Just about a year and a half ago, my dad fell (he either passed out, had a seizure or stroke, or something... we will never really know), fractured his skull, and suffered extensive brain damage. He experienced a miracle recovery, - no joke, the doctors were shocked at how quickly he was up and mostly functioning again - but some things will never heal or ever be the same. For one thing, he will never be able to smell or taste ever again. The brain can use cells from other ares to replace cells in lacking areas, but cannot do so for some reason with the section of the brain that recognizes smells/taste. (I'm no doctor. Instead of trying to explain reasons, I'll just stick to describing symptoms.) For another, more important thing, his personality has changed. He doesn't really have a filter and tends to say very hurtful things - often not meaning them, but there is just no rationality behind it at all. Also, any anxieties and worried he had that may have led him to pass out or what not have only gotten worse since.
One common symptom attributed to brain injury is the fact that people's worst qualities tend to be accentuated after their injury. For my dad, besides his less than kind comments and reactions to family, this was his anxiety about money. For as long as I've lived, my dad has driven himself absolutely crazy thinking/worrying/stressing about money. He has specific systems to every aspect of life from when and where we eat to which cars we drive when based on what is most economical. He makes an excel spreadsheet for every little thing you could possibly imagine. I can't even begin to explain how my dad's mind works when it comes to money, or how many seemingly irrational things he has done or forced us to do just because it saved a miniscule amount. Now, add the fact that the brain injury worsens these features + the fact that the brain injury and hospital time itself cost us a lot of money + my dad losing his job because he can no longer handle the work + oh, you know, we've kinda been living in an economic crisis, and you've got a pretty big problem.
Often, when any kind of conflict arises among members of my family (which, of course, all conflicts in my family revolve around money), my dad basically throws all of the time and work and money he has spent on us through the years back into our faces. He had it stuck in his mind that nobody in my family respected him or appreciated anything he has given us. This is completely irrational, but he constantly treated us as if it were true. I basically got to the point that I believed that the only way my dad would believe that I loved him was if I would never expect or accept another penny from him.
So, David and I decided to pay for our wedding ourselves.
After making our decision known to my parents, they came to us to say that they have always planned on paying for my wedding and would still like to do so. David has been through some major financial struggles and has absolutely nothing saved to put towards our wedding and will be living from paycheck to paycheck for the foreseeable future, and I am a new college graduate who is totally unemployed. We really had no clue as to when we could possibly begin saving towards our wedding, so we decided to accept their offer. Through the following planning process, however, I had a constant fear that my dad's contribution for our wedding would stress him out to the point that he would not enjoy himself there; or worse, I worried that he would someday throw the expense back in my face and make me feel guilty for my own wedding.
Well, tonight was huge. After I came very close to moving out and cutting all financial ties from my family (including calling our venue and canceling the wedding), my dad and I had a very important talk. I told him that I felt I needed to be completely financially free of him before he would recognize that I appreciate him, and he told me that he saw that the fact that I showed the desire to escape as some proof to show that I did not truly understand the weight of paying for life on my own and thus, that I could not fully appreciate him. Basically, our actions and reactions towards one another did nothing but make the others actions and reactions worse. Our opinions of the situation were at a complete 180 degrees from one another, and it only made the situation worse for both of us. I don't think that tonight solved everything, but I definitely think it was some very significant progress.
Now, don't get me wrong. I love my father and I truly do absolutely appreciate that fact that he has worked hard his whole life to support and provide for me. (The fact that I'm coming out of college debt free and with a fair chunk of savings is pretty awesome) I still feel that the best way to respect him would be to have a job, be financially stable, and not expect anything of him (money-wise) again. However, for the time being, I am relying on his support in many ways, and I need to work on showing my appreciation more. Our wedding, to me, is a big step for everyone. While he is paying a big chunk of the expenses, he is by no means paying for everything. I am putting every penny of my own forward that I possibly can. I believe that this, along with saving as much as I can for David and my future, will prove to him that I understand the realities of life and am ready to be independent. David's parents have also graciously donated a fair sum. However, I have also decided to see this as the one last big thing my dad does for me. I will accept his gift gratefully and show my appreciation. I want to show him that I have learned how to manage money and budget well, so the total expense of the wedding is very important to me, and I also want him to know that I am not ungrateful nor do I expect him to continually provide for me. I plan to accept his offer to pay for some major wedding expenses, but from that point forward, I will be financially independent from him.
Among all the tulle and sugar, and great wedding details comes one of the most stressful and life-changing times of many people's lives. So, there's a little bit of truth. This wedding is not just good fun, it's a part of the big picture of how difficult life can be, how big life changes can be, and how families and money and the combination of the two can be very very complicated. I am glad that the big blow-up happened tonight, no matter how difficult it was, and I am glad that this wedding marks a very important point in my relationship with my parents and my financial independence.