Son wants us to pay for wedding

pecanDecember 8, 2009

Hi, Im hoping some of you can give me some advice or at least help me see things from a new perspective. My son and his girlfriend 20 & 18 are planning to get married in May. Her parents have fallen upon hard times and do not have money to pay for the wedding she wants. ($15,000) He has asked if we would help. My problem with this is that one, they are way too young to be getting married, and two, he is not able to support himself (due to debts he has accumulated)let alone a wife. He has acknowledged his unwise money choices but has yet to take action to fix these problem areas. He is in the military. Should we help pay for a wedding that we really don't support and that traditionally we are not suppose to pay for? We want to still have a relationship with our son and finance but... I feel like my husband and I are in a no win situation.

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They really are very young. I can see why you have misgivings. I hope that they will decide to wait, but as I am sure you know, pushing isn't helpful.

There was a string on this sometime back called "When you DON'T want your child to marry"; try to find it.

One thing I would stay away from for sure is the factor of whether or not "traditionally we are not suppose to pay for" a son's wedding. We always feel we are on safer ground when we cite some "rule" instead of saying "it's what I want to do," but it never works. First of all, there's no RULE, just a custom that was never universal anyway, and second, how could their response be anything but "Why do you care about some stupid rule more than you do about us?" And besides, I get the feeling that you wouldn't care about that rule yourself if you were happy about the marriage.

I think it is important to try to separate your feelings about the wedding and its expenses from your feelings about the marriage. They are two very separate issues.

What do you think will happen if you refuse to pay? Will they have a small wedding, go into debt for a large one, or not get married?

As you wisely note, you want to keep a good relationship with them. (After all, the odds may be against them, but it could work out beautifully, and you don't want a strain with them and their future children.) I would let that be your guiding principle. Whatever you do about the wedding, make sure they know you support them and will neither undermine their marriage if they do go through with it nor tell them "I told you so!" if it doesn't.

This has to be really hard. Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 3:29PM
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"....the wedding she wants..."

Sounds to me like the ubiquitous curse of our entire society rearing its stupid head in your back yard: Every little girl figuring they're owed a wedding fantasy regardless of ANY other consideration.

I'd stand firm against it even though your son apparently is not mature enough to. For one thing you don't approve -- and your own son doesn't care. For a second, I can almost guarantee you that once this thing gets rolling you'll find the fifteen thousand suggestion is little more than the camel's nose in your tent. Inasmuch as they've already shown you their financial immaturity and irresponsibility, do you really think they'll exert any particular effort to control that once they've got you on the hook?

And, based on your description, after they're married and that money's gone, you'll get tapped for monthly support afterward. Apparently you're the only ones with any means at all.

Somebody needs to sit down with that boy -- and his fiance -- and explain a few things.

Agree with Gellcom that this has to be really hard. Looks to me like you're on the threshold of some tough times unless your son can see what's about to happen.

If you've got the money and want to do it, that's one thing. If you're compromising your own security in order to accommodate this utterly unreasonable request, that's something else.

Have you met her parents? What do they have to say about it? What do they bring to the table?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 4:56PM
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In today's world, typically both sets of parents and the bride and groom all contribute to the wedding costs, though not necessarily equally. I agree that you are being placed in a difficult position by the couple, and possibly by her parents as well. Is it possible that her parents have backed away from helping because they disapprove of the wedding, as well as having their own financial issues? Having financial issues would be a convenient way to side step the issue of financing a wedding when one doesn't approve.

Under no circumstances are you required to spend $15,000 on a wedding even if you approve of it. If you decide to help them, you might decide on a sum that you can afford and tell them that anything beyond that they must pay themselves. If they want a huge event, they can do something for an anniversary when they are more financially stable. It is possible to have a lovely smaller wedding on a tight budget and that seems to be where they need to focus if they decide to go forward.

I agree with Asolo that someone needs to sit down with the couple and have a serious talk. You can convey that you love them and you want their best, which may be to wait a year or more while he puts effort into paying off his debts and both of them prepare to assume the responsibilities that come with marriage. Would they be open to pre-marital counseling if you suggest it?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 5:33PM
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he is not able to support himself (due to debts he has accumulated)let alone a wife

I agree about sitting down with them, and maybe her parents as well, and discussing the facts as they stand. Maybe make an offer to pay whatever YOU think is an appropriate sum toward wedding expenses as soon as they can show you on paper: income, expenses, and savings (meaning money over and above expenses to be put into savings), indicating that they can afford to support themselves in their married life.

Until they can support themselves, I would not feel comfortable giving them money for a wedding, no matter what their age.

It's very hard to tell headstrong youth to wait. So, like others have said, you are unquestionably in a difficult spot.

I wonder what she bases this $15,000 figure on. Has she done research and priced gown, venue, food, etc.? Or did she just pull a number out of the air? If/when they DO get married, if you contribute, you might want to help them establish a realistic budget for the wedding expenses. If they haven't learned how to manage money, as asolo said, it could turn into a much higher number once all is said and done.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 5:48PM
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"Until they can support themselves, I would not feel comfortable giving them money for a wedding, no matter what their age."

Thank you, lowspark. That sentence pretty much covers it. Well said.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 6:40PM
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Pecan didn't say that she thought that $15,000 was too high or that they couldn't afford it. That's not her objection.

Nor do I think the issue is whether couples should pay for their own weddings or whether either or both sets of parents should.

This isn't about weddings or money at all. It's about her young, broke, unrealistic son and his even younger girlfriend getting married, and how she and her husband should respond.

Do they try to discourage the 2010 marriage? If so, how? Would refusing to pay for a wedding help discourage it? Or would it just make for (possibly permanent) bad feelings? What should she do to be a good mother to her still very young son?

THAT is what the issue is. Pecan, I suggest you talk this over with your clergy or whoever your best advisor is. Everyone here is happy to help and give advice, and it's usually great advice, but we don't know the people involved, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But we are happy to listen and do what we can, so keep posting.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 7:11PM
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"My problem with this is that one, they are way too young to be getting married, and two, he is not able to support himself (due to debts he has accumulated)let alone a wife."

Not about weddings and money? Hello?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 8:44PM
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No, asolo, I really don't think it's about money or weddings.

"they are way too young to be getting married" is a concern about the marriage, not the wedding; she'd feel the same way if they were eloping. The only reason the wedding itself comes in is that she is worrying about whether hosting the wedding indicates support for the marriage.

As for money, I meant the cost of a wedding, not the son's financial circumstances; people had been commenting on whether $15,000 was beyond pecan's means and who should be paying. That's the money issue I meant was not pecan's issue -- at least, there is nothing in her post that indicates so. True, his debts are about money, but that's just one of the circumstances that make pecan feel he is not ready for marriage. He could be just as broke, but older, sensible, and with good prospects (e.g., a Ph.D. candidate at MIT or a new hire at a high-paying law firm with a lot of student debt), and she might not worry at all that he wasn't ready for marriage.

pecan, you still here?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2009 at 10:54PM
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Thanks for all of your imput. After reading the various responses I think it really boils down to how young and immature they are.(Though up until a month ago I never had heard that it wasn't the brides responsibility to pay for the wedding, I should let my sister know, she has three daughters!) Paying for a wedding that is hard for me to support just seems wrong. Yet once again, is it worth destroying a relationship over - because at their age they see it only as being cheap and unloving. I guess, the best thing to do would be to give them a set amount, and pray for the best. Would it be ok for me to barter with them and say ok we'll pay for this much but you'll have to go to marriage counseling? I guess I should be asking my pastor or at least Dr Laura these questions - not sure if I should be asking this kind of stuff on here. But anyway - thanks for all your responses, it has helped me sort out a few things. Blessings to you all, Have a Merry Christmas:)

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 2:30AM
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FWIW...."destroying a relationship" not what you'll be doing. It's what they'll be doing by saying, essentially, "If you fail to give me this gift, I won't love you anymore." Sort of emotional blackmail that way.

Encourage you to not think this way. This isn't your fair burden unless you choose to take it up.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 10:08AM
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I wouldn't be paying for a wedding that I don't approve of. These two are too immature to be getting married. They would have to get there finances in order first. I agree with asolo, it is emotional blackmail if they don't have a relationship with you because you won't pay up. Another sign of immaturity on their part. It's okay to say no to our children when it is in their best interest. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 12:50PM
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I can't say asolo and nancylouise are wrong about it being the couple, not pecan, who would be destroying the relationship if they cut ties because of pecan's refusal to pay for the wedding.

But it's not our family, it's hers. She loves her son (and other than her age and immaturity, she hasn't mentioned any objections to his fiance). Who cares whose fault it was if they have heartache and distance between them? Small comfort she would have sitting and thinking, "Well, it's not MY fault!" Happy families look for solutions, not victories.

I don't want pecan to feel like a chump if she does pay for this wedding, even if she doesn't approve. And how far does that go, anyway? What if you like your child's intended pretty much, but not as much as someone else? What if they are making not disastrous, but second- or third-best choices about careers, money, and timing? Do you refuse to pay for the wedding then? And if you do refuse to pay, is that enough condemnation, or do you also refuse to attend? Pose for pictures? Give a gift? Acknowledge the marriage?

I'm not saying a parent MUST pay for a wedding -- irrespective of how they feel about the marriage. But I don't think that pecan should be made to feel like she is doing something WRONG if she chooses to support her son in his plans, even to the point of paying for the wedding, even though she thinks it's a mistake.

Listen, if this couple goes through with it, they won't be the first couple to marry when they are too young and immature. They may regret it, but they will either part or make it work -- they won't explode.

Pecan, I think your last post shows that you are on the right track:
"Paying for a wedding that is hard for me to support just seems wrong. Yet once again, is it worth destroying a relationship over - because at their age they see it only as being cheap and unloving. I guess, the best thing to do would be to give them a set amount, and pray for the best. Would it be ok for me to barter with them and say ok we'll pay for this much but you'll have to go to marriage counseling?"
I hadn't thought about making counseling a condition, but if you think it won't blow up in your face, I think it's a good idea.

By all means, talk to your pastor. (NOT Dr. Laura! She's just plain mean.)

Good luck, and let us know what happens.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 1:36PM
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Actually, I suspect she's probably "in trouble" over it already because she didn't agree instantly.

In any event I, too, would be interested in learning the outcome if Pecan chooses to come back in the end.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 2:04PM
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Would it be ok for me to barter with them and say ok we'll pay for this much but you'll have to go to marriage counseling?

I think that's the way to go. Sounds like they may need some financial counseling as well. I agree that simply folding your arms and flat out refusing isn't going to work. That's why I suggest sitting down and working things out on paper so that they can see what they're up against.

In the end, you might end up giving them the money for the sake of peace in the family. But you might also want to think about how you will handle it if they come to you for money after they are married. Will you keep giving them financial support? Will they expect it? Will it be the same every time, give us money or you're cheap and unloving? How long will this go on before they stand on their own? And what incentive will they have to stand on their own? And what happens if/when a baby arrives?

I'm not saying that any of that will actually come to pass. Just things to think about. And maybe for them to think about as well.

In the end, you do have to consider your relationship and the consequences of either giving them the money or not. I wish you the best of luck with this. Being a parent is never easy!

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 3:20PM
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As you stated in your original post pecan, you feel you are in a no win situation. So why heap on more discomfort by paying for something you yourself don't support and know is not the right thing for the kids right now? The kids may go off and get married by themselves or they may not. No one knows. But I doubt they would be out of your lives for long. No money and in debt, where would they go? They would in all likely hood come right back home.
I would sit down and have a calm face to face with them. Let them know where you are coming from and why you feel the way you do. Make the suggestion that your son fix his finances first so they can then start off on a better footing so they won't be fighting about money issues right off the bat. (I believe I read some statistic that money issues is one of the top reasons for divorce).
Do let us know what you decide. We may not always agree with each other on this forum when asked our opinions as to what we would do, but we do care what happens. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 3:29PM
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Pay them to elope and skip the expensive wedding.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 5:12PM
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I think the bride to be is more enamored woth the wedding and being married, than in the actual marriage. $15,000 is a lot of money. This exact thing happened to my sister with her youngest. He was 20 and she was 18. He had no debts but they were way too young.

My sister and her husband paid the shot but insisted on a small family wedding for the ceramony. They had an early evening wedding. The 2 families went out to dinner and they held a dance for them afterward, to which they invited friends. No food was served only coffee and cake in late evening.

They explained that would support them in their decision, but since they were paying everything, with no help from anyone they simply couldn't shell out that kind of money.

What could the kids do but accept it. They chalked up what they paid as holding on to their relationship with their child.

The sad fact is that 10 months later they had a child and in less in 2 years the marriage was over. That child is the sweetest boy but he is paying for his parents rush into marriage.

You like my sister are caught between a rock and a hard place. I have no doubt you will do what you have to do.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 6:29PM
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What about a "Yes, we'll pay for the wedding AFTER you..." answer. Then in your AFTER clause, ask them to set a wedding date that's more than a year away, save a certain amount of money, get jobs, etc. The kind of things people should do before they get married...

Subtle but important difference between "Yes, after" and "We'll do it if" -- even though they're exactly the same, really.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 7:31PM
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I like Sweeby's idea. Setting goals for the couple during a serious talk about the responsibilities that come with marriage may help them see reality without pushing them away.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2009 at 11:22AM
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Personally, I ignore the tradition aspect. If this was a daughter would you pay for the wedding? If yes, then the next question is would you pay for a wedding under these circumstances if it was a daughter OR son? This is complicated by him being in the military. It is not as if they are "regular" 20 year olds living in their home town. He can be moved, and she can't be moved with him unless they are married. A friend of mine married early (right after college, at 21 years old) because her husband to be was in the military. They have now been married 20 years and he is a Colonel. There is a reason so many people in the military get married young...more benefits.

But if you have the means, it seems like the $15k would be better spent helping him straighten out his finances. Maybe you could have a goal setting conversation with him. Validate his feelings, that he wants to get married, but that you have concerns about the pressure and strain the debt (not to mention military life) will put on them. Maybe you can come to a compromise. A one year plan where he works on his finances and starts planning the wedding, which you agree to pay for (all or some).

    Bookmark   December 10, 2009 at 12:08PM
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I would not give them anything unless they went through some sort of counseling before the wedding. I would also strongly encourage financial counseling, too. Maybe something like Dave Ramsey's financial peace university.

I would also demand an itemized list of what the money is to be used for. Was the figure pulled from thin air, or is it based on actual projected expenses. If there is a budget, then maybe there could be some cost saving measures taken. While by today's standards, $15,000 for a wedding is not totally unreasonable, there could be something nice for $5,000, too. If I did agree to pay for things, then I would write the checks to whatever business it was for, not to your son and his girlfriend.

I would certainly speak with the girl's parents. Get to the real reason that they will not be paying for the wedding. They may have the same misgivings you have.

Don't be blackmailed, either. Remember, if your son is willing to emotionally blackmail you over the wedding, then you can probably anticipate him doing it again and again for a very long time.

Oh, don't put yourself into any kind of financial danger to pay for the wedding. Certainly, do not go into debt to do it.

My mother always told me that "once you are married, you are on your own". We were not to expect to borrow money from them, and we never did.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2009 at 11:07PM
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What a difficult situation. If I were pecan here, I would do whatever I could to be supportive but also to delay the wedding or buy time. If they were just a couple of years older/more mature, their futures would be so much easier on everyone, and so much more likely to be successful. So if the discussion could be to get out of debt first, for her to prepare for a profession also, that would be helpful. It sure won't be easy. This young couple will find themselves moving all over the world, on their own and away from family. That can be very hard on them as individuals as well as a family unit. If they had greater financial and career stability, they would be so much better off. Best wishes, Pecan.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 2:31AM
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I say, tell them you will not pay for the wedding. Explain why. If they want to get married, they can, but it's not fiscally responsible to have such a wedding with that kind of debt. Offer to help with the debt, and that you will pay for a FABULOUS 5 year anniversary celebration.

Best wishes.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 2:00PM
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One of the reasons the bride's family traditionally pays for the wedding is that the bride controls how much money is spent. She picks the dress, bridesmaids, flowers, and makes other key decisions. If you say "yes" to spending $15,000 she certainly isn't going to look for bargains on the dress to begin with, and down the line what will you do if they are over budget?
Tell them you will be happy to help with the wedding, they can get married in the summer--you can have a reception at home, they can get married in your garden or the base chapel, but you don't have a spare $15,000. You can take her shopping for a wedding dress and tell her the budget is $800. I don't know where you live but many bridal stores have sales at certain times of the year. I bought both my daughter and my daughter-in laws dresses with them, and we went to the sales. Maybe the reason these kids don't have money is nobody is showing them how to save.
My son and daughter in law had a modest wedding and later at 7 years had a big bash and repeated their vows --it was at their own home and it was catered.
That's a lot of money for a bride to budget for a wedding especially when she doesn't have it.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 12:31AM
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I can't imagine spending 15000 dollars of ANYONES money for one day it's so silly do it small or don't do it at all is my wedding moto lol. Having a Marine for a fiance myself I can understand a rush with the fear of deployment and never getting the chance to it's funny my fiance and my mom through me have been kind of having a fight over who's going to pay she says she is and he says NO she's not he/we are and i tell her that and she says NO and it just keeps going on and on and on but it's funny since he's deployed it goes between them through me and messenger

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 1:54AM
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She can find some local crafters or ask friends to help make alot of the stuf so it don't cost that much. i made my bouquet which would have sold for close to 800 but i made it for 150. I made my own dress but right now differnt bridal stores sell some for 99. favors that normally cost 10 each sould cost just .50 like a spoon full of kisses. (plastic spoons from the dolar tree store there colors, meshing from walmart or dollar tree, rolls of thin ribbon and 3 hershey kisses. she can make an elegant wedding without the cost. she needs to make it more simple. postpone for a year or 2. or tell them to go ahead get married quiet small then on there 5th year anniversary they can renew it with the big one. if you would like more options on how to make a beautiful low cost ceremony email i will help.

but if they still want a big one tell them she needs to come down off the big expensive thoughts. she can have an elegant low cost wedding. 15000 for something that could cost 2000 max. no way.

instead of a photographer. put 35 mm cameras on all the tables ask the guests to be the photographer. ask a good friend to take the candid photos.

instead of real flowers go with silk. these are cheap enough and do not cost alot. you can get them at the dollar tree or walmart. ad due drops and rose scents and they look and smell real. same with the bouteniers.

wedding jewelry go on ebay and buy them or go to you tube and learn to make them.

limit the amount of guests per person.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 5:36PM
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I don't know if the OP is still reading this string, but I think that we are getting off her point.

She didn't ask how to do a wedding inexpensively.

She didn't ask for opinions on whether spending money for "just one day" is silly or worth it.

She didn't give any indication that she felt that the budget was too much, either as a matter of principle or with regard to her own finances.

Here is what she DID say:

My problem with this is that one, they are way too young to be getting married, and two, he is not able to support himself (due to debts he has accumulated)let alone a wife. He has acknowledged his unwise money choices but has yet to take action to fix these problem areas. ... Should we help pay for a wedding that we really don't support ...? We want to still have a relationship with our son and finance but... I feel like my husband and I are in a no win situation.

Her question was not how to economize. It was whether, given that she feels they are not mature enough or prepared to get married right now, it would be wrong for her to agree to pay for the wedding. The dollar figure wasn't the issue (for all we know, pecan is a bazillionaire who would be happy to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a wedding --IF she approved of the marriage), it was the message of approval and endorsement for what she understandably considers an unwise move on her son's part.

I doubt she would feel any different if they came to her with a budget of $500. What would make her feel good is if they came to her and said they had decided to wait until they are older and financially stable.

Pecan, how are you doing with this dilemma?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 1:45AM
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my point was if if could be done inexpensively. then the bride and groom can pay for it themselves. and then she is off the hook.

Suggest inexpensive ideas and state that you just don't have that kind of money either, maybe if they re-think and push off the date a year. then she can have the perfect wedding without the cost. or maybe while waiting and planning they might do what she thinks and go separate ways.

but according to all the books. the wedding itself is the brides parents.

reception is normally the grooms parents

i read that last night.

if you try to push them apart because you think they are too young she will hate you for it. she will marry him anyways and then he won't talk to you or come over as much as he did before. after all she would be his family.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 1:35PM
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Where did you find the information about the ceremony being the responsibility of the bride's parents and the reception being the responsibility of the groom's parents? I would be interested in reading more about that. I'm a wedding planner and try to keep up on the latest trends but that is something I have not yet seen. Perhaps I am behind the times and not giving my clients accurate advice.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 7:53PM
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Did you mean the rehersal dinner is commonly picked up by the groom's parents? The reception is generally the most expensive part of the wedding.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 1:36PM
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Hello to all,
Its me again and I first just want to thank you all for your insightful comments - unfortunately I just found out that my son eloped in December. Funny because after reading all your comments we had decided to go ahead and help with the wedding and be as supportive as we could towards the event and the marriage. We were pretty heartbroken that we missed being apart of such an important event in our sons life. I am telling this to all of you only because maybe someone reading this might be going through a similar problem. All I really want to say is to keep the communication lines open and no matter what your thoughts are, in regards to the person or to the wedding itself, its best to respond compassionately and not react as we initially did. We should be celebrating this marriage, showering them with love and gifts and instead we are trying to repair the damage, and get over the hurt this has caused. If there are any pray-ers out there we could sure use a few...Blessings to all of you, pecan

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 7:31PM
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Oh, Pecan, I'm so sorry to hear this. You definitely have my prayers, and I hope things are better soon.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 12:58AM
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Pecan, I am so very sorry. What a disappointment.

It sounds like you are all on the right track now, though. I bet that with time -- maybe much sooner than you'd expect -- the shock of the elopement will wear off and the circumstances of the wedding will fade into the past, and you can all focus on the good parts of the situation and adjusting to your new family constellation. I think your new daughter-in-law will be smart enough to realize that she is getting a wise and kind mother-in-law. I hope so -- this couple has a lot of challenges, and they are going to need your advice and help.

Thank you for sharing your experience and advice. We will all profit from it.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2010 at 12:54AM
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With's going to be fine. Some time will pass. From your description, it probably should. Encourage you not to chase them. They'll be back and you'll be there, I have little doubt.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 6:51PM
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Perhaps you could host a formal Open House to introduce the new husband and wife when they will next be in town, hopefully some time soon. At that you could have a cake that looks like a wedding cake and other refreshments. Your invitation could be a cross between a wedding announcement and an open house invitation.

DH and I eloped 45 years ago next month. Elopements do last. I hope theirs does.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 11:41PM
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I can relate to this situation, but I was actually in the bride's position. I was married in 1986, and my parents canceled my wedding, going as far as calling my bridesmaids and telling them their services would not be needed. Because my parents thought I was too young, and were afraid our marriage "wouldn't last", we ended up paying for it on our own with no help. In return, we never had the wedding we wanted, nor did we have it where we wanted. My husband and I have now been married for 24 years, and we are preparing for our daughter's wedding. Although we are very poor, I would scrape the barrel and sell my blood to make sure my daughter has the wedding she wants. I have never gotten over what my parents did, and have not had much of a relationship with my mother as a result. I know she regrets it now, but it's too late. I am so sorry that your son eloped and made you miss out on the greatest day of his life, but I am happy that you are supporting them now. No one but them can determine what the future holds...I would hate to see anyone go through what my husband and I did.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 10:57PM
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