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

And how to ask for help covering costs

Updated 09/05/17

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Even though women are making more money than ever before and many modern couples are breaking wedding traditions left and right, one tradition that is definitely sticking: parents paying for the wedding. To be fair, many brides and grooms 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 new report from marketplace WeddingWire.com, parents of the bride and groom contribute about $19,000 to the wedding in total or about two-thirds of the total cost. Usually this breaks down to the bride’s parents giving $12,000 and the groom’s giving $7,000. This means the bride's family is paying for almost twice the amount as the groom’s (43 percent versus 24 percent). The survey talked to 506 parents who recently had a child get married.

Ten percent of families are even finding themselves dipping into retirement savings to pay for the wedding of one of their children. One-third of parents in the survey 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 do save 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, of course, still expected to buy their own dresses), the wedding planner (if there is one), the invitations, the flowers, the wedding reception, photography, the groom’s wedding ring, music, any pre-wedding day meals for the wedding party, accommodation for bridesmaids, and transportation for the wedding party and guests if needed.

The groom’s family is traditionally responsible for the bride’s engagement ring and wedding rings, groom attire, groomsmen gifts, boutonnieres and corsages for appropriate wedding party and family members, the officiant's fee (plus accommodation and transportation if he or she needs to travel to the wedding), the marriage license, rehearsal dinner costs, lodging for the groomsmen, and transportation and lodging for the groom's family and groomsmen.

But if you think money grubbing young couples are just expecting their parents to happily give them cash, you'd be wrong. Most couples feel uncomfortable even asking for financial help—over one-third the parents surveyed took it upon themselves to initiate the conversation about paying for the wedding. But if you do need some help paying for the wedding keep these tips in mind:

1. Have a Formal Conversation.

First, ask them: "How do you want to be a part of wedding planning?” or “How do you feel about contributing to the wedding?” This is clear and polite. Don’t just throw out the payment idea at the last minute when all the bills need to be paid—this should be a long-term conversation that starts early on in the planning process.

2. Be Specific.

Once you have established what needs to be paid for, be really specific about what you would like them to cover. Assign them a particular part of the wedding like the rehearsal dinner, band, or bridesmaids gifts. You could also consider having them pay for a segment of the people attending, perhaps the friends they are closer to.

3. Avoid Comparisons.

Try not to compare how much each family is giving and definitely be careful when it comes to telling the families how much the other set is donating. Rachel Wilkerson of Lover.ly, a search engine that helps brides-to-be save on costs, writes, “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. Consider Expectations.

Talk with your partner about what a financial contribution from either set of parents entails. If one family offers to pay for a majority of the wedding, will they expect more say in the guest list, décor, venue, and menu? Make sure these type of expectations are clear from the get-go to avoid any tension and ill-will.

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