Asking for money is hard for anyone. Clearly the guy above would get a buck from me just based on creativity. That said, many soon-to-be brides and grooms have to face the reality of either asking for money to help pay for the wedding of their dreams, or going at it solo, and asking usually doesn't come with the ease of a sandwich board. So to ask, or not to ask?
Well, it depends on your individual situation. If your parents are broke, it may hurt their feelings if you ask and they simply can't help. Or if your parents are loaded, it might hurt your feelings (and potentially strain your future relationship with them) if they simply say no. Treading these waters lightly will ensure you keep healthy relationships, and your dignity. Here are some tips on how to "ask".
1) If they don't offer, assume they don't want to, or can't, help.
Start your planning on a budget the two of you can afford. This may mean giving up on the idea of riding in on a horse-drawn carriage, and forgoing the rented yacht. Look into alternative (read: less expensive) reception venues than the typical ballroom, conference space, hotel, etc. These places often require you to use in-house catering and in-house alcohol (and a $10 bottle of wine miraculously becomes a $35 bottle as soon as it hits the loading dock). Try arboretums or botanical gardens, check masonic temples, veterans clubs and moose lodges (some are actually quite nice, others... not so much). Get creative with your budget... buy flowers in bulk and make centerpieces yourself, decorate with tea lights (which are super cheap and of create a lot of ambience), or think about upgrading your dress by adding Swarovski crystals and/or rhinestones yourself. Let your parents in on the idea you have about grilling brats yourself. They may take this as a blinding flash of the obvious... they need to help make this thing great, even if it means manning the grill so you don't have to. Their active participation can be just as important as a financial contribution.
Alternatively, your folks may simply want to be invited to be part of the planning before they open their checkbooks. So the first step in "asking" is taking them along on the planning ride.
2) Ask your mom or dad to help with venus choices
As a newly engaged bride, you are undoubtedly drowning yourself in wedding mags, blogs, etc. You know the dresses you like, the floral arrangements you lust over, maybe even the invitations you want, but the biggest first step in planning is location. It is also the easiest way to get your folks involved. If you're getting married locally, ask them for their ideas on venue. If you plan to get married afar, ask them to come along on the venue search. It could be a great bonding experience. My mom came up with some pretty cool location ideas (an old circa 1920's theater was one). Just taking her along for the ride checking out venues (and their pricing) gave the hint.
Depending on your personal relationship, you may be in a position to just come out and ask.
3) Ask them directly if they want to help.
Rather than making them give you a figure, tell them how much things cost. Your dress, the flowers, the venue, etc. They may want to contribute by picking up the tab for certain items. It seems more managable. In this day and age it is rare that parents save up for their children's wedding (college and retirement, yes... wedding, sadly no), so often they can't say "here's $10,000", but they can say, "we can afford to buy your dress for you".
If they turn you down (as happened to my husband) don't take it personally. When my husband told his parents we wanted to have a small wedding with the family, the response he got was "the bride's family is supposed to pay". After starting to plan a small but elegant Chicago wedding, we realized we really just wanted it to be about us. Since we had limited funds of our own, we decided rather than throw a big bash for everyone else, we would treat ourselves to an intimate Hawaiian marriage week. I know this may simply not be an option for many brides (they have been dreaming about walking down the aisle surrounded by friends and family), but the point is, keep it in perspective. If they don't give you financial help, you get to do it any way you want. Even if that means you wear the red dress your soon-to-be mother-in-law cringed about.
Never, ever, ever ask your friends to subsidize your reception financially. DO ask your friends to help by donating their skills. If you have a friend who loves scrapbooking, ask her if she'd like to help make invitations. If you have a friend who is a music junky, see if they'd like to create a playlist for the wedding and rent some good stereo equiptment instead of a DJ. If you have a friend who loves decorating, ask her to help you with flowers and tablescapes. Do you have a friend who loves to cook? Ask her to help plan a desert, brunch, or appetizer menu. Tell her you have a budget and she will find creative ways to stretch it (and will most likely offer to help cook). It is truly an honor to be included, and everyone loves to be recognized for their unique skills. You pat their back, and they will pat yours.