Ava
VIP May 2022

Gifts with strings

Ava, on April 1, 2021 at 9:02 AM

Posted in Etiquette and Advice 58

I was raised with the mindset that a gift is just that: a gift. Once given, the person giving it no longer has a say in how it’s used/what it’s used for. In other words, gifts don’t come with strings attached. So while my parents are graciously funding the majority of our wedding, all decisions on...

I was raised with the mindset that a gift is just that: a gift. Once given, the person giving it no longer has a say in how it’s used/what it’s used for. In other words, gifts don’t come with strings attached.
So while my parents are graciously funding the majority of our wedding, all decisions on how the money is spent is strictly up to FH and myself. Since joining WW I’ve seen numerous stories of parents gifting money towards their child’s wedding, but then leveraging it to force the couple into doing what they want. I’m curious how many of you have actually encountered this. Is this a common thing?? And did you know that was the case when you accepted the money?

58 Comments

  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    Ahhh. That’s so ludacris to me! It was basically entrapment on the parent’s part. I just wonder what kind of relationships people have with the parents who do these sorts of things. If it is a recurrent theme in their relationship where the parents have just always been very controlling of their child. Or if weddings just bring out the worst in them.
    I have seen many people say they hate wedding planning, or wedding planning is SO stressful. Until joining this forum, I couldn’t figure out why! But, if you were dealing with these types of parental dynamics, and were being pressured or given an ultimatum to have your parents vision for your wedding, I could see why it wouldn’t be enjoyable at all!
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  • M
    VIP January 2019
    Maggie ·
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    We knew there would be strings, so we preemptively decided to plan and pay for our whole wedding ourselves. We also decided to prevent much of the planning drama by deliberately sticking to a very short planning timeframe and keeping all details to ourselves. I highly recommend this method for anyone with difficult family members.

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  • Hanna
    VIP June 2019
    Hanna ·
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    My parents and my husband's parents basically financed our entire wedding, and they split the costs evenly 50/50. We knew going in that there would be strings attached with so much money involved (our wedding cost over 6 figures), and we wouldn't have expected it any other way. This meant that our parents were highly involved in making decisions on things like the venue, guest list, menu, band, decor, bar package, and even small details such as the type of champagne served. I personally couldn't have cared less if we served champagne at all! However, I knew that this level of involvement would be the case from the get-go, so there were no surprises.

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  • Melody
    Expert April 2021
    Melody ·
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    This is exactly my situation lol. My parents are contributing 5K to the wedding and the rest is up to FH and me. Because of their contribution we're able to have more of the things that we want that we would have had to do without if we didn't have some help from them, so it's super appreciated! And they also aren't trying to dictate exactly how we use it, as long as it's being used to pay for wedding expenses. Our venue (which is providing the catering) estimate is about $6200, so their 5K is going directly to that. We decided that we'd prefer to be directly responsible for paying for other (tipped) vendors because our personal tipping standards are higher than theirs and we'd like to make sure they're tipped in a way we feel is fair without policing what someone else is providing as a tip.

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  • Elizabeth
    Dedicated August 2021
    Elizabeth ·
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    I think it depends on the family. My family and my in-laws have been extremely generous and respectful. My FH and I fully planned to pay for our own wedding. However, our parents have offered to contribute towards certain things along the way, but have made it clear that it's about what him and I want. They have no desire to influence or control our decisions, and I'm quite grateful for that! The only exception is when my MIL offered to pay for the rehearsal dinner. She was happy to do whatever we wanted, but I felt it rude to demand certain things when it was her money being spent. I left most of the decisions on that up to her, and have no regrets since it isn't really a priority to me.

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  • Jeanie
    Super February 2020
    Jeanie ·
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    I don’t think it’s anything more than a sign is respect. Maybe I’m old school, but if your parents are able and willing to give you a large sum of money towards your wedding and ask to invite a couple of their friends, absolutely that request should be accommodated. Now that doesn’t mean you should let them take the reigns and tell you what to do down to the smallest detail. But to include them in your plans and let them have a couple names on the guest list is completely reasonable and what I would expect from my child when they are at that stage of life. Honestly I think that should be done regardless of financial contribution, but especially when funds are involved. Funny how no one sees college expenses or anything else your parents have done for you your entire life as a gift, but helping with wedding expenses is. Like I said, I’m probably just old school.
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  • Rebecca
    Master August 2019
    Rebecca ·
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    My father raised me the same way, because between being a therapist and coming from a family who LOVED strings, he *hated* the very idea.

    So, while he and my stepmom provided a hefty part of our budget, they did not really expect to make any decisions. Now, we have a great relationship with them, so we ran a lot of ideas/contracts by them, and happily listened to their thoughts... but that give-and-take was *because* of the lack of strings.

    I think this is healthier, but it doesn't seem common.

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  • Samantha
    Rockstar October 2022
    Samantha ·
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    I don’t think gifts should ever have strings (other than writing a thank you note!). I think with weddings, at times it gets muddy because of “hosting.” At one point not too long ago, the bride’s family was hosting the wedding reception and it was a non issue that they would invite their peers. This was possibly the biggest event the parents would host and there were lots of social conventions and traditions involved.
    So I think there is an underpinning of that when parents help out, or pay entirely, for a wedding.
    Things are different now and a wedding tends to have zero to do with the parents at all, the bride and groom and well established socially and tend to know and not even be aware of their parents’ social or professional circles. Older ideas stay around long after they are useful with rites of passage.
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  • Elizabeth
    Super June 2021
    Elizabeth ·
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    I think the word "gift" is the issue here because it doesn't describe my parents contribution. My parents are fully paying for and hosting the wedding. They didnt give FH and I a set amount of money; my mother is actively planning the wedding with my help. So of course there are strings! It's my wedding, but its at best "our" event. I'm not even a co-host.


    Like PP said, parents do lots of other things for their kids with "strings." My parents paid my college tuition, and as a condition I had to keep a 3.6 or higher and wasn't allowed to go on certain trips that college kids go on. My parents gave me everything when I was 0-18, and there were many strings lol. So I don't really think "gift" is the right word for these contributions
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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    Oh no, I completely agree, my parents spent a considerable amount of money on college expenses, and I absolutely view it as an amazingly generous gift (although the way financial aid is set up, it pretty much forces parents to contribute). But again, it was a gift. They didn’t insist on choosing which school I attended or what I majored in.
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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    I think you are completely right about the couple wanting to share the planning process when the parents aren’t making demands and trying to control decisions. My parents simply said they will contribute X amount of money, and FH and I can use it as we see fit. If we want to go beyond that dollar amount, it’s up to us to finance it. And although they aren’t in any way trying to control any decision making, I love discussing our ideas with them. They are both quite stylish and go to tons of social and charity events, so they actually have some great suggestions when I’m stumped or indecisive about something. But that’s just it- they are suggestions. They respect any decision we make and don’t have any requirements attached to the money. It seems like a lot of parents use monetary “gifts” as a form of control over an event that isn’t about them.
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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    This is a very good point! It sounds like weddings used to be regarded as more of an event about the parent’s hosting skills. Whereas now, weddings are regarded as an event dedicated to celebrating the couple. We’ve definitely all seen many (usually disastrous) examples here on WW of people still trying to enforce old ideals in modern situations. Maybe some of these parents are simply doing that! That’s why I was curious about those whose parents actually did this- whether they were aware that the money came with conditions attached, or if it was presented as a gift then used to control decisions. It seems like these “gifts with strings” create a lot of tension in the relationships, stress for the couple, and generally diminish the fun in wedding planning.
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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    I would say your situation is the ultimate gift with strings. The fact that it is at best “our” event certainly makes that clear. It sounds as though your parents subscribe to the old views towards weddings (as a previous poster explained). They view your wedding as more of an event about them and their hosting skills, rather than an event strictly about celebrating the couple. It sounds more like yours was presented as a business deal- we will fund your wedding, but we will have a say in everything about it. I appreciate their straightforwardness though. I would much rather know upfront that a gift being presented comes with conditions, rather than after it is accepted. It sounds like your parents were very straightforward with their expectations and the conditions that came along with their gift, so you were able to make an informed decision about whether you wanted to accept the “strings”.
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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    It’s unfortunate that strings were attached, but thank goodness you were aware prior to accepting it! I think your advice about keeping details to yourself and sticking to a short planning timeframe is fantastic advice for any couples who find themselves in the situation where parents are trying to control the decisions of their wedding.
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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    That’s wonderful your gift did not come with strings! And I think it was such a smart decision to allocate your portion of money toward tipped vendors! There are oftentimes discrepancies between generations on tipping standards. By taking over that responsibility, you have definitely insured peace of mind on that detail.
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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    It sounds like your parents have not put conditions on their monetary contribution; that you have simply chosen to include them because you want to. My situation is the same. My parents are contributing to the wedding, but they are not dictating they get to make any sort of decisions. I do, however, include them in our ideas/plans. And I always listen when they make suggestions or give alternatives (not just because their ideas are usually even better than ours... they are LOL), but not because it is required as a condition, it’s simply because I love them and value their opinions. In no way am I pressured to take their suggestions.
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  • Kristin
    Devoted December 2021
    Kristin ·
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    I will say, we did have to change our wedding date at the beginning of the planning process based on my parents and family request. FH and I talked it over and decided it was worth it to honor the requests.
    My parents have also invited people that I wouldn’t have but I’ve accepted that because they are contributing partially to catering, and my dad is making our cake, that they should be allowed to.
    At the end of the day, I know anything my mom is bullheaded on (like save the dates, which has been an uphill battle to get her to accept that I won’t do) is just because she cares and is excited. As hard as it is, I think any bride needs to stand their ground, despite the strings.
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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    But again, it doesn’t sound like your gift came with strings. It sounds like your family had a request for a day that works best for them, and you guys chose to accommodate that. Not that you changing the date was a condition for them contributing to the wedding. I think it is normal for parents to give their input on things, and for the couples to decide whether they would like to take their input or accommodate their requests. There are some parents on here who flat out say the only way they are contributing to the wedding is if they get a say in all, or certain portions, of the decisions, otherwise the gift will be revoked. It sounds like your parents are just giving general opinions/suggestions, not holding their monetary gift over your head as a bargaining chip. My parents have done the same. Well, mostly my mom LOL I love taking her to all my appointments with me. And yes, she will give her opinion or give suggestions on flowers, dresses, etc. But never try to force anything I don’t like, or insinuate that I have to listen to her because she is paying for it. If I don’t like something, she simply says “that’s ok”, or “this is YOUR wedding, YOU are the one that needs to be happy/like it” or “this day is about you and FH”.
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  • EGD
    Devoted September 2022
    EGD ·
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    When we got engaged my parents automatically assumed they were paying for everything and were happy to do so (we never asked for money.) Luckily my parents are very level headed people and me and my mom are freakishly close so I run everything by her anyway, we also don't want a big lavish wedding. I'm the youngest, only daughter and the chances of my brother ever settling down and getting married are pretty slim lol. They also don't have many friends, and the little friends they do have I wanted to invite anyway, I was actually really surprised about some family members I asked my mom about inviting and she said not to invite them.

    FH's parents have stated they will help financially, though we haven't really talked about it, they seem to mention it when they want a say in something. We went and looked at venues, and were told it was rude to not include them in looking cause "they were paying" and we went over the guest list with them (they have a TON of friends and FH put only the people he wanted there on his list) and they wanted us to add a bunch of other people, we told them we wanted to keep the guest list to 125 to help my parents with the money (I also don't want a bunch of random people at my wedding), they said they were giving money too so we had to add these people. But we still have yet to see money or an actual figure.

    It seems my parents who have written every deposit check so far, and have made it clear they were paying have no strings, but FH's parents who haven't have a lot of strings around this supposed money they will be giving us. I am giving them a little leeway, as FH's brother is getting married in August of this year and I know his parents have given them almost 20k for their wedding, so I'm letting them get through that before we have the tough talk of our wedding since we have a little over a year until ours.

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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    You actually bring up a really interesting point, which I have also seen from other people on this forum! The whole “ parents keep saying they are going to give money, but never discuss an amount, timeframe, etc.“ Unfortunately, I’ve seen many occasions where the money is never actually given. And in situations where the couple counted on it (because they were promised it was coming), then found themselves in the horrible position of owing more than they could afford. Or the parents that promised money, then held it hostage to control aspects of the wedding. Then, when the couple didn’t give in to all their demands, they refused to contribute as promised. It sounds as though you guys are being smart and not counting on FH’s parent’s contribution, because it definitely sounds as though they are dangling money in front of you in order to get their way on things. I’m curious If they are trying to control aspects of FBIL’s wedding since they are contributing financially to it. If I were you, I would watch their actions with that wedding. It will probably give you an idea of how they will be with yours.
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