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EX ETIQUETTE: Mother of bride drops a bomb

Question: My son is marrying for the second time. He's marrying a woman who has never been married.

Yesterday I received a phone call from the mother of the bride stating that it's a no-host bar and they expect me to pay for the liquor and the rehearsal dinner, and they went over budget and would like me to help cover things to the tune of $6,000. I can't afford that. No one discussed this with me, and it's a month before the wedding. I have not even received an invitation. What is good ex-etiquette in this situation?

A: Since the bride has never been married, the wedding may be handled as a first-time wedding in the sense that it can be as formal as the bride likes with her parents paying for most of the expenses.

Traditionally, the groom's parents are responsible for planning and paying for the rehearsal dinner.

Although many believe the groom is also responsible for liquor, that isn't necessarily so; and nowadays it's not uncommon for the groom's side of the family to pitch in more than in the past.

Your son was married before, however, and that may change things a little. How much it changes things should have been openly discussed by the families before any part of the wedding day was planned. To prevent arguments during wedding planning, we have even suggested that families write up an informal contract so both parties know what to expect.

To get a phone call a month before the wedding, before you even received an invitation and when you haven't been included in any of the preparations or planning, and then to be expected to foot the bill -- that is very bad ex-etiquette, and we question what the bride's family was thinking. Are they kidding?

Just because the groom's parents traditionally pay for the expenses the mother of the bride requested, it does not mean that it is written in stone -- ever. The groom's parents may not be able to afford what is regarded as their responsibility. If that is the case, then the bride's parents must either abide by what the groom's parents can afford and their daughter tones down expectations, or they pay for what their daughter wants.

It's time to have a heart-to-heart with all concerned before any more time goes by. If you can, pay for what is requested. But if you can't, the financial obligation was taken on by the bride's parents without your consent.

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