For better or worse

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For better or worse.

Listening to a proud but anxious mother describing her daughter's upcoming wedding made me thankful not to be in her position for a while yet.

Weddings are emotional at the best of times; add in the financial stress and extravagance of many modern weddings and they quickly become a hotbed of emotional turmoil for everyone involved.

This particular mother was relieved her daughter and future son-in-law had not asked for the traditional financial contribution from parents.

But the wedding will nonetheless be a significant financial burden for the parents as the happy couple have decided to hold the nuptials on the other side of the world.

While the parents "only" need to pay their way to Europe and accommodation, their carefully planned finances had not anticipated a wedding this year, so their budget needs to be reshuffled and other planned expenses and treats will necessarily be foregone.

The mother also felt guilty because the bride's parents are 'supposed to pay' for the wedding. So she convinced her husband to contribute a sum towards the food, beverages and photography ("you've got to have a nice wedding photo album").

More of their spending and saving foregone, all for a one-day celebration; albeit a special one.

Thirty years ago, my husband and I contributed to the cost of our wedding, but our parents paid the lions' share, as was the custom.

My guilt at having my parents pay for the wedding was assuaged by the fact most guests were our parents' invitees — relatives we didn't know well and many of our parents' friends. I figure they got a reasonable return on their investment — the party was as much theirs as ours.

A money writer recently described his approach to funding his children's lifestyles. It resonated with me, acknowledging he is in the fortunate position to make a meaningful contribution to his two children.

He said he took his son and daughter, aged 12 and 16 respectively, out to dinner and told them exactly how much financial help he'd provide.

"I would make sure they graduated college (university) debt-free. I would establish a retirement account and a house down-payment fund."

On top of that he'd give them $5000 upon graduation, plus another $5000 toward the cost of a wedding or at age 30, whichever came first.
I told you he was in a fortunate position. As it happens, his daughter got engaged last month.

He revisited his decision to contribute $5000 towards the wedding (which does not go far these days) and concluded "when I made my financial commitment to my children, they reflected my values and those values haven't much changed."

He's not going to pay more because he reflected that "in a world where almost half of Americans approaching retirement have less than $50,000 saved, I find it unfathomable to spend thousands on a single day of celebration. Every fibre in my body rebels against the notion."

He said his daughter hasn't pressed him to give more. She understands he's been generous over the years. Anyway, his ex-wife is likely to give plenty of help...

He finished by saying "at the wedding I will probably feel a little awkward, because I'll know I haven't paid 'my fair share'. But I'm still not inclined to give more. On the other hand, when it comes to grandchildren, I'll be the first to contribute to their college accounts. Those are my values."

I'm thinking they're mine too.


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