Can't Pay for Her Wedding

by | Feb. 15, 2010


Dear Dave,

Our daughter is 24, engaged to be married, and we can't afford to pay for the kind of wedding she wants. My husband and I have had some financial difficulty over the last few years, and we are finally beginning to slowly dig our way out. On top of this, we're still paying on her student loan from college. Should we let her know the situation up front, and how can we keep from feeling guilty about things?


Dear Gina,

The big thing is that first you and your husband should be on the same page. You need to come to a decision about exactly what you're willing and able to do. It doesn't sound like it will be much, though. Especially if you're trying to get your own finances in order and still paying on her student loan.

Now, how do you not feel guilty about all this? I think that's a personal journey you'll both have to take. A wedding is a wonderful thing, but it's not any less wonderful when it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. It also doesn't make you child abusers or bad parents just because you're not willing to go $20,000 into debt to throw a fancy wedding!

I think, too, that you owe this kid some straightforward and honest communication. Most 24-year-olds don't have a firm grasp on reality. Even at that age, they don't think about where the money's coming from. They're just bopping along and assuming Mom and Dad will pull thousands of dollars out of the air for a big Barbie and Ken wedding. She needs to know that things just aren't like that in the real world.

Let her know that you love her and want to help, but you're going to be very limited on what you can do financially. Besides, you can have a great wedding without throwing around lots of cash. A marriage is about love, not dollar signs. And when it comes to the money, a wedding is like anything else you'd buy. My rule of thumb is pay cash or don't do it!


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