Ah, the wedding budget. One of the more tedious and tenuous topics in planning the event of the century! Good news, I’ve got a pretty simple breakdown of who pays for what in a wedding for you. Even though the tides of tradition are changing in this category, I want to lay out how it’s been done traditionally in the past. That way you have a point of reference, and if your parental figures have those guidelines in their head, you’ll have some common ground to start on.
Before I break it down by parties, it’s good to note how the traditional approach has shifted. First, we’ve all heard the many jokes about sympathizing with the Father of the Bride when his little girl gets engaged– not so much in losing his daughter, but in the pain he’ll feel in his wallet! While lots of budgets are still funded largely by the bride’s side, weddings and the expectation on weddings have begun to outgrow what one side of the family alone can support.
Good news for dad, more and more couples are able to contribute to their wedding budgets than ever before. Due to couples getting married at a time in their lives when they are more advanced in their careers and as a result more financially secure, contributing to the budget to achieve their dream wedding has changed the face of funding the wedding. Additionally, the stress of proving status by how much is contributed to the wedding has been relieved. As a result, more groom’s families are giving more to the “pot,” rather than sticking to the traditional listing of who pays for what.
Ultimately, talking through financial expectations is a top (and early) priority in wedding planning. You’ll want to make sure you spend quality time talking about what can be given and HOW it’s given. There can be lots of strings attached to money, especially on something as special as a wedding! It’s as common for parents to want to give intentionally as it is for all parties to throw money into the pot and leave it to the bride and groom to spend wisely. So, here’s how it breaks down so you can make the best choice for you and your families!
First: Formal vs. Informal
I'm hoping before you've gotten too far with wedding planning, you've been able to identify how formal you'd like your day to be. I find it's pretty common for the budgeting of the wedding to follow the level of formality that is put forth with the style of wedding. The more formal the wedding, it's likely to contain many of the traditional features of a wedding, and the less formal weddings tend to lean toward a more non-traditional structure. I also find the families involved in a more formal wedding have the desire for the budget to be more traditionally structured, where as the families of the more casual weddings will contribute what they can, and leave it up to the bride and groom to apply the funds appropriately. It might help you in your conversations with family to have an idea of how formal or informal you're anticipating your wedding style to be, as to set some preliminary expectations for the budgeting!
The Bride's Side
- Ceremony: pay for rental of ceremony space, church or synagogue, or other ceremony venue (or separate charge on reception site), organist/musicians.
- Attire: bride's gown, veil, accessories and undergarments, etc.
- Floral: arrangements for the ceremony (altar/chuppah, aisle, etc.) and reception, plus personal flowers (bouquets and corsages) for all ladies in the wedding party.
- Photography: all wedding photography and videography.
- Reception: Catering (food), rentals, decorations, staffing, any other services needed to celebrate.
- Wedding Rings: pay for the groom's ring.
- Invitations: wedding invitations, announcements and wedding programs (and other wedding day papers like menus, escort cards, etc.).
- Transportation: Bride and family pay for wedding transportation of the wedding party to and from the ceremony and reception.
- Other Wedding Occasions: and hosts the engagement party; if there's more than one, the bride's family hosts the first one. Many times the Bride's family likes to host a brunch after the wedding.
The Bridal Party:
- Attire: All attendants pay for their own clothing (including shoes).
- Beauty Services: while many brides are now gifting these services to their wedding party, these services are traditionally paid for by the individual getting the services, as well as the tip.
- Special Wedding Occasions:
- Maid of honor and bridesmaids host the bridal shower and bachelorette party.
- Best man and groomsmen host the bachelor party.
- Friends may throw additional engagement parties or showers.
The Groom's Side
- Ceremony: pay for marriage license and officiant's fee (rate or donation).
- Attire: groom's outfit.
- Floral: the bride's bouquet, boutonnieres for men, and corsages for mothers and grandmothers.
- Reception: the wedding entertainment of DJ or band, and the bar.
- Wedding Rings: both of the bride's rings.
- Honeymoon: the complete honeymoon.
- Other Wedding Occasions: plans and hosts the rehearsal dinner, (contribution inclusive of invitations).
What the Couple Pays for:
- Wedding Gifts: thank you gifts to bridal party and parents (any other significant contributors, like readers).
- Beauty Services: (optional) gifting the bridal party ladies their hair and makeup services
- Tipping: this suggestion is non-traditional, but many couples if they are not paying for a large portion of the budget already, will take care of tipping the staff, vendors and helpers who make their day possible.
A Note for when the Couple Pays for (almost) Everything:
Usually your families will have something to give and they'll likely want to give it in a specific way, say the rehearsal dinner or the ceremony costs. Be gracious and let them (within reason of course), it's still a sacrifice and honor of which they are worthy. Beyond that, if it's all on your dollar, the good part is: no one gets to tell you how to spend your own money!
Everyone in Equal Measures
Many times parents have saved up and have a lump sum they want to offer to the couple. In this case, think of it as part of the full total of what you have to spend, and release the need to put specific money into specific areas (like the lists here would suggest). This also fosters a spirit of everyone having equal ownership in the wedding's success, instead of a "who gave what" air that can complicate things.
Sometimes contributions, no matter the size, come along with strings attached, so make sure to talk about expectations with any amount of money that's given. Easier to manage expectations on the front end than after you're into spending it! Ask your contributors about how involved they want to be as well.
Don't forget to breathe deeply! If tensions get high or overwhelming, take a break and get perspective. It also might be of benefit to go back to what is traditional or true to etiquette to help bring order to the situation. Financial strain is still the number one cause of divorce, so do your marriage a big favor and learn how to work through money now (and expectations with family too!) as your wedding won't be the last time you have to budget together! Keep your eye on the end goal: you get to marry your favorite person on earth and it will be an amazing day!