Recent research reveals that 70–74% of same-sex couples pay for their wedding entirely themselves. Even if you have the most supportive parents in the world, they may not be able to fund your fabulous day—especially when you consider that in recent years, gay men spent an average of about $33,000 on their nuptials. (I chuckled when I found this statistic, since apparently my husband and I are completely average in this regard.)
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least ask—many supportive parents, even if they can’t foot the entire bill, will still want to contribute something material to your wedding as a means of demonstrating their love for you, your fiancé, and your decision to get hitched. Money has always been a bit of a taboo subject in most cultures, so having these conversations is not usually something that comes naturally to most of us. It’s further complicated by the fact that a lot of gay couples may find themselves in a more professionally mature and stable dual-income, no kids situation that tends to be more privileged than most younger couples straight out of college or even our own parents, who are likely either in retirement or approaching it. Does that mean we should just do it all ourselves like we’re used to? I’d warn against it.
Still, the question arises: How do we ask our parents if they can or would like to contribute to the wedding fund? This was a point of major discussion for the two of us—each side has their own unique financial situation so we had no assumptions that either set would be able to assist. We knew we wanted to give them the opportunity to pitch in, but definitely didn’t want them to feel obligated to over-extend themselves. And like most conversations about money, we knew it would require some sensitivity and tact.
We hemmed and hawed over the subject for quite some time as we looked at our own finances and honed in on some of our wants and needs for our own wedding. In the process, we came across a gay-focused planning workbook called Getting Groomed: The Ultimate Wedding Planner for Gay Grooms by Jason Mitchell. His chapter on budgets suggests a fantastic way to pop the question to each set of parents. I’ve broken it down into three key steps:
- Determine your big picture vision: It’s really hard to get into the nitty-gritty when you’re first engaged, so work on the general feel, look, and content of your ceremony and reception. For us, we knew we wanted 80–100 people, really great food (including cocktail hour and dinner), and a venue local to where we lived.
- Figure out how much you personally can afford: not every groom needs to (or should) take out a wedding loan, so figure out how much you have to work with from your own finances first. If there’s a major gap between your vision and your own budget, you may need to adjust your vision to match, at least until you figure out how much you have in total to work with.
- Have the conversation: Call up or visit each set of parents, tell them about your vision (Mitchell gives several examples on how to phrase these in his book, all starting with “So we’ve been thinking…”), then give them the opportunity to volunteer to contribute. If they don’t jump at the chance, ask them if they’d like to be financially involved, and if so, how much they would feel comfortable contributing. You probably won’t get a concrete answer on the spot, though. They’ll likely need to think it through or look at their own finances first. And it may go without saying, but no matter what the answer is, thank them profusely for their support of your marriage.
Our experience asking our own parents went two different directions. My parents immediately said they’d love to contribute something, but would need a few days to look at their finances and determine exactly how much. Mere hours later, my dad texted me with his answer based on an anticipated work bonus several months down the road, and asked if it would be okay to wait until then. Absolutely. I then asked if he’d like their contribution to be directed toward or recognized for any particular component of the wedding (photography or flowers, for example)—he trusted that we would put it to good use however we saw fit. That meant so much!
Justin’s parents were eager to support us, but weren’t sure how exactly they’d be able to do that. We didn’t get a clear answer out of them for a few months until we honed in on one thing that we were having trouble making a plan for: the rehearsal dinner. Rather than book a private dining room at a restaurant, we decided we wanted to host a buffet of Indian cuisine in our own home for 24 people, and asked if they’d be willing to coordinate that. They jumped at the chance, and rather than have it catered, they took it upon themselves to cook up the entire feast (adding some Moroccan dishes in for good measure). In the end, I’m certain it cost them way less than footing the bill at a restaurant or hiring a caterer, but they were able to contribute in their own huge DIY, feast-loving way by hosting a warm, inviting meal for our immediate family and wedding party. Seriously, the food was amazing and the experience was one we’ll never forget.
Using Mitchell’s approach to asking if our parents would like to contribute, then honing in on how much, really helped us broach the conversation. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t nervous right before the calls despite the preparation, but once the questions left our mouths we felt a huge sigh of relief and the conversations that followed were natural and honest. We’re both very grateful that our parents love and support us so much, and that they were both able to make a difference, both financially and experientially, in our wedding weekend.
Hopefully you will, too, and that this method for having that always-awkward conversation about money will at least make it slightly less awkward.