When it comes to wedding costs, those of us who are parents of the bride can only be thankful that dowries are no longer an acceptable mode of exchange. But what about paying for the wedding? Tradition has it that the bride's family is on the hook for it. But is that how millennials see it? Has there been a rethinking of who pays for what?
I bring this up because I recently saw a Survey Monkey poll run by a 20-something over at FiveThirtyEight. (He likes to run surveys about what he calls questions about how to be an adult). More than 1,000 single and married folks from millennials to 60+ answered the Survey Monkey questions, which asked about a variety of financial and etiquette wedding issues. Chief among them: who should pay for the shindig?
Before I read the results, I leaned on my own carefully acquired anecdotal evidence: It will vary with the age of the bridge and groom: the older they are (upwards of their mid-30s as opposed to in their 20s) the more likely the bride and groom will pay for or share the costs for the wedding they want. The survey answers were more varied than that.
According to the 20-something who analyzed the Monkey results:
Three responses rose to the top: 25 percent of respondents said the bride’s family, 26 percent said the couple, and 26 percent said that the groom’s family, the bride’s family, and the couple should split evenly. The remainder were split over various permutations of those three groups, with most saying either both families splitting it or the bride’s family and the couple splitting it. For what it’s worth, among the 18-to-29 cohort --you know, the ones often getting married — about half thought it should be some permutation of the parents’ problem to pay, with 35 percent saying the bride’s family should cover it.
Bottom line: The more things change the more they stay the same. There’s still a broad belief that the bride’s family should pay for the main event. To put some survey numbers on it:
Stripping out the permutations, 70 percent said the bride’s family should be at least somewhat on the hook for paying for the wedding, 60 percent said the couple should chip in, and 41 percent said the groom’s family should.
Here are the survey permutations for those interested in details--and to see how answers varied by age of respondent. And yes, my anecdotal evidence is within the margin of error.
|SHARE OF RESPONDENTS BY AGE|
|Three-way split (groom & bride’s families, couple)||26||19||31||30||24|
|The bride’s family||25||35||18||22||24|
|The groom’s family and the bride’s family||12||12||15||10||11|
|The bride’s family and the couple||7||10||6||5||9|
|The groom’s family||2||1||6||2||1|
|The groom’s family and the couple||0||0||2||0||0|
The ideal relationship between parent and grown child: "My book is written for parents who basically have good relationships with their adult children. What they yearn for is more intimacy. They don’t want to live their children’s lives; they don’t want to be involved in every petty decision—or even every major decision. But they would like to at least feel a part of it. They don’t want to read in the newspaper that their child got a job promotion. Or perhaps the adult child might say, “Hi, I was offered this new job; these are the pros, these are the cons, this is what I’ve decided.” The parents would love it if their child asked, “What’s your opinion? I’m not necessarily going to follow it, but input would be valuable.” That would be the ideal."
Letting go: The task is not to let go but to constantly use incremental learning to bring them to new ways of staying connected. .... As we get older, how do we live perfectly independent lives yet remain able to share the joys and the sorrows—the frustrations of life? For example, if your child gets a promotion, you all might want to celebrate together. Or if your child experiences a failure, it’s nice to have people who care that you failed. Most of the world just goes on, right? They don’t care whether I wrote my article today or not. But it’s wonderful to have a child who says, “How’s the article going, Mom?”
Every family vacation has its theme, inside joke or something that becomes a means to remember the time spent together. On one Vermont vacation, we couldn't eat enough country-made peach pies. They were the treat--every evening and some afternoons. One year our Grands put on a magic show that was, well, magic and memorable, down to the finale of all them running around the lawns of our condo with sparklers. Last year was the year of Pride and Prejudice --the full BBC version. We would watch an hour or two every night--everyone rushed through dinner to take their seats in front of the TV for the next episode or two--and that included the 7 year old, the teenagers and the adults.
This year, unlike our previous family vacations in Vermont, our daughter and her family were not with us. Sigh. They had obligations elsewhere so this was the family summer vacation with just one set of adult kids and Grands.
It was also the vacation I fell into a pattern of reading the New York Times on the porch of my condo every morning and then wandering over to Uber son's unit armed with a scintillating article to share. The idea of a news bite from PenPen did not necessarily bring cheers from my Grands, ages 8, 13 and 15. I could almost hear groans. But once I read key parts or summarized the issue, they sat up and took notice--well, they paid some attention.
One day the story was about the attempt to do unto This Land is Your Land, Woody Guthrie's anthem, what had been done to Happy Birthday. That is, lift the copy right and make the song available to anyone who wanted to use it. My Grands of course knew the song--they sang a line or two before we got back to the facts--and even the 8-year-old knew what "copyright" was (her dad has written several books. Must have been a word that came up from time to time.)
Another story that drew interest: A recent dig in Hungary where anthropologists were hoping to unearth the "heart of gold" of Suleiman the Magnificent, an Ottoman warrior and leader, that was buried in a small village in Hungary when he died on the eve of battle. What's not intriguing about a dig into the past--a 16th century battlefield bunker--and a story about a warrior leaving his heart buried in a casket of gold?
Another day it was the news report that French President Francois Hollande had spent $10,000 a month on haircuts. Shocking to all (hashtag #CoiffeurGate) and lots of jokes by my Grands on hairstylist spending--especially by une homme with not that much hair on his head.
Bottom line: It didn't matter if my arrival with news story in hand became a running joke. Actually, it never dawned on me that my Grands wouldn't enjoy my news clips--nor did I care if they didn't. They could always walk away or return to whatever it was they were doing. It was more important to me that the news stories led to lively conversations--about why Arlo Guthries' heirs wouldn't want to give away the copyright (It wasn't the money; they didn't want politicians with whom they disagreed to use the song for their own purposes.) and why copyrights are important to artists. We also theorized about Turkish Suleiman the Magnificent and what he was doing so far afield in Hungary and why his entourage left the great warrior's heart behind.
The vacation of the New York Times stories might not have been as tasty as the peach pie vacation or addictive as Pride and Prejudice but it was a reminder--to me at any rate--that Grands like being part of a grown-up discussion. It is also reminder that we leave a legacy with our Grands, not just in the material things that may come their way but in little discussions, bits of advice, sharing of memories.
Who knows if my Grands will remember the summer of news story discussions or look to newspapers like the New York Times for the wide range of stories they have to tell. But they might. The daily news briefings this summer undoubtedly meant more to me than to my Grands. Newspapers are my passion. How else would we begin to understand other cultures. I can only hope they picked up a little of my enthusiasm and stay curious.
There's nothing quite like an upbeat ending to a family vacation to make you smile whenever you think about the time together.
You never know where those moments are going to come from, but we stumbled into one--and almost let it get away--on a three-day mini-vacay with our grown daughter and her daughter.
Weeks before we convened for a planned get-together in Williamstown, Mass., I had spotted an ad for the Pirates of Penzance at a theater in nearby Pittsfield. Pateramilias and I are Gilbert and Sullivan enthusiasts. During our hands-on-parenting days we had converted our daughter to an appreciation of their pointed silliness. The hope was to pass the baton to the next generation, specifically to an almost 14-year-old currently enthralled with the score and lyrics for Hamilton. (Can I note here--yes I can, it's my blog--that there is a similarity in the cleverness of the rhymes of both lyricists.) For all I knew, though, this show in Pittsfield would be an amateur production that might be more of a turn off than a turn on.
That was one of the reasons I did not advance-purchase the tickets. Another was that there's many a slip 'tween the cup (vacation plans) and the lip (actual arrival of all parties at a given place and time). In our case, our daughter and her family would be getting back from a business/pleasure trip in Europe two days before our scheduled get-together. Would they be too jet-lagged to drive the nearly three hours from their home to Williamstown?
I may have put off the purchase, but theater was very much on my mind. Our Grand has an interest in it and what better place to be than Williamstown, which has a first-rate summer theater. So when daughter and Grand showed up as scheduled on a Tuesday, I bought tickets to a show at the Williamstown theater. We weren't terrifically interested in the play (The Chinese Room)--Paterfamilias went so far as to refuse to have a ticket purchased for him--but on Tuesday nights, the director and cast stay around after the show to talk to the audience about the production. I thought my Grand would love a glimpse of the inside story.
No doubt she would have, except that by 6:00 p.m., as we picked our way through a pre-theater dinner, it was clear neither mother nor daughter would be able to stay awake for the show. Jet lag was upon them.
I tried to turn the tickets in for a refund but that was a no-go. After some polite pleading and the addition of a $3 a ticket fee, the theater let me exchange the tickets for the next night--upping my investment in seeing this show to nearly $200 for three of us. But Wednesday night would be our last one together--we had to make our separate ways home on Thursday. There would be no time to see Pirates, which both PF and our daughter expressed a great preference in seeing.
What to do? I knew when to fold 'em. I am usually very conservative when it comes to parsing out my entertainment dollars. But the $200 for The Chinese Room was spent whether we saw it or not. Wednesday morning I called the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield and snagged four of the last tickets for Pirates available that night. We were double booked, so to speak.
What a great decision that was. This Pirates of Penzance was like a bubbly tonic. The director and cast milked it for every bit of nonsense in it--even some that was not. (The NYTimes reviewed it a few days later and called it "exhilarating.") But more than that, it made PF and I deliriously happy: we were all together; our daughter laughed out loud all the way through it and so did our Grand, who , even as she enters her teen years, retains "a capacity for innocent enjoyment." We came away from the show feeling light of heart and exhilarated.
We talked about nothing else on the ride back to Williamstown and through breakfast the next morning. By the time we parted for our separate journeys home, we had gone over almost every bit of scenery, choreography and song we could remember. Since then, PF and I have clicked on YouTube and heard many another version of the songs. Every time we hear the trumpet's martial sound (Tarantula, Tarantula) we smile at the remembrance of the show and how much fun we had together--even though the three-days of togetherness had its ups and downs.
Is my Grand a new G&S fan? The music, she allowed, was not to her taste but she found the show "really funny." She was delighted with the policeman's lot, despite it being "not a happy one," and with the swaggering of the Pirate King. "It is, it is a glorious thing"--not only to be the Pirate King but to end a vacation on such a high note.
On vacation in Vermont with paterfamilias plus one grown child and his family, I take a yoga class. The yogi (a woman who also teaches paddleboard yoga--yoga on a board that's bobbing in a lake. I'm just saying....) starts class with thoughtful time. She talks about the integration of inner independence with outer-world dependence, about how feeling the quiet of the inner self connects us to others.
It's a lot to take in before a round of Vinyasas, but her words come back to me that afternoon. I was at the swimming pool observing my three Grands and their parents at play in the water. The teen-aged boy (15) likes testing his dad--who can throw the pool-drenched tennis ball harder, dive deeper for a stone, make a bigger splash. The two girls (13 and 8) are young enough to spend inordinate amounts of time practicing their underwater handstands and challenging each other to one silly game after another. Then while everyone's attention was at maximum outer-dependence, the 8 year old was in water just beyond her swim abilities. Thinking she was in trouble, her brother rushed over and whisked her up. She hadn't been floundering, she insisted, and there was much ado about who did what to whom against their will. Family relationships can be as shaky as yoga on a paddleboard.
These mundane bits and pieces of their day-to-day lives are for us--their grandparents who live far from them--a rare moment of pleasure. Sitting still and enjoying the simple act of watching, we see how the parents (our grown kids) and kids (our grandkids) push and pull toward and against each other. Lucky us to b part of these moments of integrated inner independence and outer dependence that keep them (and us) connected.
One of the hardest parts of parenting grown children is keeping our advice to ourselves, unless asked. It's hard because we've stored up a lot of real-life wisdom. We know a thing or two. Why shouldn't our children have the benefit of our experience-informed opinion?
That was a question raised by a dad whose 25-year-old daughter had a master's degree, was living abroad (self-supporting via small jobs) and had a history of churning through one romantic relationship after another. Now she was involved with a Frenchman and the dad felt her life was "centered on guy-security." He was worried, he wrote to advice-columnist Carolyn Hax, "that she isn't seeing the long view and that each new guys is an emotional crutch, helping her defer a future." His question to Hax: "Should I bug out? Should I ask her to defend her choices?"
Hax's answer was one we usually don't want to hear: "Bug out. She's 25, self-supporting and hasn't asked your opinion." Readers also chimed in with a bug-off message: "As long as she's taking care of herself and safe about it, let her live her life."
I'm in total agreement. And then I went out to dinner with a friend who was still reeling from his son's negative reaction to the dad's attempt at advice--advice on the verboten subject of grandchildren.
Here's the back story, according to my friend, the grandfather: The son, who was adopted at birth, developed attention deficit problems--ADD--when he was in the 4th grade. The parents had him tested, made efforts not to have their son labeled as ADD and worked with the schools and special teachers to help him make his way through school successfully. Which he did. Now the son's son--my friend's grandson--is in 4th grade and showing the same signs of ADD that his father had shown. His report card at the end of the year told the story devastatingly--at least it did to the grandfather. So he pulled together all the reports and tests that they--the grandparents--had on their son that their son had never seen and suggested the son read through them and have his son --their grandchild--tested.
That's when he was told to butt out, that it was none of his business.
So, like the Hax-writing dad, here's a dad whose son and family are self-supporting and haven't asked their dad for advice. And yet, the grandfather sees his grandchild in pain and has information the son and the son's wife don't have--a whole file of data about a problem that is likely inherited.
Is there a difference of degree here between the Hax dad and my friend? If there is, does it matter in terms of bugging out or butting in?
Maybe there's a middle ground. It's one thing to withhold advice ("bug out"); it's another to withhold information that might be helpful. Maybe the answer is to share an observation and hand over the file so that the son and his wife can digest it and either use it to make an informed decision or toss it aside as irrelevant to their son.
Bottom line: it's not easy to sit by and believe something can be done to ease a grandchild's pain--and not have the parents act accordingly. But the child is, after all, his grandson, not his son. The parents may have a very different perspective on their son's behavior.
It's more than a decade ago, but I remember with an almost tearful fondness a weekend spa vacation I took with Alpha Daughter. She was living on the west coast; I was on the east. We met somewhere in the west-middle. She was six months pregnant; I was excited about the granddaughter-to-be. It wasn't necessarily The Best Vacation Ever--the spa food was okay; the exercise classes so-so; the hikes either too challenging or not challenging enough--but it was a precious time. I already had an inkling how rare time alone with a grown child would be. Once they have a career, a Significant Other, children or a home in another city or country, such times are prized because they are so rare.
Nostalgia for that trip kicked in when a friend came back from a weekend in New York City with her 30-something-and-single daughter. Her daughter used Airbnb to book an efficiency apartment on the lower tip of Manhattan for the two of them. Mother and daughter took in the High Line, waited two hours in line for discount tickets to a Broadway show, met up with an aunt and niece for dinner and walked from the tip of Manhattan to mid town. The camaraderie, the unpressured time for exchanges of confidences, the insights into how her daughter feels about her plans for the future (she's shipping out to Zambia for a two-year assignment in a few months) gave my friend some solace over the geographic distance that will make weekend get-aways together improbable for a while.
Not that it always works out. A dad I know, divorced from his grown daughter's mother, took his daughter for what was planned to be an extravagant weekend in New York--except that she was hostile and generally uncooperative about going anywhere or doing anything. If the underlying relationship is dysfunctional, the together-time may be as well.
As we get older and our children have children that are reaching their teens, many of us are taking our Grands on getaways. Those trips can be bonding, insightful and altogether delightful--but they aren't a substitute for time alone with a grown son or daughter.
Remember that slogan from the 1990s?
Well here in the 2016s, maybe it isn't--at least not when it comes to our grown kids moving back home after college.
A May 24 story on the Pew Foundation's website trumpeted this headline: For the First Time in Modern Era, Living With Parents Edges Out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds.
• More young women (16%) than young men (13%) are heading up a household without a spouse or partner. This is mainly because women are more likely than men to be single parents living with their children.
• Young men (25%) are more likely than young women (19%) to be living in the home of another family member, a non-relative or in some type of group quarters. (Employed young men are much less likely to live at home than young men without a job, and employment among young men has fallen significantly in recent decades as has young men's earnings.)• In addition to the rising median age of first marriages (a decades-long trend), as many as one-in-four of today’s young adults may be eschewing marriage altogether. The overall share of young adults either married or living with an unmarried partner has substantially fallen since 1990.
• Young adults in states in the South Atlantic, West South Central and Pacific areas of the U.S. have recently experienced the highest rates on record of living with parent(s).
If you like charts and stats, here are some from Pew that spell out their findings on our millennials and their living arrangements.
The debate over whether or not to support our grown kids financially--all, in part or an occasional bit of help--falls into two camps: The Tough Lovers (not at all) and the Helping Handers (all of the above). Many of us who fall into the latter group like the way an occasional hand out feels. If we can afford it, it gives us pleasure to see our child use our gift--their legacy delivered early--to do something important or meaningful: buy a house, a safer car, top-quality day care for their child.
The key, of course, is not to overdo it and to feel comfortable that our child isn't demanding help--isn't asking for assistance out of a sense of entitlement.
I was reminded of the dangers of entitlement when I was reading one of my favorite columns in the NYTimes Sunday Business section: the Q and A with an industry or company leader. The interview almost always starts off with a question about the leader's youth--early leadership anecdotes or lessons learned from mom or dad. A recent one had a bit of kicker in the answer.
Carter Murray,the CEO of an international ad agency and a son who grew up in a comfortably well-to-do household in England, talked about how it felt to be at the receiving end of parental largesse. He lived in London as a child, went to college in the U.S., after which--well, I'll let him tell his story.
"After I graduated from Duke, I moved back to London. Our family business is high-end real estate. I just had a lot of fun. And my mother and stepfather, in particular, were being very nice. I lived in one of the properties they developed. I had an allowance. It’s quite ridiculous when I think about it now.
"If you come from a privileged background and you’re taking the financial support, you start to think it’s your right to have it. I just became entitled. I had a credit card for emergencies, and it’s amazing, over time, what gets considered an emergency. Like, how often am I going to be in South Africa with this view? I need to order a bottle of wine.
My parents sat me down one day, and said, “You know, this isn’t free.” And after that sank in, I decided I was going to do it on my own. I cut up the credit card. I actually got even closer to my parents as a result because there wasn’t that financial bond. I think entitlement is the kiss of death for the soul of a human being."