Weddings Who Pays For What. Couple sitting on couch discussing their wedding budget.

Who Pays for What?

Wedding budget: How to figure out who is paying for the wedding

Yay, you're engaged! The excitement is building, and it's time for all the fun that wedding planning brings. Let's be honest, weddings can cost a lot of money. There's the wedding dress, stationery, reception, music, food, drink, honeymoon—so much to think about. But we're here to help guide you on the wedding budgeting process!

Many couples are sharing costs with both sets of parents or even paying for the wedding (or parts of it) themselves. There is no official ruling regulating financial responsibility. But before we get into "who's going to pay for what" topic, we hope to ease some stress by offering you a bit of a pre-plan with your SO (significant other) before having the talk with your parents.

"Who Pays For What" Conversation as a Couple

  • Discuss your wedding vision together: Did you always dream of a fall wedding? A destination wedding? A big bash with several hundred guests, or just a few friends and family? This will guide your budget!
  • Get on the same page financially with your SO: The sooner, the better. Set expectations with each other. How much can you afford to chip in, and how long would it take to save up? What is a realistic and respectful idea of what your families may be able to offer?
  • Have a budget in mind: Start with the "big-budget buckets" such as venue, music, photography, etc. Determine what is important, then try to break out how much of your preliminary budget you intend to spend in each of these categories. Start planting in some numbers here.
  • Be respectful, flexible, and appreciative: Before having the conversation with your families, be aware of their financial situation and be transparent about your own finances. Most of all, be flexible to compromising and thankful for any and all financial help you may be set to receive.
  • The only rule is, do what's best for you and your families!

Now that you have set some guidelines as a couple, it's time to handle the "who pays for what" conversation with your families! Remember deciding who pays what for wedding expenses shouldn't be a source of stress. While back in the day, it was customary for the bride's parents to pay for the wedding—times have changed, and this tradition can no longer be expected.

If you plan to ask each set of parents if and how they would be able to contribute financially, keep the money talk confidential for both sides by meeting with them separately. The financial status of the families may differ, and it's unfair to create a sense of financial obligation. As you meet, make it clear you aren't expecting anything... remember that any contribution toward your day is a wonderful gesture!

You may have a dream wedding in mind, but it doesn't have to break the bank!

Budget-savvy couples create their dream, then begin their happily ever after financially healthy— rather than steeped in post-wedding debt.

Who traditionally pays for a wedding?

In recent years, industry-wide trends regarding contributions toward the total cost of a wedding show:

  • The bride's family contributes 40%-45%
  • The groom's family contributes 12%-15%
  • The couple contributes 40%-45%

Our "who pays for what" guide below follows traditional allocations. Redistribute budget items to what best suits you and your family's circumstances... and even consider cutting some if you are going over budget.

Your budget will be allocated much differently by increasing or decreasing your number of guests. For instance, at $100 per person, cutting 15-20 names can result in a much more manageable budget for you and your families.

What does the bride's parents pay for?

  • Wedding planning costs, including planner
  • Wedding dress, veil, jewelry, and shoes
  • Bridesmaid gifts
  • Flowers: bridal bouquet, bridesmaids, flower girl basket and pillow for ring bearer, corsages and boutonnieres
  • The groom's ring and gift
  • Engagement party and/or notices
  • Save the Dates, invitations, thank you cards, and associated stationery
  • Wedding ceremony, rental fees, decorations, and music
  • Wedding reception, including food, beverages, decorations, entertainment, and rental fees
  • Decorations, floral arrangements for ceremony and reception
  • Wedding cake/dessert
  • Photography, videography
  • Transportation of the wedding party
  • Possibly, hotel accommodations for out-of-town attendants
  • Miscellaneous costs

What does the groom's parents pay for?

  • Engagement and wedding ring
  • Rehearsal dinner, invitations, food, beverages, decorations, and entertainment
  • Groomsmen gifts
  • Groom's wedding attire and accessories
  • Marriage license
  • Clergy, Officiant
  • Honeymoon (possibly shared by both bride and groom)
  • Possibly, hotel accommodations for out-of town-attendants

What does the wedding couple pay for?

  • Wedding rings
  • Marriage license
  • Wedding gift for spouse
  • Gifts for wedding party
  • Bride's hair, makeup, and spa treatments
  • Wedding costs not covered by parents

What do the bridesmaids pay for?

  • Dresses and accessories
  • Travel expenses
  • Bride's shower

What do the groomsmen pay for?

  • Rental of tuxedos and accessories
  • Travel expenses
  • Bachelor party

Now that you and SO have had the "who pays for what" conversations and you have a clearer idea of your budget, it's time for the wedding planning fun to begin!

"Who Pays for What" Quick Tips

  • It's important to talk it through with everyone involved so you can determine your total budget early on—and so that you can really start on the rest of your wedding planning.
  • Avoid borrowing or putting too much on credit, so you don't start your marriage with a lot of debt that could take years to pay off.
  • Early planning by writing down financial guidelines and expectations can help avoid miscommunication with your SO and families as you work through the budgeting process.
  • Don't be afraid to provide reality checks with your SO. This is your first time planning a wedding together, and it is easy to dream big! Agree on your wedding day must-haves and nice-to-haves to help you make cuts to meet your budget.
  • Keep in mind that if your families are contributing a substantial portion of your wedding costs, they may offer input on how the money is spent (i.e. guest list, wedding dress style, venue, meal choices, entertainment).
  • It will be difficult to please everyone. Try your best to keep the stress to a minimum and keep the wedding planning process and wedding day joyous!

Always remember that beyond the ceremony, reception, décor, food, drinks, and flowers—you are building a life together with the love of your life, and it will last far beyond this one event in your journey. Enjoy the process of planning your wedding together, and realize that what things cost is just a tiny part of the whole, wonderful adventure.

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