Here's How Much Parents Pay for Their Children's Weddings

Plus, how to ask for help covering costs.

The bride and groom during the ceremony

 Photo by Addison Jones

Even though many modern couples are breaking wedding traditions left and right, one tradition is definitely sticking: parents paying for the wedding. To be fair, many couples do try to pay for some of the wedding, but it seems the big bucks are still being shelled out by both sides of the family. According to a report from WeddingWire, parents contribute about $19,000 to the wedding in total or about two-thirds of the total cost. On average, this breaks down to the bride’s parents giving $12,000 and the groom’s giving $7,000—although, of course, costs can be divvied up in many different ways.

The survey talked to 506 parents who recently had a child get married. Ten percent of parents reported finding themselves dipping into retirement savings to pay for the wedding of one of their children. One-third surveyed said they spent more on their child's wedding than they had originally planned and one in five used a credit card to make payments for the affair. However, one in four parents reported they had saved in advance for their child’s wedding.

If you are following the rules of tradition, the bride's family is expected to bear the brunt of the expenses including the wedding dress, bridesmaids gifts (bridesmaids are still expected to buy their own dresses), the wedding planner or coordinator, the invitations, the flowers, the wedding reception, photography, the groom’s wedding ring, music, any pre-wedding day meals for the wedding party and transportation and lodging for the bride's family and bridesmaids, as well as transportation for wedding guests, if needed.

The groom’s family is traditionally responsible for the bride’s engagement ring and wedding ring(s), all groom attire, groomsmen gifts, boutonnieres and corsages for appropriate wedding party and family members, the officiant's fee, the marriage license, rehearsal dinner costs and transportation and lodging for the groom's family and groomsmen.

But if you think couples are just expecting their parents to happily give them cash, you'd be wrong. Many newly-engaged couples feel uncomfortable even asking for financial help—more than one-third the parents surveyed took it upon themselves to initiate the conversation about paying for the wedding. If the two of you would like your parents' assistance, keep these tips in mind:

1. Start the dialogue early

Have a heart-to-heart conversation about the wedding and ask them outright: “How do you feel about contributing to the wedding?” or "How would you want to be a part of wedding planning?” This is clear and polite. Be mindful of their own financial situation—the last thing you want to do is have your parents take on an undue financial burden just to fund your dream wedding—and definitely don’t wait until the last minute when all the bills need to be paid. This should be a long-term conversation that starts early on in the wedding planning process.

2. Be specific

Once you have a clear idea of what needs to be paid for, based on contracts you've signed with your venue(s) and vendors—which should fall in line with your pre-established wedding budget—be really specific about what you would like your parents to cover. Assign them a particular part of the wedding, such as the rehearsal dinner, florals, reception venue and vendor costs, etc. Feel free to break from traditions about who pays for what if, for example, both sets of parents will be contributing roughly the same amount, or one set of parents has their heart set on paying for a specific thing.

If the two of you are covering a portion of the expenses yourselves, one way of divvying up the overall wedding day budget is to ask your parents to pay for a segment of the guests attending, either by percentage or based on the number of family members (and family friends) that have RSVP'd to attend.

3. Avoid comparisons

A gift is a gift—be thankful for any and all contributions from your parents and any other family members, too. Avoid comparisons between how much each side is giving and definitely be careful when it comes to telling your respective families how much the other side is contributing. As Rachel Wilkerson of Lover.ly, a search engine that helps brides-to-be save on costs, explains, “Weddings bring up a lot of expectations and social pressure for parents; telling them exactly how much your partner's family can afford can really sting. So avoid mentioning it and try to keep the conversation focused on the number that makes them most comfortable.”

4. Clarify any expectations

Will a financial contribution from either set of parents come with any strings attached? If one side of the family offers to pay for a majority of the wedding, will they expect to have more say when it comes to the wedding guest list, décor, wedding and reception location, even the menu? Make sure these type of expectations are clear from the get-go to avoid any surprises that may lead to wedding planning tension down the line.

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