We are several months into planning our wedding, but my future in-laws have not yet offered to contribute, financially or otherwise. I asked my fiance to speak with them, but he seems very reluctant to do so. Should I assume they do not wish to contribute, or should I speak with them myself? I really don't want to offend them, but we do need to know!
Of course you don't want to offend them, and you've hit on the most important factor here -- how you interact with your new in-laws while planning your wedding can set the stage for how you'll get along once you're married, so it makes sense to be careful and sensitive. Still, you shouldn't assume that they don't want to contribute at all -- leaving them out by default risks offending them, too.
The first thing to do is talk to your fiance. Your instinct was right -- it's always best for the person whose parents you're dealing with to talk to them first, alone. Why? Because that's the most comfortable way to discuss a touchy subject. If you're there -- or if the subject is raised solely by you -- his parents may not feel free to say what they really think.
Find out why your fiance seems reluctant to speak to them -- maybe he's nervous because he knows they're not able to contribute financially. In that case, maybe they can help with wedding planning in other ways, such as making phone calls to get prices, helping you shop, or reserving a block of hotel rooms for out-of-towners. Your fiance might also be afraid of his parents' reactions if he asks them for money. Maybe they aren't aware of their role or feel strange asking about it.
If so, you two need to brainstorm a good way to broach the subject. One way would be to let them know about the "traditional" contributions (financial and otherwise) of the groom's family. Either way, the two of you should be able to whip up a plan to draw them out and get a definitive answer. And who knows, even though you find your current situation not so hot, you might be pleasantly surprised in the end.
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