Who typically pays for a wedding? It’s a question that many couples ask themselves when they are planning their big day.
Weddings are an expensive affair, and it’s not always clear who typically pays for what. But, first, we have to throw out the disclaimer that there is no official ruling regulating financial responsibility.
Traditionally, the bride’s family would pay for the wedding, and the groom’s family would provide an engagement ring. However, these days this often isn’t the case.
Setting a wedding budget is one of the most important parts of planning. But before you can figure out how much you can afford to pay for your big day, you’ll need to decide who pays for the wedding.
Of course, there’s the old-school, traditional way of figuring out financial responsibility. However, nowadays, there are lots of ways to divvy things up.
Many couples pay for their wedding themselves. However, some families split things up more equally, or perhaps one family contributes, and another does not.
Whether it’s their second marriage or they want independence from their parents, many modern couples choose to take on all wedding costs on their own.
In some situations, it’s also possible that their parents aren’t in a place to help out at all.
More couples are hosting their weddings, or a portion of the day, than in years past. So, a three-way split among the team and family members is another contemporary payment plan option to consider rather than following tradition verbatim.
It’s a rare situation, but if that works for everyone, that’s an easy way to do it. What’s most important is to strike a balance that works for all parties involved.
But in the end, it’s really up to you to decide what works best for you and your families. Check out Boutique Events Group Wedding Venue for your ultimate wedding reception.
Here is the breakdown of the “traditional” way to divide the budget and figure out who pays for the wedding—use this as a starting point and not the final word on the matter.
Who Pays for What in a Wedding in 2021?
Before we jump into the traditional breakdown of who pays for the wedding, let’s take a look at how things stand right now.
According to a study, 72% of all couples receive at least some financial support when paying for their wedding.
For those couples, the parents of those who self-identify as a female in a heterosexual relationship are the primary contributors (93%), providing the team with a set dollar amount.
According to a report, parents pay for 52% of wedding expenses. In comparison, the couple pays for 47% (other loved ones pay for the remaining 1%), so parents still pay for most of the wedding. However, couples are chipping in reasonably significantly.
This does vary based on the age of the couple.
Younger millennial couples (born between 1981 and 1996) pay for less than —42% of the wedding expenses, while parents pay for 56%.
On the other hand, Gen X couples (born between 1965 and 1980) pay for 78% of wedding expenses, while parents only pay for 20%.
Who pays for what breakdown also varies for LGBTQIA+ couples, who pay for 61% of wedding expenses themselves, while their parents pay for 37%.
And if it’s a couple’s second wedding, they’ll most likely foot the bill themselves, paying for 88% of wedding expenses while their parents chip in for 10%.
From a wedding etiquette perspective, remember that money equals control—whoever pays for the wedding can take an active role in decision-making.
This means, for example, that if your parents are paying for a good portion of the event, they should have a say in the guest list, wedding venue and vendor selection, and more.
They’ll also be listed as the hosts of your event on the wedding invitation.
Traditional Breakdown of Who Pays for What in a Wedding
Put succinctly; tradition states that the father of the bride is responsible for paying for the wedding.
And this is no small feat or fee—it includes everything from the venues to the décor, transportation, attire, florals, music, food and beverage, and more.
This is why the bride’s parents typically receive that well-deserved place at the top of a classically composed wedding invitation.
Keep in mind that this historical hosting method makes the parents of the bride the de-facto hosts of the event.
They’ll be the main point of contact for vendors and have the most say on matters that concern the budget, including the guest count, guest list, and critical décor and entertaining decisions.
While the bride’s opinions, dreams, and desires are usually (and supposed to be) paramount, it’s essential to have honest conversations about who makes the final call, no matter who is footing the bill.
As with any business decision, most suppliers will assume that the actual client is the person who signs the check.
Tradition also states that the groom’s family hosts the rehearsal dinner.
The Bride’s Family
Even though this rarely applies these days, it’s interesting to note all the costs expected of the bride’s family once upon a time.
Think everything from invitations and stationery (except rehearsal dinner invites) to accommodations for bridesmaids.
Also included are obvious things like the wedding dress, accessories, and hair and makeup.
Nowadays, perhaps a sweet grandmother offers to purchase your gown, or maybe you’re paying for it on your own.
The bride’s family also pays for big-ticket items such as a wedding planner, the bachelorette party, and ceremony reception costs (music, guest favours, rentals, etc.).
While some couples prefer to honour the tradition for which the family pays for specific items, we open the discussion to our teams without the pressure of ‘following suit’ and what it means to follow tradition for tradition’s sake versus what the family is comfortable with.
Hosting weddings in the current times are much different than they were when traditions like payments were established.
Be sure to budget an estimate of your expenses in an Excel/Google document. Your respective parents can then look over the spreadsheet and offer some high-level feedback, as well as volunteer for where they’d like to pitch in.
(This is also valuable if one or both parents are divorced or other scenarios where multiple parties may be involved).
The Bride’s Family Is Responsible For:
- Engagement party
- Wedding dress (including veil and any accessories)
- Wedding planner/coordinator
- Invitations/stationery/save the dates/wedding programs
- Transportation/accommodation for bridesmaids
- Pre-wedding parties
- Wedding cake
- Morning-after brunch
The Groom’s Family
The groom’s parents are expected to pay for the marriage license and officiant fee, the rehearsal dinner (including the venue, food, drink, decorations, entertainment—and yes—the invitations, too), and accommodations/transportation about the groom’s family and groomsmen.
The groom and his family would traditionally plan and pay for the honeymoon, but nowadays, the planning and budgeting is generally more collaborative—and even crowd-funded.
Some couples set up a place at their reception for guests to throw in some fun money towards their “honeymoon fund.” In contrast, others add honeymoon costs—ranging from airfare segments to honeymoon activities and experiences—to an online honeymoon registry.
One cost-saving trend: More couples are asking a friend or family member to get ordained and marry them, which could save some funds if that works for the two of you.
The Groom’s Family Is Responsible For:
- Marriage license/officiant fee
- Rehearsal dinner
- Bride’s bouquet, boutonnieres, and corsages
- Transportation/accommodation for groomsmen
- DJ/band and liquor/alcohol for wedding reception
Traditionally, the bride is only solely responsible for paying for the groom’s wedding band and wedding gifts for her bridesmaids.
However, many wedding costs (everything from a coordinator to flowers and décor) are often shared between the bride and her family. With monetary contribution comes control in the planning of your nuptials.
Determine who has the final say by addressing expectations from the start.
You cannot assume that because parents are giving money, financial contribution does not come with a stipulation.
It would be a shame to have hurt feelings or mixed messages if there was an expectation for ‘control’, but it was never given.
A word of advice to fellow brides: if you set a budget, then set the budget. Don’t set a low budget to try and skimp on things you know you will spend more on later.
Be realistic. Make sure that you keep in mind the direct correlation between the number of guests and the overall spend—the more people, the more the wedding will cost.
That is not the case for every aspect, but you must keep it in mind if you are working with a budget.
Do not willingly put yourself in debt for your wedding. You have your whole life in front of you. Instead, get creative; you can do more with less!
The Bride Is Responsible For:
- Groom’s wedding band
- Wedding gifts for bridesmaids, groom, and parents
- Hair and makeup
Precedent proposes that the groom purchases the bride’s engagement ring and wedding band.
As per tradition, the groom is also responsible for covering the cost of his attire—whether he buys or rents—but it’s not uncommon for the groom’s family to pitch in.
Lastly, the groom is expected to pick up the tab on gifts to his groomsmen and the bride.
The Groom Is Responsible For:
- Engagement ring and wedding band for the bride
- Groom’s attire
- Wedding gifts for groomsmen and the bride
- Honeymoon (unless the groom’s family has it covered)
The Twists on Tradition
The concept of ‘tradition’ has evolved over the years.
It’s become commonplace to see both sets of parents, a family member on either side of the couple contributing what they can, rather than feeling the pressure to spend beyond their means.
We’ve hit fast forward to the twenty-first century, where new traditions are being forged all the time.
There is no single answer to who is paying for a couple’s wedding in this day and age, and it has made things much more personal and meaningful.
It’s now not uncommon to see other, more distant members of the family or older generations contributing to a couple’s event, be it grandparents, aunts and uncles, or godparents.
Anything goes. There would be couples where both the bride and groom’s families pitch in together, and teams where only one family, be the bride’s or the groom’s, pay for the entire wedding celebration.
It’s also becoming more customary for family members or couples to handle or contribute to one of the wedding’s many experiences, rather than simply offering up a lump sum.
Be it the wedding cake, the dress, or an activation like a photo booth, or a surprise performer, the responsibility of paying for all the aspects of a wedding now tends to be shared amongst different parties to alleviate the financial burden on one person, family, or the couple.
We encourage couples and families to be collaborative.
While the bride’s parents might be expecting to foot the bill, they may be relieved to share the responsibility with contributions from the groom’s side as well.
Given the current struggles of the global economy, a collaborative approach might be the best way to achieve the wedding you have been dreaming about planning financially.
Rafanelli agrees, explaining that those looking to contribute can do so more subtly or surprisingly should they prefer.
We recently produced a stunning wedding where the bride’s parents took care of the total expense; however, the groom surprised the bride (and her family) with an out-of-this-world fireworks display at the end of the night!
The personal piece comes in when one or more aspects of the wedding are essential to the bride or the groom, like a killer DJ for the after-party or over-the-top, gorgeous flowers.
Word to the wise: Should you be looking to surprise the couple, consult the wedding planner, or a family member key in the planning process, to ensure your surprise will be well-received and accommodated by the timeline.
As for wording invitations when multiple parties are paying, opt for modern language like “The Families of…” or “The Parents of…” to clarify that there is more than one host of the big day. You have the dress, you have the shoes? But what about the Wedding Jewellery? Check out our list of Wedding Jewellery Shops here.
A more collaborative approach to paying for the wedding is the most budget-friendly and makes the planning process more inclusive for all parties.
A Modern Approach
Couples taking on the responsibility of paying for their wedding themselves is the most modern approach to wedding financing.
In scenarios like these, couples have the final word on the size of the event, the guest list, the event’s overall aesthetic, the fashion, and more.
They’re also able—but not required—to ask friends and family for their input on an as-needed or wanted basis.
Wedding planners insist that you be willing to contribute if you want to run the show regarding wedding planning.
If you have the ability, consider contributing your own money to pay for your wedding.
We often see couples agonising over their budget, frustrated that they weren’t given more, dreaming beyond the limitations of that budget, but still unwilling to contribute a dime of their finances (when it is clear they can).
Keep in mind that contributions from family members are a gift and should be greatly appreciated but not expected.
About one-third of all couples, today pay for or contribute to the cost of their wedding rather than expecting it to be entirely paid for.
Rarely do we see the wedding being split into exact thirds between the couple and both sets of parents, but when the couple has ‘some skin in the game,’ it shows a great sense of responsibility and respect for their parents’ financial situations.
See any contribution that your parents make as a gift rather than a responsibility. Weddings are costly. It’s good to acknowledge that.
Budget it Out
We advise that couples set a budget and discuss it amongst family members first.
The line of ‘who pays for the wedding has been blurred in today’s social landscape.
Of course, the bride’s family has traditionally hosted the wedding ceremony and reception. In contrast, the groom has hosted the rehearsal dinner, but two things have evolved in present-day society that has softened that line.
Not only are couples getting married later in life than they used to (the average age of brides today is closer to 30 than 21), but couples have more established careers and are financially more independent than they’ve ever been before.
Secondly, in legalising same-sex marriages where the traditional roles of ‘bride’ and ‘groom’ are thrown out the door, hosting functions that follow gender guidelines no longer apply.
Frequently Asked Questions on Wedding Expenses
Here’s a quick reference guide to some of the most commonly asked “who pays for what” questions.
Who Pays for the Wedding Venue?
Traditionally, the bride’s parents pay for rental fees associated with the ceremony and reception wedding venues.
Who Pays for the Honeymoon?
While in our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, the groom’s family paid for the honeymoon, many couples nowadays choose to take on any honeymoon expenses themselves.
Who Pays for the Rehearsal Dinner?
The groom’s family traditionally pays for the rehearsal dinner—however, the couple can contribute or pay for the whole event themselves, if preferred.
Who Pays for the Wedding Rings?
The couple pays for their wedding bands—each partner paying for their spouse’s ring. This gesture is seen as the first gift the couple exchanges as a married pair.
Who Pays for the Engagement Party?
Though the bride’s parents traditionally pay for the engagement party, any family members or friends can take on hosting duties.
Sometimes couples have multiple engagement parties thrown by different loved ones, though this is certainly not required.
Who Pays for a Wedding Dress?
A bride’s family usually pays for her wedding dress (and related accessories!), though she may prefer to pay herself.
Who Pays for a Groom’s Attire?
The groom, often in conjunction with his family, will traditionally pay for his attire.
Who Pays for the Bridesmaid Dresses?
In most cases, the bridesmaids pay for their dresses, chosen as a joint effort between a bride and her ‘maids.
If budget allows, a bride may choose to pay for the bridesmaid dresses as a gift to her crew—again, entirely optional.
Who Pays for the Groomsman Attire?
Like bridesmaid dresses, the groomsmen are expected to pay for their attire—whether purchased or rented. Sometimes, the groom will cover these expenses for his groomsmen, but this is not common.
Who Pays for the Flower Girl Dresses and Ring Bearer Attire?
The parents of your littlest attendants will pay for their children’s attire. Both parents and the couple typically choose the flower girl dress and ring bearer attire.
Again, this list of who pays for the wedding is based on traditional roles, and nowadays, it’s rare for anyone to follow it strictly. Therefore, we advise all couples to have an open and honest discussion with family members about their roles in the wedding budget before starting the vendor selection process. Check out our Top Wedding Planners here to help make your special day as smooth as possible.