Par­ents of the bride: You are still get­ting stuck with most of the wed­ding costs

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - JULIE HALPERT

Par­ents of daugh­ters, be­ware: The age-old tra­di­tion of the brides’ par­ents funding the wed­ding is still very much alive. Ac­cord­ing to the 2017 New­ly­wed Re­port — the largest sur­vey of 2016 wed­dings, con­ducted by Wed­dingWire — par­ents of both the bride and groom paid for 67 per cent of the to­tal wed­ding cost; of that num­ber, par­ents of the bride paid 43 per cent, while par­ents of the groom paid only 24 per cent. Gen­er­ally, the cou­ple them­selves picked up the rest of the tab.

The prac­tice of the bride’s fam­ily cov­er­ing wed­ding costs is a cen­turies-old tra­di­tion which func­tioned as the equiv­a­lent of a dowry — a gift to the groom’s fam­ily for the ex­pense of tak­ing on a de­pen­dent woman. “It’s a di­rect de­scen­dant of the idea that women are depend­ing on men and don’t sup­port them­selves, so a woman’s fam­ily should make one last big in­vest­ment,” said Stephanie Coontz, au­thor of “Mar­riage, a His­tory” and di­rec­tor of re­search at the Coun­cil on Con­tem­po­rary Fam­i­lies at the Univer­sity of Texas at Austin.

Pay­ing the ‘dowry’

Even though times have changed, and women and men typ­i­cally come to mar­riage with sim­i­lar earn­ing power. And yet, the bride’s par­ents are still pay­ing the equiv­a­lent of that dowry, Coontz said. “It’s par­tic­u­larly ironic to­day, be­cause many younger women ac­tu­ally have more po­ten­tial earn­ing power than their hub­bies, be­ing more highly ed­u­cated,” she added. But she said many women still hold the old-fash­ioned no­tion that mar­riage should be the high point of their life, rep­re­sented by a spe­cial day, and brides’ par­ents buy into the idea that their job is to make that spe­cial day pos­si­ble.

The groom’s fam­ily typ­i­cally pays for the re­hearsal din­ner and the bar tab at the wed­ding re­cep­tion. That’s a trend that Glo­ria Boy­den, di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion for the As­so­ci­a­tion of Bridal Con­sul­tants, and owner of Events by De­sign in Carmel, In­di­ana, has seen. And, she says, as a prac­ti­cal mea­sure, this sys­tem works well; hav­ing the brides’ fam­ily in charge al­lows them to be in con­trol, min­i­miz­ing dis­agree­ment.

How to save?

So how and when do par­ents start sav­ing up for their daugh­ters’ wed­dings? Kathryn Hauer, a fi­nan­cial plan­ner in Aiken, South Carolina, said it can’t hurt to set up a sav­ings ac­count at your lo­cal bank that is ear­marked for wed­ding ex­penses, and to put ex­tra money in it when your child is in high school or get­ting se­ri­ous in a re­la­tion­ship.

“Even if you only have a small amount in there when that wed­ding rolls around, it will be bet­ter than noth­ing,” she said.

She said most fi­nan­cial plan­ners don’t rec­om­mend tak­ing out per­sonal loans or home eq­uity loans to help pay for wed­dings, though many par­ents of brides do this. A lower-rate per­sonal loan if you qual­ify is of­ten a bet­ter choice than max­ing out credit cards, she said.

Mitchell Kraus, Fi­nan­cial Plan­ner at Cap­i­tal In­tel­li­gence As­so­ci­ates in Santa Mon­ica, Cal­i­for­nia, said the clients most in­ter­ested in sav­ing for wed­dings are the par­ents of daugh­ters.

“The more I see us ap­proach an eq­ui­table so­ci­ety, this as­pect never seems to change. I can count dozens of clients that have paid or ex­pect to pay for their daugh­ters’ wed­dings and none who are sav­ing or plan to save nearly as much or any­thing for their sons.”

Still, some are try­ing to change this long-held tra­di­tion of the bride’s fam­ily foot­ing the ma­jor­ity of the bill. When it came time for Lisa Gar­ber’s daugh­ter to be mar­ried in Michi­gan, Gar­ber ini­ti­ated a dis­cus­sion with the groom’s fam­ily about how much they wanted to con­trib­ute. His par­ents agreed to pay a por­tion of the event, which was held in Fe­bru­ary.

Groom’s side

When her sec­ond daugh­ter got en­gaged on New Year’s Eve in 2016, she gave the groom a head’s up that she would have a dis­cus­sion with his par­ents about how much they would be con­tribut­ing for the wed­ding this June; that fam­ily has also agreed to pay for a por­tion. Real­iz­ing this broke with tra­di­tion, “I was pre­pared to get noth­ing, so I was thrilled,” Gar­ber said. There are, of course, ma­jor ex­cep­tions to the brides’ fam­ily pay­ing.

“In gen­eral, the choice en­gaged cou­ples and their fam­i­lies make is im­pacted by a range of facts, in­clud­ing the age of the cou­ple and the fi­nan­cial sta­tus of the par­ties in­volved,” said An­gela L. Thomp­son, a so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Texas Chris­tian Univer­sity.

Boy­den says it’s not un­usual for a groom’s fam­ily to foot the bill if the brides’ fam­ily can’t af­ford to do so, while older cou­ples of­ten pay for their wed­ding them­selves. That’s also the case for 74 per cent of same-sex cou­ples, ac­cord­ing to a 2016 sur­vey by gay­wed­din­gin­sti­tute.com.

Ber­nadette Smith, the group’s founder, says that’s be­cause only half the cou­ples have the emo­tional sup­port of their par­ents, and many same-sex cou­ples marry when they’re older and are in a bet­ter po­si­tion to pay for the wed­ding.

Coontz hopes the tra­di­tion of brides’ fam­i­lies pay­ing for wed­dings will some­day fade away. “That strikes me as some­thing that re­ally needs re­think­ing as a prac­ti­cal ba­sis in to­day’s so­ci­ety,” she said.

That strikes me as some­thing that re­ally needs re­think­ing as a prac­ti­cal ba­sis in to­day’s so­ci­ety

THINKSTOCK

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