Show Me The Money!

Who Pays for What?

By Shala Hainer

The wedding expenses often seem overwhelming, on both sides of the aisle. Although traditionally, the bride’s family absorbs most of the cost of a wedding, the groom’s family has responsibilities as well. 

It’s worth a conversation very early in the planning process where both families sit down and discuss anticipated expenses, and who can or will pay for certain items. 

It’s ultimately a group decision about who pays for what – many couples blur the lines and split more costs between the families these days, but if you prefer to keep it to traditional financial responsibilities, etiquette dictates certain expenses to each family. 

Several items, including some big-ticket ones, fall under the groom’s family’s responsibility. 

The Groom

Grooms tend to believe they get off free and clear when it comes to paying for a wedding, but that’s not necessarily true. Several items, including some big-ticket ones, fall under the groom’s family’s responsibility. 

Prior to the Wedding. Before the wedding, expenses are already popping up, and the groom takes care of many of these. The marriage license, for example, is paid for by the groom, and he and his family traditionally take care of the rehearsal dinner expenses. They also cover the lodging for their out-of-town family members, groomsmen and the officiant.

The Wedding Ceremony. The day of the wedding, the groom’s family has several expenses. They should pay for the flowers related to the groom, such as the groomsmen’s boutonnieres and the mother of the groom’s corsage. They also cover the cost of the rented transportation to the wedding venue, such as a limo bringing the groom and groomsmen. In addition, they should pay the officiant’s fee. 

The Honeymoon. Typically the biggest expense for the groom’s family is the honeymoon. Traditionally, the groom’s family covered the entire cost of the honeymoon. That is not as common these days, but the groom’s family typically contributes a sizable sum toward the couple’s trip. (See page 26 for ideas on how to ask for cash gifts toward your honeymoon.)

The bride’s family picks up the bulk
of the actual ceremony costs.

The Bride

The bride’s family picks up the bulk of the actual ceremony costs, but there are a few other items they traditionally pay for. 

Prior to the Wedding. In addition to her dress, the bride’s family typically pays for the wedding invitations and the cost to mail them, as well as the cost of a wedding planner, if there is one. They also cover the cost of lodging for out-of-town bridesmaids.

The Wedding Ceremony. Most of the ceremony details fall under the bride’s family’s responsibility. This includes the majority of the flowers and other decorations, the cost of the venue, the photographer, musicians, rented transportation to the venue for the bridal party and wedding favors. 

The Reception. Etiquette dictates the bride’s family should pay for the wedding reception, including venue rental fees, catering or other food, decorations, entertainment such as a DJ or band, and the wedding cake. 

Gifts. Both sides typically cover their own gift expenses. For example, the bride buys bridesmaid gifts, and the groom buys groomsmen gifts. Some couples choose to offer parent gifts as well, and sometimes special gifts to each other. 

Destination Weddings

These guidelines give you a place to start the discussion with traditional-style weddings, but they don’t apply in most destination wedding situations. 

When you’re asking guests to travel to a meaningful or exotic destination, the bride and groom aren’t expected to pay for any of their travel or lodging expenses. They typically still cover food at the reception, and sometimes a brunch the day after the wedding. 

The bride and groom, or their families, often provide a nice gift in the room of each guest for them to enjoy when they arrive. When budgets allow, the bride and groom offer a free group activity at their destination for the guests as well. 

Keep in mind, these are just traditional guidelines – these are not rules set in stone that every bride must follow. Make a list of your expenses, and use this traditional breakdown as a place to start in divvying up your wedding costs, but as long as all the parties are on the same page, there are no set rules governing who pays for what. 

Have that conversation early, though, and email everyone a list of agreed expenses at the very beginning to help avoid hurt feelings and misunderstandings later in the process. WGW

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.