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Monday, July 15, 2024

Who pays for what at a wedding?

Who pays for what at a wedding?


In today’s modern world, navigating paying for a wedding can be overwhelming. And with many couples already well into their careers and waiting longer to get married, many families are re-evaluating the old-time traditions of the bride’s family footing the majority of the wedding bill.

If you’re stumped trying figure out who should pay for what (and how to talk about it) when it comes to your wedding, try a few of these tips. Keep in mind, these choices should be in line with what you and your fiancé want as a couple, not just what tradition says, and these days there is no one-size fits all solution.

The bride’s family (traditionally)

Traditionally, the bride, groom, and each of their families pay for certain parts of the wedding. Before you go to either of your families, it’s good to talk through the extent of everything that needs to be paid for, from the engagement ring to the wedding favors for your guests. So traditionally speaking, here is what the bride and her family would usually pay for:

• Groom’s wedding ring

• Invitations and announcements

• Postage

• Wedding dress and accessories

• Ceremony location fee

• Aisle runner

• Flowers for the ceremony and any additional décor

• Reception location fee

• Transportation from ceremony to reception

• Music for ceremony and reception

• Food and drinks at the reception

• Wedding cake

• Photographer

• Videographer

• Accommodations for the bridal party

• Gifts for the bridesmaids

The groom’s family (traditionally)

While traditional standards have put the biggest chunk of financial responsibility on the bride, the groom’s family has typically been responsible for:

• The bride’s engagement ring and wedding ring

• The groom’s attire

• Bride’s bouquet (but often the bride’s family pays for it with the flowers)

• Boutonnieres for groom’s attendants

• Officiant’s fee

• Marriage license fee

• Rehearsal dinner

• Gifts for the groomsmen

• Honeymoon

The bridal party

It costs the average guest at a wedding in America $611 to attend, including travel, hotel stays, gifts, attire, and other expenses.1 And if you’re in the bridal party? You’ll be shelling out even more (bridesmaids spend an average of $1,200 on a wedding)2, including these costs that the closest friends of the bride and groom generally take care of:

• Bachelorette party – bridesmaids

• Wedding shower – bridesmaids and bride’s family

• Bachelor party – groomsmen

• Wedding day attire 

Is the traditional list outdated?

With the average American wedding coming in at over $30,0003, you won’t be the only one asking if it still makes sense to put most of the financial burden on the bride’s family.

If both you and your fiancé have families with more money than they know what to do with, then using the traditional outline may make sense. The traditional outline is an easy set of rules that can make deciding who should pay for what pretty simple. There isn’t a lot to fight about in terms of who should pay for what if you agree to follow such a specific guideline.

But for everyone who doesn’t have money trees growing in their backyard, or for parents blessed with only daughters, it’s a good (and financially responsible idea) to discuss expectations with your partner and both of your families. To get the conversation started, here are three questions to ask:

1. Who can contribute what dollar amount? Does your fiancé’s family have the financial capability (and desire) to contribute more? Or vice versa?

2. Do you and your fiancé have money you can contribute?

3. Is either family offering to contribute a specific dollar amount instead of paying for specific expenses?

The answers to these questions will help you decide whether to use the traditional list of who pays for what. For example, if your family gives you $15,000 for your wedding to spend as you please, then you have a lot of options. And today, it’s not uncommon for couples to decide to have a small, inexpensive wedding, and then spend most of the money on a down payment for a house.

Before you even start planning your wedding, it’s important to figure out what you’re working with. Talk to your family about whether they will be able to contribute, and if so – how much. As soon as you have a budget, it will make it much easier to start booking caterers and venues.

New (non-traditional) ways to pay for your wedding

If you’re open to paying for your wedding in a non-traditional way, or don’t want to put a financial strain on your families, you might want to evaluate these options that could better suit your financial priorities:

•Fly solo: You and your fiancé can help pay for part of the wedding (or all of the wedding).

•50/50: You can divvy up wedding expenses evenly between both families (such as: bride’s family pays for flowers and groom’s family pays for food, etc.).

•Pay per guest: If you and your fiancé’s families are significantly different sizes, a good route to take is paying for each guest invited or attending.

•Pay ahead: Decide on a wedding budget based on each family’s expected contribution, and then allocate your resources according to that budget.

•Alternative gifts: Instead of filling a wedding registry with small kitchen appliances and things you don’t really need nor want, ask for alternative gifts, like money or travel vouchers for your honeymoon (this is becoming increasingly more common, especially for couples who already live together and don’t need traditional wedding gifts).

•Elope with your fiancé and have a small gathering to celebrate when you return.

•Forego the fancy wedding: You can go DIY and skip the big wedding, saving your money for something else, like a down payment on a house.

Nothing is off limits in terms of deciding how to pay for your wedding these days, especially when you’re weighing yours (or your family’s) longer term financial priorities like saving for retirement or buying your first home. However you choose to pay for your wedding, make sure it’s authentic to you and keep everyone involved informed of what you’re doing and why. This will avoid hurt feelings and fights, which no one wants to experience around a special occasion like a wedding.

How to give credit to who pays

Traditionally, the bride’s parents pay for most of the wedding, and therefore, they are presented on the wedding invitations as the people hosting the wedding. It’s historically been a nice, simple way to give credit to the family paying for the wedding.

However, these days, there may be a combination of people paying for the wedding, including you, as the couple. That means making a decision around how you want to credit the people who pay for your wedding.

Options for you to consider with respect to giving credit to the people who pay for your wedding include:

•Stick with tradition: List the bride’s parents on the invitation and stick with tradition.

• List both the bride’s parents and the groom’s parents on the invitation as a way to show that both sets of parents contributed to hosting and paying for the wedding.

•Try the new age way: List only you and your fiancé as the hosts and do not include parents at all. This is more common today when there are so many people who help pay for a wedding and the couple is a bit older.

•Give credit where credit is due: List who actually paid for the wedding. If the groom’s parents paid for most (or all) of the wedding, then you would list his parents as the hosts of the wedding.

A final note

Things can get emotional when it comes to money, family and weddings, so it’s wise to discuss your decision around how to fund the event with all parties involved as early as possible. If everyone is on the same page beforehand, there is less likely to be conflict or hurt feelings.

Once you know what each family can contribute, work backwards from there and get excited to start planning your wedding. With the financial logistics ironed out, you can get to the fun stuff!

1 Bankrate, Survey: Americans can expect to spend over $600 to attend a wedding in 2023, March 2023.

2 Wedding Wire, This Is the Actual Cost of Being a Bridesmaid, July 2017.

3 The Knot, This Was the Average Cost of a Wedding in 2022, February 2023.


The Currency editors

Staff contributors

The CurrencyTM, a publication from Empower, covers the latest financial news and views shaping how we live, work, and play. We keep you current on ways to plan, save, and invest for life.

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