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Ask The Good Enough Guy: Bride To Be On A Spending Spree!

wedding day

Hello Will,

Our daughter is getting married next summer and she’s already planning a BIG wedding. The only problem is that we’re the ones paying for it!

Sandra has a huge guest list and extensive plans culled from all the wedding magazines. I’ve told her father, Andrew, that there’s no way we can afford something so grand but my husband is a bit of a pushover when it comes to our daughter and always gives her what she wants.

We also have two other (younger) daughters and a big mortgage so there’s no way we can afford an extravagant wedding for everyone.

How do we put our foot down without ruining the big day?


Carol, Connecticut


Hey Carol,

I’m with Andrew: give Sandra what she wants.

See, the problem here is, you’re asking ME this question instead of GEM. I’m sure she would have given you sound advice as to the best ways to explain the situation to Sandra, stay within your budget, and still give her a beautiful wedding that she would have loved.

But I’m not GEM. I’m a daddy with a daughter, and I feel Andrew’s pain. I’m the absolute WRONG person to be talking to about bride’s maids and bouquets, but I will offer you a quick reason as to why I won’t be much help here and neither will your husband. Here’s what’s going on:

He’s losing her: Since the day Sandra was born, your husband’s job has been to protect her, provide for her, and help to make the decisions that have shaped her life. The morning after she says, “I do”, those duties switch to another man. We spend our whole lives preparing our children to leave the nest, but we never prepare ourselves for it, and it’s far worse on dads with daughters because… well, dammit it just is!

We dads want our sons to grow up, shake our hands, walk out the door, and go and take over the world. But we secretly want our daughters to sleep in their Mini Mouse PJs forever and come down to breakfast every morning until they need help with the stairs. Is that asking too much?

What you can say to YOUR HUSBAND to change how he feels: Nothing. He knows he can’t keep her, but he doesn’t want to let her go. Very soon, she won’t be his baby anymore. As a matter of fact, this could possibly be the last time she ever asks him for anything… Do you really think he’s capable of saying no? Yeah, I figured you knew better.

What you have to do next: Take the wheel on this one, Mom. Right after you’re done reading this, the throngs of faithful GEM followers will weigh in with advice on not only how to talk to your daughter on this issue but also the best places to get cakes, dresses, flowers, photographers, tuxedoes, etc, etc. Rene herself knows first hand how to throw a wedding on a budget (she has a great story about her own). I’d also suggest you take notes and keep a close record, considering that you’ll be doing this two more times, and Andrew will probably be about as much help then as he is now.

And you can’t really blame us guys on this one. Some women start planning their weddings in grade school. Men NEVER plan their wedding because a man’s job in wedding planning has always been to put on his tux and shut up until he is asked, “Do you take this women…?” so twenty years later, he’s just as confused when he puts on his tux and shuts up until he is asked, “Who gives this women away…?”

Sorry if I haven’t been much help but this is tough one for us dads. A week after the wedding, when Andrew seems restless and either won’t go in your daughter’s old room or won’t come out, write me back; that’s stuff I know!

Good luck to you all, and tell your daughter I said, “Congratulations!!!”

 Will Jones

William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing.


  1. Sandy Seale

    July 30, 2011 at 10:53 am

    First I’d say it also depends on the couples age & financial status. If their already established & doing well then I think you could tell them what you can comfortably afford to contribute then let them pick up the extra if they insist on a lavish wedding beyond your means. I don’t believe in going deep into debt for a wedding. I have 3 daughters & told all of them even if I were very wealthy I’d only spend enough to have a very nice but sensibly funded wedding. If I could afford a $50 or $100 thousand dollar wedding (which I cannot) I’d rather give them the money above the more practical but nice wedding to use for a down payment on a house, car, etc. Spending exorbitant amounts on something that lasts only a few hours seems almost sinful to me when there is so much hunger & distress in the world. With our economy today, who knows where that will end up. And to hear girls paying thousands & thousands on a dress they wear once…don’t even get me started. I personally know you can have a very nice wedding for under $20,000. But getting back to the main question, please don’t go into debt you can’t handle just for an event that last a few hours. It is not the measure of how much you love your daughter & if you raised her right then she should understand. If not let them pay for whatever is over your comfortable budget.

  2. Sandy Seale

    July 30, 2011 at 11:03 am

    PS Will, she will always be daddy’s little girl just in a little different way. My 3 daughters are all married with kids now but when they’re around their daddy, they’re right back to being “daddy’s girls”. Nobody, even a husband, can really take daddy’s place….trust me on this 🙂 Plus (I didn’t say this) sometimes the husband doesn’t last; but the daddy’s always going to be there. LOL

  3. Jennifer

    July 30, 2011 at 11:09 am

    This is simple. Dad can still give Sandra a nice wedding but set some boundaries. Have a sit down and say – ‘As much as we would love to go all out and spare no expense for you, we can only afford this much. If you want more than that, you’ll have to pay for it.’ Stick to a budget. There’s no reason why you should have to take out a second mortgage for a wedding and all that comes with that.

    What some young brides-to-be need to learn early on during the engagement and wedding planning process is that a wedding is not a marriage. People won’t think any less of you if you don’t have all the bells and whistles. A wedding is one day – a marriage is what comes after it and hopefully it will last a lifetime. Just because there is a lavish wedding day doesn’t insure a long and happy life together … just as a very simple wedding doesn’t either. Having a simple and less expensive wedding day also doesn’t mean the people who are paying for it love the bride and groom any less.

    If this is a difficult concept for Sandra to understand, maybe she’s not quite ready to be walking down the aisle just yet. She might need a bit of a reality check and to realize just how lucky she is that her parents can pay for a wedding at all … big or small.

    But this is just my $ 0.2 …

  4. Sandy Seale

    July 30, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Agree Jennifer. And its sad to say but statistics prove it…
    most of these lavish weddings (or any wedding) are over & done before they’re even paid for. Sad but true.

  5. Auntie Lisa

    July 30, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Major on content. Minor on frills.

    If you spend time personalizing the content of the wedding, it will also be more memorable than if you spent lavish amounts of money. Put together a slide show or video of your story as a couple up to this point. Write your own vows… think poetry.

    I spent less than $200 on my wedding gown and it got many enthusiastic comments. There was a fund-raising event that came to my town called Brides Against Breast Cancer. I shopped among 100s of donated gowns and found one I absolutely fell in love with… and it didn’t even need altering! Plus, I was able to honor my mother, who was unable to attend my wedding as she’d had breast cancer and died many years before my wedding. I also carried a rose separate from my bouquet, which (after processional) I placed on the seat where she would have been sitting as mother of the bride.

    That’s what I mean by content over frills.

    P.S. – If you’re going to splurge on anything, get a really good photographer. He/she can capture the feeling and mood of the day, then you’ll have those pictures forever!

  6. m.e. johnson

    July 30, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Carol, Will is right; no use talking to Dad about it. Talk with your daughter. If her mindset is,”If he loves me, he’ll give me everything I want, no matter the debt it costs him”, then you say, “If you love him, you won’t ask him to do that.”

  7. Will Jones

    July 31, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Sandy- That’s a great way of looking at it. I doubt if it would cross most father’s mind to have the couple pay for part of the wedding; it didn’t cross mine!

    And us dad’s do get that she’ll always be daddy’s little girl for the most part , but it’s still hard for us to let go of the part that’s NOT the most part. 😉

    Jennifer- I think sitting her down and tellingher that is an excellent idea; and after her mom breaks the news, she should go back and tell the father how everything went!

    Auntie Lisa- This is why dads stay out of the wedding planning part: a woman would know the difference bettween what was content and what was frills. For a man, the rings and the preacher are content… everything else is frills. See how easily I would have gotten in trouble?

    M.E. Boy, do I love how you think! LOL. You summed up my article in 50 words! 😉

  8. Jennifer

    August 1, 2011 at 10:26 am

    I have to add that I had a very, very small wedding and the whole thing probably cost about $4,500. It was mostly very close friends and family members – 45 people. I had my reception at a family home, which was absolutely beautiful. I didn’t have a band or limos or a professional photographer either. I think my dress cost about $200 and it was, in my mind, perfection. Just the basics and it went off without a hitch and at the time I was thrilled how well it went. Oh, and I didn’t go on a honeymoon either so money was saved there too. I must also add that I am no longer married either.

    I have no regrets but I probably would have felt much worse that my parents spent gobs of $$ and were still paying it off years after the fact only to have the marriage ultimately end. I was brought up to think that any money my parents had was theirs … not mine. They shared it with me, but it wasn’t mine. Just as the house I lived in was theirs – they bought it and paid a mortgage on it. I didn’t have a job and pay rent yet!

    It must be nice to be able to afford a flashy wedding if that’s what people can do … in any economy. I’d also love to know if some families in general feel the need to advertise to the world how well they are doing by throwing something lavish as a way to make themselves feel better? I don’t know the answer. Something to think about … and like I said before, nobody will think any less of a bride and groom’s special day if it isn’t over the top. Add another $.02 to my above comment …

  9. Will Jones

    August 2, 2011 at 6:31 am

    Jennifer- You’re comment reminds me of something my uncle told me once about presents. I was maybe ten or eleven the first time he said it to me, or at least that was the first time I actually heard it. He asked me what was my favorite Christmas present I had gotten that year, and I’m pretty sure I told him it was a tackle box my dad had gotten me. Then he asked me what color paper it was wrapped in… and I had no idea. He said, “No matter how pretty something is wrapped, eventually you’ll only remember what was inside.” I wasn’t sure what he was talking about at the time, but overthe years, I found it it related to just about everything in one way or another; friends, girlfriends, relationships, money, jobs, weddings, marriages, children, and life in general. I heard my uncle say it a thousand times after that, and usually he wasn’t in the room when I heard it! Funny the things we remember and the things we don’t, huh?
    Thank you for sharing your story; it’s definitely four cents that’s worth holding on to.

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