Photo: Petruzzo Photography
Setting a wedding budget is one of the most important parts of planning – but before you can figure out how much you can afford to pay for your big day (the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is $26,000 in case you were curious), you’ll need to decide who pays for the wedding.
Of course, there’s the old-school, traditional way of doing things. More than 50 percent of millennial couples will have a majority of their wedding paid for by their parents. However nowadays, there are actually lots of ways to divvy things up. Many couples pay for everything themselves. Some families split things up more equally, or perhaps one family contributes and another chooses not to. If you’re a same-sex couple, paying for the wedding won’t be divided along gender lines, so couples and their families need to devise their own budget plan (60 percent of same-sex couples pay for a majority of their wedding, but are receiving financial help from friends and family more than in years past). But in the end, it’s really up to you to decide what works best for you and your families.
Here is the breakdown of the “traditional” way to divide up the budget and figure out who pays for the wedding—use this as a starting point, and not the final word on the matter.
Photo: CWKelly Photography
If you’re going the very traditional route, the answer to the question “who pays for the wedding?” is “the bride’s family.” But you’ll see that even in traditional roles, the bride’s family doesn’t actually pay for everything—but they’re definitely a big part of the equation.
Engagement Party (though this may be hosted by friends or other loved ones)
The Wedding Ceremony – venue, décor, and music
The bride’s attire
Flowers (except, in some cases, for bride’s bouquet, men’s boutonnieres, and corsages for mothers and grandmothers)
Stationery – save-the-dates, invitations, ceremony programs, escort cards, etc.
Day-After Brunch (if desired)
Photo: Shaun Reilly Photography
Honeymoon (if desired, often the couple themselves pay)
In some parts of the country, it’s tradition for the groom’s family to pay for the alcohol at the reception
Note: The groom's family may help contribute to these costs.
Bride’s Rings (Engagement Ring and Wedding Band)
Wedding-Day Gift for the Bride
The Bride’s Bouquet, Men’s Boutonnieres, and Mothers’ and Grandmother’s Corsages (this is a very traditional way of doing things – usually the bride’s bouquet and the boutonnieres are paid for by whoever’s handling the total flower budget)
Gift for His Parents
Wedding Night Accommodations
Photo: Svetlana Photography
Note: The bride's family may help contribute to these costs.
Groom’s Wedding Band
Hair and Makeup for Herself
Hair and Makeup for Attendants (If the bride requires her bridesmaids to have their hair and makeup professionally done, it is proper etiquette for her to cover the cost.)
Wedding-Day Gift for the Groom
Gift for Her Parents
Their Travel and Accommodations
Wedding Gifts for the Couple
Other Parties – Bachelor/Bachelorette, Bridal Shower, etc.
Hair and Makeup for Bridesmaids (if the bride doesn’t require her bridesmaids to have professional hair and makeup, the bridesmaids may choose to pay for their own.)
Parents of Flower Girl/Ring Bearers
Again, this list of who pays for the wedding is based on traditional roles, and nowadays, it's rare for anyone to follow it exactly. We advise all couples to have an open and honest discussion with family members about their roles in the wedding budget before starting the vendor selection process.