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 | By Dr. Cathleen McGreal

If We're Paying for the Wedding, Shouldn't We Get to Plan It?


Our daughter is getting married next year, and we offered to pay for the wedding. Shouldn’t that mean we have some say in the guest list and the plans? I feel as if our daughter is just treating us as a checkbook!

As a reader at the wedding of my daughter, Erin, it was a special moment to look out over the assembly and see the faces of those who had come to share in our family’s joy. Friends of mine who had held Erin as an infant sat beside young adults who were close to Erin and Eric. Your question shows there are aspects of the wedding that would be meaningful to you. But as much as you may long to plan the liturgy and reception, this sacred moment in their life journey is up to the couple.

A sacrament, not a social event. The sacramental nature of the wedding is evident in the fact that your daughter and future son-in-law will actually be the ministers of the sacrament. The wedding liturgy isn’t a financial transaction in which each party weighs whether or not there has been an even exchange. Scripture states, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Lk 6:38)

“Filial respect promotes harmony in all of family life” (CCC 2219). Our catechism points out that in adulthood we no longer owe our parents obedience; however, we still owe them respect. Even if wedding expenses are offered with no strings attached, one would hope the couple would want to include as wedding guests those who have shared long-term friendships with their parents. These individuals have experienced many of the joys and concerns that are part of raising children; their participation in the wedding would add depth and meaning.

Offer assistance to enhance the liturgy. Ask your daughter if there are ways you can assist with the plans, not make them! For example, you could create a wedding program that allows the assembly to participate in a meaningful way. What Scriptures have the bride and groom chosen for their first and second reading? What is the refrain for the responsorial psalm? Since this may be the first time that some of their guests attend a Catholic liturgy, you can include welcoming details. This encourages all guests to become more actively engaged, rather than just observing. A program that goes beyond the naming of members of the wedding party adds to the celebration. Think of your creation as a rough draft that the couple can modify.

Enter into the wedding preparations with a generous heart: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9:7)