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Wedding Expense Etiquette: Expenses Paid by Family of Bride

Updated on October 23, 2009
Bride and family preparing to walk the aisle
Bride and family preparing to walk the aisle

Origin of Expense Etiquette Tradition

Although many of today's wedding trends are changing, it is important to be aware of long-lasting trends, especially those in the area of wedding financing.

Traditionally, the parents of the bride-to-be have financed their daughter's weddings. This trend presumably originated from the ancient tradition of paying a large dowry to attract a good husband.

Over the years, this tradition transformed into a more "updated" version, but the concept remained- the bride's parents paid for the wedding. Today, only 27 percent of weddings are funded entirely by the parents of the bride.

Considering the rising cost of today's weddings, that is an encouraging trend for the bride's parents! Still, it is important to be mindful of wedding expense etiquette.

She was probably just given the bill for the wedding
She was probably just given the bill for the wedding
Fully decorated wedding reception room
Fully decorated wedding reception room

Wedding cakes on a budget

Wedding Expenses Traditionally Covered by Bride's Family

Here is a list of wedding costs customarily paid by the bride's parents:

  • All reception costs

This usually includes things such as room rental, food and beverages for the meal, wedding favors, furniture rental, tent rental (if applicable), catering, dj and so forth.

This usually includes wedding invitations and envelopes, response cards, reception cards, thank you notes, and the likes.

  • Floral arrangements

Flowers for the ceremony and reception are traditionally paid for by the bride's parents. In addition to this, the bridesmaid's bouquets should also be included. (Check out this interesting article on flower etiquette.)

  • Wedding gift/s for engaged couple

Often the financial coverage provided for the wedding is "counted" as their gift. In light of today's wedding costs, that's pretty sufficient! Still, the bride's parents sometimes want to give a separate gift apart from their financial gift toward the wedding.

  • Wedding cake

There are plenty of unique wedding cake designs out there, so finding one within the budget should be no problem. (In case you're looking for unique wedding cake ideas: #1, #2, #3)

  • Gratuities for bartenders/waiters

This is an often overlooked expense.

  • Bride's wedding dress and accessories

  • Bridal consultant/Wedding planner

  • Wedding photographer and/or videographer

After paying for most of the wedding, here's the role the parent's typically play in the ceremony (8 second wedding video):

How This Trend is Changing

Today's engaged couples are more capable of assisting financially with their weddings. It used to be that the parents of the bride would pay for a majority of the wedding but because couples today are making more money than they used to (and are getting married later in life than they used to), paying for the wedding has become easier.

A recent study by the wedding report dot com has shown that the average marrying age for a person who has never been married before is 27.3. That same study states that the average age for a person marrying for a second time (or more) is 33.4. Hypothetically, the older the couple is when married, the more income they have.

Proper Etiquette for Discussing Wedding Finances

The discussion of wedding finances absolutely should happen, whether you're the bride, groom or parents of either. Of course, the form of those conversations will vary depending on your culture and circumstances, and only you know them both, so keep that in mind.

Generally speaking, it is the responsibility of the bride's parents (and the groom's parents too if they plan to contribute) to bring up the topic of financially helping. Proper wedding etiquette typically doesn't allow for the bride or groom to ask parents about their plan to financially contribute to the wedding. This is seen as tacky and can sometimes lead to damaged relationships. If the topic is not brought up, the couple should expect to pay for the wedding without help from parents.

Therefore, if you are the parents of the bride (or groom), it is your responsibility to initiate conversation surrounding wedding finances. Even if you don't plan on contributing or are unable to contribute, you should still discuss this with your son and/or daughter so that they can budget their wedding accordingly.

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    • profile image

      being fair 

      7 years ago

      After a woman has two children by different fathers, she is marrying the second baby's father. She is demanding that her father pay for a $10,000 + wedding on his own. He is newly divorced. She is trying to make him feel guilty that he bought himself a house to live in after his divorce. He offered to pay for the cake and hall for reception. She continues to call and tell him he needs to pay. I am the youngest girl so you are suppose to pay. He has bought her 4 cars and has her on his car insurance and her house was paid for. He is now at financial end. How to be respectful and tell her that she is not right for demanding he pay.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hi, I am not invited to the wedding and do not know the couple but have worked closely and continue to work closely with the bride's parets! Am I expected to give a gift?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      My son got married 2 years ago in northwest Ohio and we paid the bar bill it was over $5,000. the band was $1,500 and the flowers were $1,500.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Ok, I am trying to find out how much our wedding is going to cost for the area we are in...we live in northwest ohio and have the traditional catholic weddings in the church with photographer followed by a reception (lots of alcohol) that usually has meals at about 7-10 dollars a plate. The guest list will be at least 200 if not 300. We both have large families. Any idea what this is going to cost me if we are frugal about how many flowers we buy and make things like table decorations on our own?

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I am recently engaged and i am starting to plan and I have people telling me that i can not have a traditional wedding because this is my grooms second marriage. Is this true. This is my first wedding. I need advice :D

    • TheWeddingSecret profile image


      9 years ago from Bath, UK

      Another great post!

    • Whitney05 profile image


      9 years ago from Georgia

      What I think is funny, is way back when, the groom and his family had to offer something really good to get the approval for marriage, and now the bride's parents pay for most everything.

      To me, wedding's are a waste of money. Just donate the money you were going to spend on the wedding and reception to the bride and groom for a house and bills.

    • WeddingConsultant profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from DC Metro Area

      Ken that's a great question. The parents of the bride are not expected to pay for travel expenses for the groom's family to attend a wedding (traditionally). The only lodging expenses you would pay for would be for the officiant if s/he is from another town and if s/he were invited to officiate by your side of the family.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      as the brides parents. am i required to pay travel expenses for the grooms family to attend wedding on the other side of the country? and if i am,, to whom do i extend this too,

    • WeddingConsultant profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from DC Metro Area

      Hi confused. It does get a bit messy when both families help financially, doesn't it?

      My first question for you is this- what are your lines of communication with both parents like? Have you brought up your situation to either?

      And regarding your last question, you don't *have* to add the groom's parents names to the invitations, although most do when the groom's parents contribute. So although it isn't typical that they help, when they do their names are traditionally added to the invitations.

      Before making a final decision, though, it would be a good idea to talk about it with both sets of parents. Will your parents be angry if you have to add his parent's names? Will his parents be flexible and tell you they are fine without their names on the invitations? Talk to them and see if you can't negotiate a win-win, but remember that you do have the final say in things. Just approach it diplomatically and fairly :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      My parents have given us a lump sum, but it's not enough to cover the entire wedding. We expect to pay some ourselves, but the grooms parents are offering to help pay for the reception in addition to the rehearsal dinner. I feel really bad about it typical for the grooms parents to help with the reception? Do I need to add their names to the invitation if they do?

    • WeddingConsultant profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from DC Metro Area

      Susan, thanks for your international input! It's pretty sad that I'm mostly ignorant on many foreign culture's wedding traditions, especially since my mom is Dutch-Indonesian!

    • Susan Ng profile image

      Susan Ng Yu 

      10 years ago

      Here in the Philippines, especially in Chinese-Filipino communities, it is traditionally the groom or his parents who pay for the wedding. :) And the wedding entourage is provided with everything; all they have to do is show up. :) I have heard of some couples asking their bridesmaids, groomsmen, etc. to shoulder the cost of their own dresses/suits as their wedding gift instead though. :)

    • WeddingConsultant profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from DC Metro Area

      Jeremy, usually the bridesmaids pay for their dresses.

      Good luck with the wedding planning!

    • profile image

      Jeremy wein]\ 

      10 years ago

      Who traditionally pays for the bridesmaids dresses?

    • WeddingConsultant profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from DC Metro Area

      Hi sue, thanks for your comment. I think I need clarification from you to better help- are you referring to the financial role of the groom's parents, the wedding duties of groom's parents or something else?

      And since it's a second marriage, you're right...there are different roles and responsibilities there.

      If your question is in reference to the financial responsibility of the groom's parents in a second marriage, generally speaking it is the responsibility of the couple to finance their own marriage. Of course I'm sure the couple would be blessed if you were to contribute in some form or fashion, but the standard expectations are that the couple will pay for their own wedding.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      huh? I'm more in the dark than ever as to the role of the groom's

      parents - particularly in a second marriage. JWI? Just wing it???


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