Settling Up: Paying for the Wedding, Rehearsal Dinner and Reception

by: Michael Kabel

It’s no secret that weddings are expensive events, or that they seem to get more costly with each passing year. Funding for the rehearsal dinner, the wedding ceremony and its decorations, and then the reception requires a staggering amount of money. Realistically, it’s a bigger debt than most families can comfortably shoulder.

The traditional wedding scheme divides expenses between the bride and groom and their families. The most commonly accepted means of divvying up are listed below. Remember that these are guidelines, and not rules. The etiquette of your area might vary somewhat, but on the whole these means of settling up are a good place to start.

The Bride:

Perhaps befitting her special day, brides carry a minimum of the financial burden. They are traditionally required to pay only for the groom’s wedding band, their blood test fees, the bridesmaids’ luncheon and bridesmaids’ gifts, and of course the wedding night lingerie.

In some traditions the bride also pays for the lodgings any of her out-of-town bridesmaids might require, though this tenet has largely faded from use.

The Family of the Bride:

It’s sometimes misunderstood that the bride’s family pays for everything in the wedding. That’s not true, though of course it might feel that way for her poor parents at the time! Just the same, the bride’s family does indeed pay for the bulk of the expenses.

Practically all the finery at the reception comes from the bride’s family’s largesse: the food, drink, entertainment, venue, service staff, wedding favors, flower arrangements, and various other, smaller expenses are all their responsibility.

In the days and weeks before the ceremony, the bride’s family pays for the invitations, the save the date reminders, the expense of the wedding dress, and even the engagement and wedding photographs.

On the day of the ceremony, the photographer and videographer, the ring bearer and flower girl equipment, the bridesmaids’ bouquets, and the transportation costs for guests all come beneath the bride’s family purview. The expenses pile quickly up, and parents are wise to save well in advance for their daughter’s big day.

The Groom

The groom also carries his weight in costs. Of course, there’s the engagement ring to buy, and his blood test as well. Grooms also pay for the marriage license, fund the honeymoon, and buy gifts for the groomsmen. Come the wedding day, a gentlemanly groom will buy corsages for his mother and the bride’s mother, the bouquet for the bride, and boutonnières and ties for all the groomsmen. Don’t forget the bride’s wedding ring, either! Finally, gifts for the usher and the honorarium for the officiate are also part of his obligations.

The Family of the Groom

The groom’s family typically sponsors the rehearsal dinner and all its surrounding expenses.

The Wedding Party

Bridesmaids are normally responsible for their dresses, and groomsmen are responsible for their tuxedos. In modern tradition, they pay for their own lodging when coming in from out of town.

The Maid of Honor and the Best Man

The leaders of the wedding party are charged with planning and funding the festivities leading up to the wedding celebrations: the bridal shower and bachelor’s party, respectively. They’re responsible for making sure everyone gets home safely from the festivities at the end of the evening.