Who pays for the wedding, traditionally? Here's a complete guide

The lines of who pays for what when it comes to weddings these days are definitely blurred.

Bride and groom

First of all, we have to throw out the disclaimer that there is no official ruling regulating financial responsibility. Traditionally, we probably all know that the groom's family foots the majority of the bill, but that's not stopping modern couples from spending their own savings to have the wedding they want.

Building your wedding budget is one of the most important and difficult things to do, but taking the time at the forefront of planning can be one of your greatest aids along the way.

Budget conversations should begin at the same time that guest list and venue discussions begin. Most couples do not draw a correlation between their budget and their guest count, but understanding your 'cost per guest' early on will allow you to make better budget-aligned decisions, especially when reviewing vendors whose fees are independent of the guest count.

More couples are hosting their weddings, or a portion of the day, than in years past.

Rather than following tradition verbatim, a three-way split among the couple and family members is another contemporary payment plan option to take into consideration. It's a rare situation, but if that works for everyone, that's an easy way to do it. What's most important is to strike a balance that works for all parties involved.

Whether you (or your parents) want to stick to tradition or you're just interested in knowing the traditional breakdown of costs, you should know that there are some very strict delineations. Ahead, we outline exactly who should front which finances, according to age-old customs.

The groom's family

Even though this rarely applies these days, it's interesting to note all the costs expected of the bride's family, once upon a time. The parents of the groom are expected to pay for the marriage license and officiant fee, the rehearsal dinner (including the venue, food, drink, decorations, entertainment—and yes—the invitations, too), and accommodations/transportation pertaining to the groom's family and groomsmen.

The groom's family is responsible for:

  •  Honeymoon
  • Marriage license/officiant fee
  • Rehearsal dinner
  • Bride's bouquet, boutonnieres, and corsages
  • Transportation/accommodation for groomsmen
  • DJ/band and liquor/alcohol for wedding reception
  • Engagement party
  • Photography/videography
  • Ceremony/reception
  • Flowers/décor
  • Wedding cake

The bride's family

Think everything from invitations and stationery (with the exception of rehearsal dinner invites) to accommodations for bridesmaids. Also included are obvious things like the wedding dress, accessories, and hair and makeup. Nowadays, perhaps a sweet grandmother offers to purchase your gown, or perhaps you're paying for it on your own.

The bride's family is responsible for:

  • Wedding dress (including veil and any accessories)
  • Invitations/stationery/save the dates/wedding programs
  • Transportation/accommodation for bridesmaids
  • Morning-after brunch

The groom

Precedent proposes that the groom purchases the bride's engagement ring and wedding band. As per tradition, the groom is also responsible for covering the cost of his attire—whether he buys or rents—but it's not uncommon for the groom's family to pitch in. Lastly, the groom is expected to pick up the tab on any gifts to his groomsmen and the bride.

The groom is responsible for:

  • Engagement ring and wedding band for the bride
  • Groom's attire
  • Wedding gifts for groomsmen and the bride
  • Honeymoon (unless the groom's family has it covered)

The bride

Traditionally, the bride is only solely responsible for paying for the groom's wedding band and wedding gifts for her bridesmaids. However, there are many wedding costs (everything from a coordinator to flowers and décor) that are often shared between the bride and her family.

The bride is responsible for:

  • Groom's wedding band
  • Wedding gifts for bridesmaids, groom, and parents
  • Hair and makeup

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