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Marriage and Money

Wedding budgets: Who pays for what?

Weddings today can cost a lot. Many couples are now established adults when they say "I Do." So who pays for what in a wedding? It can differ for everyone, but it is important to manage those expectations from the start.

Planning for a wedding is fun and exciting. Paying for a wedding? Not so much. According to, the average cost of a wedding for 150 guests was a little over $26,000, and it's easy to spend much more. These days, who's expected to pay for everything? While each situation is different, there are a few common solutions out there that can help you decide how to divide up the cost of your wedding.

Traditional solution: The bride's family covers most costs

For years, the tradition has been for the bride's family to pay for most of the wedding. This included the wedding ceremony, the reception afterwards, possibly an engagement party before the event, as well as the photos and flowers for the wedding. The groom's family still contributed some money, usually to pay for the rehearsal dinner and sometimes the honeymoon, but the bride's family typically paid more.

This split could work for you if the bride's family has more money or if the bride's parents were saving up specifically to pay for a more lavish wedding. However, since the cost of a wedding has gone up so much, the traditional solution doesn't always work.

Modern expectations: The married couple covers the wedding

These days, many Americans believe the couple getting married should pay for some if not all the cost of a wedding. Since the marrying couple plans the wedding and has the most control over how much it will cost, it seems somewhat fair they should handle the bill as well.

In this scenario, the married couple would pay for the wedding ceremony, the reception, the photos and the flowers. The families from both sides might help by paying for the rehearsal dinner and/or an engagement party. However, many families just don't have the extra money to contribute to a wedding. As you plan your wedding budget, keep in mind that you may need to pay for nearly everything on your own.

Ways to split costs

There are a few other ways to split the costs that might be fairer. One option is to divide the costs based on which side of the family is more expensive. Maybe the groom's family is larger so more people are attending from his side. In that case, perhaps his parents could contribute more towards the ceremony and reception.

Another option is to give people a bit more say over what they pay for. If the bride's parents have a passion for music, maybe they could pay for the band in exchange for having more of a vote over who plays at your wedding. By including your families in the decision-making process, instead of just leaving them to pick up the bill, you'll make them feel better about paying for the wedding.



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