Wedding Week: Five of the Most Shocking Wedding Horror Stories

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Sure, marriage is about finding your life partner, but once that’s accomplished, sometimes planning your wedding can be even more challenging. Figuring out how to split costs and meld families is no easy task. Throw in a dash of ridiculous expectations and a pinch of conflicting tastes, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Just ask Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwarz, authors of Isn’t It Their Turn To Pick Up The Check? a manual on how to navigate through awkward money issues between family and friends. The authors surveyed 800 people nationally on their stickiest financial foibles, and shared the most shocking wedding horror stories with MainStreet.

Here are the top five, from least gauche to most offensive, with their expert advice:

5. WEDDING PYRAMID SCHEME
Friends invited me to their wedding, which was being held at a resort hotel in Hawaii. Because of the cost, I was reluctant to go, but they really twisted my arm. After I got there, I found out that the bride and groom got free accommodations for bringing in a certain number of guests. And I also learned that if my girlfriend and I hadn’t booked a room, they wouldn’t have qualified.

As soon as they return from their honeymoon, invite the bride and groom to your help-with-the-rent party. And if they seem reluctant to attend, twist their arms.

4. WHOSE PARTY IS THIS?
Last year my cousin tied the knot at a Las Vegas wedding chapel and didn’t invite a soul. Now I’m about to have a big wedding, and a good friend is giving me a shower. My cousin is invited, and she says that since she never had a shower, everyone should be encouraged to bring a gift for her as well for as me.

Why is she stopping there? Why doesn’t she list the things she wants on your gift registry?

3. WHY NOT JUST GO FOR THE KOBE BEEF??
Following my daughter’s wedding reception, I found that four members of the groom’s family had ordered special meals. This wasn’t for religious or health reasons. They just decided they’d prefer Ahi tuna to the entrees they were offered. So that’s what they bullied the waiter into bringing them, and I got stuck with the tab— in addition, of course, to paying for the wedding meals they didn’t eat.

There’s nothing you can do. Just be grateful they didn’t order a couple of bottles of pinot grigio to wash down the fish.

2. AND THE BRIDE WORE CASH
Earlier this year my thirty-something daughter announced she was getting married and asked my ex and me for money for the wedding. So, we each gave her a big check. But then the wedding was called off when the groom got cold feet. Now my daughter won’t return our money because she keeps hoping he’ll change his mind.

Our advice to that woman is first and foremost, keep asking. Second, when she does get married don’t write her a check for the amount, but pay the bills as they come in to avoid the same situation.

1. REVERSE DOWRY?
My bride’s parents have always made a big show of their prosperity, and at their insistence, we had an extremely lavish wedding. Following the reception, my father-in-law took my mother aside, told her his business was facing “a financial emergency” and asked if my folks could lend him $25,000.

Just say unfortunately you are unable to help. And, welcome to the family!

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“Weddings are perfect storms in the money and relationship worlds,” says Schwarz. “Families that scarcely know each other with different tastes and bank accounts suddenly come together and there’s tension that comes with different expectations. Throw some people with serious chutzpah into the mix, and you get into trouble. “

How do you get through your own wedding horror story? For the most part, a wedding is a singular event and you have to learn from the experience. Next time you get an invitation to a destination wedding and can’t afford it, don’t make the trip. “If someone makes a drunken lewd toast, all you can do is not invite them to your next wedding,” laughs Schwarz.

But figuring out the details and who foots the bill can present an impasse. And the people to navigate through it are the bride and groom. The tradition of the bride’s parents pay remains a starting point, say the authors. Then it’s up to the couple to reach a comfortable point between the two families. “Shifting from the tradition requires going through the couple,” says Schwarz. “More likely the couple will go to each family, rather than ask one family to call the other. These days couples understand they can’t saddle the bride’s parents with everything, especially if the groom’s family has more money.”

There’s no harm in asking the groom’s family to help out, but “they have no obligation,” says Fleming. “It’s an old tradition, and you can argue that parents of daughters have been planning for this event their whole lives.”

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