Recent statistics indicate that the average cost of a wedding in the United States is $26,000, not including the honeymoon. This means that many couples in the middle of planning their special day find themselves wondering how to share the related expenses.
Expenses for the Bride and/or Bride's Family
Traditionally speaking, the bride and her family pay for the bulk of the wedding expenses. This includes:
- Bride’s wedding dress and other attire
- Photographer and videographer
- Wedding planner or coordinator
- Flowers and other decorations
- Rented goods
- Invitations and other wedding stationery
- Reception venue
- Reception food
- Groom's wedding band
- Groom's wedding gift
- Gifts for female members of wedding party
If cost is a concern, the bride and her family can save money by creating their own wedding invitations, programs, and other stationery items. The Printable Wedding’s professionally-designed templates make it easy to customize coordinating wedding stationery at home.
Another easy way to save money is to create your own floral arrangements and decorations. Silk flower bouquets, candle centerpieces, and ribbon ceremony backdrops are inexpensive and easy to create. The work goes even quicker if you enlist the help of some crafty family members or friends.
Expenses for the Groom and/or Groom's Family
The groom and his family are customarily responsible for fewer wedding expenses. These include:
- Groom's tuxedo and accessories
- Bride’s bouquet and going away corsage, boutonnieres for men, and corsages for mothers
- Rehearsal dinner
- Marriage license
- Officiant fees
- Groom's cake
- Gifts for male members of wedding party
- Alcohol at reception
- DJ or music at reception
If the groom and his family are worried about expenses, cut costs by having cocktails and hors d'oeuvres instead of a full meal at the rehearsal dinner. You could also look into a more casual venue, such as a pizza parlor, if the wedding itself isn't a formal affair.
The cost of providing an open bar at a wedding reception can easily become overwhelming. To keep expenses in check without foregoing alcohol completely, skip the champagne toast and serve only beer and wine or a few signature cocktails.
Expenses for Members of the Wedding Party
As family members and/or close friends of the bride and groom, the members of the wedding party traditionally have partial responsibility for the cost of the event.
The best man and ushers pay for:
- Tuxedo rentals
- Travel expenses
- Bachelor party
- Wedding gift
Bridesmaids pay for:
- Dresses and alterations
- Hair and makeup
- Traveling expenses
- Bachelorette party
- Bridal shower
- Wedding gift
It's customary for the flower girl and ring bearer's parents to pay for their attire, although they may be able to borrow an outfit from a friend or family member with a child who was recently in another wedding.
When choosing the members of your wedding party, keep in mind that a recent survey found that 9% of people asked to be in weddings turned the request down due to concern about meeting the financial burden involved. If you're able to do so, you may wish to consider paying for a portion of the wedding party's expenses to reduce their financial burden. Or, in the case of the female members of the wedding party, let them choose their own dresses, shoes, and accessories within your specified color parameters so they can find something within their budget.
Expenses for Wedding Guests
Etiquette experts generally agree that guests should not be expected to foot the bill for your wedding expenses. This includes being asked to pay for their meal or their drinks at a cash bar, since they're already traveling to your event and bringing a wedding gift.
However, if you're working with a severely limited budget, it's acceptable to ask guests to contribute certain items as their wedding gift to you. For example:
- Asking a skilled photographer friend to take wedding photos beforehand
- Having your cousin who is attending cosmetology school do your bridal party's hair and makeup as her gift to you
- Offering the use of their beautiful backyard as a ceremony venue
One idea that's often listed as a great money-saving tactic is having a potluck wedding reception where everyone is asked to bring a dish to share. Unfortunately, this idea is impractical if you have multiple guests who will be traveling long distances to attend your event. A potluck also creates issues with food safety, especially if members of the wedding party suffer from food allergies or you have guests who aren't particularly attentive to sanitation issues in the kitchen. If you want to go the self-catering route, stick to all appetizer or all dessert reception and privately speak to a select group of close friends and family to ask them to prepare the items you've selected.
Breaking from Tradition
Although traditional wedding planning customs can provide a starting point for dividing financial responsibility for your nuptials, there are many circumstances where a break from tradition may be necessary. For example:
- You have your heart set on a wedding that's larger and more elaborate than what one person can realistically afford.
- You've already been living for your fiancé for quite some time and have combined your bank accounts.
- It's a second marriage for one or both of you.
- There is a substantial income disparity between the different people involved in the wedding planning process.
- Illness, job loss, or other special circumstances have left one or more people involved in the wedding planning process experiencing a financial burden.
Regardless of who is paying for your wedding expenses, sticking to a budget is key. Sit down with your fiancé as soon as possible to discuss your vision for the big day. Once you're in agreement as to the size and scale of the ceremony and reception, visit with your family members and wedding party to determine what they'll be able to contribute.
Although you may be forced to scale back your vision due to financial limitations, remember that the goal of the day is to make a commitment to your future as a couple. A modest celebration filled with DIY touches can be just as lovely as a lavish ceremony with a guest list that includes everyone you've ever met. You can't go wrong if you keep the focus on the love you share!