Who Traditionally Pays For The Wedding?

We've got the comprehensive guide to who pays for what

Updated 09/03/17

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The lines of who pays for what when it comes to weddings these days are definitely blurred. Who pays for the wedding dress? Who covers the wedding ring bands? How about the wedding band band?

First of all, we have to throw up the disclaimer that there is no official ruling regulating financial responsibility. Traditionally, we probably all know that the bride's family foots the majority of the bill. But our 2016 American Wedding Study revealed that today's couples are spending more of their own money to have the wedding they want. Couples' investments in their weddings has reached a new height, with 73% paying for or contributing to the cost.

When the time arrives for you to determine what kind of divvying works for your particular financial and family situation, we recommend couples deciding together with their families, who is ready and able to bear various burdens. It may be helpful to first budget out your expenses in an Excel/Google sheets document before meeting the with the folks. Now, your choices haven't been influenced by whose card chip is being inserted, and family members can look over the spreadsheet and volunteer for themselves where they'd like to pitch in, especially now that they know exactly how much it'll run them in the end. This is also valuable if one or both sets of parents are divorced, and many parties want the be involved.

But if you or your parents want to stick to tradition (or just want to know the way it used to go for reference), there are some very strict delineations. Here, our etiquette experts outline exactly who should front which finances, according to age-old customs.

Wedding Dress

Even though this rarely applies these days, it's interesting to note all the costs expected of the bride and her family once upon a time. These included obvious things like the wedding dress, accessories, and beauty treatments, including hair and make-up. Now sometimes, a sweet grandmother offers to purchase the gown. Perhaps you, the bride, have committed to paying for your own. Cue the Destiny's Child. Just maybe don't ask your bridesmaids to do it...

Wedding Planner/Coordinator

The wedding planner or coordinator is another big-ticket item that traditionally falls to the bride and/or her family. Psst! Here are some digital friends to help shave off some costs there.

Rings/Wedding Bands

Precedent proposes that the groom procures the bride's engagement ring and wedding band, while the bride acquires the wedding ring* for the groom. (*By the way, we like this one.)

Ceremony/Reception

Per tradition, the bride and/or her family pay for the ceremony and reception costs including music for both, guest favors, and any rentals. The groom and/or his family take care of the marriage license and the officiant fee. Speaking of those, our report also found that 28% of engaged couples ask a friend/family member to get ordained and marry them—another potentially thrifty idea.

Invitations/Stationery

The invitations and all corresponding stationery—with the exception of rehearsal dinner invites—conventionally belong on the bride and/or her family's bill. Thankfully, hashtags are still free, but you can pay someone to come up with them for you.

Transportation/Accommodation

The groom and his family cover accommodation and transportation if he and the bride need to travel to the wedding. The bride and her family promise accommodations for all bridesmaids, and, all their party's transportation needed for the big day. Meanwhile, the groom and his family are tending to the lodging and transportation of the groom's family and groomsmen. We suppose that means, traditionally, you'd half the cost of a party bus if you decided to use one for the entire wedding crew, though party buses may be as far from "traditional" as it gets.

Pre-wedding Parties

The bride and her family would understandably organize and pay for the bridesmaids' luncheon. In a happy switch, the bride and groom are the only ones who, for the most part, don't pay their way for the bachelor/bachelorette party activities.

Rehearsal Dinner

The groom's family customarily absorbs the rehearsal dinner costs. We're talking venue, food, drink, decorations, entertainment, and invitations.

Wedding Party Gifts

The bride's presents for her bridesmaids and the groom are typically her responsibility to cover, just as the groom's gift to his groomsmen and the bride are on him. Here, six bridesmaid gift ideas that aren't robes.

Photography

All photography and videography expenses are commonly captured by the bride and/or her family.

Honeymoon

The groom and/or his family would generally plan and spend on the honeymoon, but nowadays, some couples set up a place at their reception for guests to give to a "honeymoon fund," and end up thanking their friends for a dream vacation.

Flowers/Décor

The majority of the flowers were included in the bride and/or her family's bundle of costs—those for the ceremony, reception, bridesmaids, and flower girls. The groom and/or his family would historically buy the bride's bouquet, and all of the boutonnieres and corsages for appropriate wedding party and family members. If flowers don't thrill you, or you've got nasty allergies, you can also look into these non-floral options.

Remaining Wedding Attire

The groom's attire, whether he buys or rents, is normally picked up by him or his family. At times, grooms and brides put something towards their groomsmen and bridesmaid respective suits and dresses, but this is usually viewed as optional.

More Contemporary Payment Plan Options

It (Only) Takes Two

If you and your groom are a little older and financially stable, or both your parents are pressed for cash, you can opt to pay for everything yourselves. Another recent study, found that 10% of couples in 2016 did just that. If you can manage the stresses of paying for a wedding together, that's a good indication you're ready for the many challenges marriage has in store.

Three-Way Splitsies

In this situation, separate the budget into thirds. The bride’s family, the groom’s family, and the bride and groom themselves will each pay for a portion. However, according to The Knot 2016 Real Weddings Study, the average breakdown isn't an even slicing: the bride's family takes 44% of the overall wedding budget, the bride and groom contribute 42%, and the groom’s parents cover 13% (others account for the remaining 2%). While any sort of allowance appears to be a generous offer, be sure you've asked each set of parental units about their expectations at having donated so "thoughtfully." Will they insist on a third of the guest list, or subjecting all major decisions to a vote? If so, you may want to consider cost versus value, my friends.

Same-Sex Weddings

Since gay marriage has only been legal in the U.S. for two too-short years, there isn't necessarily "etiquette" to be followed here. In 2010, the Gay Wedding Institute reported that 87% of gay couples around the United States pay for their own weddings. Possible explanations included age and lack of parental support. Many same-sex spouses who waited for the legalization of gay marriage are now older, and then, unfortunately, sometimes parents who don't support their children's unions morally, also fail to support them monetarily. But if moms and pops are eager to give, bring that aforementioned handy Excel sheet and figure out exactly how they can help you start your happily-ever-after.

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