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The Moneyist: ‘It’s getting expensive’: Our son’s wedding cost a fraction of our daughter’s upcoming nuptials. Should we give our other kids money to ensure all monetary gifts are equal?

Dear Quentin,

Our only daughter is getting married. It’s getting expensive. Do we owe her younger brothers anything to even out the monetary gifts? One of them is married, and we covered the groom’s side of that wedding, but that was about 15% of what our daughter’s wedding costs will be.  We have the money, but we’re unsure about our duties to our other children. Many thanks.

Getting Poorer

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Dear Poorer,

The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. hovers at around $20,000 or closer to $30,000 if you choose to go by polls carried out by wedding-planning websites whose customers are probably and traditionally higher-income brides, and are willing — if not always able — to spend that kind of money on one day. At least, not without a little or a lot of help from mom and dad.

I’ve never thought that spending that kind of money — close to the median annual wage  — is a good idea for one day. It’s a special day, a rite of passage, a memory to last a lifetime, and a photo album to flick through for decades, it’s many things to many people. Pay for the wedding if you can afford it, and that’s how you want to spend your money. 

If you also wish to give your three children $25,000 or thereabouts, you can do that too. Although it’s better to give with a purpose. Your daughter wants a wedding. Your son may need help with his down payment on a house or college education for his child, or even further education for himself. Without that conversation, the value of your family’s dollar falls.

Before dishing out gift bags, make sure you have enough money set aside for a medical emergency, and that your retirement is comfortable, particularly as rightly or wrongly parents tend to spend more on weddings for their daughters. Nearly half of workers in this Transamerica retirement survey said they don’t have enough income saved for retirement.

Stock markets are in turmoil following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These events remind us all that life is short, and we should savor every moment with our loved ones. None of us knows what’s around the corner. The world is nothing if not unpredictable so if you are feeling “poorer” listen to those instincts, tighten your purse strings and act out of prudence rather than out of guilt.

Yocan email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

• ‘I’ve felt like an outsider my whole life’: My father died without a will, leaving behind my stepmother and her 4 children. Do I have any rights to his estate?
• ‘He was infatuated with her’: My brother had a drinking problem and took his own life. He left $6 million to his former girlfriend who used to buy him alcohol
• She had a will, but it was null and void’: My friend and her sister are fighting over their mother’s life-insurance policy and bank account. Who should win out?

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