When parents get a divorce, their child support agreement generally addresses immediate basic expenses and may involve expenses for school, child care, medical care, and extracurricular activities. Parents might also determine how they will divide college expenses when the time comes.
But what isn't usually addressed in a child support agreement is what happens when your child gets married. Who pays for the rehearsal dinner? What does the groom's family pay for and does it change if the parents are divorced?
If you are a parent who wants to help pay for your child's wedding, you may face a few different situations:
Discussing who's going to pay for what in a wedding can put kids, parents, and blended families in an awkward position to negotiate the wedding finances. Or your child may get stuck talking to each parent separately — particularly if the divorce hasn't been an amicable one — to ask for financial help.
The important thing for both parents to remember is to put your child's interests first. Avoid arguing over who will pay more or belittling your ex for not contributing enough.
Usually, parents pay for wedding costs based on their ability to do so. It's easier for brides and grooms-to-be to put a wedding budget in place if they know how much each parent can afford to chip in.
It's best, of course, if parents can communicate with each other and work out how much they can and will pay for together. This can allow your child to focus on all of the other parts of the wedding planning.
Your financial contribution does not need to be equal to your ex's contribution. Do what feels right to you. You also don't have to stick with traditional rules that dictate the groom's family paying for the rehearsal dinner and the bride's family paying for the wedding. Nowadays, it isn't out of the ordinary for the groom and bride to pay for the wedding themselves. Still, it's best to discuss a plan with your ex and the bride and groom.
If financial questions arise (such as your ex contributing large amounts of money that they previously did not have) and the divorce was recent, it may be wise to speak with your attorney.
But otherwise, it's best to attempt to put your feelings and your past together aside. Beyond the division of expenses comes the division of labor and participation in the planning. Sometimes divorced parents believe that if they are paying the most, they should have a bigger say in the wedding decisions. That shouldn't be the case unless it's something the bride and groom are comfortable with. The couple should determine the roles they'd like each parent to play in the wedding, including who pays for what.
Planning for a wedding can be an extremely stressful time for the whole family. For divorced parents, it can bring up all sorts of feelings, positive and negative, that may have been buried for years. Put any residual feelings of animosity aside so your children can enjoy their wedding activities without worrying that their big day will be marred by bickering between their parents.
If you suspect a future wedding being an issue, you can include something in your divorce agreement regarding your kids' weddings. You can also update your parenting plan to do so, even if weddings may not take place for a long time. Your family law attorney can provide guidance on the best ways to plan for the future.