Once upon a time, knowing who paid for what when it came to wedding planning was pretty simple: the bride’s family paid for everything. Well, most everything, especially when it came to the most expensive parts of the day. These days, with more egalitarian and older couples on the rise and parents who may just not have all that much left to give in this tight economy, those rules aren’t nearly so steadfast. This is particularly true if the groom’s family is significantly wealthier than the bride’s or if the couple has the funds to contribute to the big day.
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably wondering, “What is the groom’s family supposed to pay for?”, “Does the bride pay for the engagement party?”, “How much say do parents get in planning the wedding guest list if they are paying for it?”, “What’s the etiquette for an engagement party?”, “Is it rude to ask guests to contribute?”, “How much should I spend on wedding and engagement party attire?”, “Who pays for the wedding rings?”, “Should we cover the cost of the groomsmen’s tuxedos and bridesmaids’ dresses?”, “What about honeymoon expenses, and what are standard officiant’s fees?”
Having a frank discussion with all involved parties about the assignment of financial responsibilities will help prevent resentment and anger from brewing in the lead-up to the big day. But changing the traditions means actually knowing what they are in the first place, especially if you want to show respect to a more traditional set of parents. To do that, let’s look at how costs have historically been broken down, as well as a few ways modern couples are changing things up.
The Official ‘Who-Pays-for-What’ Guide to Financing Your Wedding…
In ye olde days, the engagement party (which is optional anyway) was paid for entirely by the bride’s family. However, since so many couples live far away from their parents and their network, more and more couples are paying for their own engagement parties. Friends – whether in the bridal party or not – also often volunteer to throw engagement parties as a celebration of the couple. If held in someone’s home, the costs will include mostly catering and entertainment, while booking a restaurant or bar will come with its own financial considerations that vary greatly depending on the quality of the venue.
Bridal Shower and Bachelorette/Bachelor Parties
The bridal shower is one of the few wedding events that traditionally has fallen entirely outside of the family domain to the maid of honor or bridal party acting as host as just one of the numerous bridesmaid duties. The costs here are similar to those of an engagement party, with the added expense of any bridal games and gifts. That said, it’s no longer taboo for the mother of the bride to help plan and pay if all parties are interested.
Similarly, the attendants are supposed to pay for the bachelor and bachelorette parties, but this is a rule that’s often broken, especially when traveling to another destination. In the latter case, the maid of honor or best man might pay for more expenses, like drinks, a limo ride, or, ya know, some of that other stuff that happens at bachelor and bachelorette parties while not shouldering the financial responsibility entirely.
- Payment for and planning of the rehearsal dinner has and continues to fall on the groom’s parents. While not as expensive as the wedding itself, there are still many costs to account for, including:
- The venue
- Catering. Pro Tip: Negotiate!
- Invitations (if they’re going to be separate from the main invitations). Pro Tip: Make sure to invite not just the wedding party but also all out-of-town guests as well.
- Audiovisual equipment, if there are going to be any slideshows or presentations to complement speeches.
- Gifts for the wedding party
- Flowers for the tables (optional)
- Place cards
Ceremony and Reception
You probably know already that this has traditionally been the bride’s side of the family’s main domain, though a few expenses fall to the groom’s family. However, as mentioned above, this is really changing, particularly if couples want to have an expensive dream wedding. Here’s how things break down.
- Invitations and save the dates
- Ceremony and reception venue
- Bride’s wedding dress
- Bride’s attire for the engagement party and rehearsal dinner
- Wedding cake
- Flowers for the tables, ceremony, bride’s bouquet, and bridal party bouquets (corsages and boutonnieres)
- Photography and Videography
- Transportation for the wedding party to and from the events
- Groom’s ring
- The bride’s hair and makeup (and possibly that of the bridal party)
- Marriage license
- Officiant’s fee
- Bride’s ring
Tradition dictates that the groom’s family will pay for the honeymoon. But that’s definitely not a given anymore, as many couples are eschewing the traditional department store registry for a honeymoon registry. On these sites, guests choose from various honeymoon activities or expenses, like airfare or a massage in a resort, or simply opt to donate travel funds and contribute to the overall experience. Two popular sites for this are Honeymoon Wishes and Honeyfund.
No matter how you slice it, traditional weddings are expensive affairs, and someone will end up shouldering a financial burden when the knot is tied. But with so many cultural norms shifting and with wedding etiquette evolving just like everything else, it doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t be afraid to ask other people to pitch in (within reason), do an inexpensive destination wedding in Vegas, skip the paper invitations and custom stationery, or simply cut back on old traditions you don’t care for. No one will judge you (or they shouldn’t) for throwing a less expensive wedding so that you can afford the things you really care about, like buying a house or having an awesome honeymoon. So plan out those finances, distribute them however you see fit and enjoy your big day!
What do you think? How have times changed, and do you agree or disagree with anything on the list? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
This is a post by Alyssa who is a bridal-savvy blogger and avid DIY-er living in the Seattle area. Through her work as a professional wedding photographer, Alyssa has developed a keen eye for both classic wedding styles and modern-day trends (though she tends to gravitate towards all things vintage!). Keep up with Alyssa on Twitter.