Who Pays for What? Who Pays When Planning a Wedding on a Budget

who-pays-for-what UPDATED: Who pays for what? Who decides the wedding budget when planning a wedding? Who pays the wedding costs and expenses according to traditional wedding etiquette vs. modern etiquette? Who pays for the honeymoon? How do you go about planning a wedding when you have Cinderella wedding dreams dancing in your head?

Who pays for what is a common question for brides, grooms, and their families when it comes time to begin planning a wedding. If you do an online search for “wedding who pays”, “who pays for wedding” or even “who pays for what wedding”, you’ll find a lot of old-fashioned, archaic nonsense akin to the 18th or 19th century.

It’s about time that brides, grooms and parents begin to pay attention and accept the changes taking place in American wedding customs about who pays for weddings, receptions and honeymoons with open arms, not an open bank account, Credit Cards or loans.

Planning a Wedding On a Budget

According to The Knot Wedding Shop, a popular wedding planning website, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is expected to drop at least 10% in 2009 from the average price of $21,814 for a wedding in 2008. Due to the economy, personal financial circumstances and just plain common sense, engaged couples and families are having to find ways to cut wedding costs while still planning a beautiful, affordable, spectacular wedding that won’t create a financial burden for whoever ultimately pays for the wedding.

wedding-budget “Traditional” rules say the bride’s parents pay for everything but the kitchen sink, except for a little help from the groom’s family, who have traditionally been expected to pay for the rehearsal dinner and groom’s cake. Tradition hasn’t been too kind to the bride’s parents, who have been saddled for far too long with the cost of an expensive wedding and reception for their darling daughter and her Cinderella fairytale-fantasy dreams of the perfect wedding.

This is not the 18th or 19th century, and traditional wedding customs have shifted to a more modern view of wedding etiquette and how wedding expenses are to be paid and by whom. Thank goodness for that! Despite your best efforts, weddings, receptions and honeymoons can easily become very expensive, and no one should feel obligated to accept a financial burden of paying more than what is reasonable or what you feel comfortable paying, if anything.

The days of planning a wedding and reception, then sticking dear ol’ mom and dad with the whole tab are over, but some of today’s brides want to have their cake and eat it too. These brides want what they want and they want it now, and when it comes right down it, some brides use the buzz words “traditionally, parents pay for the wedding and reception” in order to guilt-trip parents into paying for a “typical wedding” they may not be able to afford.

In the olden, “traditional” days, women typically stayed at home and didn’t have jobs or careers of their own and couples certainly weren’t living together as is so common today, but try as you may to remind your son or daughter that times have changed to a more modern view of wedding etiquette, and you will likely see some rolling of the eyes or foot stomping as they attempt to come up with another guilt-trip.

Traditional views and trends have changed to where we now see couples deciding to live together before marriage while working full-time jobs of their own, couples getting married later in life, and the increased number of second marriages and blended families.

This more “modern” trend towards greater maturity before marriage brings higher income levels and the ability for engaged couples to take on a more responsible, active role in paying for their own wedding, reception and honeymoon, according to their personal wedding budget.

Who Pays for What?

That is not to say that parents and families on either side can’t or shouldn’t help pay for or assist in covering the cost of a wedding. If you can, want or decide to pay for or split the costs of your son or daughter’s wedding, by all means do so. Just don’t get caught up in the tangled web of old-fashioned rules of traditional wedding etiquette, or allow your son or daughter to hurl guilt-trips at you when or if you are unable to afford paying what he or she expects you to pay for their wedding.

beautiful-wedding-cake Which begs the question; Who decides what the wedding budget will be? More traditional, typical nonsense found online, in bridal magazines and wedding books telling couples how to plan a wedding, suggest that couples who have told their parents they are getting married should FIRST: decide what type of wedding they want, create a wedding planning checklist, choose the wedding location, decide the theme, style, colors etc, decide how many bridesmaids and groomsmen there will be, decide the wedding budget and THEN hit the parents up for the money.

Back up the horse-drawn carriage or thoughts of wedding limousine services for a modern-day reality-check. Before the bride and groom jump feet first into planning a wedding, ordering a tiffany wedding cake, picking out his and her wedding bands, or begin shopping for wedding china and table settings, couples should FIRST: have a conversation with each person or family member that is hoped/expected to pay for the wedding in order to ASK what each can afford to contribute to the wedding (if anything), BEFORE making any money-related decisions whatsoever.

THEN you will know in advance how much money there is to work with, and you can plan your wedding around a wedding budget that has been decided by the people who are actually paying for the wedding. Your parents/family may offer to pay for certain parts of the wedding, like paying for your wedding dress, the wedding flowers, invitations or food at the reception etc, or they may offer you a lump sum of money to help cover the overall cost of the wedding.

It is possible that your parents or family may not be financially able to contribute any monies at all; which means the engaged couple will have to pay for the entire wedding themselves. Even if your parents or family cannot afford to pay for the wedding as a whole or in part, you can still have a beautiful, if not spectacular, wedding by searching for creative, inexpensive or cheap wedding planning ideas.


Who Pays For What at a Wedding

Wedding Budget: Who Pays For What

Old-School Wedding Etiquette Gets a Thoroughly Modern Makeover

Who Pays For What?

Who Pays For Weddings These Days?

Son’s Wedding…well what do you think?

Related article: How to Plan a Wedding

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39 Responses to “Who Pays for What? Who Pays When Planning a Wedding on a Budget”

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  1. My wife is Indonesian, in the island where she comes from it’s tradition for the bride to be’s parents to ask the groom and his parents for the money to cover the cost of the wedding.

    They’re thinking is ‘very’ rigid and anything else is highly frowned upon unfortunately.

    • Jason says:

      I have the same issue and it is causing my girlfriend much grief and heartache. I really need advice as what to do. My parents are pretty poor and I’m struggling to make ends meet and we never thought we’d need a wedding savings account as our family has always been married into and the brides father has always paid for the wedding parts he traditionally paid and we paid our traditional parts as is American custom.

  2. Stefan says:

    I completely agree with the issue of bride and groom nowadays not knowing the exact “etiquette” of who would pay for what at their wedding… Formal weddings nowadays average almost $30,000 so there is definitely enough incentive for most couples to ask for the right wedding etiquette … who pays for what?

    Until not too long ago, it was seldom a question for brides and grooms as to who will pick up the wedding expenses. At least for formal weddings, the traditional way has always been for the bride’s father, her family respectively, to pay for their daughter’s wedding. One major reason for this “traditional” rule was that couples used to get married at a comparatively early stage in their lifes, starting off their life together at a point where financial dependency to their parents was often the rule. This, however changed over the past few decades. Nowadays, couples often not only get married at a later point in their lifes, but also at a point where they are financially secured enough to cover their own wedding expenses.

    Another reason why the traditional “wedding etiquette, who pays for what” changed – at least if we want to believe polls asking “newly-wed” couples – is that more and more couples nowadays want to have their own “say” in the wedding. From the guest-list to the menu, from the flower bouquets to the wedding cake … should the wedding have classical music, or the couple’s most favorite local band … should we really invite uncle Graig, who never agreed to our wedding to begin with? I am summarizing useful information on this and related wedding topics on wedding etiquette who pays for what and wedding shower etiquette, I really beleave that the topic of wedding etiquette is a truly wide minefield; in order to comply with today’s “correct” etiquette, one has to do some serious research – but this blog is a great starting point in my opinion…

  3. wowzers – those figures are insane!! I could never imagine spending that much on one day! that money could so much better be put towards a deposit on a house and it would last a lot longer too! When I got married I didn’t expect my parents to pay for anything – me and my hubby had some savings and it was a bonus that my parents gave us some money to put towards costs and my mum wanted to buy my dress. But we were prepared to pay for all of it if needs be and we just organised it to fit with the budget we had. Also as we had been living together for so long we didn’t really need any of the usual wedding gifts like toasters and kettles etc so we just set up a fund with the company we booked our honeymoon with and guests could just give to that instead of buying some kitchen utensil! It meant that we had a fab honeymoon (we did an around the world trip for a month) and came back with great memories rather than saddled with debt! Guests thought it was such a good idea that lots of our friends who have got married since have done the same thing. The idea of the girls mentioned above who expect their parents to fork out £27000 and getting stroppy when they can’t is unbelieveable to me – spoilt and brat come to mind!

  4. I think some parents are still super traditional and want to pay for the wedding of their children. I was really lucky in that my father inlaw was insistant on paying for our wedding. We agreed but as long as we could pay for certain things like invitation cards and drinks at the engagement party etc. We would have been happy to pay for our own wedding but our generous family helped us out. We used the money we’d saved and used it as a deposit for our first house.
    Michael@ Grooms Speeches recently posted..Grooms Speeches – Groom speech tips 1My Profile

  5. James Owen says:

    Tradition stated that the Father of The Bride, or rather the brides family, would pay for the wedding. However, recent spiralling costs have meant that this is no longer an expectation…nor should it be. Hvaing had three daughters married in the last three years, if I had had to pay for the wedding in full then I simply could not have done it. Thankfully, though there seems to be a fairer split these days. Often the grooms family will contribute significantly and the bride and groom themselves will hopefully have saved money. Prior to my eldest daughter getting married, my wife and I sat down with my daughter and her soon-to-be husband and his parents and we discussed what each could offer. It worked out very well.
    James Owen recently posted..Wedding Speech SamplesMy Profile

  6. Thanks for the analysis about who should foot the bill. I agree, things have changed quite a big since these traditions were first put in place, and a lot of them don’t make much sense anymore. It seems to me that if a bride and groom want a very elaborate wedding, they should probably be willing (and able) to pay for it themselves. (At least that’s what my parents always told me — not to expect them to help pay!) Weddings can be expensive, and it’s better that no one go into debt trying to pay for one they can’t afford simply because they are expected to.
    Kennly at Best Wedding Planning Book recently posted..A Fantastic Cheap Wedding FLowers IdeaMy Profile

  7. Lindsey says:

    Haha I think the whole “$10,000 is cheap” deal that I’ve heard from multiple sources is ridiculous. I went to my parents with a $3000 budget and everything more or less planned out (just haven’t called all my family asking for chairs) and they were shocked that I asked them for that little. I think they were thinking they would have to be contributing a lot more. But isn’t a wedding a celebration of love (which is free, last time I checked) and 2 people starting their lives together? I’m sorry, but my wedding will not be a fairytale (when is life one?) nor will it be perfect. But it will be meaningful and fun.

  8. Lisa says:

    My step-daughter thinks her father and I are being selfish because we will not guarantee to pay half of her wedding. DH asked her how much it was going to cost and she said SHE did not know! She (along with her mom) has alrady put deposits on the venue (cost $1700) photos ($2000+) and FRESH flowers ($???). Oh, and she wants a band, not a DJ. When he told her he would help with what he could and to send the original receipt (we’re not taking her or her mom’s word on anything, sorry) then we would make a copy for our records and send her the original back with a check she then suggessted he take out a loan! To date we have not recevied the first receipt nor have we sent payment. HOWEVER, she did suggest (to her uncle) that if her dad and I stopped taking cruises and renting beach houses then we could afford to pay for her wedding. DH replied that a $2000 vacation every 12 months was not nearly close to what she wants for her wedding. How do you help a child who will not listen??? How do you get it through that we are not being mean, underhanded, stingy, selfish or stubborn and that we truly can not guarantee an unknown budget.


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