Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Third Party Payment

I take the major national professional responsibility exam on Saturday morning, and in the course of my studying, I came across the rule about 3rd party payment for representation.  That is, when your parents foot the bill for your divorce or DUI or your company pays for your lawyer, how the lawyer should treat the client and who is in fact the client when somebody else pays.  The short non-legal-advice answer is: the person you represent in court is always the client. 

So then I was thinking about weddings and third party payment.  For lawyers, when somebody else is footing the bill, the person paying CAN'T try to influence the lawyer.  The lawyer can't think about where the money comes from. The lawyer's obligation is to do what is best for the client.  Where the money comes from is irrelevant. 

Then I realized something.  That is the dynamic that all wedding planning should encompass.  This is how wedding planning is going for us.  My parents are footing most of the bill, but they have told me, consistently, that it is our wedding and we need to do what is in our best interest.  I love that they do not make demands and expect them to be fulfilled because they are paying.  I realize that they are unique in this aspect, but I think it's time for more parents to understand these rules. 

So how does this approach work?  We let the third party paying know how the representation is going, without breaching confidentiality, and with the informed consent of both parties involved (i.e. is it okay if I show my parents the invites I liked?)  Additionally, we have developed a rule against ex-parte communications.  I do not talk about the wedding with my parents without my partner, and vice versa, unless I am relaying something previously agreed upon.  I am always free to say, "Mark and I have not discussed this yet, so we'll let you know what we decide."  This way, there is no getting one of us alone to strongarm us into your opinion. 

It occurs to me, looking at the wedding boards, that all of this is unusual.  That my parents  (Well, that's not true, but they are at least pretty great.)  I wonder if this is because my father is a lawyer and he understands this rule, fundamentally, is a good one, not only for lawyering but for everything else.  I think that they also realize, because they had parental tensions surrounding their weddings, that nothing they could possibly want from our wedding could ever be as important as our happiness.  Because the answer can't possibly be that my parents are cool. 

How does your arrangement with your third party payers work?


  1. Your parents are cool! Very cool, actually.
    We have a similar arrangement going, our parents are paying for almost everything except the honeymoon and some little extras, but we have maintained the control. I was skeptical to accept money from them because for years I'd heard about how money = control when it comes to weddings. But we recognized the possibility of this well in advance so we were able to deal with it. Both sets of parents weren't as cool as yours (seriously, I'm so jealous) so we had to explain to them what your dad already seems to understand. They offered a certain amount of dollars and we decide how that gets spent. We don't ask them, we didn't give them a budget breakdown (although his parents wanted one) and we remained firm that we were going to spend the money how we want. They weren't 100% happy with that at first, but they're coming around. If it had been any other way, I don't think we could have accepted the money from them.

  2. We do actually do a budget breakdown, so they know what to reimburse us for, etc. and because it helps them stay involved, which is important to my mom. She's not opinionated, but she likes to be included.

  3. Our wedding was paid for much like yours. Both sets of parents told us what aspects of the wedding they'd be willing to pay for (they split the cost of the reception), and consistently told us that they'd prefer for us to deal with the money, which basically meant that we tallied up the cost of individual items and told them how much money we needed. They didn't set a limit on how much they'd like to spend, I think mostly b/c we were all on the same page about the type of wedding James and I wanted to have long before we officially got engaged. We kept them very much in the know with what our plans were, and I don't think either set of parents ever made us feel like we had to do things a specific way b/c they were paying for it. We did each add a few guests to the list that we may have not invited if our parents didn't request them to be there, but it was lovely and worked out fine. I agree that I spent much of my wedding planning process marveling at how cool our parents were. It sure made the money part of wedding planning so much less stressful.

  4. I like this idea of third-party payment on the legal model. In fact, I think a lot of wedding vendors tend to work this way. My friend A's mom was *obsessed* with using A's wedding to recreate her own wedding from the 70s, and would constantly tell A "that's not how we did it at my wedding" when A had different ideas, as though that was the ultimate deciding factor! Anyway, A found that she had better luck going through the vendors -- e.g., she'd quietly tell the florist that she didn't want cascading bouquets even though her mom was insisting on them, and at the next meeting the florist would oh-so-casually suggest to Mom that tightly structured bouquets were very chic and elegant. That sounds kind of manipulative when I write about it, but trust me, that was pretty much the only way to deal with A's mom!