Tradition is a funny thing. At one point in history, a bride’s family presented a dowry of cash and gifts to a groom and his family to make sure the bride would be adequately cared for. Clearly, traditions have changed! People began looking at how finances were divided when the couple had divorced parents, if the bride or groom had been previously married, or if there are two brides or two grooms. Rules around budgeting have all become considerably more fluid. But, the questions is still asked: "Who pays for what?"

The Traditional Way

Fast forwarding to more modern times, the family of the bride took care of a large portion of the expenses to host the wedding. This included the bride’s attire, invitations, transportation, reception, decorative flowers, photography, and video. On the flip side, the groom's family was traditionally responsible for the rehearsal dinner, groom's attire, as well as the personal flowers including the bride's bouquet, boutonnieres, and any corsages.

We've also noticed that couples from some cultures have different expectations when it comes to expenses. For example, in many cases, Jewish families expect that the groom’s family pay for the liquor at the reception, as well as the band or DJ.

The Modern Way

Nowadays, we see many options when it comes to who pays for what for at a wedding. Many couples who have been out on their own for some time are paying for all or a majority of their wedding. Not only because they might be in a better financial position than their parents, but also because they found they had the control over the purchases and planning of the wedding. In other situations, the bride’s family (should there be a bride) may have saved and planned to pay some of the traditional wedding costs. Communication between the couple and all parts of the family is key to navigating modern-day matrimonial finance.

The Best Way

Regardless of family dynamics or finances, here are some great tips for managing a wedding budget and planning:

  • If you as the couple are paying for all or part of the wedding, come up with a number you are comfortable with spending before you begin any family discussions or planning.

  • Have family discussions privately with each segment of your family, let them know what portion, if any, of the wedding the two of you can contribute to and ask if they can help financially. Doing this privately will prevent any embarrassment. Allow them to volunteer a number rather than asking for a specific amount.

  • Set a budget based on contributions for all of the parties and break down the purchases based on your priorities, whether it be great food, a fantastic band, or investing in incredible photography and videography to document the day. Everyone’s preferences are different. There is no right or wrong answer.

  • People want control over their money and spending. So, rather than saying "Thank You" and dumping all of the money into one pile, take the money contributed and assign it to specific things. “Thank you for the money you contributed to our wedding. We’ll be using it for the flowers and DJ.” Meaning that outside of the flowers or DJ, they have no input or control.

Nothing is a given. Be thankful and gracious for anyone who might contribute to your wedding day. Be sure to thank them and take the time to recognize them at your wedding. Be considerate of people's financial situations. Remember to consider their feelings and desire to be part of your wedding day and planning. Traditions are changing! Some of the new norms might be slightly uncomfortable at times. Taking things slowly is the best way to go.

Hero Photo Courtesy of Rachel Solomon Photography