Should Parents Have a Financial Double Standard For Sons and Daughters?

I have two daughters and one son. They are all quite young (the oldest is four). At this moment when I look ahead to the future I am have the exact same financial plan for each of them. Currently, we financially treat them all the same. We save the same amount for college, buy the same amount of food and clothes. However, the reality is that it is quite likely my daughters will have different futures that will impact their finances (as compared to my son).


Photo by Mrs. Gooding via Flickr

Weddings, Babies, and College: The Dividing Wall?


At least as long as the tradition does not change (which it may be already) I will be expected to pay for a wedding for each of my daughters, but there is no similar expectation to provide a large financial gift to my son.

Possible Work Force Absence

My son is more likely to spend a greater part of his working career outside of the home. When it comes time for grandchildren (what a strange thought) my daughters will not be working for a longer period than my son. If God blesses them with children I assume they will have to take at least a day off for labor and delivery (unless there are some HUGE medical advances).

Your Thoughts?

These two issues got me thinking and I wanted to hear your opinion.


Unless tradition changes (which it already is starting to) I will be responsible to pay for two weddings. My son on the other hand, is not in line to get such a gift. What if one of my daughters does not marry? What if one wants the wedding of the century and the other a simple wedding?

For what it’s worth, here is my quick thoughts on the parents paying for a wedding. There is no way (I think) that I am going to pay for a no-questions-asked wedding. I will, however, offer a reasonable predetermined amount of money to my daughters to pay for their weddings. My daughters will need to budget accordingly or subsidize the difference.

Question #1: If I pay for my daughter’s wedding should I then also do something special for my son?

I’m thinking about a โ€œYour Life, Your Future Fundโ€ for each of my children. I want to be sure I am doing a good job with financial parenting.

Would it be fair to have a predetermined amout of money that I tell my kids is available to them when they reach a crucial point in their lives? Let’s say for point of illustration that I will have $5,000 for each of my kids.

Daughter #1 wants a $10,000 wedding. She knows that mom and dad are only going to pay $5,000 and she comes up with the rest.

Daughter #2 wants a simple wedding at $2,000 and $3,000 to use towards starting a small business.

Son #3 wants to go to graduate school and wants to use the $5,000 towards tuition.

Is that fair? Should my son get money for school just because he did not have to pay for a wedding? Is getting a paid-for wedding just a privilege of being a daughter?

College and Possible Work Force Absence

Question #2: Should college school advice ever differ for a son or a daughter?

Let’s say my daughter decides she wants to go to a four year college, then go off to get a Masters degree and then stay home and be a mom. Is it wise to say โ€“ sure go for it? Or would I be better off cautioning her about the process? School often comes with payments. Payments are made with money. Where will the money come from if she plans to stay at home?

Personally I think the answer comes down to one issue — debt. The discussion is not about education or degrees. If my little girl wants to pay for a college degree and pay for a Masters degree, I say go for it. However, if she plans to stay home after graduating and plans to incur debt I think I would encourage her to consider things a little more carefully.

What are your thoughts on either the issue of marriage and college decisions for sons and daughters?

About the Author

By , on Oct 20, 2009
Craig Ford
Craig Ford is a fulltime missionary in Papua New Guinea who writes Money Help For Christians and Help Me Travel Cheap, a frugal family travel blog. He is the author of Money Wisdom From Proverbs, has a Masters of Divinity degree, and (most importantly) eats homemade pizza with his family every Friday night.

Leave Your Comment (21 Comments)

  1. Vivien says:

    It’s a ‘no-brainer’ – the wedding is not the marriage. Why invest in the events of a day, when the money could be used to invest in the financial security for your daughters that education provides and do exactly the same for your son. If you tell your kids that you will priorities their education and pay for that, but wedding expenses will come a clear second in terms of importance you will be giving them a clear message about values. Marriage is important, whether you’re male or female and I suggest if you contribute towards the wedding of one, you do the same with them all. If funds don’t run to both, choose education! Wherever life leads them your children will be better prepared with an education than an expensive wedding.

  2. bimla says:

    both the daughters and sons are the creatures of AllMighty than why to treat them differently, giving much attention toward one and least toother.

  3. bogart says:

    I clicked through from free money finance.

    Interesting questions. Given that you seem to want to prepare to help your kids after they reach adulthood, I think you are way oversimplifying things by focusing on a few discrete and likely (though not certain) events.

    I’ve got 2 adult stepkids, one of each gender. Both finished college (with our support) and one went through grad school (mostly financed by the student). But what happened to us (and something completely left out of your planning) is health insurance. We assisted both kids in paying for it after they left college. We also covered the kid in grad school. The big “unknown” is that one of our 2 has a chronic health condition that basically makes it impossible to buy an individual (i.e. affordable) policy (at least in our state, which has lousy consumer protections and no high-risk pool) … we had to use COBRA coverage to the cost of ~$6,000 a year. We’ve also stepped up (with loans rather than gifts) to cover COBRA during job transitions for the same kid, because the thought of not having coverage horrifies all of us … yet it’s too expensive for this young, inexperienced worker to buy independently.

    Looking ahead, one of our 2 adult kids is gay … so, no legal wedding (at least not here and not now), but if said kid wants kids, some form of infertility treatment or adoption, either of which can be expensive. I’m not sure where these sorts of issues (same-sex partnerships, infertility treatment, adoption…) fall within your values and obviously that may affect how you do or don’t support one of your children in pursuing them, but the point is you don’t know what the future holds.

    Our approach has been to help our kids as we can (also factoring in the objective of having them achieve financial self-sufficiency), and to be very open about the extent of the assistance we provide. So both kids know, for example, that we’ve paid way more $$$ on behalf of one than the other, because one happens to have to pay much more to get the same quality of health insurance. We’ll probably take the same approach when it comes to, e.g., pursuing adoption … if one kid does and one doesn’t, we’ll support the one who does in pursuing that path but not (necessarily) cough up equal bucks for the one who doesn’t (though we might, if a goal that we want to support and that is similarly expensive arises for the other one).

  4. gg says:

    I wanted to add to my earlier comment re: college education not being ‘used’. While I understand that it is very important to get educated, college tuition is so expensive that it isn’t worth it if it’s only a back-up plan (i.e. in case you HAVE to work due to divorce). More men work and support their wives, period. Many of my female friends quit and don’t want to work ever again. If they do return after a prolonged absence their degree doesn’t seem to do much good.

    Having said this, I know there is no easy answer. I am a married female and I’m glad that I have a degree. I am proud that I can support myself if necessary and will probably work until retirement. However, if I had chosen to stay home and still had a loan or had my parents struggle to put me through college, I don’t know if I would be as happy about having a degree.

  5. Kyle says:

    “If you are not going to use the degree should you financially debilitate yourself for a decade?”

    Why are you assuming that your daughter is not going to use her degree? That to me, seems even more sexist than setting aside wedding money only for them and not for your son.

  6. Craig Ford says:

    R. Price
    Great point in your comment. We never completely know the future and life often happens in spite our plans. It is always better to be prepared than to be left with no options.

  7. R. Price says:

    I can think of at least one very good reason to get a college degree, even if you do not intend to use it.

    For those that intend to be the stay-at-home parent, whether male or female, it is imperative that you have some kind of strong back up plan in case your partner is unable to work due to unemployment, illness/injury, or death. When the unthinkable happens, it is much easier for you to find a decent job with a degree, (even with those unemployed years on your resume) than trying to pick up the pieces of your life while trying to find work without a degree.

  8. erzebet says:

    why would you not justify a college degree not intented to use but justify a wedding? since when are weddings investments?

  9. Craig Ford says:

    Thanks for your comment. I agree that fairness is the main issue. There are some that have shared how their family was not fair and they still have not completely emotionally recovered.
    I do think there is little justification for anyone (male or female) to get a college degree they do not intent do use.

  10. gg says:

    My family gave the same amount to me and my sister. We both eloped but she had a wedding banquet afterwards. My other sister has not married yet but bought a house and I would hope that they gave her the same amount as well.

    As far as I know, my husband’s family did not pay for his brother’s elaborate wedding. I am not 100% sure because there was also an elaborate party at the parents’ house. Since my husband and I eloped, they probably did not feel that we needed any money. However, they ‘matched’ the amount that my parents gave us.

    From the kids’ point of view, fairness is very important. There are many variables and it is unfair to spend $$ on one just because one is female and/or wants a big bash. At the very least, give some money to the other kids if they have a smaller wedding or even if they elope!

    As for college, so many of my female friends quit working in their early 30s and are still paying off college debt. It is not worth it! It’s a difficult topic to bring up but I would at least ask your children about their future plans. Even in my 20s, I could tell which of my female friends would continue working and which ones would quit as soon as possible. Some people do seem to suddenly change their mind but it’s actually rare. By the early 20s, you can already distinguish between those who want to be out in the world and those who prefer to be home and can’t handle a stressful life.

  11. An interesting question, and I’m not sure I know the answer. Good question.

  12. snowy says:

    Great to have an approach for this stuff but I’d suggest that whatever you decide should be kept from the kids themselves lest you inadvertently pressure/lead them down a road they don’t necessarily want to go down – one may be gay and (alas) not be able to marry, one may just not want to marry, your son may end up as a stay-at-home, one kid may choose not to go to college, etc. The best laid plans and all that. A mental balanced help-out is great but defining it in terms of weddings and education specifically seems a bit dubious to me.

    (Also, and I write as a woman, the dad-pays-for-daughter’s-wedding is already pretty much dead and gone in my social, professional and family circles; when your kids are of that age it may be even less expected).

  13. Craig Ford says:

    @Stephanie. What can I say – it does seem unfair. There was a time when gender roles were completely different. Now that double standard does seem less justifiable.
    @c. Yes, equal wedding funds is the popular consensus. I appreciate your perspective on the school option. It’s not popular, but I think there is something to school as an investment. If you are not going to use the degree should you financially debilitate yourself for a decade? I don’t think so.
    @Susie. Making up the difference sounds like a great idea. Jealousy can do some dangerous things to relationships.

  14. Jeff says:

    Great article, and I’ve had some experiences with this (although I’m not female). I went to school at a university where many people were well off and it did not seem like they were struggling to pay for educations (like my parents and I were). So I worked my way through school, and with my parents help, came out with a low (comparatively) amount of debt, then went to grad school (paid for by the school). After undergrad, many of my friends got a large sum of money, a new car (or both) from parents. I’m glad I didnt get one, because that would have led me down a different path I would have not liked.
    However, I think that each kid should get the same amount (whatever it is). Maybe one daughter doesn’t get married, she can use the funds to travel the world, maybe your son wants to use them to start a business.
    I think susie had a good point, but if I were her son (im obviously not) I wouldnt want the financial help that they offer. He wanted it and was able to afford it with his wife, and probably doesn’t want the charity (as he sees it)
    I think if I were you, I wouldnt tell them you’ve got money for them. They could be growing up and buy something and think “well, I’m going to get money from my parents at some point, and I can pay for this when I do”

  15. Stefanie says:

    I am personally experienced a double standard concerning weddings. When my husband and I got married were we 25. The wedding was pretty much split 3 ways, with us paying 1/3, my parents paying 1/3, and his parents paying 1/3.

    My husband’s sister is now in the process of planning a wedding (age 25 too, ironically) and she is getting a “no questions asked, all expenses paid” wedding from my in-laws.

    It very much gives her (and her future husband) an advantage in life. Instead of paying $5,000 or so they will have that in the bank after the wedding. Granted, we could have scaled down our wedding so as not to have to pay as much, but what makes it okay for parents to pay for 100% of one kid’s wedding (she is marrying into a wealthy family who could easily pay for some – so that is not the issue) and not offer the same to another child?

    C’mon say it! “Bitter much?” YES! ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Susie Gerow says:

    We have five children, two married. We paid for about half (10K) of our daughter’s wedding. She paid the rest as far as I know, I don’t think she needed help from her husband – she had a good job even tho she was 23 at the time. Our son had a very small wedding and paid for it all with his bride. We are considering making up the difference to the son and his wife, but haven’t done anything about it yet. I am not aware of any weddings where the two families split the costs; who would think California was so traditional? ๐Ÿ˜€

  17. c says:

    Interesting topic to me too says the mom of two dds and one son.

    I think giving equally is fair – a ‘wedding’ for a daughter is no longer the norm I’d think – more share or the kids pay etc in my experience.

    As for college advice – it is an issue! I went to a public college which my parents encouraged because I knew I wanted to go to grad school. They would have paid for that too however I got a scholarship – but since I knew I’d want to be a SAHM if I’d been paying for law school I don’t know if I would have finished if it weren’t free . . . since I worked for all of 7 years before having my children and don’t know if I’ll ever do it again . . . it would have been foolish to do so! I would tell my daughter’s [and son] the same – school costs should be considered an investment to get a salary out – not just to ‘grow yourself’ – if it’s worth the end payout – great – if not . . . consider going elsewhere!

  18. I think it will be better if you start thinking about their carrier first. The marriage is beyond that. If you can provide them (I am talking about all three your son and two daughter) then I think you do not have to worry about their marriage. They will be able enough to think for that. Moreover try to give same sort of education to all three as a discrimination can be harmful for a child. All the best and wish that your wards will have a great future…

  19. L. Hernandez says:

    Traditions are marvelous when one looks at them with a critical eye and understands the reasons behind them and how they enrich your life. Why is there a tradition for the woman’s family to pay for the wedding? It’s not a Bible-based doctrine, as far as I know.

    As parents, we do want to give our children a economic boost as they enter adulthood. The tradition used to be that the son went into the family business and inherited the majority or entirety of the estate, minus some remainder going to the widow. The daughter was provided a dowry to be handled by the husband/husband family for her economic security.

  20. I guess things in my family are a bit different. It may be because my parents never had any money to pay for weddings, college, etc., no matter whether it was me, my sister, or my brother. I’d like to help out future kids I may have, but I don’t have any expectations for them in the get-married or go-to-grad-school way, at least not based on their sexes.

    I like the idea of the “Your Life, Your Future” fund. That seems to me to be the best way to go about it. I mean, if you think about it – what if your son marries someone who has a poor family, and they can’t contribute to the wedding at all? Or one of your daughters marries a rich family that pays for the whole wedding, but that doesn’t happen for your other daughter? There are too many variables – it seems best just to put aside the same amount of money for each kid and offer it for each particular one’s situation.

  21. Eric says:

    Can’t generalize but I haven’t seen that “tradition” of the bride paying for the wedding in a long time. Usually it’s half and half but of course this varies from place to place.

    And if you really are concerned about being far to your kids, I suggest you set up a fund (maybe an ING sub account) for each and contribute equal amounts. When it’s time, advise them this is the money you have for them and that’s it. Allow them to do what they need to do with it.

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