Dear Abby:

My daughter, "Jenny," is engaged to marry a nice young physician. It's going to be an elaborate "black tie" affair in a castle in Europe. The young man's family is enormously wealthy, and his siblings are all doctors or lawyers. Some of the wealthiest people in the world will attend the wedding.

On the other hand, our combined income is less than $30,000 a year.

We pay our bills on time, but we have nothing extra at the end of the month.

The good news is that the groom-to-be's family has contributed a lot of money toward the wedding. The bad news is that they're asking me why we haven't contributed any. Our daughter mentioned that some of her friends' parents have taken out a second mortgage on their homes so they can give their daughters their dream weddings. (We live in an apartment.) Jenny hasn't lived at home for 12 years and makes more money than I ever will.

Abby, what is expected of me and my family? How can we explain to Jenny that we are happy for her and love her, but cannot and will not use our small retirement savings to pay for her elaborate extravaganza? As it is, we will all have to travel to her castle, and pay for hotel rooms, tuxes, plus give them a lovely gift. We need your expert advice -- and fast!

Not Even Close in Upstate New York

Do not allow yourself to be stampeded. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Under no circumstances should you mortgage your future to pay for a wedding. A wedding is a gift, not an obligation. Your daughter has chosen something that's beyond your means.

If the groom's family is unaware of this fact of life, please waste no time in explaining it to them. There should be no shame in doing so. It's reality.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2003, Universal Press Syndicate