Question: My husband and I separated eight years ago and divorced last year.
We lived essentially separate lives in the years leading up to our divorce, and I did not seek child support because we both run our own businesses and our children were young adults when we separated.
We have long plowed our own furrows but now our daughter is getting married and he has suggested we share the cost. That doesn’t seem fair to me, as tradition has it that the bride’s father pays and he’s always made more money than me.
I’m considering giving up and refusing to pay, but I don’t want to arouse hostility leading up to the wedding. What should I do?
Answers: While marriage and family politics go hand in hand, divorced parents and marriage often bring new challenges. There are roles and seating arrangements for the wedding party to consider, and then there’s the problem you’re trying to solve: who’s paying for what?
They say it is traditional for the bride’s father to pay for the wedding, but traditions are constantly evolving as modern couples move beyond patriarchal customs and rituals.
“Since women started working, traditions have long since changed,” emphasizes divorce coach Melanie Murphy. “And maybe the groom’s parents also want to contribute to the wedding or in some other way.”
Midlife coach Alana Kirk made a similar point when I told her about her dilemma. “‘Father of the bride’ now usually refers to the bride’s parents, as we live in an era where both parents work a lot,” she says. “Even if that’s not true, the money will likely come from the family pot, and so both parents would no doubt be thanked at the wedding.
“Secondly, few would expect the entire cost to be borne by the bride’s family. The couple themselves – likely working and living together for many years – along with both sets of parents making some contribution is more likely.”
That doesn’t change the fact that your ex-husband makes more money than you do, Kirk adds. “As a divorced couple with different income levels, the word split could mean a variety of things, not just 50/50,” she says.
“It would be unfair if that were the case given the difference in earnings and no doubt the additional costs you are likely to have in terms of time and money to help your daughter with her dress, hen party, etc.”
Murphy advises you to look back at how you and your ex-husband navigated your breakup and divorce.
“Do you regret the way things were handled back then?” She asks. “Would you handle this situation differently now? You may be able to negotiate a cost split in a way that suits your particular financial situation, even if it’s not half/half.
“Another option could be that you contribute to the cost of the honeymoon if you don’t feel the cost of the wedding is in your area.”
Of course, when you look back on your recent divorce and division of assets, you might come to the conclusion that the deal you struck wasn’t fair and just.
If that’s the case, maybe you’re trying to balance the books by refusing to make a financial contribution to your daughter’s wedding? And while that may seem reasonable from your point of view, using “tradition” as an excuse or enforcing your own will is dishonest.
Kirk suggests having “a straight and clear conversation” with your ex to discuss a budget you’re happy with. “Decide what you can afford and make that your offer and explain that given the income gap you don’t have to pay half. You may offer to pay for something specific for your daughter instead of putting money into a pot of his, making you a little more independent of him and his budget.
“Try to stay calm and clear, focus on facts and keep emotions out of the conversation,” she says. “You’re not a couple anymore, so you can make your own financial decisions, but you’re still a family, too.”
It’s also important to consider the long-term implications of not contributing, Murphy notes. “Even in this situation, you must put the child, even if they are a grown adult, at the center of all decisions.
How will your daughter feel if you refuse to pay for her wedding? How will this affect the enjoyment of this special occasion? How will it affect future relationships with her and her partner and future grandchildren?
“You also mention that you don’t want to arouse hostility. There is enough animosity that can happen during the separation and divorce process. Dirty laundry is often aired and couples can be very abusive to one another at this time. That often fades over the years and you’re right if you don’t want to raise it again.”
Talking openly and honestly about your financial situation and ability to contribute opens a new conversation based on negotiation and compromise, not conflict and impasse. And if you take tradition out of the conversation, you’ll finally be able to get to the brass nails and figure out the real problem.
“Whether you decide to alienate your daughter, future son-in-law, or ex-husband for money reasons, you may regret it in the future,” Murphy says.
“If you’re strained financially, let her know you want to help in some way, and find out from your daughter the best ways to support her.”
If you have a dilemma, send an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/modern-morals-i-think-my-ex-husband-should-pay-for-our-daughters-wedding-as-father-of-the-bride-41954648.html Modern morality: I think my ex-husband should pay for our daughter’s wedding as the father of the bride