the biggest party they ever throw.
It's important for the bride and groom to respect the fact that their parents are putting quite a large sum of money into this party, so we suggest loving every idea for five minutes. [Couples should] take the time to say, "Oh wow, I've never thought of doing that, I'm going to think about that." Really appreciate that your parents or future in-laws are giving you advice, but don't commit to anything.
If you do have parents who are, shall we say, overly enthusiastic about wedding planning, how do you suggest couples approach them?
One of the first things we suggest couples do is to start out with a candid and respectful conversation about budget and expectations. This is a good way to find out from the get-go what it is that mom and dad are feeling about the wedding, and you can even say, "You know, it seems like it might be best for us to front the money ourselves and just have a smaller wedding. We really have a lot of ideas about what we like, and I wouldn't want you to feel like you were contributing to something and then not getting as much of a say." I think that that's the kind of conversation you want to have if you start feeling like the parents are becoming overbearing.
It's really important to talk about it before people commit to the financial side of things. That doesn't mean that just because mom and dad are throwing in $15,000 they automatically get their way. I think that if you do have those parents who are starting to dictate too much of what's going on, you need to sit down and say, "Hey mom, I love your support and I am really grateful to have you involved in the wedding-planning process, however, I'm starting to feel like this is your wedding and not my wedding, and there are a number of things that I'm not interested in doing that I want to talk to you about because I feel like it's really hard to say no."
For couples who do want to have a smaller wedding and handle the finances themselves, what are some of the best ways for them to save enough money?
One of the first things I suggest couples do is open up a bank account that's going to be strictly for your wedding. That way, you're never crossing over into savings that you want to be able to count on after the wedding is over. [I highly recommend] Bank of America's mobile banking app, which allows you to use your mobile alerts to know exactly when you need to pay a vendor, or to look at your bank account to see what's pending and what's already been processed, and know what you haven't yet paid for. I think that that's a really smart way to handle it.
Say a couple wants to have a smaller guest list, but their parents want to invite the whole community -- how can the couple discuss that respectfully with their folks?
Consider a really big bottle of wine -- it's a really difficult conversation to have! I find that a lot of the time when parents really want something like that, it's important to say, "Mom, I appreciate that these members of the community would want to celebrate with us, but maybe we need to have a party at a different time that's a much more casual party for everyone, as opposed to inviting everybody to the wedding." I think that [a separate party] is really nice for these people who you aren't as close to. It can be awkward for them to be receiving an invitation and feel obligated to give a gift. Framing it that way with your parents might be helpful.
What about parents who want to control the guest list and limit the number of guests the bride and groom can invite from their friend group?
One of the first things you should talk about with both sets of parents is the division of the guest list. Is it going to be one-third groom's parents' friends and family, one-third bride's parents' friends and family, and one-third the couple's friends? Or are you going to try to divvy it up differently? I think it's important to set numbers for people...or your list is going to get bigger than you can imagine.
For more budget advice, check out nine unconventional ways to save on your wedding!