Q: We're running out of the green stuff and looking for a way to cut costs. Would it be OK to set up a cash bar at the reception?
In a word, no. And while all the planners we put the query to tried their best to avoid the world tacky, they just couldn't help themselves. "I can think of a lot of other ways to cut your bar costs without doing a cash bar," says Fleur Pang, owner of A Warm Reception in Duxbury. "You're inviting guests to a party - you shouldn't expect them to pay their own way at the party." If you simply can't swing a full open bar, consider limiting it to beer and wine or having just a signature drink-say, a martini-be complimentary. "That would definitively save money without it looking too cheap," says Linnea Tangorra, owner of Tangorra Wedding Planning in Newburyport. "And definitely, the champagne toast can go," says Pang. "Most people don't drink the champagne anyway."
Q: My fiance's parents are having financial troubles, but they want to pay for our rehearsal dinner. The problem is, my family is very wealthy and would like to have a formal sit-down affair and invite lots of out-of-town friends and family to the dinner. How should we handle this?
In a word: Yikes. "You know how they say most marriage end over money and that that's what you fight about? Well, it starts before you get married!" says Danielle Cameron, founder of Details Within Wedding Consulting in Merrimac. Traditionally, this situation would never be an issue. The groom's parents hosted the rehearsal dinner and that was that. But now, it seems as though the rule book for the wedding game has been kicked out the door, leaving it open for sticky issues such as this. Unless you're comfortable with having Daddy War bucks run roughshod over your sweet, sweet in-laws, there are two options here: One is to let your parents host a separate gathering for their out-of-town friends and family. "They could either host a dinner party after the rehearsal party, or set up a gathering while the rehearsal is going on that everyone in the wedding could join afterward," says Linnea Tangorra, owner of Tangorra Wedding Planning in Newburyport. The other option is for your parents to offer to chip in. They could say, "We have some more people than we thought we would have and we really would like to share the costs," says Sylvia Golden, owner of Events by Sylvia Golden in Needham. "I don't think they'll be insulted, they probably would be happy as long as it doesn't get carried away, and as long as the bride's family doesn't make it into a mini-reception."
Q: My future in-laws came to the tasting with our caterer and love the food-as long as the salad has green apples instead of pears, the steak comes with a different sauce, the wine is cabernet instead of merlot, etc. How much compromising must I do? They're helping pay.
If they're helping pay for the wedding, their financial contribution is a gift-not a bribe. When parents contribute to the overall cost of a wedding, they often have some input into the size and the extravagance of the reception, as these items directly determine cost. The same goes for the rehearsal dinner, where the groom's parents are usually the official hosts. But decisions about apples vs. pears at your reception are out of bounds, regardless of how generous the gift is. Control over wedding planning is held, in descending order, by the bride, groom, bride's parents, and, finally, the groom's parents. (But they're right about the wine.)
Q: Help! My mother wants to pick my flowers, my dress, and now my music. My parents are paying for the wedding, so how do I tell her to back off without sounding like a complete ingrate?
Saying no when money is involved is always tough. Ideally, you'd have established the level of parental involvement in your wedding up front, when you first accepted their financial help. But having gone this far, it's time to stage an intervention. Invite your mother to coffee, and start by expressing your gratitude for her financial assistance and her enthusiasm. Then calmly express that you're feeling left out of planning your own wedding. Tears are good, pouting is not. (Hey, it's your wedding. Sometimes laying on a little guilt can work wonders). When you've got your mom's guard down, explain what you'd always envisioned for your big day, and ask if she's willing to make it happen for you. I'm guessing you'll have her in the palm of your hand at this point, but in case she insists on managing some part of the planning, have a few things in mind that you'd like her help with (the invitations, the favors, the food, the seating arrangement). But know your limits. If she reacts poorly, you can always decline your parents' financial contribution and join the growing ranks of couples who pay for their own weddings (presumably without robbing a bank).