Explore The Digital Issue
Wedding reception with round tables and floral installation and groom hugging with father
the digital issue

Who Traditionally Pays for What at a Wedding?

Here's how traditional etiquette says to split up expenses between the couple's families.

In our modern world, the lines of who pays for what for a wedding are definitely blurred. Today, there is no official ruling regarding how the wedding budget breaks out, but it hasn't always been this way. Traditionally, the bride's family would foot the majority of the bill, but that practice has mostly fallen by the wayside for a variety of different reasons. For one, couples are getting married later in life, so they often have established careers and are in financial positions to pay for some—if not all—of the celebration. Furthermore, the classic division doesn't represent what all couples look like today and is not inclusive to LGBTQIA+ couples. What's most common is one of three scenarios: Couples may ask their families split the bill, contribute a portion of their own money to the event, or pay for the entire party themselves.

When you're ready to start planning, the most important thing to do is first determine a general estimate of how much your wedding will cost and how much you expect your families will be able willing and able to contribute. "Building your wedding budget is one of the most important and difficult things to do, but taking the time at the forefront of planning can be one of your greatest aids along the way," says Alicia Fritz, the owner of A Day in May Events. "Budget conversations should begin at the same time that guest list and venue discussions begin. If you are setting a budget, then set the budget," she advises. "Don't try and skimp on things that you know you are going to spend more on later."

Meet the Expert

Alicia Fritz is the owner of A Day in May Events, a destination wedding and event planning firm headquartered in Traverse City, Michigan.

Whether it's their second marriage or they want independence from their parents, many couples are choosing to take on all wedding costs on their own. In some situations, it's also possible that their parents simply aren't in a place to financially contribute. "More couples are hosting their weddings, or a portion of the day, than in years past. For our clients, I am not seeing that it's based on control of the day, but rather it's the choice to invest more in areas or aspects of their day that mean more to them versus their parents," Fritz says.

But if your families want to stick to tradition or you're just interested in learning about classic wedding etiquette, read on to see exactly who should front which finances, according to age-old customs.

Pink bouquets wrapped in ribbon

Photo by Amy and Stuart; Design by Mehroz Kapadia

The Bride's Family

Traditionally, the bride's family was responsible for most costs associated with the wedding, including everything from invitations and the cake to accommodations for bridesmaids. While you may expect that the wedding dress would fall to the bride's family, big-ticket items such as a wedding planner, a photographer, and venue costs would also be expected to be paid for by her family.

Today, however, this is rarely the division that happens. "While some couples do prefer to honor the tradition for which family pays for certain items, we open the discussion to our couples without the pressure of 'following suit' and what it means to follow tradition for tradition's sake versus what the family is comfortable with," Fritz says. "Hosting weddings in the current times are much different than they were when traditions like payments were established."

Be sure to budget an estimate of your expenses in an Excel spreadsheet. Your respective parents can then look over the spreadsheet and offer some high-level feedback, as well as volunteer for where they'd like to pitch in. This is also valuable if one or both sets of parents are divorced, or other scenarios where multiple parties may be involved.

Expenses the Bride's Family Is Traditionally Responsible For:

  • Engagement party
  • Wedding dress (including veil and any accessories)
  • Wedding planner or coordinator
  • Invitations, stationery, save the dates, and wedding programs
  • Photography and videography
  • Transportation and accommodation for bridesmaids
  • Pre-wedding parties
  • Ceremony venue
  • Reception venue
  • Flowers and décor
  • Wedding cake
  • Morning-after brunch

The Groom's Family

The parents of the groom are traditionally expected to pay for the marriage license and officiant fee, and accommodations and transportation pertaining to the groom's family and groomsmen. The only wedding event the groom's family would cover is the rehearsal dinner, including the venue, food, drink, decorations, entertainment, and invitations. The groom and his family would also traditionally plan and pay for the honeymoon. Today, the planning and budgeting is generally more collaborative amongst the couple and their families—and even crowd-funded. Brides and grooms often now include a "honeymoon fund" in their registry, where guests can contribute to the expenses as a wedding.

Expenses the Groom's Family Is Traditionally Responsible For:

  • Honeymoon
  • Marriage license and officiant fee
  • Rehearsal dinner
  • Bride's bouquet, boutonnieres, and corsages
  • Transportation and accommodation for groomsmen
  • DJ or band
  • Alcohol for wedding reception

The Bride

If you're still following tradition, then the bride is only responsible for paying for the groom's wedding band and wedding gifts for her bridesmaids. However, there are many wedding costs (everything from a coordinator to flowers and décor) that are often shared between the bride and her family. With monetary contribution often comes control in the planning of the nuptials. Determine who has the final say by addressing expectations from the start. "You cannot assume that because parents are gifting money that financial contribution does not come with a stipulation," Fritz says. "It would be a shame to have hurt feelings or mixed messages, if there was an expectation for 'control' but it was never given," she adds.

Expenses the Bride Is Traditionally Responsible For:

  • Groom's wedding band
  • Wedding gifts for bridesmaids, groom, and parents
  • Hair and makeup
Bride with engagement ring and groom hold hands

Photo by Jose Villa; Design by Mehroz Kapadia

The Groom

Precedent proposes that the groom purchases the bride's engagement ring and wedding band. As per tradition, the groom is also responsible for covering the cost of his attire—whether he buys or rents—but it's not uncommon for the groom's family to pitch in. Lastly, the groom is expected to pick up the tab on any gifts to his groomsmen and the bride.

Expenses the Groom Is Traditionally Responsible For:

  • Engagement ring and wedding band for the bride
  • Groom's attire
  • Wedding gifts for groomsmen and the bride
  • Honeymoon (if not covered by the groom's family)

Related Stories