Susan asks: “Our daughter is getting married this October. She and her fiancé have been living together for a number of years and both have established careers. While they don’t own a home, they do stay in a very nice place on the beach, fully furnished. Our eight-year-old granddaughter will be the ‘flower girl.’ Her sisters and his will be their bridesmaids/ushers. His family is affluent, while we are not. We are middle class folks. The couple understands our situation and have committed $2,000 of their own money toward the cost of the wedding. I’m confused as to what is expected and what we should contribute. I want to try to do what’s acceptable.”
Dear Susan: Traditionally, the bride’s parents “throw” the wedding, but their contribution has and always will be a gift. The amount is always up to the parents. With “older” couples who marry, who have been on their own, the contribution of parents becomes even more voluntary. Especially if you are of limited means, your daughter, I would hope, will understand that you can’t pay for the entire wedding (minus their and his parents’ contributions).
Under no circumstances should parents — or for that matter, the bridal couple — ever go into debt to host a wedding. I advise you and your husband to decide what you can and/or are willing to contribute. Keep in mind that there are “incidental expenses” like your dress and your husband’s tux rental for which you will also need to budget. Then sit down with your daughter and her future husband and tell them your decision. You are under no obligation to explain how or why you came to the dollar amount. The couple will hopefully be mature enough to gratefully accept your gift and thank you for it no matter how much it is.
The strict definition of division of expenses between bride’s side and groom’s side is a line that has blurred with time. The list below is the “traditional” version, which is still followed in some circles. It’s up to you to redefine this list to suit your circumstances.
The Bride Pays For . . .
- groom’s ring
- bride’s gift to the groom
- gifts to bride’s attendants
- bride’s personal stationery
- accommodations for her out-of-town guests
- beauty appointments
The Bride’s Side Pays For . . .
- engagement party
- printed materials
- bride’s clothes and accessories
- hosting expenses for bride’s attendants
- transportation for the bride and her attendants
- reception, catering and facilities, site fee
- venue decor, including items such as aisle runner and candles
The Groom Pays For . . .
- bride’s engagement and wedding rings
- groom’s gift to the bride
- marriage license
- groom’s gifts to his ushers and best man
- flowers for the bride and mothers’ corsages
- accessories (excluding tuxedos) for ushers (includes flowers)
- groom’s and ushers’ transportation
- clergyman’s fee
- honeymoon expenses
The Groom’s Side Pays For . . .
- groom’s clothing and accessories
- their clothes for the wedding
- travel expenses they might incur
- wedding gift for the couple [often their payment for part(s) of the wedding]
- Optional: rehearsal dinner
What is, of course, most important for the bridal couple to remember is that getting your wedding expenses covered is a voluntary act of love, so keep in mind not only the financial constraints of those involved, but also their philosophies on wedding expenses. In some families, the sky’s the limit, while in others moderation is the key. Work hard at keeping things under control, because this is usually the area that creates the most dissension and creates bad memories.
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