Dear Penny: My Mom Promised to Pay for My Wedding, Then Got Cold Feet

A bride sips coffee as her husband looks stressed out over the wedding bill on his laptop.
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Dear Penny,

I got engaged in January 2021 and was very excited to start wedding planning right away. My mom and I were both extremely excited and went straight away to setting a budget and getting into the planning process. 

She originally agreed to pay for the reception and some of the ceremony. We now have pretty much everything sorted, but as we get closer and closer to the wedding date she is getting more stressed about the money. I am, of course, happy, but every time I turn around, my mom is asking me to contribute more and more toward her part of what she agreed to pay for. 

I have already paid for one or two things because I feel obligated to help my mom with as much as possible, but I have not had as long to establish myself financially as she has. My budget is somewhat limited, while hers is let's say flexible. 

I recently have begun to draw the line with her, but that just makes her upset. I don't want to go broke in the process trying to make everyone happy, but I also feel like a terrible daughter. 


Dear A.,

Some people reading this will no doubt cast you off as an ungrateful daughter. I don’t think this is the case here. It’s tough when someone tells you they’ll pay for something, then backs out. If your wedding day is close, you probably don’t have a ton of options for cutting costs that you would have had if your mom had spoken up sooner.

You say you’ve tried to “draw the line” with your mom. But have you tried talking to her from a place of concern about the panic she feels?

Yes, your mom has had more time to make money than you have. But she also has less time to earn back whatever money she’s spending. Archaic rules about who pays for what in a wedding put a ton of pressure on parents to agree to a wedding budget that’s often more than they can afford.

Dear Penny

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Wedding budgets are notorious for spiraling out of hand. It’s not surprising that your mom is feeling some sticker shock, particularly if she agreed to pay for certain expenses without setting a dollar limit on her contribution. Even if you’ve stayed within budget, understand where your mom is coming from. No matter how prepared you are for a big expense, paying for it can be painful.

Try talking to your mom when she’s not in panic mode. There’s only one way to start this conversation — and that’s by expressing gratitude.

Tell your mom that it’s clear how much stress your wedding costs are causing her. Ask her what her specific concerns are. Is the wedding costing her more than she expected? Has her financial situation changed since you got engaged? Did she overcommit in her excitement?

You may find that she’s worried about whether she has enough money saved. Or if you have siblings, she may be worried that they’ll expect the same contribution if they get married. It’s easy to look at a parent who’s always been a good provider and assume they have plenty of resources. But often, their finances aren’t quite as solid as you’d expect.

Perhaps this conversation will give your mom clarity about whether she really can afford all these costs. If you’ve kept costs reasonable and she’s not worried about her savings, maybe this conversation will reinforce the facts. But if you find that your wedding expenses are causing her serious anxiety, I think you should do whatever you can to lift some of that burden off of her.

I’m assuming it’s too late to take major cost-cutting measures, like reducing the headcount or changing venues. But you still have other options. Could you and your fiance offer to pay her back for part of her costs over time? Could you earn extra income between now and the wedding to shoulder a bit more of the costs? Or perhaps, your fiance’s parents help out with a few more expenses.

I get that your mom’s change of heart is frustrating. But lots of couples pay for a significant part of their wedding, if not the entire event, even when they’re just starting out. You’ll enjoy your wedding a lot more knowing your mom isn’t having a panic attack as you exchange your vows.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].