Wedding Etiquette: Who Pays for What?
Up until recently, it was norm for the bride’s parents to fund the whole wedding, with the groom and his family only chipping in for certain elements. There was almost nothing that the bride had to pay for herself!
But these days, more and more couples are straying from tradition when it comes to financing the wedding. Many couples opt to fund the celebration entirely themselves. It’s also common for the bride and groom’s families to share the costs, or pay for certain elements as part of the wedding gift.
Today, we’re going to explain in detail the wedding etiquette surrounding who traditionally pays for what. That way, if you’d like to follow tradition, you’ll know exactly how to do it. We’ll cover everything from the engagement party right through to the honeymoon, and everything in between.
Do I Have to Follow Tradition?
Traditionally, it is the responsibility of the bride’s family – specifically, her mother and father – to pay for most of the wedding. It’s not clear exactly how this tradition started, but it’s thought to have evolved from the practice of the bride’s family paying a dowry to the husband.
You can certainly adhere to tradition if you (and the bride’s parents) would like to. However, it’s not strictly necessary.
There are many reasons why you might choose to take a more modern approach to financing your wedding, such as paying for it yourselves, or splitting the costs with your families.
• You’re on a larger income than your parents, or you want a wedding that goes beyond your parents’ budget.
• You’d prefer to make the planning decisions yourself, or you’re worried that your family may interfere if they’re holding the purse strings.
• There is no bride (in the case of same sex couples).
• The bride is not in contact with her parents, or they have passed away.
• The bride’s family simply might not offer to pay.
Whatever the reason, you and your partner are free to make your own decisions about who funds the wedding. Our guide will focus on traditional wedding etiquette, so you can decide what to follow.
What Does the Bride’s Family Pay For?
The bride’s family is usually responsible for funding most of the wedding. We’ll break down each of their responsibilities, starting with the engagement party.
Not all couples choose to have an engagement party. This celebration of the couple’s betrothal usually consists of a formal dinner, an intimate party at home, or a dance at a hired venue.
The bride’s parents should cover venue hire and entertainment if applicable, and the cost of the food. Guests typically pay for their own drinks if there is a bar.
Note that the engagement party is entirely separate from the hen night and stag night. The attendants share the cost of these.
Wedding Ceremony and Reception
The bride’s family typically cover the cost of both the wedding ceremony and the reception. This includes:
• Venue hire
• Ceremony fees and officiant fees
• Food (canapes, wedding breakfast and any food served at the reception)
• Drinks provided at the table, such as water, wine and the toasting drink (guests pay for additional drinks themselves)
• Entertainment, e.g. the band
• The wedding cake
The bride’s parents also pay cleaning fees, service charge and any other cost associated with the venue (with the exception of overnight accommodation, which we’ll discuss later).
Flowers and Decorations
The bride’s parents are responsible for funding most of the decorations. This may include table decorations, such as confetti and centrepieces, and wall hangings, such as buntings. It also includes miscellaneous objects such as wedding post boxes and signs.
Floral decorations, such as flower arches and flowers for the tables, are also covered by the bride’s parents. However, they do not traditionally pay for buttonholes, corsages, or bouquets for the bride or her bridesmaids.
The bride’s parents pay for the wedding dress. They also pay for any other elements of the bride’s outfit, such as shoes, veil, hair accessories and jewellery. It’s also the responsibility of the bride’s mother to accompany her while dress shopping, and help her choose a gown.
The bridesmaid’s dresses may be paid for by the bride’s parents, or the bridesmaids may arrange their own outfits. In one survey of British weddings, it was about 50-50.
As for hair and makeup on the day, this can vary too. The bride’s parents may fund it, or the bride may pay for it herself.
Photography and Videography
The photographer and videographer fees are covered by the bride’s family. This also includes any charges associated with the printing of a wedding photo album or a physical DVD. Remember that the price initially quoted by your photographer probably includes digital images only, on a USB stick or online gallery.
All aspects of wedding stationery, except thank you cards, are paid for by the bride’s family. This may include:
• Save the dates
• RSVP/reply cards
• Note cards (for directions, dress code, gift list, etc.)
• Order of service
• Menu cards
• Table plans and place cards
• The guestbook
The bride and groom pay for the thank you cards themselves. This is because they’re thanking everyone – including their parents – for all their help with the wedding.
The only part of the groom’s outfit traditionally paid for by the bride’s family is his ring. The groom himself (or the bride and groom together) will choose the ring, but it’s up to the bride’s parents to foot the bill.
Finally, the bride’s parents pay for the bride and groom’s transport to the wedding venue. This could be a wedding car, a carriage or even a limousine. They may also cover transport for the rest of the wedding party (bridesmaids and groomsmen).
What Does the Groom’s Family Pay For?
Some wedding costs are the responsibility of the groom’s family. The groom’s parents may pay for all of these, or they may split them with the groom.
• The groom’s and groomsmen’s suits (whether purchase or rental)
• The bride’s wedding ring (the groom pays for her engagement ring himself)
• The bride’s bouquet, the bridesmaid’s bouquets, buttonholes and corsages for the wedding party
• The rehearsal dinner – this is a modern trend that stems from American tradition, but the groom’s parents often pay for it, as the bride’s parents will fund the engagement party
• The cost of the marriage certificate(s)
• Accommodation for the bride and groom on their wedding night, and sometimes the night before. They may also pay for the wedding party’s accommodation.
The groom’s family typically also pay for the honeymoon. However, it’s becoming increasingly popular for the bride and groom to ask for cash gifts from their guests to help pay for it. This is largely due to couples living together before marriage, so they have no need for traditional wedding gifts.
The bride and groom are responsible for buying gifts for their wedding party. This includes gifts for bridesmaids, groomsmen, the flower girl, the page boy and the ring bearer.
And of course, don’t forget to buy gifts for the parents of the bride and groom. They certainly deserve it after all their help!