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Everyday Ethics – Who Owns A Wedding?

by The Ethics Centre
04 February 2016
We’re tackling your everyday dilemmas. This week, what should you do if your parents try to influence your wedding? And can you keep applying for new jobs after you’ve accepted a position somewhere?

I’m getting married next year. Because my fiancé and I are still studying, our parents are paying for the wedding between them. Both sets of parents are getting pushy about certain details, like the guest list. My parents are also pushing for a Christian ceremony even though I don’t go to church anymore. We're grateful for the help, but this seems like too much. Are we obliged to give them what they’re asking for because they’re paying for the wedding?

Ah yes. This one will be familiar to anyone who has ever organised a wedding – though some have it worse than others!

Your obligations depend on the terms under which your parents and in-laws gave the money. First, if the money was given as a gift, then I don't think you're obligated provide what they're asking. Gifts, by nature, should be condition-free.

It's a bit different if the money was given on certain conditions. In that case, it isn't a gift, but a kind of contract. If you made a conditional agreement, you should uphold your side of the deal, or return the money. But this only applies if there was a clear understanding of what the money signified. If you weren't aware of the expectations your parents held, you aren't bound by them – especially when they’re somewhat unreasonable.

If you weren't aware of the expectations your parents held, you aren't bound by them – especially when they’re somewhat unreasonable.

With this said, weddings are often communal occasions. There may be communal or cultural norms surrounding who you should invite, which your parents are helpfully bringing to your attention. Although you're free to reject those norms, there might be consequences for doing so. If you or your parents are part of a tight-knit community, violating some norms may cause offence.

Of course, it is your wedding, and should reflect you and your fiancé’s relationship. If adhering to a certain norm, like having a church ceremony, misrepresents your relationship, it would be wrong for you to take part in it. I think your duty to your own relationship would require you not to. 

As an adult, you don't have to obey your parents’ wishes if they conflict with what you want to do. However, you do owe them your respect. Perhaps then you should consider those suggestions that don't misrepresent your relationship (like the guest list), rather than rejecting them out of hand. You may not agree, but at least give them the time of day. That would be respectful, but also protect the day as a special and unique one for you.

Recently I've been applying for jobs. The market has been quite slim for roles that suit me, so I accepted a pretty dull job for the salary and stability. Yesterday I saw a job posting at my dream company. It’s the ideal role and I think I’d have a good chance of being successful. Is it wrong for me to accept the first job as a safety net whilst also applying for my dream job? 

When you boil it down, this question is really about whether it's ok to use other people to get what we want. Accepting a role signifies a commitment to that role for a reasonable period of time. If you're applying for other roles, you don't have that commitment. Unless you inform the employer of your other applications, I'd say what you’re doing is dishonest. 

To see how this is unfair, consider the opposite. Imagine if you received an offer for your dream job. How would you feel if the company received a late applicant who was highly qualified, and interviewed them, despite having hired you? Whether they hired the other candidate or not, you'd feel wronged. That's more or less what you're doing to the business. If you'd feel awful being used as a stop-gap, it's inconsistent to do it to others. 

If, at this stage, you're still keen to chase your dream job, I think that's fine. But you should withdraw your acceptance soon. This will allow the business time to offer the role to other candidates who might have applied. The longer you leave it, the more you inconvenience them. 

If you've got a question or dilemma you'd like ‪#EverydayEthics to review – email us at and we'll post an anonymous selection on our blog this year. 

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