Ah, 'tis the high season for weddings. And inevitably, with this season comes the financial foibles that can stress or even end relationships with friends or family members.
Money magazine and CNNMoney.com columnists Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwarz - authors of "Isn't It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check?" - love to collect stories of people behaving badly when it comes to money. So recently they put together a list of the five most audacious, you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me wedding and money stories.
Here are the five, listed from the least appalling to the most outrageous:
¢ Someone was invited to a destination wedding. It's a trend that can get very costly for the guests. Five times as many couples opted for destination weddings in 2006 as did in 1996, according to the National Tour Association.
In this case the bride and groom selected a resort hotel in Hawaii for their guests to stay. Because of cost, one invited guest balked at going. However, he said the bride and groom twisted his arm. So he went. After the guy got there, he found out that part of the reason the couple was so insistent he come was that they got free accommodations for bringing in a certain number of guests. Had he not booked a room, the bride and groom would have lost their sweet deal.
¢ Another egregious money story started in a Las Vegas wedding chapel. The bride and groom decided to go it alone and didn't invite any guests. Then the bride's cousin decided to get married. A friend of the cousin was throwing her a bridal shower. So how did the bride who had no guests at her wedding respond? Since she never had a bridal shower, she suggested that everyone at her cousin's shower should be encouraged to bring a gift for her, too.
¢ During a reception, four members of the groom's family decided to order a dish that was different from what other guests were eating. This was not for any religious or health reasons. They just didn't like what was being served. So these rogue guests bullied the waiter into bringing them ahi tuna entrees. The bride's dad got stuck with the tab - in addition to having to pay for the meals the pushy guests didn't eat.
¢ A 30-something woman asked her divorced parents to help pay for her wedding. They both gave her big checks. But the wedding was called off when the groom got cold feet. Naturally the parents wanted their money back. The daughter refused. Why? She had hoped the reluctant groom would change his mind. The parents did eventually get repaid.
¢ Finally, the parents of a bride insisted that the couple have a lavish wedding. But following the reception, the bride's father took the groom's mother aside. He told her that because his business was facing a financial emergency, he needed her and husband to lend him $25,000 to help pay for the wedding.
Well, at least he was just asking for a loan.
So what would you do in any of these cases?
When I first read the stories I was appalled, especially about the bride that wanted to piggyback on her cousin's shower. It takes a lot of gall to ask that guests attending someone else's party bring you gifts.
But on reflection, each story tells a lot about how people are pressed into doing something with their money that they don't want to do.
Let's look at destination weddings. This type of wedding can be lovely and certainly worth the money - if you can truly afford it. And by afford, I mean you don't return to a credit card bill that will take you months to pay off.
If once you explain that you can't afford to go to a wedding and the bride or groom (or both) continue to pressure you to still attend, what you have is a display of selfishness. Don't let yourself be bullied by selfish people.
However, if you choose to attend the wedding knowing that it was a financial burden, you can't get mad if you find out the couple used you to get a discount. At least they were being prudent.
As for the parents who gave the jilted bride-to-be money for her wedding, that story is a good reminder of how to give the right way. If you've agreed to pay for a wedding, or college expenses or somebody's rent, don't give the person all the money upfront. Don't give it to them directly. Ask for the bill and then pay the vendor directly.
So as you ponder how to respond to a wedding invitation and the financial craziness that may come with such a blessed event, remember you do have free will. Exercise it wisely.