Ask AOW – The budget edition

Weddings are complex things. In one respect they are often wonderful life changing events that stay with you for your whole life. On the other hand the dynamics can cause you to look deep into things that you sometimes would rather gloss over. They really put relationships under the microscope, and more than that, they can bring your own ingrained morals and beliefs into focus too. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can be *hard*, and that’s what Lorna is finding out now. 

So lovely ladies…I leave you with Lorna and her shout out for a little bit of advice….

Because it always helps to put a name to a face when you are giving someone advice.

I want to talk about wedding budgets…

The flip side of this is that I’m British, therefore know deep down that talking about money is tacky and shows poor breeding. So I’m not really going to write about the details. Instead I’m talking about spending other people’s money. Wedding Blogs have made me feel really guilty about this- if I read another ‘we decided to just wait until we could pay for it ourselves’ comment, I will cry.*

There are two main reasons for this (over) reaction- the first being that paying for my own wedding would have deeply upset my mummy. I’m sure there must be others whose parents are excited about giving them money for a wedding (I’m not going to call it ‘contributing’ here- let’s face it, it is sugar coating the fact they are giving you cash.)

Now I am well practiced at accepting my parent’s generosity. Over the last few years I have “borrowed” money from them to pay bills, buy essentials and generally survive student-dom second time round. But accepting money for Pretty Things? I am struggling. I fell in love with a £67 wedding dress. My mum bought me it. I expected my dad to be thrilled. He was not. They are concerned I am short-changing myself to save them money. I don’t think I am, but between us Boyfriend and I have wracked up an impressive 18 years of student life, so being cheap and having lower expectations is fairly deeply ingrained.

Where my family said ‘we have x amount to spend on a wedding, tell us what you need,’ Boyfriend’s family have said ‘how much is x costing you? Ok, here’s a cheque.’ Both methods are equally appreciated, and I cannot quite believe how fortunate we are to have so many people around us who like us enough to give us money. Even my wee granny is paying for our invitations. I did draw the line there, said ‘no thank you’ and promptly got a mouthful about how ‘it’s her money and she’ll do what she damn well pleases with it, and refusing is offensive.’ I let her pay- she’s a scary lady when she wants to be.**

The second reason the ‘paying for it ourselves’ comments cause mini-meltdowns is that whilst we are paying for some of our wedding ourselves, what that really means is Boyfriend is paying for it.

I am paying for no part of our wedding.

I’m a student, he has a good job. He has savings, I have wiped mine out- and not even on cheap vodka and New Look high heels like I did at uni first time round. It feels strange to me to look at blogs or pretty pictures, see things I like and know that someone else will pay for it if I decide to go ahead. The plus side of this is that I REALLY have to love something to go ahead. The downside is that I over-analyse the value every detail will give the day.

The current cause of my nytol addiction – do I want a make up artist and hairdresser for the day? This simple question invites company – do I need it? Do my bridesmaids need it? Who will I ask to pay for it? Can I justify asking someone to pay for it? What is a reasonable amount to ask them to pay? Should I just do it myself? Will I have to buy fancy make up? Can I afford fancy make up? As of yet, this remains undecided.

Did anyone else find themselves in the same situation? We’re down to 5 months to go now, so the end is in sight, but I’d love your tips on spending other people’s money with an easy conscience. And if anyone says ‘you should have waited and saved up yourself’, I’ll punch them.

* I hope no one is offended by this- I know that really works for some. It just wouldn’t have worked for us.

** I’m fully aware this isn’t a real problem. But then again not many things in wedding planning are…

Categories: Ask Anna, Ant and AOW, Money and Career
20 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted September 21, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Lorna, THANK YOU! Thank you for writing this and being so beautfifully honest. I read all the way through shouting 'yes!' in my head. This is almost exactly the situation I'm in. My parents were, frankly, insistent on paying for most of my wedding. In particular my Mum was alarmingly insistent on both paying for my wedding dress and not letting me know the cost of it (seriously, scary Mum moment!). My Dad met every objection with 'it's part of being a Father, I want to'. And as you say, it's lovely to be on the end of such generosity, but it did cause some arguments. My man was not happy accepting so much money from my folks, they were insistent that they wanted to and would be upset not to. I was caught in the middle for weeks. It was miserable. Especially as, like you, paying for it ourselves would mean HIM paying anyway, so I was cosying up with both a rock and a hard place!

    In the end, I think you can only be grateful, but I do feel your anxiety. I don't want to discuss it with anyone when I can't decide how much to spend on invites, because they'll say 'have what you want' and I'll feel guilty and spoilt. So I'm DIY-ing as much as I can (bearing in mind my total lack of artistic or creative ability) and be eternally grateful for being so lucky!

    Oh, and definitely punch anyone who suggests you should have waited! It's your day, so pooh-pooh to them! x

  2. Fee
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    What lovely writing Lorna – lovely lovely lovely!

    On the murky subject of budgets – both sets of parents gave us money towards the big day and we are paying the rest ourselves. However, like you, the boy is shouldering the lions share of 'ourselves' – simply because he earns a lot more than me. This, like you, does not stop me feeling bad about it.

    My Dad has also cut me off at various points when I have been talking about making/doing something myself and given me more money so I can have, in his words, 'the best of everything'. This too makes me feel bad.

    However, during my big day planning (7 weeks to go, eek!) I have come to realise something – people want to help because they love you. They genuinely do. Whether that be with money, diy skills, musical skills or baking skills – it took me several months to get my head round this and stop doing my 'Oh, I couldn't possibly let you do that' bit.

    So my advice would be to let your loved ones contribute to your wedding day because that is their way of showing how much they care (unless it is your weird auntie trying to force you to wear their wedding dress of similar – yikes!).

    And more power to those who decided to save up and pay for it themselves – that is their CHOICE. Exactly as your choice is not to do that. Pffft!

    Good luck with the rest of your planning!

  3. Mahj
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I actually really appreciate it when someone talks about wedding budgets because out of ALL the details about Martin and I's wedding, that was the one that we never talked about with other people. This was prob due to the fact that we know some people were quite judgy when they found out the type of day we were having (large) and that my parents were paying for all of it. By all means, Martin and I could've saved the money ourselves for a smaller do, but we prob would have still been saving!

    From the moment that we announced we were engaged, my darling Dad announced that he already had money saved for both mine and my sister's future wedding(s). This left Martin and I in a state of open-mouthed shock and awe and also opened up so many more possibilities for us for our big day.

    I did try and find some savings but that ended up happening when all of the guests we originally invited couldnt make it. And so we ended up ploughing that money back into the day for the guests that could.

    I did also offer to sell my outfit after the wedding but my parents looked so aghast at this that I didnt mention it again!

    Lorna, dont feel bad. Feel proud that your parents (and fiance) want to make this massive gesture to you and for you. It's a really big thing in our family that fathers pay for their daughters wedding, as it clearly is in yours too. And if you need a hand punching any naysayers, give me a call!


  4. Posted September 21, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for writing this for us, Lorna. It really is each to their own. As long as the people who give you money towards your big day are people that you trust and people that won't hold it against you, or try to crowbar their style on your day on their dollar…who the ruddy hell cares who pays?

  5. Esme
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Hi Laura! I completely agree with Fee – people really do want to help. I found the budget thing a real struggle (although I got some help from some wonderful AOW ladies!) and in the end I came up with three guidelines to help me make decisions:
    1. If people offer money, say thank you. We're all adults and if they want to give you the cash, then that's their decision.
    2. Decide whether each item is the one you really want at a price you're really happy with. If you feel uneasy, shop around for a cheaper version or don't have it. If it makes you happy and you want it in your wedding then do it.
    3. Don't go into debt for your wedding. You can have an amazing wedding on any budget.

    I hope that helps!


  6. Esme
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Sorry, I meant Lorna!

  7. Posted September 21, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Great post.

    My parents insisted on paying for our wedding. All their friends and family have paid for their daughters weddings too, and they would not have it any other way. Spoilt, moi, err maybe definitely yes.

    If they hadn’t been able to afford it, or had to go without to pay for wedding, I would not have not have let them be so generous. I did try and keep within a budget, and not let them overspend, if that makes me a better person?

    My parents loved hosting the wedding, especially my Dad.

    The issue we had was not the guilt over them paying, but my parents were not going to just hand over the cash, and let us have the day we wanted.

    It was their name at the top of the invites, with them paying, with the reception in their garden. It was definitely their big day too. Once I decided that it was only one day of the rest of our lives, and to compromise with them, I enjoyed the planning process much more. My husband wanted a small day too, but once he'd come round to bigger wedding, he loved it. He and his parents were able to invite everyone they wanted.

  8. Posted September 21, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I should add, we wanted small informal do, parents wanted big flash wedding. They did not like ideas that they considered hippyish/alternative. We gave into them lots, but once I decided to stop being so wedding crazy and compromise, it was fine.


  9. Posted September 21, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Regarding the makeup/hair situation… you might be able to get these for cheaper than you think. I came across a few MUAs looking for pictures for their portfolio, so it might be worth checking local beauty schools. We got a few names given to us from our photographer friend who was just starting out in the wedding biz and knew a lot of local make up people in the same boat.

    If this, and doing it yourself, puts the fear of God into you then I think your question is answered! It's not a massive cost in compared to, say, hiring a venue (argharghargh) and you WILL look at these pictures for the rest of your life. I still wish I'd had my hair done professionally instead of scrimping. If it bothers you that your folks are paying for that particular cost, then just say graciously that you'd like to contribute somehow, and if it's ok with them, this tiny bit is covered!


  10. Sarah M
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Always a tough one. I'm part way through writing about something similar at the moment.

    We declined virtually all offers of financial help from our family – we were the ones wanting to get married and so felt we ought to pay for it. The thought of taking money from my folks for something as frivolous as a wedding made me feel physically ill.

    Whilst they were keen to contribute (well, my mum was!) I much preferred that they help out in time and support rather than splashing their cash. I want them to use their money to treat themselves, and maybe any grandkids who should come along.

    I may have found it easier to accept a financial contribution if we wanted a small, basic wedding but we wanted to do things our way and in a style that reflected us. I would have hated for them to know how much we spent as I suspect they'd have been horrified (theirs cost c£500 back in 1970 including outfits, reception and honeymoon!). For the same reason, I'm not inclined to discuss my income with my folks.

    I have always been fiercely financially independent and the thought of altering that for our wedding day just didn't sit well. I have some wonderful memories of the things they helped us with (sewing, baking, wood work, all sorts!) and that means more to me than a cheque in my grubby mitt. Perhaps I'd have felt differently if I couldn't have afforded to get married without their financial support but I can only write from my own experience.


  11. Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Hey Lorna,

    We had a similar situation in that both sets of parents were incredibly generous to make our special day happen. I had a budget I wanted to keep to so did some DIYing and spent a lot of time making sure we'd got the right suppliers who gave us value for money. Whenever my MIL heard that I was trying to cut costs she offered me more money so I could have the day I wanted. This was very sweet but I still didn't want to just throw money at the wedding, whether it was mine or theirs.

    Our wedding was 6 weeks after my brother in law's wedding. Ours probably had about half the budget (they could afford to put a lot more of their own money in) but I don't think any of our family who came to both would say either was better than the other. So, I'd say accept the money graciously but spend it as if it was your own hard earned cash and you'll be more likely to part with it cautiously. Also, while our families kindly gave us money, we were in charge of booking and paying for everything which helped us be in control where we over or under spent (depending on what WE considered important rather than our families). I wouldn't have accepted any money if it meant we had to have someone else's vision rather than our own though.


    P.S. If we'd had to save up for the wedding ourselves we'd either be waiting until we were 50 or would have eloped to Vegas! I still don't understand how parents manage to save up for wedding funds when I'm struggling to pay about £20 of my student loan back a year!

  12. El
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    This is the most taboo subject of them all I think, and the idea that *gasp* one's parents would want to pay thousands of pounds towards their daughters wedding…well no one on wedding blogs ever discusses it! It's always focused on how well the couple did saving up themselves for the wedding, whereas, in my case anyway, even if I had 50k in savings, my parents would still have insisted on paying. Thats traditional and right for them, and they wouldnt have had in any other way. My H2B and I are paying for our honeymoon and first night hotel, but really thats about it. I've always been a big bargain hunter so I've shopped around for the best prices, but I have to admit that someone else signing the cheques makes the whole thing a LOT less stressful! :)
    And yes, you do have to compromise on lots of things that you parents want/don't want, but weddings should be big family affairs in my opinion, so am happy to let some of my wackier ideas go!

  13. Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Perfect post… I particularly like

    I’m fully aware this isn’t a real problem. But then again not many things in wedding planning are… So very true.

    I think you have the right approach – it's going to make you really love the things you choose, but don't forget the pleasure people get from giving – only you know if your parents can afford this, but if they want to spend their money this way, that's their choice. Accept graciously and use it as an excuse to bond with them in the choosing too?

  14. Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    El – your big family compromised wedding sounds like mine. It took us a while to realise that this is what we wanted, but we did love our big wedding, with all our family and friends.

    Jenny – you are quite right, to not want to accept money, if it is someone else's vision. Andy and I discussed this, and agreed that if we want to do things our way, then we should just pay for it ourselves. However, we decided it was just one day of our lives, and we'd prefer to keep our savings for when we want to start a family / rainy day. It was the right decision for us.

  15. Posted September 21, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Katie – I totally understand. I was planning in constant fear of future MIL forcing her ideas on us, though it worked out fine. If it had been my own family wanting things for the day I would have been more inclined to compromise I think. We did compromise on some things – don't want it to seem like I was a stroppy little girl stamping my feet and getting my own way! ;)

    In the end, as long as you get married and your family and friends are having a good time on the day that's all you notice anyway!

  16. Posted September 21, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I am in a similar situation! My parents are paying for pretty much the whole shebang in England. We are paying for my dress, his suit, the favours, our wedding rings, etc etc.
    We will also be paying for our second wedding with El Chicos family in Paraguay (which is a lot cheaper!)

    Me parents just assumed they were paying for everything. There was no sit down and hash out the budget. My Mum (who is an accountant) sent me an excel with this is what we are paying and how much there is and this is what you are paying. Sorted.

    However, receiving money from my parents to help with my wedding means that the famous "YOUR DAY, YOUR WAY" just doesnt work. As my Nana pointed out to my Mum when I made a radical suggestion about place settings – "Your paying for it. Tell her that her ideas are not appropriate!" :)

    At the end of the day, my parents want to see my married. They have dreamed about it since I was born. As my Father said "She is my only daughter and she needs a really good party."

    The trickiest bit about the whole parents paying for most everything has been the bridesmaids. My best friend is extremely proud and financially independent and there was alsmot an out and out fist fight between her and my Mum when my Mum wanted to pay for her dress! Mum won – dont they always?

  17. Posted September 21, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    oh Jenny, I didn't think you were stamping your own feet, at all. I agree with all your posts.

    At the beginning of the wedding planning, I was the stroppy little girl, complaining about not getting what I wanted (not we want, but I want, Andy is much more laid back), and it was getting me down. I came to my senses, and realised that we needed to compromise, or pay for wedding ourselves.


  18. Posted September 21, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    I am so glad there are others out there quietly spending other people's money. your comments have cheered me no end.

    I have still made no decision re. hair and make up, but given that the wedding is now 3 months away, i think the decision has probably been made by default…

    i have to say i have been incredibly fortunate in that I have had to make no compromises or changes to please my parents (or Boyfriend's) on account of how "strong-willed and determined" they all consider me. (this is not meant as a compliment- i am choosing to take it as one nevertheless…)

    it's kind of our day, but it's also kind of our parents' day too. it's the chance they get to show the world they actually managed to raise their kid so well that someone else is willing to stay with them forever.

    that kind of success requires champagne.

  19. Posted September 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    I love something that deals with budget, I know us English aren't the greatest with dealing with the subject but sometimes it needs to be approached!

    I'm having a half similar problem. I am very independant and want only me and the boy to pay for our wedding (something which we can do, on a budget) whereas his parents want us to have what we want and so want to pay for the wedding, my parents want to contribute but no way can contribute as much as his parents are offering. Its all very awkward at the moment haha.

    It seems to me as if you are dealing with things in a really good way. You are considering if you actually need things and therefore making choices more carefully and i think this is the right thing to do. Maybe have a discussion with the parents about hair and make up, what do they think of the issue? Making them part of the decision making could be a good option?

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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