As with any aspect of weddings, the guidelines which dictate who pays the bill have both traditional customs and modern manifestations. But this decision between traditional and modern is more than just a style preference. This decision affects the pocket books and bank accounts of some of your closest loved ones.
Therefore, it is not respectful for you to make that choice alone. While the breakdown of who pays for what at a wedding used to be more concrete, former protocol no longer holds much weight.
In this modern age, you are not just choosing between tradition or its alternative. All contributing parties must discuss and agree upon a plan so that every wedding expense is covered. Take note of how wedding bills were paid for in the past, and consider how you will do so in our current times!
Traditional Wedding Bill Breakdown
While the traditional guidelines of who pays for what at weddings now wield little leverage, they are still important to reference. Older generations may carry preconceived notions about the bill breakdown based on how it was handled back in the good old days. And when families don’t know where to begin, these traditions are usually the first place they turn.
- engagement party
- wedding dress
- ceremony (rentals, decorations, etc.)
- reception (food, music, decor, entertainment, etc.)
- rehearsal dinner
- alcohol at reception
- groom’s wedding ring
- hair and makeup
- marriage license
- bride’s engagement and wedding ring
- officiant fee
Modern Wedding Bill Breakdown
While traditional wedding bill breakdowns are interesting to take note of, they should only be used for educational and not functional purposes. Those guidelines are no longer realistic! Many variables considering the situation of the bride, groom, and their families make it completely irrational to just send off the wedding bills to the people tradition says they should go to. Put in a little extra time and effort to sit down with the contributing parties and devise a workable plan that will ensure that the wedding is paid for and that every individual is respected.
1. Split the bill evenly.
After estimating the total cost of your wedding, you could split the wedding bill three ways, between the bride’s parents, the groom’s parents, and the bride and groom. Or you could split it two ways, between the bride’s family and the groom’s family, with the bride and groom contributing to their respective families. This even split may be a good option if the two families are of similar financial security. The two or three way division depends on how financial stable the bride and groom are.
2. Divide based on guests.
Another alternative is the divide the wedding bill based on the number of guests from the groom or bride’s sides. Calculate the percentage of wedding guests for each side and divide the bill accordingly. This option may work well if the number of guests from the two sides are obviously lopsided. For instance, if one family and their friends are based in a location far from the wedding venue or if one side just has a larger family and friend base.
3. Bride and groom take the lead.
Parents no longer need to be left with the financial burden of their children’s weddings. As a gesture of gratitude for all your parents have done for you over the years, take the lead on the wedding expenses! Expect to pay for all the bills yourself, determine how much you can afford, and stick to that budget. This modern alternative is appropriate when the bride and groom are older and more financially established.
4. Get a budget from both sides.
While the idea of the bride and groom taking the financial lead sounds good, they may not financially be able to do so. In that case, both the bride and groom’s families could provide the couple with a sum of money to use for their big day. The specific amount would be based on each family’s financial situation and how much they wish to contribute. The bride and groom could then use that money, in addition to any funds they may have, to set a budget and stick to it!
Open communication is always key when it comes to paying for a wedding. One way to encourage such communication and determine a workable plan is for the bride, groom, and their parents to sit down together. The bride and groom should do some research ahead of time to be able to provide estimates for each of the wedding expenses. Then, each set of parents can offer to cover certain expenses. This method taps into the old traditions of dividing, but with a more fairness and flexibility.
No matter which of these modern manifestations stick out to you, tread on the wedding bill waters lightly. While younger generations are usually more ready to accept transitions away from tradition, older ones may have difficultly welcoming alternatives. Also, financial discussions in general can be a little uncomfortable at first.
Err on the side of generosity. Don’t expect others to pay for your day. Express genuine gratitude to contributing parties. Be honest about what you can afford. Exercise open communication. And get that wedding bill paid!