Paying for Wedding Expenses

Who Pays For What
There are not any absolute rules as to who pays for what wedding expenses. Traditionally, wedding expenses have been taken care of by the bride’s family, with the groom responsible for the rings and the honeymoon. While tradition is still an honored part of our heritage, financial obligations must often give way to everyday realities and compromise.

Today, nearly one-third of couples are able and prefer to pay for their own wedding. Weddings costs can range from a few hundred dollars to much more than $30,000. The average wedding costs in 2005 were $26,327 for about 150 guests. Furthermore, brides and grooms on average range between the ages of 27 and 29 and are much more able to foot their own wedding bills than couples in earlier years who married when they were much younger.

About 9 percent of couples will hold a "destination wedding," which involves the entire party traveling to a special location for the celebration. These couples spend on average 41 percent less on their receptions than those who have an average wedding.

That said, if you go the traditional way or not, at the time of the wedding planning both sets of parents, along with the engaged couple, should meet to discuss the financial arrangements. It is wise for each party to make any financial limits absolutely clear–to prevent misunderstandings or hard feelings at a later date after definite plans have been made.

If the parents of the groom are financially willing and able, they may offer at any time to pay part, half, or all of the wedding expenses. This is especially true if the groom's side has many more guests coming and/or if the bride's family and guests must incur travel expenses for a wedding held where the groom's family lives.


Costs should be allocated in order of priority of what is most important to the bride and groom. As a loose rule of thumb, reception food/drink is 50% of the total budget. Then photography 10%, flowers 10%, music 10%, dress, headpiece and veil 10%, misc (gifts, favors, fees, transportation, tips, etc.) 6%, and finally invitations 4%. These numbers can be adjusted based on your priorities.

There are many money saving techniques to reduce the final cost of a wedding. Some include:

  1. Marry in a month other than May-Oct which is peak wedding (and cost) months.
  2. Saturday night is most expensive so pick another day/time to wed.
  3. Look around for other towns close to you that may be less expensive.
  4. If there is another wedding directly before or after yours, piggy-back flowers/decorations with that couple and save lots.
  5. Keep the guest list small. This can be a huge money saver.
  6. Skip unnecessary deserts and just have a cake. For small weddings have a small cake with a faux bottom for great pictures. For larger weddings, use a small cake and then sheet cakes to be cut in the kitchen. Your guests will never notice.
  7. Always use flowers in season and don't spend a bundle on church decorations.
  8. Use an inexpensive fabric on the gown, try sample sales, consignment or outlets stores, bridesmaids dresses in white, or simply off-the-rack dresses from a department store. If you sew, make it yourself.
  9. Go with inexpensive favors, like chocolate kisses, M&Ms, or a single bowl of something fun in the middle of the table. Homemade chocolate chip cookies or candies will also work. Some couples printed thank you notes on their computer, cut them small and rolled them tied with ribbon and placed them at each plate. Or, skip the favors altogether.
  10. Keep invitations simple, one sheet will do to save both money and postage.
  11. Do you have a friend who is a good photographer? A great cake baker? A singer? Enlist their help.

If you choose to go the traditional route, here is a list of who pays for what, but the final decision really depends on who is most willing and able to pay.

The Bride

  1. Wedding ring for the groom (if it’s a double ring ceremony).
  2. A wedding gift for the groom.
  3. Presents for the bridal attendants.
  4. Personal stationery.
  5. Accommodations for her out-of-town attendants.
  6. Physical examination and blood test.
The Groom

  1. The bride’s rings.
  2. Wedding gift for the bride.
  3. The marriage license.
  4. Gifts for the best man and ushers.
  5. Flowers – bride’s bouquet and going-away corsage; corsages for mothers; boutonnieres for men in wedding party.
  6. Accommodations for out-of-town users or best man.
  7. His blood test.
  8. Gloves, ties, or ascots for the men in the wedding party.
  9. Fee for the clergyperson/judge.
  10. The honeymoon.
  11. Bachelor dinner (optional).
The Bride’s Family

  1. The entire cost of the reception: rental of hall, if reception is not held at home; caterer; food (including wedding cake); beverages; gratuities for bartenders, waiters; decorations; music; flowers.
  2. A wedding gift for the newlyweds.
  3. The bride’s wedding attire/trousseau.
  4. The wedding invitations, announcements, thank yous, napkins, etc., and mailing costs.
  5. The fee for engagement and wedding photographs.
  6. Ceremony – rental of sanctuary; fees for organist, soloist, or choir, etc.; aisle carpets; and any other costs for decorations.
  7. Bridesmaids’ bouquets.
  8. Gratuities for policeman directing traffic and/or parking.
  9. Transportation for bridal party from the bride’s house to the wedding ceremony and from ceremony to the reception.
  10. Bridesmaids’ luncheon.
  11. Rehearsal dinner (optional).
  12. Household furnishings for the bride and groom – from linens, china, silver, and crystal to furniture (optional).
The Groom’s Family

  1. Clothes for the wedding.
  2. Any traveling expenses and hotel bills they incur.
  3. Wedding gift for the newlyweds.
  4. Rehearsal dinner, or any other expenses they elect to assume (optional).
The Attendants

  1. Their wedding clothes.
  2. Any traveling expenses they incur.
  3. Wedding gift for the newlyweds.
The Guests

  1. Any traveling expenses and hotel bills they incur.
  2. Wedding gift for the newlyweds.