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Help! Whose Parents Are Supposed to Pay for the Reception at a Gay Wedding?

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. Hypothetical wedding: My older sister got married in 2010, and our parents paid most of the wedding costs. I came out in 2015 as a gay man and I’m not in a serious relationship right now. Recently, my father, who for the purposes of this letter I will call Gender Norman, recently assured some distant relatives that they would be invited to my future wedding. This got me and my sister talking about who’s footing the bill for this hypothetical wedding. When I approached Norman about this, he got very flustered and said he might contribute something. Norman thinks he’s the most open-minded guy out there, but apparently he still goes by the family-of-the-bride-pays-for-the-wedding trope. I pointed out to him that I will not have a bride. Norman told me that my sister’s in-laws pitched in for the wedding, but my sister tells me they wanted to contribute more and Norman declined. Norman also borrowed thousands of dollars from my grandfather to pay for the wedding, even though my sister asked Norman not to because she would have rather put that money toward grad school.

Obviously it’s very generous that our parents want to support either of us in this way at all, but I’m left wondering how much to push this issue given that it’s hypothetical. I would rather have this conversation now, as I want the news that I’m getting married to be nothing but joyful when it happens. Also, Norman plans far ahead when it comes to finances.
What do you advise?

A: Woof! I’m inclined to agree with you that there’s not a lot of value right now in pushing a hypothetical scenario, especially when you add the detail that your father borrowed money in order to pay for your sister’s wedding. Everything else aside, that’s not a great financial strategy, and if you ever do get married, I hope you can figure out a way to host a wedding without sending either yourself or any of your relatives into debt. There’s more to marriage equality—and LGBT rights—than just making sure everybody spends more than they can afford on a wedding.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t spend time talking with your father about his unspoken assumptions about heterosexual and gay relationships. It seems like, more than the possibility of not getting a cash donation to a hypothetical future wedding, what’s really bothering you is the fact that your father thinks of himself as open-minded when it comes to having a gay kid, when in actuality he hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about what that might mean. Leave the wedding budget aside and talk about that. I think it will be a more productive discussion.

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