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

  • S
    Expert November 2021
    Sara ·
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    Maybe I see things differently? My parents (as well as my FH's parents) are contributing a LOT of money towards my wedding. Why shouldn't this major gift have strings? Weddings are family affairs, and in my culture, parents are often regarded as the hosts. We're having an uber-formal black tie wedding which will cost roughly $400 a plate. I think it would be quite rude and offensive to say "hey mom and dad, you can't invite your friends" when mom and dad are the people literally financing my wedding to begin with. Of course my parents are going to be involved in making decisions, small and large, with my wedding planning. How could they not be!

    If my FH and I had wanted to plan a wedding strictly on our own terms, then we wouldn't have accepted their money to begin with.

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  • EGD
    Devoted September 2022
    EGD ·
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    From talks with FBIL and FSIL, FH's parents have literally played no part in their wedding besides giving money, and adding a few of their Dad's friend to the guest list, but they also live out of state, so they have a bit of a buffer. FH's oldest brother also got married about 2 years ago, and him and his wife state that FH's parents also didn't play much part besides providing money.

    However, FH is the youngest and his mom still treats him like a little kid and feels the need to butt into every aspect of his life at 24, she hasn't quite cut the cord on him yet so she is being VERY pushy with this wedding and feels the need to be more involved than ever. I get yelled at constantly for not wanting her to come dress shopping, and not "Sharing information" but the truth is there's no information to share since we're pretty early in the planning process, I let them know when we booked our venue and then again when we booked the DJ cause that's literally all i've done, but she's constantly asking for updates and when I tell her I have none she acts like I'm lying. So we're just playing a wait and see game to see what will happen with our wedding lol

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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    And it’s OK to see things your way! If your gift comes with strings, and you are OK with them, that is perfectly fine. This was just a completely new concept to me, as I have always been raised with the standpoint “a gift is a GIFT, and should never come with strings”. Until joining WW, I wasn’t aware of just how many parents demanded to be part of the decision making process, and used their financial contribution as a means of control. My parents are contributing six figures to our wedding, but have never once demanded anything in return. They have always maintained that it is our wedding, and it should be about us. That’s not to say I don’t voluntarily go to them for advice, opinions, suggestions, etc. or that I don’t share planning details with them. I actually really enjoy it! But I think the reason I enjoy it so much is because they have not demanded anything of us, and have been completely supportive of what we want our wedding to be. FH and I constructed our guest list with both sets of parents, and we were more than happy to include people who were important to our parents, but not necessarily to us. But again, that is because we were happy to do it, not because they requested or demanded we do it because they were contributing financially. (And also because we are having a larger wedding. If we were wanting a very small, intimate wedding, we would have declined to add those additional people).
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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    Never underestimate that out of state buffer! LOL And I totally understand the mom not letting go of her “baby boy” thing 🤦🏼‍♀️ I dated a guy whose mother was like that too. I have to admit, it was SO annoying. She was very outspoken in every aspect of his life, completely overbearing, and treated him like he was still an immature 14-year-old (despite the fact he had his own place, paid his own bills, drove his own car, and had a great job). I am pretty sure she saw anyone he dated as enemy number one (despite being nice to your face) because she always wanted to be the first lady in his life. I think when it comes down to the final bird leaving the nest, some moms have a really hard time letting go. If I were in your situation, I would start making as many decisions now before FBIL’s wedding happens! Because once that wedding is over, she will have all the time in the world to devote to micromanaging YOUR wedding.
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  • Rebecca
    Master August 2019
    Rebecca ·
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    I mean, I think that reflects a relationship that my parents and I just don't have.
    We talk every week, and text all the time... but it's more conversation, less about what I'm doing with my life.
    My mother is the opposite, and that's why we DON'T have a relationship... but she didn't help plan or pay, either.
    In the end, they had very few requests or suggestions. My dad had wanted a live band, but before I even argued against it, he was like, "oh, they are expensive and limited in genre". I would say they had the most opinions on music... but since they love to dance, that was valid! (And we like their taste in music. )
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  • EGD
    Devoted September 2022
    EGD ·
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    If I wasn't so close to my mom, I'd invoke the out of state buffer too lol. We're living with his parents while we search for our first home, and every time she asks me where her son is if he's not home exactly 5 minutes after work I want to respond "in his 24th year" she still feels she needs to know every aspect of our day and plans when we're both full fledged adults. We don't get along too well, I think she resents me for being with her son, she sees me as "taking him from her" when really its her actions that push him away, so I'm hoping we find a house fast.

    Thankfully her first grandchild is due in May, so I'm hoping that takes all her focus, but FSIL that's having said baby also doesn't want this women near her child, so my only hope is we move out before FBIL's wedding is over so we won't have as much contact.

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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    Oof. I feel your pain girl. Just keep your head down and find that house! LOL
    And that grandbaby just may be her new “hobby” (if SIL lets her near it!) Its a brand new baby to replace the “baby” you’re stealing from her 😂
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  • Fred
    Expert April 2022
    Fred ·
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    Oh Gosh. My sister learned it the hard way!

    Our parents contributed to her wedding,about half of the total cost. FW and myself know every little details because we were her "listeners" everytime she needed to vent.

    Our mom turned the planning into a nightmare, a momzilla! She got her way on most major decisions: she invited 35-40 people my sis had never met or disliked (co-workers,cousins,aunts,uncles), mom wanted a church wedding and a ballroom (vs a non-religious,outdoor ceremony and a restaurant) ... A living hell.

    This is why paying for everything was the 1st decision we made , so my FW's parents couldn't/can't start this whole mess.

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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    Oh wow, that sounds like a nightmare! My heart goes out to your poor sister. At least the negative situation served to help you with your wedding though!
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  • Fred
    Expert April 2022
    Fred ·
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    ..............

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  • Fred
    Expert April 2022
    Fred ·
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    Yep. Oh I forgot 😇 : you're right!

    A gift is just a gift and shouldn’t come with strings attached. I often gift money (especially via gift cards), I don't tell people:

    " The money or gift card has to go toward this or that." So ridiculous.

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  • Kari
    Master May 2020
    Kari ·
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    This is such an interesting question. I generally agree that gifts should be no strings attached, but I do feel like when families are providing money towards a wedding it does give a little leverage with expanding the guest list and perhaps some other aspects of the wedding. I guess it would be fair to say these funds are more like conditional subsides as opposed to a gift to the couple.

    Both of our parents gave us money towards our wedding. We planned everything, then Covid happened so we eloped on our original date, and are hoping to have a wedding celebration this year. I will say that both of our families have very much been like "do what you want, it doesn't matter to us, it's your day" but I have felt it important to involve them in discussions like moving our date or major decisions regarding Covid safety, because I do want them to enjoy the event, feel safe there, and generally approve of how we are moving forward with things, particularly because they are paying for a not insignificant chunk of it. In no way are they making decisions about our day, but, for example, when we were considering moving our celebration date to September 11th because it was the only date available, I wanted to know if that completely horrified them or not. If we never end up having our celebration, I do want to offer the money back to our families, even though I know there is no chance they will accept it. I feel like the gift to us was so that we could have the wedding we wanted, not a reward for getting married, and if we end up not having a wedding it doesn't seem appropriate to keep the money.

    Pre-Covid, when we were originally planning, my MIL said the only people she really wanted to be at our wedding was my husband's parents and his sister (so just immediate family) but then when we confirmed that with her, her guest list had expanded to include an additional 8 people (my husband's aunts and uncles, and a plus one for my husband's sister, who is not in a relationship). The amount they gave us more than covers the cost of these people, and my husband said his relatives were not apt to cause drama and was fine with it. I despise random plus ones at weddings, and I'm pretty sure my husband only knows one person in his sister's current friend group, but it seemed like a stupid hill to die on so we let that go and his sister was the only one of our wedding guests granted a plus one. Now with Covid it feels more comfortable to omit anyone we don't know from our event and try to keep it as small and close-knit as possible.

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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    So it sounds like you and both sets of parents agree that gifts do not come with strings. They gifted you money for your wedding to use how you wished, without conditions, and in no way used it as a means to control your decisions about your wedding. It sounds as though any time their feelings/opinions were taken into consideration, it was simply you wanting to involve them – not them insisting upon it because they had contributed financially (or threatening to revoke the monetary compensation if you didn’t do what they wanted. That is pretty much how we are handling our wedding as well. My parents have giving us a significant amount of money for the wedding to use how we see fit. However, I still love to involve them in planning and get their ideas, feelings, opinions, etc. it just isn’t expected or demanded by them
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  • Kari
    Master May 2020
    Kari ·
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    Exactly. If we said we wanted to use the money to fly to South Africa and get married in a shark cage underwater they would have honored that, although I think they would have been sad that they couldn't be there to witness it. They probably would have gone and offered to host a small secondary event at home at additional cost to them, just so they could celebrate with us.

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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    Haha! Your parents sound like amazing, fun, generous people!
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  • Jessi
    Super October 2022
    Jessi ·
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    Both my parents and FH's parents offered a sum of money to us when we began planning. Because we come from middle class families and had 2 years to plan, we decided to decline their offers since we believe we can pay for it all ourselves. My dad decided to give us the money anyway as a gift for spending however we see fit (it's still going towards our wedding) and his dad just said "okay, it's here if you change your mind." We asked both families about the guest list, and vetoed a lot of people on both sides because we're trying to stick to 125-150. However my fiance and I don't have many friends of our own so many of the guests are immediate family or older family friends who are essentially our parents' friends anyway so we didn't feel too bad about telling our parents they couldn't invite their high school friends that we'd never met.

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  • J
    Master 0000
    Judith ·
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    We were definitely raised that some gifts have not strings, and others are a contract, you agree to do specific things with the money, and to a certain performance level, or only part/ no more will be given. My parents wanted a possible professional college education for each of us, a tough call with 9 kids, and all money earned ( not inherited.) They promissed that if each of us worked vacations after Freshmen year, and applied for any scholarships, parents would pick up the rest so we were left with no loans ( though they might be.)
    Or, up to $60K in a pro training ( pilot plus pro airline mechanics school for ex.) or similar business.
    Or, up to $40,000 for a wedding and $20,000 house ( less wedding more house okay, but tradeoff, $40,000 house $20,000 wedding. My parents payed all undergrad not covered by big scholarship, and 18 months student abroad. I paid wedding with hubby, $15K total this one, $5K first. Had I taken the school alternative, none of that money could be used for anything else. Had I flinked out freshman year, I would not have received! he balance to do with as I pleased. No way.Tied up in writing, like a contract that this money was a conditional gift. Given only if recipient spent it as required, and to the the quality required. One of my brothers wanted parents to pay for a 3-4 year trip around the world, to write a book. Parents said, NO. Fiance of one sister wanted my parents who had spent 32,000 on 2.5 years college fine arts plus 20,000 scholarship ( same 2.5 years), To give them the 20,800 left (plus$40,000 would have completed 4 years), forfeiting the remaining scholarship, and live in Scandinavia and N Europe to paint and write, parents giving money to live. No more courses. NO. My parents never for a minute intended to hand $60,000 or more each for anything each of us kids wanted that was a major expenditure. College tuition or education by course ending with credentials, yes, with good performance all along, yes. A share of wedding expenses, as long as a big or bigger chunk went to a house. But not just anyone Turned one down for a new construction condo , not yet built. About to be. No, had to be existing, and not part of a complex. That complex was never built, scam financing. My parents are big believers in conditional gifts. But they are not arbitrary. brother and FI put $45 K on a house, 30 K from my parents. They spent $90Kon a wedding, $30K from my parents. When they set that out, they worked out which things it paid for. And My patents did not say a single thing about things they were not paying for, except praise if they liked it and that is fine, if they didn't. They did not claim controll of a little of every part of the wedding. Like it was their wedding. 🙂My parents worked primary and for many years second jobs, ending with their property mortgaged by the time the last of us married,or got put of school parents paid, and age 56. Putting in all those working years for each of us, I think conditional loans for schooling or other, were called for, and would not do differently myself. If I gave $2000 for a wedding, I would not try to control guests, and food, and booze, and location. A very small amount. But large amounts, you bet. Everyone I know, college or education funds gifts are tied up.
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  • Q
    Dedicated August 2020
    Q ·
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    Ditto! We avoided this entirely by paying for everything ourselves.
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