Paying For The Wedding – What’s The Norm?

Team Bonobology
paying for the wedding

Rewind to 1991. To the super-duper hit film Father of the Bride where Steve Martin played the father to 22-year-old-bride Kimberley Williams. The film takes a hilarious yet realistic look at all that the father of the bride goes through before a wedding. His dislike for his to-be son-in-law aside, the escalating cost of his daughter’s wedding does give him sleepless nights and minute heart attacks because he keeps reminding himself that he is paying for the wedding and the hole in his pocket is becoming bigger and bigger.

About George’s (Steve Martin) situation there’s a very insightful take on Wikipedia: The family meets with an eccentric European wedding coordinator, Franck Eggelhoffer, who sneers dismissively at George’s complaints about the price of the extravagant wedding items, including a flock of geese. The high price and the seemingly excessive number of wedding invitations and cost of each dinner, begin to take their toll on George and he becomes slightly insane.

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Why Do The Bride’s Parents Pay For The Wedding?

If we are looking at a traditional wedding it was expected the bride’s family would be paying for the wedding although the groom’s family could be chipping in with a little bit here and there. It’s a fact that a wedding in the west is not as extravagant as an Indian wedding that could go on for days and where guests are constantly treated to elaborate dinners and gifts. But now even in the west with designer gowns coming in, a guest list becoming longer and couples opting for destination weddings, if the father of the bride is paying for the wedding then he could be under increasing pressure.

Traditionally it was believed the groom would pay for the honeymoon and then would be responsible for buying a house and will support his wife financially. So the wedding expenses were to be paid by the bride’s parents since the groom would take on her financial responsibility after the wedding.

Bride's parents paying for the wedding

Bride’s parents paying for the wedding Image Source

Related Reading: Why is running a matrimonial home solely a man’s legal obligation?

Do Bride’s Parents Still Pay For Most Of The Wedding?

If the bride’s parents are shouldering the wedding costs they are expected to pay most of it but the grooms parents are also expected to pay a certain amount to make the wedding work. Here’s how the basic payments are done:

  1. The Wedding Event: The bride’s parents pay for this although the groom’s parents can buy the liquor if they wish to. The bride’s parents pay for the venue, decoration, food and all other arrangements like photography, video, guests stay and transportation
  2. The honeymoon: The groom is expected to pay for it
  3. The clothing: The bride’s clothes are bought by her parents but in many traditional homes the groom is expected to buy her special dress for the special occasion. The cost of the groom’s attire is his own. He sometimes chips in for the colour coordinated clothes of the bridesmaid or the groomsmen. Buying the boutonnieres is his responsibility and if he is planning some gifts for his groomsmen that’s his choice
  4. The rings: The groom is usually expected to buy the rings both for himself and his bride. But sometimes the bride’s side opts to buy the groom’s ring. The groom definitely buys the bouquet that his bride would carry
  5. Marriage License: The groom pays for the marriage license and officiant’s fees
  6. The rehearsal dinner: Who pays for the rehearsal dinner? If this is a question people are asking let us tell you this is one place where both sides pay. They together pay for the rehearsal dinner
  7. The Wedding Cake: Who pays for the wedding cake? There is a bit of a controversy about it. Traditionally it is the groom’s family who should pay for the wedding cake and bride’s bouguet but some families have the tradition that the bride’s family will pay for the cake. So it is decided depending on the tradition a particular family follows

Related Reading: How To Write Wedding Vows (And What You Should Never Write)

What is proper etiquette for the groom’s parents to pay?

wedding plans and expenses

wedding plans and expenses Image Source

Ideally both families should meet over lunch one day to discuss the wedding plans. They should let each other know about their family traditions and what need to be followed and what can be done away with. Then a basic budget can be drawn up. The proper etiquette for the grooms parents to pay is to take up the list and offer to pay for the items that is traditionally expected from them and they could offer to pay for a few things more to lighten the burden from the bride’s side.

Whether the bride’s side would accept that or not is up to them but it is good etiquette on the part of the groom’s parents to offer to pay. This helps in building a bond between both families.

Related Reading: Who pays the bills…the husband or the wife?

Who Pays For A Wedding These Days?

Things have changed. Unlike a just out-of-college-girl getting married to the love of her life as shown in the film, modern couples get hitched usually much later in life after they have had successful careers and even a good bank balance. They prefer not to carry a student loan into a marriage and try to be debt free before they tie the knot.

According to research the average age of marriage for women in the US is 27.8 years and the average age of marriage for men is 29.8 years. So both partners are capable of funding their own wedding. So the expectation has shifted from the bride’s family to the bride and the groom and they work out the costs among themselves.

Usually it is the bride and the groom who spearhead the conversations between the two families. They let them know what they would pay for and then if the bride’s and the groom’s family would agree to take up some wedding costs they do. Usually both families agree to pay for the wedding.

When it comes to paying for a wedding these days the traditional norms are not followed anymore. Since couples believe in equality nowadays it is not a given that the father of the bride would pay for the wedding. If the film Father Of The Bride had been made now, two decades later, it would certainly have to incorporate the changing norms of a modern wedding.

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