Who Pays the Costs of Weddings Today?
You are engaged and you are beginning your wedding planning, but first you need to know how much money you have to spend and where it will come from. Don't assume that the bride's parents will finance the wedding of your dreams. Today, that rarely happens.
Today, there is much less adherence to any “traditional” division of costs than has been the rule in past generations when the bride's parents paid for most of the wedding costs. One positive result of the loosening etiquette rules is that wedding costs are often divided with much more common sense and practicality than in the past. With couples marrying later in life, the greater frequency of second marriages, and higher incomes for some couples, it makes good sense in many cases for wedding costs to be shared by the couple themselves and by both sets of parents.
This common sense approach is spreading nationally. An article in the July 23, 2003 issue of the Christian Science Monitor lists the results of a survey conducted by the Association of Bridal Consultants. According to survey findings, only about 20% of weddings are still paid for entirely by the parents of the bride. About 53% are jointly financed by both sets of parents and the bride and groom (though not necessarily in equal amounts). About 27% of weddings are financed entirely by the bride and groom without parental assistance.
Weddings that are still financed primarily by the bride's parents most often occur in highly traditional areas, such as the southern U.S., or when the bride is very young or still in college. One good thing about sharing the costs is that the groom's family feels more included in the wedding planning than they did in past generations, when they were primarily guests with little or no involvement before the wedding day.
Each couple has to think through their own situation and discuss matters with their families to determine what is most practical and reasonable in their particular case. If either set of parents wants to help with the wedding costs, they will volunteer. If they don't, you are on your own. If parents want to help, they might give the couple a sum of money to be spent as the couple needs, or they might pay for certain items. One family might offer to pay for the photography while the other family pays for catering, etc.
If parents are helping with the costs of individual services, then they should be consulted about decisions that affect the costs. For instance, if the parents are planning to spend $500 for flowers, but the bride desires roses for every centerpiece, the parents need to be informed of the cost, then they should make the final decision about how much they are willing to spend. The bride will then either need to respect their decision or pay any additional costs herself.
Today's more relaxed attitude toward financing a wedding puts less financial burden on the bride's family. However, it can create challenges for the couple as they learn to give and take with both families and with each other as they make decisions. With compromise, you can create a wedding that makes both families feel included and that will create lasting memories for everyone involved.