Wedding Costs: Who Pays for What in a Wedding?

Does the bride’s parents pay for the ceremony and the reception? 

Well then, who pays for the alcohol? 

Should the wedding party buy their own outfits?  

Weddings are beautiful celebrations of love and commitment, yet they often come wrapped in a cloud of financial confusion and stress. As couples eagerly step onto the path of matrimony, they are greeted with the daunting question of who covers the myriad expenses that come with the territory. 

If you've ever felt the weight of this financial uncertainty while planning your wedding and want to avoid the pitfalls that often accompany it, you're in the right place. With years of experience in the wedding industry and a deep understanding of the evolving dynamics surrounding wedding finances; we at Zion Springs tackle this financial maze on a daily basis with our couples-to-be.  By sharing our expertise, we aim to empower you with the knowledge and confidence needed to navigate the intricacies of wedding costs. 

In today's world, where traditions blend with modern practices, understanding who shoulders the financial responsibilities can be as complex as the intricate lace on a bridal gown. To embark on this journey of wedding planning with clarity and confidence, it's essential to unravel the age-old question: Who pays for what in a wedding?

Who traditionally pays for a wedding?

Beneath the surface of romance and bliss lies a significant aspect that can often lead to confusion and stress: the costs of planning and hosting a wedding. And when that wedding averages around $60,000, the responsibility of paying for it becomes an expensive undertaking.

Historically, the bride's family bore the brunt of wedding expenses. This tradition stemmed from the dowry system where the bride's family provided goods, money, or estate to the groom or his family. Over time, as societal norms and economic structures evolved, so did the customs surrounding wedding payments.

Traditionally, the bride's family is responsible for funding the wedding ceremony and the reception.  This encompasses:

  • Invitations and stationery
  • Catering and wedding cake
  • Entertainment
  • Bride's, bridesmaids’ and flower girl’s attire
  • Flowers and decorations
  • Photography and videography

While the bride's family shoulders several significant expenses, the groom's family also plays a crucial role in financing the wedding.  They cover the expenses of:

  • Rehearsal dinner
  • Marriage license
  • Officiant or celebrant fees 
  • Groom's, groomsmen’s and ring bearer’s attire 
  • Alcohol served at the reception.

As times change and societal norms evolve, so do the financial dynamics surrounding weddings. Couples today face a range of options and are increasingly taking charge of their nuptial celebrations.  They and their families are adapting to reflect their unique circumstances and preferences. While tradition still plays a role, flexibility has become the name of the game. 

Modern trends in wedding cost-sharing

One notable trend in recent years is more egalitarian with a growing number of couples who opt to fund their own weddings. This approach provides them with greater independence and control over their wedding plans, allowing them to align their budget with their specific desires and priorities. Say goodbye to everyone having a say in what you do or do not do.

In some cases, families choose to collaborate financially, working together to create a memorable celebration. This approach acknowledges the contributions and support of both sides, and it can lead to a harmonious wedding planning process.

Additional wedding expenses and their responsible parties

While the responsibilities of the bride's and groom's families are at the core of wedding financing, several other expenses must be managed to ensure a successful event.

Bridal party expenses

In addition to the main wedding expenses, there are costs associated with the bridal party. Bridesmaids' dresses and groomsmen's attire are becoming the responsibility of the individuals wearing them. However, in some cases, couples or their families may choose to help cover these expenses, especially if the attire selection is particularly costly. 

Travel and accommodation for out-of-town bridal party members and guests

When bridal party members live out of town or in different regions, additional expenses arise. Travel and accommodation costs for these individuals can vary widely, and decisions about who covers these expenses often depend on individual circumstances and agreements.  

Generally, guests pay for their own air transportation.  Bridal couples can negotiate block reservation deals with hotels that lower the cost of lodging for their guests.  They can also arrange shuttles between hotels and the wedding venue as a service for guests, especially when parking at the venue is limited.  

Engagement party, bridal shower, and bachelor/bachelorette parties

Typically, these celebrations are hosted and financed by members of the bridal party or close friends. However, the approach to these events has evolved, with some couples opting to have a say in the planning and expenses. Generally, each member pays their own way if it is a destination party.

Wedding favors and thank-you gifts

Most couples today are covering the cost of wedding favors, and these can be managed by the couple or their families, depending on the customs and preferences of those involved.  Some couples are choosing to forego the wedding favors tradition or at least simplify it with a charming small token of appreciation.  The thank-you gifts are a personal recognition of special members of the wedding party and are paid for by the couple.

All these decision come down to who is going to pay for all these costs, and this can be tricky, or at the very least uncomfortable for some people.

How and what to discuss about paying for a wedding

The importance of open and transparent discussions about finances cannot be overstated. Couples and their families should engage in honest conversations to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding financial responsibilities and expectations. 

Wedding planning often brings together diverse family dynamics and expectations. It's essential to address differing opinions and expectations with sensitivity and diplomacy to maintain harmony throughout the process. 

Setting a realistic budget is a critical step in the wedding planning process. It involves identifying the overall budget, allocating funds to various aspects of the wedding, and adhering to the financial plan throughout the planning journey.  Technology offers numerous tools and apps to assist with wedding planning and budgeting.  These resources can help couples stay organized, track expenses, and make informed financial decisions.

Many couples choose to finance their weddings through personal savings and contributions from both sets of parents or other family members. This approach provides financial independence and flexibility.  In some cases, couples opt for wedding loans or credit cards to cover wedding expenses. While these options can offer quick access to funds, careful planning is essential to manage potential debt effectively.

To help you keep track of sharing the costs for your wedding, use our spreadsheet that covers all the expenses associated with wedding planning and a column to enter the responsible party.  

So what is my wedding actually going to cost me? 

The path to matrimony can often be overshadowed by financial uncertainty, stress, and confusion. Questions like "Who is paying for what?" and "How can we manage these costs without breaking the bank?" can cast a cloud over the joy of love and commitment. We understand this concern and hope that this article has illuminated the way, dissolving the fog of uncertainty and providing you with a clear, well-lit path through the labyrinth of wedding costs. 

Want a closer look at your wedding expenses? Check out our articleWhat is our wedding going to cost?We've broken down the costs for each item in the spreadsheet above. 

In closing, whether you're planning your own wedding or supporting someone else on this journey, always remember that the heart of this celebration lies in love and commitment. Regardless of the budget, a meaningful and memorable wedding is within reach, and we trust that the knowledge shared here will empower you to create a day that beautifully reflects your unique love story. Cheers to your future together!