Get the traditional rules for who pays for the wedding details.
Photography: Brian Dorsey Studios1 of 8
When it comes to paying for the wedding, there are differing views. Back in the day, the bride's parents were responsible for hosting (and paying for) the entire celebration. Today, most people believe the couple should pay for their own wedding—especially if they have lived on their own for some time. Of course, parents often want to pitch in. Contributions should be negotiated according to willingness and ability, but the traditional divisions on the following slides will offer some more guidance on who pays for what at a wedding.
Whether your parents (or your future spouse's parents) are generously offering to pay for part or all of the wedding, it's helpful to understand who historically has paid for each aspect of the big day. While it's by no means mandatory for the bride's family to pay for the engagement party and the groom's parents to foot the bill for the rehearsal dinner, a working knowledge of how a wedding bill typically shakes out will help everyone navigate this tricky business.
Here, what you need to know about how a traditional budget breaks down, plus tips to help you decide who will pay for what.
Photography: Jose Villa
Traditionally, the bride's parents (although anyone can host!) will pay for and throw an engagement party for their daughter and her husband-to-be, for the express purpose of welcoming him and introducing friends and extended family to the groom and his family and friends. Although this isn't a requirement, it can be a wonderful way to get future wedding guests together to establish a rapport before the event—familiar faces always make for a more convivial affair.
Long before the reception takes place or is planned, the parents of the bride are responsible for sending (and paying for) the engagement announcements to the local newspapers. If the groom is from another town, or his parents live outside the local paper's distribution area, the bride's parents should find out whether the groom's family would like the announcement to appear in their hometown paper as well.
Photography: Trent Bailey Photography4 of 8
What Does the Bride's Family Pay For, Traditionally?
Traditionally, the bride and her family are responsible for paying for all wedding planning expenses, the bride's attire, all floral arrangements, transportation on the wedding day, photo and video fees, travel and lodgings for the officiant if he comes from out of town, lodging for the bridesmaids (if you have offered to help with this expense), and all the expenses of the reception. The bride personally pays for the wedding flowers and gifts for her attendants, the groom's ring, and a present for him.
Photography: Lisa Lefkowitz
Of all their duties, the bride's parents' role as host and hostess of the reception is foremost. This honor is theirs because traditionally they pay for part, if not all, of the festivities. As such, their names have historically gone at the top of the invitations, and they play a special role at the reception of making guests feel welcome and ensuring that everything runs smoothly.
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Photography: Bryce Covey Photography6 of 8
What Does the Groom's Family Pay For, Traditionally?
The groom's family is responsible for corsages and boutonnieres for immediate members of both families, the lodging of the groom's attendants (if you have offered to help pay for this expense), and sometimes the costs of the rehearsal dinner. The groom is traditionally expected to pay for the marriage license and officiant's fees, and buy the bouquet for his "date" (the bride), as well as her engagement and wedding rings and a gift; he should also purchase boutonnieres and gifts for his groomsmen. The honeymoon expenses are classically his, as the head of his new household.
Both the groom's parents traditionally organize (and pay for) the rehearsal dinner. This can range in size from a small occasion for members of the wedding party only to a grand soirée (never to outdo the wedding, of course) that includes half or more of the wedding guests. But they should never be expected to pay for a larger event than they are comfortable with.
Photography: Laura Murray Photography8 of 8
What Else Should the Groom's Family Pay For?
In some circles, the groom's family offsets reception expenses by purchasing the alcohol; in others, the groom's family pays for all the floral expenses. However you work it out, make sure each party is comfortable with its contribution.