A Family-Financed Wedding for Littlest Sister

So my littlest sister, Starfish, is getting married this September on a pretty strict budget. She just got her first ever credit card – at age 30! – with that elusive 0% interest for a year in order to “finance” it. I think she’s capable of adhering to that plan, but those are untested waters with her. She was a teenager under the same roof as my parents and grandmother through the worst of their spending habits, and I’m not sure what she learned.

She’s planning for about 65 guests, outdoor ceremony in a small outdoor amphitheater in the Rockies. The reception will be a few miles away (but definitely taxi distance, so no provision of transportation necessary) and will feature gourmet pizza, wine & beer, karaoke, iPod music, and a cash bar. She’s wonderfully creative and will make things very attractive and unusual, but it sounds kinda cheesy -sensible for her budget, but the prospect of no hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar isn’t sitting too well with us.

I stepped up with a $500 pre-wedding gift immediately – now that I’ve got two jobs on the go and am doing rather well at the new one, I can do that fairly painlessly. My mother said she’s hoping to put in $1000, but I don’t think that’ll happen because she just got a crapload of dental work. I let my brother know what I was doing because he likes to do the right thing, it’s just a matter of knowing what the right thing is.

The part I find awkward is that, with my dad gone, my mom is planning to approach her godfather (his youngest brother) for a contribution to the wedding costs. To be fair, he sort of offered with the other sister last year, but my mom said they were fine and didn’t need it. However, Starfish and her wonderful fiance (really decent, big-hearted guy who loves our entire family) could really use the help. Starfish has no real problem accepting big gifts and is very gracious about it, and I know my future brother-in-law will be floored.

So tell me, what few readers I have left after not blogging for 5 weeks…

Do you have any first- or second-hand experience of a “family financed” wedding? How did you (or the couple) feel about it?

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11 Responses

  1. For my wedding his huge family made the food, a giant potluck. It worked out really well, homemade, yummy, cheap!

  2. It was something of a tradition that though weddings in the family were “financed.” (They were and weren’t.) The parents usually paid the bulk of the wedding, and received either the money gifts from the morning ceremonies or the reception, depending. I don’t know if that was understood or pre-negotiated … anyway, parents kept one chunk of the money as partial payment and the newlyweds got the other chunk to start their lives.

    Nowadays, if bride and groom pay for the wedding, it’s out of pocket and they expect that the cash gifts will generally pay for the shindig after they’ve been totted up. Some care, some don’t, depends on their finances.

    But in either case, siblings are always expected to give HUGE gifts. My parents gave mom’s siblings (the ungrateful, undeserving wretches) on the order of $5000/wedding because she was the oldest and it “was expected.” [Can I say “bite me” here? Because I’d like to.] We weren’t wealthy by any means, but because they owned their own business the social expectation was of that magnitude.

    Annnyway. I think that family financed weddings can work just fine if it’s either part of the culture or there’s a good understanding between the family members and the heart is willing to give AND accept without strings attached.

  3. My parents paid for my sister’s wedding–everything except the engagement ring, from my understanding. I’m not comfortable with that–Peanut and I are in a totally different place in life and we can afford to pay for our own wedding. Also, my mother’s financial involvement meant that a lot of things went HER way, not the couple’s way, which was not something I wanted.

    In our case, Peanut and I are paying for most things–the food, the booze, the venues. My mother bought my dress, and my dad gave me an unexpected check to use for planning, which will help with stuff I didn’t care about, like flowers and centerpieces. Their help is appreciated but not needed. And if we didn’t have the money, I wouldn’t ask for it in order to throw a bigger party.

    • Yes, your wedding sounds a lot like the way we’re doing it. My mom likes to buy the dress. She’s absolutely right about the necessity of hors d’oeuvres, so I think she wants to “sponsor” that too – my little sis just thought they were overpriced, but not sure what that means to her. Much like your dad’s check 🙂

  4. We had a smallish wedding of about 60. We paid for everything except for liquor and hors dovres. Instead, my parents went to a “discount” liquor store for the alcohol and picked up some deli trays from a local grocery store. We had a “destination” wedding (Las Vegas, close to my family and neutral territory) and total we spent about $6000 for suite, photographer, flowers, album, hair, makeup, mani/pedi, tux rental, cake, champagne (not paid for by parents), etc.

  5. That guest list sounds downright reasonable. Go Starfish!

    I’m no critic of cash bars after I paid for my own open bar, and most places just won’t let you bring liquor. That said, if people know ahead of time, you’ll see a lot of flasks. Like a BYOB. Hooray!

    If it were my wedding, I wouldn’t ask for the money. But I don’t like owing people anything. Maybe he’d be glad to give the money?

    • I come from a family that believes if you can’t do it right, you shouldn’t do it at all…and that means at minimum free food, drink, music. I think her godfather might be quite happy to “sponsor” the bar. Otherwise, I think it’s pretty cool that on her site, she warns her friends – all serious drinkers – to bring flasks or wads of cash. I’d like to “sponsor” a signature cocktail – the groom is a bartender who loves learning and experimenting, I’ll bet he could come up with something divine!

      • What a clever, unique idea! A signature cocktail! Run with that idea, because it’s a great one.

  6. We’re hosting our own wedding, My family doesn’t have the funds to help, and his family [re: mother] never gives without strings.

    Chris’ mother sent us a list of people she wanted invited. When we said no, mainly because 1. we didn’t know these people, and 2. We have a budget and we need to stick to it. They offered to pay for their half of the family, in order for us to, OK, the guest list she sent to me. Unfortunately I’m never included in ‘family’ discussions and Chris was taken too far aback to object at the time.

    I’m not a fan of his family contributing much monetarily because its already started that she’s requesting this and that. I’ve already made it clear to Chris that, if this “gift” keeps coming back at us in the future I will not hesitate to hand her a check and tell her to back the hell off. I don’t intend to be held captive or feel guilty for accepting something I didn’t want in the first place. We waited two years to get married specifically so we could pay for it, in its entirety OURSELVES.

    That being said, my mom paid for my dress, and every once in awhile picks up the tab when we are put buying wedding things. But she, and my grandparents, are doing it out of pure joy. Not to get their own way.

  7. Wait, so she signed up for a credit card to pay for her wedding? That is a terrible idea! No one should finance a party.

    If no one is going to throw a wedding for her, she should have the wedding she can afford. Sometimes you have to save up for things and wait for them. You’re very kind to give her a cash wedding present!

    Also, IMO, whatever is offered at the wedding should be offered for free. Alcohol doesn’t have to be served, and it’s much cheaper to offer just beer and wine, or even just wine.

    Good luck–I hope the credit card thing doesn’t go downhill!

  8. I know first hand how easy it is to be swept up in wedding planning and all of the expenses. I would strongly advise against putting the wedding on a credit card or asking for money from relatives or friends. For me the independence (both from credit card debt, and family debt (even if it’s a donation, there is still often a perceived debt)) is far more important than a one day party.

    Best of luck to the new couple!

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