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?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Centavos July 18, 2011 at 7:17 am

I vote for the stingy bastard plan. With all due respect to Mrs. Darwin, it makes more financial sense.


Darwin July 19, 2011 at 8:17 am

Ha, I’m a stingy bastard – you’re starting to sound like my wife!


No Debt MBA July 18, 2011 at 9:59 am

I agree with 101 Centavos. Let the kids pay for their own weddings or chip in for the same things on both. I’d never heard of the bride’s parents paying tradition and it seems very old fashioned to me. Does your daughter need a dowry or bride price too? (no disrespect meant to your wife, of course) I think having your kids pay for the bulk of their weddings themselves is reasonable and prudent.


Darwin July 19, 2011 at 8:21 am

It’s pretty common that the bride’s parents pay for a wedding (at least out here). But I agree, it seems rather anachronistic. There’s no logic to it.


MoneyCone July 18, 2011 at 11:20 am

Treat all your kids fairly! No argument here!


ILikeBigBucks! July 18, 2011 at 1:34 pm

I vote for putting your monies towards your kids education and/or their first home purchase in the form of a down payment, in equal amounts for each of them. Indeed tradition is the parents of the bride paying for the wedding, and I’ve also heard of the parents of the groom popping for the honeymoon or gifting a large dollar amount to get them started in their new life. But from my point of view, those traditions are old fashioned and becoming more and more outdated.


Darwin July 19, 2011 at 8:22 am

Hey, maybe we’ll get lucky and the traditions are truly outdated within 15 years or so! (probably not, but I can be hopeful right?)


Jeff @ Sustainable life blog July 18, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I see where you’re coming from, and because everyone that has a daughter is getting married to someone else’s son (well, most people will, but not all) any one who has one kind of each kid is shorting one of the kids.
What you should do is give them a set amount of money (say 15k) and let them do with it as they see fit.
if they want to use it for wedding, fine, or a honeymoon or a house downpayment that’s their choice.
that way, your sons dont get the shaft, and because it’s their money (and they know it can be used for other things, they may not have an expensive wedding)


Darwin July 19, 2011 at 8:23 am

That’s what I’m pushing for. Now that I think of it, my wife would be less likely to object to giving away MORE money (i.e. additional funds to the sons), rather than giving away less (none to sons, none/very little for wedding). She’s very generous with “Our” money LOL. I tend to be the pragmatist, she’s the optimist.


Bankruptcy Ben July 18, 2011 at 8:55 pm

I think it would be sexist to not give all of your children equal funding. It’s outright disciminatory.


Debt Consolidation Nation July 18, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Its just sexist to not give the same money to all children.


Darwin July 19, 2011 at 8:24 am

Indeed it is!


JT July 19, 2011 at 11:36 am

I live with the understanding that my expenses are mine. I wouldn’t expect my parents to pay for my education–they don’t–nor my wedding. My parents don’t have oodles and gobs of money, though. When my sister was married, they paid for some elements of it, but really, my sister does really well for herself. She’d never let my parents pay for it, anyway.

I’ll have this problem in the future. My girlfriends parents would pay for the wedding, I’m sure, but I don’t know…there’s something about the idea that doesn’t bode well with me. Don’t get me wrong, it’d be great to walk away free and clear, but it’s something that I feel is our responsibility, not theirs. Then again, I’ve always had my self-reliant-or-bust way about how I handle things to a point where I wouldn’t ask for help even if I needed it. It’s just one of those things, I guess.


Bret @ Hope to Prosper July 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm

I also vote for the stingy bastard plan Darwin.

I paid for my own cars, college, wedding and house. I saved up generous college funds for my kids and put them in private school. But, I don’t expect to float them financially throughout their adult lives. I already told them both, “Don’t expect me to pay for your houses and weddings. If you can’t save up a couple grand towards a wedding, you aren’t ready to get married. And, if you can’t save up a couple grand for a down payment, you aren’t ready to buy a house.” I will definitely kick in if they show some initiative.

I have a son and a daughter and I always treat them equally, regardless of antiquated traditions. I’m sure I will be under intense pressure to spring for my daughter’s wedding, but I plan to hold the line. I made my son pay for his first truck, but that didn’t seem to work for my daughter. So, she still has no car and seems confused about why one wasn’t given to her. I think she’s finally starting to learn that lesson and save for a car.

It’s not about the money, because I could cover it. It’s about raising my kids to be self-sufficient and fiscally responsible, instead of financially dependent on me. The sense of entitlement is undermining this generation’s motivation to succeed in life. And, I don’t intend to encourage that in my kids.


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