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Carolyn Hax: Son asks parents for wedding cash

Dear Carolyn: Our son recently became engaged to a young lady whom he has known for six months. We thought/hoped he would find someone more like him, a college grad, etc.

He bought her an engagement ring that appears to have cost far more than he can afford. Next, they came to us and asked us to help finance their wedding. We asked how much support are they looking for and they said to just tell them what we can give them.

We’re retired, and although we are reasonably “upper-middle-class,” our idea of going out to dinner is spending less than $35 for the two of us, and my wife does not have an engagement ring because I could not afford one when we agreed to marry.

We resent being asked to pay for a significant part of a wedding. His unmarried sister might appreciate financial assistance with her wedding in the not-too-distant future. Your thoughts? – D.

I think you make several points: (1) You don’t like the fiancee; (2) You don’t think your son has been financially responsible (big ring – possibly fake, by the way); (3) You have been responsible with your money, so you aren’t sympathetic to his financial plight; (4) You don’t have money to throw around, so you have to prioritize. (5) While all of these point to saying “no,” you fear your son’s recent, comprehensive display of immaturity points to his punishing you emotionally if you decline to finance his wedding.

Here’s what I’d suggest. Forget who the bride is, forget your son asked you for money, and think only this: You have two children and anticipate two weddings, so you’ll give them each cash gifts of equal amounts.

Make it clear, though, that it’s not wedding money, but your entire wedding gift to them, which they can spend, invest or choose to stash in the bank. Once it’s theirs, though, it’s theirs; no chirping about how they use it.