Care and Feeding

My Daughter’s Fiancé’s Parents Think We’re Paying for the Wedding

How do I nip this in the bud?

A bride and groom in wedding attire, a father shrugging between them.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Koldunov/iStock/Getty Images Plus and Cayton Heath on Unsplash.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I thought I was past the age where I would need to be asking a parenting columnist questions (my kids are grown, mostly successfully!), but here I am. My daughter is getting married to a nice enough guy whose parents are from a conservative, old-fashioned background. That hadn’t been an issue before now, but wedding planning has become extremely contentious.

We’re doing … OK? … financially. Our home isn’t paid off, but we don’t have a lot of debt and are trying to think ahead to retirement, not that “retirement” is in the cards for most people anymore. This is all well and good, but her fiancé’s family has made it clear that they expect us to pay for the kids’ entire wedding, which they have very particular plans for. Her fiancé is their youngest, and they’ve apparently paid for their two daughters’ weddings in recent years and think it’s their turn now.

We don’t mind contributing something, but we certainly can’t throw a big white wedding for 250 guests on our own dime without going heavily into debt for it. I am having a tough time communicating this before plans get completely out of hand. Help!

—Father of the Bride

Dear FotB,

You can give one extremely priceless gift to the engaged couple right away: complete transparency. Sit down with them, minus his parents, and say that you’ve crunched the numbers and you can commit to contributing X amount to the wedding. You want to make sure, you can say, that they have that information before they start putting deposits down. I recommend literally having a check made out for that amount, to avoid getting drawn into haggling.

It is immaterial to me (and you) if the groom’s parents have already paid for a thousand weddings for a thousand daughters. That’s their business, just as your money is your business. Ideally, the engaged couple will have the decency to thank you and take the check and downgrade their plans accordingly. If you wish to first talk to your daughter about this before looping in her fiancé, that’s fine too.

What you must avoid is getting into an argument about this with the groom’s parents. You can remain pleasant and smiling and firm and committed to contributing the number previously stated. If his parents are determined to throw the wedding of the season, God bless. You’ve done nothing wrong, and it’s not 1952. The vast majority of wedding costs are now shouldered by the bride and groom with contributions from both sets of parents. Allow no guilt trips on this point!


Dear Care and Feeding,

My cousin Sheryl has been using Facebook pretty much exclusively to sell her nonsense pyramid scheme garbage to friends and family, which I barely notice anymore because I have her notifications hidden. Unfortunately, my extremely sweet 14-year-old daughter does not have her hidden on Facebook and has become her latest mark. Sheryl is trying to lure my daughter into her “downline” in hopes of selling her crap to classmates. How should I handle this?

—Enough Already

Dear EA,

Oh, I would shut this down with extreme prejudice. Cousin Sheryl gets exactly one warning: “I’m not comfortable with you trying to go into business with my daughter. Please do not contact her about [insert pyramid scheme here] again.”

You can explain to your daughter that it’s against the rules (I hope to hell it is!) of whatever multilevel marketing nonsense Sheryl is hawking to try to enter into contracts with minors, and that if she hears about this from Sheryl again, she should let you know immediately.

Honestly, I hope Sheryl tries to put a toe over the line so you can open up a rain of fire on her, but I’m feeling punchy today.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My daughter wants to start shaving her legs, and I don’t know how I feel about it. She’s 13, and right now it’s just this downy golden fuzz. I know it’s a myth that shaving will make her hair grow in thicker and darker, but she just seems so young to be embarking down this path. Am I being unreasonable in wanting her to wait? Her cousins are a little younger than her and started shaving over the summer (that’s a whole other kettle of fish), and now she’s really pushing for it.

—Sunrise Sunset

Dear Sunrise,

You should let her start shaving her legs if she wants to. The advantages of signing off on this are twofold: You can go to the drugstore with her and walk her through the process, and you’re signaling that you want to meet her where she is. Both are extremely valuable, especially as you enter what is likely to be the most contentious few years of your relationship with each other. Opportunities to meet her halfway might soon be few and far between.

You don’t need to think that shaving your legs is an important part of being a woman to respect the fact that your daughter is trying to signal to you and the world that she’s growing up. She is growing up, and this is (ideally) one of the least painful signifiers of the process.

Also, if you don’t consent and get her the right supplies, she’s going to ruin your razor blades with chunks of flesh, so.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My youngest son, 10, has always been my softest child, emotionally, and he’s gotten obsessed with the wall-to-wall coverage of the California fires. He’s not sleeping well and he’s asking a lot of questions and it’s really getting into his head. What are some strategies for helping him manage this?

—Where Is Smokey the Bear When You Need Him?

Dear Smokey,

Oh, the poor little guy. I don’t blame him in the least. Our first instinct as parents is so often to turn off the TV and distract our children away from disturbing news, but once the boogeyman has taken root, that can sometimes result in making them catastrophize in silence.

Let’s tackle this head-on. Talk to him about how you plan to keep him safe, whether that’s pointing out the natural topography that makes forest fires rare in your region, checking your smoke detectors together, identifying the designated place to meet up near your home if you got separated or the number to call if we spot a fire.

If, like my kids, he’s extremely concerned about the people and animals who are currently at risk or without homes, what a great opportunity to show him how we can be of service to others: organizing a bake sale or donating his allowance to relief efforts, etc.

Fear is so often about feeling helpless. I think if you can tackle that emotion directly by giving him information and spurring him to action, it will really help him get through this time.