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Wedding Expenses: Who Pays For What?

These days, the rules of who pays for what when it comes to a wedding are a little more of a grey area than in years past. We often get the same questions from brides and grooms alike, who pays for what? We have created a list for you based on modern day wedding etiquette to help ease you and your families through.

Old Wedding Etiquette Rules: Wedding and reception expenses for a first marriage were traditionally the sole responsibility of the bride’s family. When paying, they were the ones to determine the size and style of the wedding and reception. The groom’s family may have offered to share in the cost of the reception, and the bride’s family may accept in order to accommodate a larger wedding.

New Wedding Etiquette Rules: Both families divide the expenses as their budgets allow. Or, in some cases each family contributes a set amount to the total expenses. This may be supplemented by the bride and groom. As the average age of couples rises for marriage, many working couples today host and pay for their entire wedding and celebration themselves, and issue the invitation for their personalized wedding on their own. For second weddings, the couple is always responsible for the entirety of the costs.

The Bride

It may be the bride’s big day, but that doesn’t exempt her from financial obligations. While her family may share some responsibilities, there are some costs that the bride to be should expect to shoulder. Her future husband’s ring is one of them. Men’s rings weren’t always such a common occurrence. Many grandfathers or great-grandfathers never wore a ring or ended up adding one later. During World War II, wedding rings became a reminder, tying a couple together. As the economy picked up after the war, men’s rings became a commonplace, and the cost fell to the bride.

The bride is also responsible for the wedding gift for her beloved. She will also be expected to pay for any treatments pertaining getting her hair styled, makeup done, manicures and pedicures or a spa visit. While she may be called upon to help out her parents with arrangements for her bridesmaids, she should expect to pay for any gifts for her bridal party herself. The maid of honor and the bridesmaids are expected to handle any of the incurred costs, for the bachelorette’s party, but a more formal luncheon may fall to the bride.

The Groom

Often the most important investment for the groom is the wedding and engagement rings. The groom will also need to secure the marriage license and any associated fees for officiating the ceremony. The groom is expected to pay for the honeymoon and all associated costs, and while his parents may pay for the bulk of any costs for his groomsmen, he may be called upon to assist with accommodations.

The groom typically handles any personal floral arrangements. He is responsible for paying for the brides bouquet, corsages and boutonnières. He is also responsible for providing gifts to his groomsmen. While the bachelor’s party will be handled by the best man and groomsmen, the groom should expect to pay for a more formal dinner if there is one.

The Bride’s Parents

Traditionally, the bride’s family handles many of the costs, including the wedding ceremony and reception. The costs for this include food, decor, a wedding planner and entertainment as well as any associated rental fees for things like lighting, drapery and in some cases furniture. The bride’s parents are also responsible for wedding favors and all floral arrangements for the tables as well as wedding ceremony decor. They are expected to handle all photography and videography costs along with transportation to the wedding. Before the wedding, the bride’s parents pay for the invitations and attire for the bride. They may also be called upon to cover an engagement party or a formal luncheon for the bridesmaids.

The Groom’s Parents

The groom’s parents may assist the groom with honeymoon costs but primarily fund the rehearsal dinner. They are also expected to handle accommodations for the groom’s family. In many cases, the groom’s parents also pay for all liquor costs for the reception including the services of the bartender. Beyond that, the groom’s parents also provide a wedding gift for the couple to enjoy.

While these are the modern day expectations, not every couple finds this equitable or even reasonable depending on their situation. If resources are an issue, some couples may opt to forgo certain elements of the wedding or combine costs to share among members of the wedding party. For example, the couple’s parents may split the costs evenly, or the costs may be split three ways between the parents and the bride and groom.

Bachelor & Bachelorette Parties

When it comes to these pre-wedding festivities, the bridal party and the invited friends and family are responsible for taking care of the tab. The bride or groom-to-be shouldn’t pay for these events, especially since they’re often a total surprise. However, modern wedding bachelor and bachelorette parties are often a destination-party. In this instance, it is becoming more popular for the bride and groom to cover their own travel costs, including for flights and hotel, while the bridal party picks up the tab for the party itself.

Pre-Wedding Day Events

With gatherings of both families together, here is where the bride & groom split the financial duties. Typically, the bride and her family fund the engagement party, while the groom and his family pay for the rehearsal dinner. For the bridal shower, the maid of honor, bridesmaids and/or close family of the bride all contribute and co-host the party together


While the Groom may have paid for the Bride’s engagement ring, day-of proceedings call for different protocol. As an adorable indication of everlasting commitment and support, it is traditional for the bride and groom to pay for each other’s wedding rings to exchange with one another during the ceremony.


Paper goods have a bit more of a grey area than other aspects of the wedding. Traditionally, the parents of the bride cover the expenses of the wedding day paper items, for example, wedding invitations, menus, programs, and anything beyond. This means that traditionally, the groom’s parents cover the cost of the paper goods for the rehearsal dinner, such as the invitations and menus. Regardless of who covers the wedding day stationery, the couple always covers the thank you notes!

Wedding Dress & Tux

As you can probably guess, the couple is responsible for their own attire, however, the wedding dress is often a gift if the bride’s parents are paying for the wedding. The bride and her family are also responsible for paying for her wedding dress, accessories and veil, as well as the flower girl’s dress. Similarly, the groom and his family pay for his tux.

Bridal Party Attire

Worried about the expenses related to have a bridal party? Don’t stress! It’s appropriate for the bridal party to cover their own attire. Always avoid any pre-wedding drama by making sure bridal party knows costs of their attire up front. This gives them the opportunity to decide whether or not they are okay with your expectations, before they decide to play a major role in your big day. These days it is common for the bride to cover the costs for hair and makeup for the bridesmaids, but traditionally, bridesmaids have also covered this cost.

Getting Ready

On the day of the wedding, there are a lot of potential expenses! If the venue does not provide a bridal suite for getting ready, the couple may need hotel rooms. These costs would be covered by the couple themselves. The bride typically also covers her own hair and makeup. Typically, the bridal party gets lunch while they are getting ready. The best man and maid of honor are responsible for arranging for lunch and covering the costs, so that the bride and groom don’t need to stress about finding food just before they say “I do”.

Welcome Gifts

A current wedding trend is the welcome gift, which is the bag of goodies in each guest’s hotel room to welcome them to your wedding. This expense should be covered by the couple. Guests love personalized details and locally sourced products. The welcome gift is a great place to let your guests know how happy you are that they traveled from far and wide to help you celebrate your big day!

Ceremony & Reception

The bride’s family is responsible for covering the costs of the ceremony and reception venues, catering, and decor, while the groom’s family will cover the music and liquor for the wedding day. However, if the couple decides to cover an aspect of the wedding weekend, it is typically the afterparty – to keep the party going all night long!

So, to sum it all up for you…

The Bride’s Family Pays for:

-Church and reception venue rental

-Cake, catering and non-alcoholic beverages for the reception

-Invitations, announcements and stationary

-Services of a wedding planner

-The bridal attire and trousseau

-Photography for the engagements, bridal portraits, ceremony and reception

-Flowers for the ceremony, reception and the bridesmaids

-Corsages for special helpers

-Music at the ceremony and reception

-Limousine for the bride and family to the church, and cars for transportation

-Lodging for out-of-town bridesmaids or arrangements with friends

-Security and insurance if required by the venue

-Wedding favors

The Groom or His Family Pay for:

-The bride’s engagement and wedding rings

-Marriage license

-Officiant’s fee and travel expenses

-Bride’s bouquet and going-away corsage

-Corsages for the mothers and grandmothers

-Boutonnieres and ties for the men of the wedding party

-Wedding gift for the bride

-Limousine expense leaving reception — or for the day

-Wedding night accommodations

-Honeymoon trip

-Gifts for the best man and groomsmen

-Shipment of the wedding gifts to the couple’s home

-Lodging or arrangements for out-of-town groomsmen

- Alcohol for the cocktail hour and wedding reception

- Bartending services

-Rehearsal dinner

The Bride:

-Groom’s wedding ring

-Groom’s gift

-Gifts for the bride’s attendants

-Thank you gift for parents

-Bridesmaid’s luncheon (optional event)

Other Expenses:

-Engagement parties may be hosted by each set of parents or friends

-Groom’s family or engaged couple may co-host or host the entire wedding event

-The groom’s family or friends usually give the bachelor dinner or party

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