Can I Get My Money Back For My Daughters Cancelled Wedding?

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Q: Dear Amy,

Our daughter’s wedding was planned for this spring but was postponed due to Covid19. Her father and I gave her over $20K for the wedding. And with the exception of a few hundred dollars, she was able to get all of the money refunded. She was supposed to have a destination wedding, out of the country. She and her fiancx actually already had a legal marriage done at the courthouse, so they are technically married (although most of their friends and families do not know this).

My daughter appears to be leaning toward canceling the wedding all together, and planning an extravagant vacation (honeymoon) with her new husband rather than rescheduling something for a later date. I love my daughter very much but I feel like she thinks that it is okay to just keep the money we gave her as a gift without actually having a wedding. I honestly don’t care about the money, but I do feel like we are being taken advantage of and I have no idea what the expectation should be in this situation.

I definitely don’t want to hurt my daughter, but I would never have written her a check for $22K just for getting married. Asking for the money back also feels like a cheesy thing to do. Can you please give me some advice on how to handle this situation.

—Mom or Bank

A: Dear Mom,

It’s all about the money honey. And that’s okay! You say you don’t care about the money but extremely clearly you do, and that is fine.

A lot of couples are going to be in similar situations. If you’re facing canceling a wedding, hopefully you will be able to get money back, as your daughter has done. And if you do, that money should be refunded to whomever put it down in the first place. I agree with you—that $22,000 is your money, and ideally your daughter would have offered to return it all to you.

But I can totally see why she didn’t! This is probably a really sad and stressful time in her life, and she’s trying to figure out how to make the best of things. Rescheduling a wedding, when none of us know when we will be able to really have weddings again, is signing up for months and months more of uncertainty and anxiety and questions and planning and effort. I think many couples might get married the way many of our grandparents did during WWII—quickly, in whatever nice clothes they have, hopefully with flowers, at town hall. I don’t begrudge anyone who does so having a big party later on, but life moves on! It’s okay to be sad you missed out on a big wedding and also decide not to move heaven and earth to throw one later, and instead look forward to a major blow out honeymoon.

This is going to be different for everyone. If you paid for the whole wedding, and it was all refunded to the couple, pretty clear. If you contributed $22,000 to the couple, and the wedding cost $100,000, and only some of that has been refunded, it’s less clear. You know the ins and outs of that better than I do, just make sure you’re considering the whole picture.

That being said, you’re absolutely correct that having given money for a wedding, to which presumably you were invited, and now being told there may not be a wedding, you can ask for that money back. You need to think, seriously and quickly, about your goal here. Do you want all the money back? Are you willing to give some of this money towards their honeymoon? Are you willing to give some money towards the honeymoon, but also you want at least a fancy dinner with them and immediate families to celebrate? Do you just want your daughter and you to have a moment in which you jointly understand that missing the wedding is sad, and that letting her keep the money is a gift?

And once you’ve decided what you want, communicate that right away. It is perfectly fine to ask for the money back now. It is not okay at all to let them go ahead and make plans for that money and ask for it back later, nor is it acceptable to resent your daughter because you felt it was “cheesy” to ask for the money back.

I know you just wanted your daughter to offer to return the money unprompted, but she didn’t, and I think you need to be understanding of that and also just talk to her about it.

—Amy March


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