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Wedding Expenses? Who Pays For What?


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Once you decide to get married and have a date set, the next big task is creating a reasonable budget for the big day. One of the early decisions will have to be the type of wedding you want: formal, informal, etc. Traditionally the bride’s father paid for everything, but that task is now being shared by both sets of families or the bride and groom alone, if they have money of their own. The rigid, traditional lines have disappeared.

Family members and friends with specific skills might contribute to the wedding ceremony by making the bride’s wedding dress or baking and decorating the wedding cake. Another with a very green thumb might create the flower arrangements or the bride’s bouquet. Weddings are happy occasions in most families and relatives and friends would be happy to be a real participant in the event.

Here are some traditional guidelines for the usual division of payment in traditional weddings. Again, these are only suggestions.

Normally, anything to do with the bride’s dress or appearance is the responsibility of the bride’s family. That includes the bride’s wedding dress, headdress or jewelry. Also the bride’s responsibilities, or that of her family, are the bridesmaid’s gifts and bouquets, corsages for their grandmother and the flowers for the ceremony and the reception.

The decorations for the ceremony, like altar baskets filled with flowers in the bride’s colors or portable arches, are the obligation of the bride’s family. These decorations can include candelabras and kneeling benches for the ceremony. If the wedding is taking place outside, a canopy and carpet for the walk to the altar would be part of the bride’s expenses. Simply put, any rentals for either the ceremony or the reception would be paid for by the bride or her family.

During the initial planning for the wedding the bride will select, order and pay for the announcements, invitations and wedding programs, including any special napkins, matches or printed materials for the reception.

Both the bride and the groom buy the rings for each other, along with the traditional wedding gift they each exchange.

Traditionally, the groom pays for the bride’s bouquet, his own boutonniere and those for his groomsmen and ushers. He is also responsible for the corsages worn by both mothers. The groom pays for the marriage license and carries it with him to the ceremony.

He is also responsible for paying the clergyman’s fee or that of the public
official that performs the ceremony, though often the Best Man actually delivers the money to the clergyman.

The bride pays the church or chapel fee for the ceremony and for the reception, including the church janitor for the cleanup after. The bride pays for any music or photography for either location, including the church soloist or musician and band or DJ for the reception.

The wedding cake and any wedding favors for the guests are the bride’s expenses.

Some weddings are loaded with breakfasts, luncheons and dinners to help celebrate some aspect of the approaching nuptials. Who hosts and pays for each one could get confusing. The traditional arrangement is the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal dinner while the bride and her family are responsible for bridesmaid’s luncheons, the wedding breakfast, and the bridal brunch.

Finally, the groom pays for limousine service and the honeymoon details, while the bride handles accommodations for out-of-town guests.

While those divisions of responsibility are traditional and based on old habits carried down through the decades, today’s weddings are not so strictly traditional. Whatever works for the couple is just fine.


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