*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Planning a wedding to take your relationship forward is about love and celebrating that you want to be together for a long time. How would you react if the couple suddenly decided not to get married at all and used the money they got from parents or relatives for something else?
Was it just a gift and they can do anything with it, or is it offensive to use it to have a good time somewhere else that's got nothing to do with the wedding?
My friend Leah, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, has been engaged to her fiance John for two years. They dated for almost three years and have been thinking about a unique wedding for a long time.
"We didn't want to rush and give up on what makes a wedding a wonderful memory. We both wanted a big wedding, and our parents were willing to help us. There was no way we could afford that on our salaries, but they didn't think twice about it and just told us to choose what we liked. That included the cakes, flower arrangements, the menu, and, of course, my wedding gown. The time we've spent planning the ceremony and the party after has been so much fun, and there wasn't any stress," Leah said.
The couple has been renting an apartment in Phoenix since the first year of their relationship, and they've gotten used to each other's habits. They rarely argue about cooking or chores since they get takeouts most of the time, and they have help from Leah's mom to keep the place tidy.
"I don't know what I'd do without mom. Some days I come back from work at 9 p.m., and I just want to sleep. Knowing she comes by during the afternoon and finding everything looking nice keeps me positive, and I can enjoy dinner with John without worrying about anything else," Leah said.
As time passed and they kept visiting their families in Phoenix, they felt sure their relationship would last because everyone got along. John watched games with Leah's dad and brothers, and she was happy to chat with his mom or go shopping with his sister in Phoenix.
"There was no pressure to fit in, and no one criticized me. They were just happy to have me. That made me feel confident about having a permanent relationship and raising a family with John in the future," Leah said.
Once they decided they wanted to get married and John proposed to her, they let their parents and siblings know and had a party to celebrate it. Leah's mom and mother-in-law offered to go shopping with her to find a nice wedding dress, and John's sister wanted to help with flowers and select the guests.
"It felt great to see how happy they were for us. And they also reassured us about the costs. Mom and dad and John's parents were ok with paying for it. And they just told us to enjoy it," Leah said.
As the preparations moved forward, Leah and John also made plans about what they wanted for their honeymoon and where they would spend it. The main issue about the trip was that they just wanted it to last longer than a week or two. And that was expensive.
"I knew our parents would only pay for the wedding, not the honeymoon. That was on us, and it was fair, I guess. But the more we thought about it, the less we could be ok with just a few days away. We wanted to have a month or two just to be with each other, and that would be worth at least six months of income," Leah said.
As they considered the issue, the wedding got closer. It's now three months away, and Leah and John are still not pleased about the honeymoon trip. And lately, they've got a very different idea about what they could do to be able to have that trip and not have to pay for it.
The couple is considering not getting married at all and using the money from their parents to travel and have fun instead. They feel that would be a good way to celebrate being in a relationship, too, even if they won't have a marriage ceremony.
"We'll skip the wedding and travel with the money from our parents. I mean, they gave it to us to be happy, and that trip will definitely do that for us. We can just have something simple for a ceremony and get married in two years or so. It's more important to travel right now. That's how we both feel," Leah said.
They haven't told their parents anything yet since they're not sure how they will react. Leah already has a wedding gown and shoes, but she doesn't mind saving them for some later date.
What do you think about this situation? Is it fair for Leah and John to just take the money from their parents and not use it for its purpose? Should they ask their parents first before giving up on the wedding and paying for a long trip so they can still have a positive relationship with them?