If We Pay For our Daughter’s Wedding, What About Our Son?

by Darwin on July 18, 2011

My wife and I have interesting financial debates now and then and since we’re at a standstill I figured I’d pose it to all my friends at Darwin’s Money.  So, a little background:

  • My wife and I paid for our own wedding. We received generous gifts from friends and family but our wedding wasn’t planned and “paid for” by parents.  Being young twenty-somethings just out of school, we opted to have an affordable wedding at the Officer’s Club at a military base.  It wasn’t as extravagant as many of our friends’ weddings, but we had a good time and in retrospect, I’m glad we spent more like $10-12K as opposed to the $20-40K most of the weddings we went to over the years ended up costing.


  • We are under the assumption that we will have the means (and financial discipline and sacrifice along the way) to pay for our childrens’ college educations (via 529 accounts) and their weddings if we so chose.  Just because you “can” afford something for your children doesn’t necessarily mean you should bestow that upon them by default though, right?  I mean, we could “afford” private school (Is Private School Worth It?), summer camps and a Nintendo DS but our kids don’t have any of those bells and whistles.  It’s just not something we’ve prioritized given the alternatives that are perfectly suitable.


  • We have 2 sons and a daughter.  Traditionally (this is becoming less of a tradition I believe), the bride’s parents pay for the wedding.  This presents the awkward quandary of treating your children equally when it comes to finances versus “honoring tradition”.

So, here’s where my wife and I don’t see eye to eye.  She believes we should a) pay for college [agree], but b) pay for our daughter’s wedding only [disagree].

Me, being the stingy bastard that I am, would rather just pay for college (since I value education), but let all the kids pay for their own weddings, just like we did.  We’d of course give a generous gift the day of, but that would certainly ensure they stayed within their own reasonable budget, hopefully paid along the way, and then had a nice little start to their wedding and honeymoon with our gift.  I’d also like to be able to give the kids a few grand for their first home like my parents did when I bought my first home.  Kind of like what we see with healthcare, how employees use the company checkbook, and any other system with such incentives, when it’s your own money, you tend to spend less.  When it’s someone else’s money, the sky’s the limit!

The problem with my wife’s approach (as I see it), is that if we drop $25K in today’s dollars on our daughter’s wedding, what about our sons?  On one hand, we could pay for their weddings, but then that kinda takes the bride’s parents off the hook, right?  haha.  I mean, then we’re payin’ everyone’s tab and going way above and beyond tradition – reinventing a new tradition – paying for sons’ weddings?  But if we ONLY paid for her wedding, the sons were kinda shorted $25K right?  I like to be fair and equitable, as my father was and his father before him.  My father kept a notebook for years and always jotted down which kid got what, presumably so one day down the road if someone complained about a lack of equity or fairness, he could bust it out.  If one kid decided not to go to college, well, that’s another thing.  But if one kid wants to go to a fancy private school and the others go to state, I only plan on giving $20K per year max for each (in today’s dollars), even if the private school runs $45K.  That’s on them if they want to go outside their parents’ budget.  But it’s fair and equal.

So, my opinion is that if my daughter gets a free wedding, maybe the sons should get a larger amount for their first home or some other form of gifting.  Just to make it equal.

What Are Your Thoughts? Especially if you have a Son AND Daughter?

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