How to Discuss Your Budget When Your Families Have Different Financial Backgrounds

The key to a successful budget discussion is speaking openly—and honestly.
Couple discussing money
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ivy jacobson the knot wedding planning and bridal fashion expert
by
Ivy Jacobson
ivy jacobson the knot wedding planning and bridal fashion expert
Ivy Jacobson
Wedding Planning and Bridal Fashion Expert
  • Ivy Jacobson Ford is an Executive Editor for ThePioneerWoman.com.
  • Ivy is an editorial strategist with over 10 years of experience creating lifestyle and commerce content.
  • Ivy worked for The Knot from 2014 to 2019.
Updated Apr 12, 2019

Let's face it: Talking about money isn't always pleasant. And when you're planning your wedding, figuring out your budget with your partner, his or her family, and your family may not be the easiest thing to do. For starters, each family's situation is different—and we've seen it all. Some may be able to afford to throw a lavish wedding with no expense spared, and others may just be able to give a small amount as a gift and the couple will have to figure out the rest. Some couples have divorced parents who can't contribute equally (much less be in the same room together), while some think that sticking to the traditional budget breakdown is best. One side may want a chic country club affair, and the other may feel more comfortable with a laid-back outdoor barbecue.

The point is, when families merge, it can often create tension if both sides aren't seeing financially eye to eye. But in this day and age, we've come a long way from the once-expected notion that the bride's parents pay for the majority of the celebration. In fact, according to The Knot 2015 Real Weddings Study, the bride's parents contributed 44 percent of the overall wedding budget, and 12 percent of couples paid for the wedding entirely by themselves.

We love that the new normal is couples deciding the setting and feel of the wedding they want and discussing what everyone can afford to contribute. But still, sticky situations do frequently arise. So how do you resolve them? Communicate, communicate, communicate, advises Olivia Mellan, a money coach who specializes in conflict resolution, and author of Money Harmony: A Road Map for Individuals and Couples.

Be Open and Honest

"If you and your fiancé's families are in different income brackets, the biggest thing is to take this taboo subject of money and class out of the closet," Mellan says. "Unless both sides take a long, hard look at the wedding the couple wants and what the families can afford, there won't be an honest, productive discussion. The biggest thing most couples fight about is money anyway, so communicating is the most important thing to do—especially before high-stress periods. Put yourself in the other person's shoes."

Do Try to Accept a Gift

While you should say what you feel, your families will likely want you and your partner to be happy and may want to contribute more than you thought they would. And even if you're rigid in what you want, try to accept any well-meaning financial gifts that come your way. "Try to compromise, build a bridge between you, and put a personal spin on your nuptials in other ways," Mellan says.

Don't Be Comfortable With Debt

"Have an open discussion about the realities of your wedding budget," Mellan says. "Traditions are changing. It must be discussed in detail, in a non-accusatory, totally vulnerable way. Don't saddle anyone with debt they can't pay off."

If you're looking for more ways to navigate money discussions with your partner, check out Lasting. The science-based app backed by The Knot gets to know your relationship and the topics important to you, then creates a customized program just for you and your significant to help you shape a better marriage or relationship.

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