bride with parents kelli carrico photography

Photo: Kelli Carrico Photography

More than half of millennial couples have the majority of their wedding paid for by their parents. But it’s not always as easy as your parents paying for your wedding, no questions asked (though if that does happen, lucky you!). You may need to sit down with your folks to ask them to contribute funds. Talking about the wedding budget may not be the most fun conversation, but if you handle it positively and politely, it doesn’t have to be too stressful. In fact, more than one-third of parents take it upon themselves to start the financial conversation with their child soon after they get engaged, so you may not need to have this convo at all!

Before the conversation

You’re asking your parents for a large sum of money, so it’s important that you go into the conversation prepared. Educate yourself on how much a wedding in your area costs (the average in the U.S. is $28,000, but it varies by location), and have a sense of how much you and your partner can afford to pay yourselves. You should also have a general sense of how much each vendor or service you’re hoping to include in your wedding will cost. If you’re able to provide your parents with an exact amount you’d like them to contribute, they’ll be that much more informed and able to make a decision.

Sit down with your future spouse and get a general idea of the type of wedding you’d like to have. Do you want a huge bash with all of your family and friends present? Or perhaps something more intimate is more your style? Would you rather have a destination wedding or one in your hometown? You should be able to tell your parents about your wedding vision as well.

You and your fiance(e) should also figure out how much the two of you can afford to spend on your wedding (an online budget tool might be helpful in getting you started). Your parents will likely be impressed that you and your partner have thought the budget through so completely.

Prepare your parents

Don’t surprise your parents by suddenly asking them for wedding money at the dinner table. Give them a call at least a few days in advance, and set aside a time and place to have the discussion. Here’s what you can say in that initial call:

“Hi Mom. Brian and I have started talking about our wedding, and we wanted to know if you and Dad were able to contribute. Could we talk about it after dinner on Friday night?”

Make sure you set aside a time when you and your parents will be in a relaxed environment, without distractions. Their home is usually a safe setting, or perhaps a quiet restaurant.

Have the chat

At the designated time (perhaps with a glass of wine in hand), sit down and start the conversation. A good way to begin:

“So Brian and I have been talking about the wedding, and we’re envisioning a [destination wedding in Mexico, a small wedding in our backyard, a big wedding at the country club, etc]. We think it’s going to cost about [give the estimated budget], and we would be so grateful if you were able to contribute.”

Your parents may respond in a variety of ways here. They could give an enthusiastic yes, and offer to pay as much as you need (about 1 in 4 parents save specifically for their child’s wedding). Or, they could offer a specific dollar amount or to pay for certain parts of the wedding (the flowers and the band, for instance). In fact, almost 60 percent of parents agree to pay for certain items and/or vendors.

You should also be prepared for your parents to say that they are unable to contribute financially to your wedding. If this happens, react with kindness not anger. Simply say, “Okay, thank you for telling us” and move on.

Where do you go from here?

If your parents have offered to pay for any part of your wedding, thank them—but realize that the discussion doesn’t end here. You’ll want to get a sense of how involved your parents want to be as you plan your big day. Do they want be involved in all decision-making, from the venue to the seating chart, or are only certain aspects of your big day important to them?

You should agree on a plan that you, your future spouse, and your parents are all comfortable with. Remember that if your parents are contributing money, they get a say in at least some of the decision-making. In fact, about 30 percent of parents feel it’s their right to voice their opinions if they’re helping to pay. If you’re not okay with that, you may want to consider footing the bill yourself, or at least limiting your parents’ financial contribution.

If your parents are paying for your wedding, be appreciative of their generosity throughout the planning process. If you and your parents have a disagreement, try to handle it politely—”Brian and I are so grateful for all of the help you’ve given us, but we would prefer to…” rather than getting angry and yelling. You want your parents to be as thrilled as you are on your wedding day, so try to keep things as smooth as possible in the months leading up to it. And don't forget to give your parents a gift on the big day!