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Welcome Meddleheads, to the column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Right now. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.
My fiancée is planning our wedding and her family is paying for the ceremony at a lavish and expensive inn on Cape Cod. However, she is outspending our income when it comes to the other expenses such as DJ, flowers, photographer, etc.
How can I tactfully tell her to slow down without looking cheap to her and her family?
Groom & Doom
First things first: you are wise to take this issue seriously. Getting married is joyous event. But planning the wedding is often a source of considerable conflict. Not only do you have all the private pressures of committing to another person till death do you part, but you have to stage a public event to commemorate this commitment featuring all the people who make you the most crazy (i.e. your families). Which means lots of anxiety.
And this being America, wherever anxiety resides a whole industry arises to separate you from your dough. The wedding industry is a particularly pernicious one, preying as it does on nervous newlyweds. The basic pitch is as follows: “The only way to make this wedding a perfect event, and thereby to vouchsafe the happiness and longevity of your marriage, is to purchase X product or Y service.” Welcome to Up Sell City, comrade. This way to the caviar and doves.
Of course, you’ve gotten yourself into a sticky situation right from the start here, because you’re allowing your intended to plan an expensive wedding, and allowing her family to pay for it. This makes any feedback from you pretty suspect. I don’t mean to sound like a scold here. If I was in your shoes, I’m sure I would have done the exact same thing, using the exact same logic: if she cares about the wedding so much, let her plan it. And I’m sure I’d be in the exact same dilemma.
And this being America, wherever anxiety resides a whole industry arises to separate you from your dough. The wedding industry is a particularly pernicious one, preying as it does on nervous newlyweds.
I recommend you take a big step backwards and think about the long-term. That is: do you anticipate that your fiancée’s values and spending habits will more or less align with yours, or is this an area where you two are likely to experience conflict down the road? If it’s the latter, you would be wise to take this issue a bit more seriously. There’s nothing wrong with your wife coming from a wealthy background, of course. All things considered, it’s a blessing. But it can turn into a curse if you don’t work with her to establish the terms of your marriage. That is: you may not have as much money as her family does, and even if you do, you may not want to spend it in the ways she does.
I’m not suggesting that this set of financial decisions has to represent a line in the sand. But your letter makes it quite clear that you’re already feeling judged by your in-laws-to-be, and on the defensive.
My advice is to have a conversation with your fiancée. The first thing you should say is that you’re grateful to her parents for paying for most of the wedding, and to her for planning the event. Tell her, also, that you understand how important this day is to both of you, and how much you want it to be a worthy commemoration of your love. Having established this, I would proceed, gingerly, to the truth: that you don’t feel comfortable with the various budget overruns. If I were you, I would also offer to conduct a little research into the various options you have — if she’s cool with that. The idea here is not to try to usurp her role as planner, but to offer help, so she doesn’t just think you’re backseat wedding planning. I’d also be willing to compromise with her when it comes to these extras. Maybe she gets the fancy photographer, but you settle on a less expensive option for the DJ.
But beyond the particulars, I’d go ahead and confess that just bringing this subject up makes you uncomfortable, because you don’t have the kind of money that her family does, and feel self-conscious about it. Heck, you guys are getting married. Now is the time to level with her.
my personal belief is that marriage isn’t about throwing some fancy party. It’s about making the day-to-day compromises necessary to spend your life with another person.
You should also gently remind her that the wedding, as magical as you want it to be, is a special occasion. From here on out, you guys are going to have to work together to figure out what your joint income is, and how best to spend that money. It’s important that you guys establish good communication around this issue, especially because she’s clearly coming from a family culture that intimidates you.
The truth is, your “frugality” here is ultimately in her best interest. You’re trying to live within your means, not be a cheapskate. And if her folks are sensible people, they’ll see that. If they can’t see that, you’re best to know it now.
If it makes any difference, G&D, my personal belief is that marriage isn’t about throwing some fancy party. It’s about making the day-to-day compromises necessary to spend your life with another person. Is this how I justify the fact that I essentially forced my wife to elope, and offered her a reception that amounted to eating a take-out Indian meal? Yes, I suppose it is. On the other hand, the thousands we didn’t spend on a wedding were later used to buy a house my blushing bride adored.
I hope you have a great wedding day and an even better marriage. It all begins with unashamed honesty.
Okay folks, now it's your turn. Did I get it right, or muck it up? Let me know in the comments section. And please do send your own question along, the more detailed the better. Even if I don't have a helpful response, chances are someone in the comments section will. Send your dilemmas via email.
This program aired on December 23, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.
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