Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Guest Post: The Pressure Our Parents Feel

By Carolyn

One of the things that I have noticed in planning a wedding is how much pressure our parents feel about putting on the right sort of wedding. Our parents think about reciprocation - by now, their friends and siblings have entertained them at the weddings of their children, and they want to return the favor. Our parents have their own aesthetic ideas, and their own social pressures to do things the right way. All of these things can make it really hard for parents to support the kinds of decisions we need to make to have a wedding on a modest budget.

There are a couple of things that have really helped me to help my parents get on board with a more modest wedding. The first is to really understand the emotional and social and cultural reasons behind their positions. In my case, I found that a lot of my parents' concern about where we held the wedding, what food we served, and how we decorated, really came down to wanting the guests to feel glad that they had come and - most importantly - to feel that we were glad they had come. Needless to say, it's definitely possible to meet this need whether your wedding is held in a park shelter or Saint Paul's cathedral.

The second thing that helped my parents get on board was to explain, in very concrete terms, how keeping to a smaller budget would change my life, and my fiance's life, for the better. So I made a spreadsheet. A spreadsheet illustrating my student loans, expected monthly payments for the next ten years, and how my fiance and I could save $500 a month for the next ten years if we poured my savings and 3/4 of our wedding budget into paying off the loan with the highest interest rate. I also explained that my student debt is a chronic source of stress and fear in my life, and that I was pretty sure any stress I had about limiting our selection of alcohol, buying a second hand wedding dress, or holding the wedding in a park shelter, would be temporary.

My parents have been extremely supportive of our plans ever since. My mom called up the park service to inquire about renting a shelter for a day, found a vendor at the farmers market who can provide local flowers for a fraction of the price at a professional florist, and she's come up with lots of good ideas for having fun without breaking the bank.


Carolyn is a third year law student in search of the perfect public interest environmental law job. When she's not working on the Clean Water Act, she blogs about cooking ethically at Localizing.

Jerry is a musician, entrepreneur, and an MBA student. When he's not teaching or recording at his studio, he's usually making brilliant YouTube videos.

Carolyn and Jerry met at the Bitter End, a Greenwich Village dive bar, during her first week in NYC. She surprised and charmed Jerry by sitting down and brazenly introducing herself.
Your turn: Do you have something you want to share with 2000dollarwedding kindred spirits? Maybe you want to write a post about how to DIY your wedding invitations or you want to share a profound realization that helped you approach wedding planning a little more sanely. Maybe you want to write about the name-changing dilemma or a creative idea for making your wedding more eco-friendly. If so, e-mail me your idea. We're looking forward to hearing from you!

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Kate said...

I had a similar experience when talking about the wedding with my parents. I think that they were relieved when we said that we wanted something small and low-key and personal. We asked to hold it at their home which they were really flattered by (tho ask them the morning before they wedding and maybe they would've preferred it being off-site).

My mom got such a kick out of watching those WIC tv shows "Bridezilla" and "Say yes to the dress" and then happily telling friends that "my daughter is nothing like that!". I think that once I got her on board, she took as much pride as we did in our homespun, picnic wedding.

A Los Angeles Love said...

Carolyn -

Yes. This is it exactly. My parents are pretty low-key and had a backyard wedding themselves, so I was shocked at how upset my Mom was about my low-key, lower-cost wedding ideas. Explaining it in the context of my life goals certainly helped get her on board, along with explicitly working to meet the comfort needs for our guests. What helped most, however, was paying for it all ourselves. I think that freed my parents from perceived social obligations, since they could publicly wash their hands of responsibility for our wacky choices.

Anonymous said...

This post comes at a time when I really need advice!

My fiance and I very much want to keep things low-key and intimate, but we feel like our guest list (and, therefore, the wedding itself) is ballooning out of our own control.

Time for a sit-down chat with our families!

Ginger said...

Love your blog! In fact, I just gave you an award:

Keep up the groovy blogging;)

Emily said...

Great post! My fiance actually had several similar reservations and vaguely referenced "doing it right" for the first few months of wedding planning. After many conversations about buying a couch (10 years of comfort) instead of champagne flutes (4 hours of prettiness), we are compromising and trying to throw a party that makes guests feel loved, but without filet minon :)

Ice Pizza said...

Oh dear, that is my frustration! I want a very inexpensive wedding, which is fine by me and my fiance because we're both very creative people, but my family is against the idea and want a hotel reception. Grrrr!!!... :-( Now my budget has climbed up to $4000... yeah, still smaller than a lot of weddings, but I was initially aiming for something $2000-ish too.

brianandkira said...

I really appreciate the blog recognizing our parents' perspective. I am with other commentors in that my mom had a couple (yes a couple) very low-key weddings, but is now acting upset if I want to skip some of the traditional aspects that to me seem really costly and impractical. But you're right, my parents are in the limelight as the hosts and therefore want it to reflect on them, not necessarily my fiance and my personal style. Our parents are offering us financial support for our wedding, and would be hurt if we wanted to leave them out of it completely. How do we explain to them how important it is that the wedding is practical, when they are willing to pay for conveniences and tradition? I love all the creative ideas everyone shares on this blog!

Theresa said...

At least you don't have to contend with parents angry about your decision to marry your same-sex partner, the woman you've been in love with for 12+ years and want to celebrate.

Money is one thing, but familial discontent is another. My partner and I are not going to beg for anyone's attendance or approval, yet it would be so lovely if our parents could get over their hangups and share our special day with us.

CDC said...

Great post! DIY invites and centerpieces were 2 ways that we found to save some serious $, and it also helped with some inspiration for other wedding ideas.

One day I was perusing at the local scrapbooking store and found a paper called "happily ever after" - it changed my whole color scheme, etc, as I was doing wine and champagne. B/C this paper is a turquoise with white scrollwork, we changed to red and turquoise:) Anyway, I had them order a boat load of this paper for me for a ridiculously low cost, bought some 40 cent red paper, bought some glue dots, got out my scrapbooking cutter, brought together my MOH, mother, and mother in law, and walla - the invites were made in an afternoon; the most expensive part was probably the stamps and the printing at the local Minuteman Press! I didn't have a good enough printer to print them myself, or it would've been even cheaper!

Anyway, I just wanted to share a story about one inexpensiveness thing I did during my wedding planning process that was also fun and creative:)

p said...

saving money on invitations is a must!
and so easy to do.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the thoughtfully written post.

I'm thankful to have supportive parents who are much more concerned with my long-term happiness than they are with flower arrangements or wedding etiquette, but the guest list is still so hard to control. My mom is completely laid back about the whole wedding thing and would be completely happy with whatever we choose, but my dad has been waiting since the day my older sister was born to walk just one person all the way down the aisle (he walked a couple of my stepsisters part way -- their dad walked them part way and then my dad met them half way up the aisle and all three proceeded the rest of the way) in the presence of his immediate family. Trouble is my dad is the third of six kids, and I also have five stepsisters. Add spouses and that's already 20 people. If you add kids it just starts to spiral out of control.

In theory, my beloved and I both want a small inexpensive wedding, but it means so much to my dad, and even without inviting any cousins, nieces or nephews, I have 25 relatives on my side. The sad part is that I am not very close at all to the vast majority of them, whereas I do have about 20 close friends who really are family to me.

Sigh. If anyone has any creative words of wisdom for keeping the wedding guest list down and still keeping my dad happy, I'd be grateful to hear them.

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