Who Pays For The Wedding? Everything You Need To Know

Before you can even begin to delve into how much you can spend on the big day, a crucial first step is to determine who is contributing funds. But who should pay for the wedding? The short answer: it depends.

By The Zola Team

portrait of brides in front of Chicago skyline
Photo by Zola

Before you can even begin to delve into how much you can spend on the big day, a crucial first step is to determine who is contributing funds. But who should pay for the wedding? The short answer: It depends.

One of the biggest challenges of planning a wedding is figuring out your budget. Before you can even begin to delve into how much you can spend on the big day, a crucial first step is to determine who is contributing funds. But who should pay for the wedding? The short answer: It depends. Some couples pay for the wedding entirely on their own, while others have full or partial financial support from their families (and, in some cases, friends or guests). Read on for all of your need-to-knows and wedding etiquette regarding who pays for what.

Who Should Pay for a Wedding?

Etiquette surrounding who pays for or contributes financially to a wedding has outgrown traditional “rules”—namely, the rule that states that the bride’s family pays for the wedding, while the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal dinner and honeymoon.

That is to say, like most aspects of the modern wedding, it’s entirely up to you, the couple, to decide whether or not you request or accept any financial assistance that is offered to you. People—such as either of your parents, family members, close friends, and even wedding party members—may offer to foot the bill for your big day or contribute to specific portions. However, many modern couples will find themselves covering their own wedding costs. Neither of these scenarios are right or better than the other, it simply comes down to everyone’s unique situation.

  1. Never assume that someone can or will contribute financially.
  2. Never pressure anyone to pay for your wedding.
  3. Always ask respectfully.
  4. Always let the other person decide how much (if anything) to contribute.

People Who Might Help Pay for a Wedding

Every couple’s situation regarding who pays for what is entirely unique. Some couples may request financial help from loved ones, while others take on the full financial responsibility of their ceremony, wedding reception, and all that leads up to them. In either case, there’s some traditional etiquette that you might or might not choose to abide by. That said, let’s take a look at each person or group of people that might contribute financially to your wedding.

You and Your Partner

As is often seen with modern weddings, you and your partner may choose or be put in a situation that requires you to cover the cost of the wedding. Many couples will opt to go this route so that they have complete control over their wedding planning. Others are simply in a financial situation that allows them to do so. Regardless of the why, let’s talk about what you’ll be paying for.

What You Might Pay For

Until you speak with your family about whether or not they will be contributing financially, it’s always safe to assume that you’ll be completely responsible for all expenses—often with the exception of a few things (more on that below). In short, expect and be prepared to foot the bill for your attire (including wedding rings and a wedding gown and/or suit), ceremony and reception (including your wedding venue, decor, floral arrangements, etc.), and legal paperwork, such as your marriage license.

What You Typically Aren’t Responsible For

However, there are certain specifics that couples typically aren’t expected to pay for. This can include any engagement parties, bachelor and/or bachelorette parties, bridal/wedding showers, wedding party attire, and travel and accommodations for your guests. Although, you can choose to chip in on these expenses, or fully over them, depending on your preferences, budget, and financial situation.

Your Families

You may also ask for (or be offered) financial assistance by both or either of your parents and/or family members. This has long been seen as traditional and good etiquette throughout different parts of the world, but nowadays shouldn’t be assumed. With that in mind, if your families do decide to help pay, here’s what their money is likely to go towards.

What They Might Pay For

In short: All or partial wedding expenses. But let’s get into a bit more detail. Traditional etiquette in most places suggests that the parents of the bride cover most of the wedding day’s expenses. This includes the venue, catering, decor, entertainment, photographer, and potentially a wedding planner. It’s also quite traditional for the mother of the bride to gift the bride their wedding dress.

On the other hand, traditional etiquette also suggests that the groom’s parents cover the cost of the rehearsal dinner, honeymoon, alcohol at the wedding reception, their son’s partner’s wedding band, and their son’s attire. The groom’s family also traditionally pays for the officiant and the officiant’s fee.

However, parents and family members typically do not pay for your engagement rings, additional personal gifts to the couple and/or wedding party, travel and accommodations for your guests, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and groom and wedding party attire (outside of their own).

How to Ask

Asking for help financially can be intimidating. However, the conversation can go over well, so long as you’re kind and not expectant. Sit down with either set of parents (or both) and graciously ask if they would like to contribute any funds to your wedding budget. Remember: Never assume that they will contribute—and don’t dictate any amounts.

Your Friends and/or Weddings Guests

You read correctly: There are certain items related to your wedding that your close friends and/or members of your guest list typically pay for. While they won’t be covering the cost of your vendors or venue, it’s still important to consider these costs and know how to approach and work around them.

What They Might Pay For

In short, guests may pay for small ticket wedding gifts off of your wedding registry, as well as their travel and accommodations costs (when applicable). That said, some modern couples might contribute to travel-by-car by sending guests Uber of Lyft gift cards as wedding favors. These aren’t expected of the couple, but can help guests get to and from your wedding safely.

How to Ask

Easy: Request specific gifts and/or cash funds through your Wedding Registry. If you would like your guests to contribute toward an item specifically for the wedding, such as a photo booth or food truck, you can set up a group gift where guests can chip towards the purchase in the amount of their choosing. You can also set up a honeymoon fund, if you’d prefer guests contribute towards your honeymoon trip.

Your Wedding Party

Finally, traditional etiquette states that bridesmaids, groomsmen, and other members of your wedding party (such as the Maid of Honor and Best Man) cover certain costs, as well. However, this highly depends on where you live and what’s common in your area.

What They Might Pay For

Members of the wedding party often pay for their attire (bridesmaids’ dresses, groomsmen’s suits, etc.), travel and accommodations costs (if applicable), the bachelor and/or bachelorette parties, a bridal or wedding shower, and individual (or couple’s) wedding gifts. Be aware, though, that in many areas it’s common for the bride(s) and/or groom(s) to pay for attire or even hair and makeup on the day of as a gift.

How to Ask

You’ll know how to best approach your wedding party with this topic. Even so, we have a few pieces of advice:

  1. Be upfront about your expectations and, if possible, provide a ballpark price range for how much each member of the wedding party will likely contribute based on their role.

  2. Be considerate of the financial situation of everyone in your wedding party when communicating your desires surrounding wedding attire and pre-wedding celebrations (like bachelorette/bachelor parties and showers).

  3. Be understanding when someone shares that they are financially unable to participate, whether that means they cannot be in your wedding party at all or that they have to pass on activities or purchases that are outside of their budget.

Breaking Traditions

Bear in mind that much of what we’ve covered thus far is old tradition. Yet, as mentioned earlier, many modern couples are straying from tradition to do what feels right for them and their loved ones financially. Some families may choose to divide costs equally, while some couples might not want or be able to have their families contribute at all. Simply put, there are no set-in-stone rules these days (certain cultural norms aside).

As explained above, it’s traditional etiquette for the bride’s family and groom’s family to cover specific costs related to the rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, wedding reception, and even honeymoon. However, couple’s shouldn’t automatically expect this to be the case these days. Likewise, bridesmaids are traditionally expected to pay for their attire, hair and makeup, and travel, as well as contribute to a bridal shower and bach party. Similar to groomsmen, who are expected to pay for their attire and travel, as well as contribute to a bach party. However, many couples may decide to contribute partially or fully to one or more of these things as a gift. Even then, some wedding party members may not be able to afford partaking in certain portions.

To make theses simple, let’s compare the main aspects of old etiquette vs the new, one-by-one.

  • Old: Parents on both sides traditionally pay for all aspects of the rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, wedding reception, and honeymoon, including (but not limited to) the wedding indivtations, wedding flowers, wedding cake, and the officiant.

  • Now: Until one or both sets of parents have offered or been asked to contribute to the wedding, it shouldn’t be assumed that they are covering any costs. According to WeddingWire’s Newlywed Report, the average wedding will see parents pay for 52% of wedding expenses.

  • Old: The bride’s family purchases the bride’s wedding gown.

  • Now: Unless specifically offered as a gift before or during dress shopping, many brides will pay for their own wedding day attire.

  • Old: The bride’s parents pay for the engagement party.

  • New: More and more often, couples will celebrate several engagement parties with different groups of people in their lives. With that in mind, one or both sets of parents may pay for an engagement party involving family or friends, but coworkers and other friend groups may also choose to contribute to engagement parties they, too, throw for you.

  • Old: Members of the wedding party pay for their individual attire, hair and makeup, travel, and accommodations (when necessary), as well as contribute to a bridal/wedding shower and bach parties.

  • New: While this largely has remained the same, many couples will now choose to contribute to or cover one or more of these as a gift of gratitude for being in the wedding party. This can include bridesmaids dresses, hair and/or makeup, and travel or accommodations (especially where smaller destination weddings are concerned).

From wedding invitations to the bride’s bouquet, it can be difficult to keep track of who pays for what. The good news? There are no hard and fast rules. Have an open and honest talk with your partner and loved ones about what’s doable. Then, decide on what’s bests for everyone. This ensures that everyone’s comfortable and happy leading up to your big day.

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