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Weddings -- who pays for what?

By Editors of Martha Stewart Weddings
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Fri October 18, 2013
Weddings: they're all Champagne toasts and rose petals a-plenty -- at least until the bills start rolling in. Eliminate any awkwardness or unexpected expenses up front by figuring out who is responsible for footing each part with some guidance from Martha Stewart Weddings. Weddings: they're all Champagne toasts and rose petals a-plenty -- at least until the bills start rolling in. Eliminate any awkwardness or unexpected expenses up front by figuring out who is responsible for footing each part with some guidance from Martha Stewart Weddings.
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How to split the wedding tab
How to split the wedding tab
How to split the wedding tab
How to split the wedding tab
How to split the wedding tab
How to split the wedding tab
How to split the wedding tab
How to split the wedding tab
How to split the wedding tab
How to split the wedding tab
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rules are meant to be broken, but guidelines can be helpful
  • Many brides and grooms opt to pay their own expenses
  • Parents often want to pitch in, and tradition dictates certain roles
  • All parties should be happy with their level of contribution

(Martha Stewart Weddings) -- Today, most people believe the couple should pay for their own wedding, especially if they have lived on their own for some time. Of course, parents often want to pitch in. Contributions should be negotiated according to willingness and ability, but the traditional divisions will offer some more guidance.

The Engagement Party

Traditionally, the bride's parents (although anyone can host) will throw an engagement party for their daughter and her husband-to-be, for the express purpose of welcoming him and introducing friends and extended family to the groom and his family and friends.

Although this isn't a requirement, it can be a wonderful way to get future wedding guests together to establish a rapport before the event -- familiar faces always make for a more convivial affair.

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The Engagement Announcements

Long before the reception takes place or is planned, the parents of the bride are responsible for sending (and paying for) the engagement announcements to the local newspapers. If the groom is from another town, or his parents live outside the local paper's distribution area, the bride's parents should find out whether the groom's family would like the announcement to appear in their hometown paper as well.

Traditional Roles for the Bride and Her Family

A trip down the aisle shouldn't mean stumbling into debt. Experts say it's important to determine your spending priorities as a couple -- and then skimp on the rest as needed. A trip down the aisle shouldn't mean stumbling into debt. Experts say it's important to determine your spending priorities as a couple -- and then skimp on the rest as needed.
Wedding $: Where to skip or splurge
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Wedding $: What to skip and where to splurge Wedding $: What to skip and where to splurge
Farzana Shaikh applies henna to visually impaired brides at the Andh Kanya Prakash Gruh institute as part of a ritual ahead of their marriages in Ahmedabad, India. Farzana Shaikh applies henna to visually impaired brides at the Andh Kanya Prakash Gruh institute as part of a ritual ahead of their marriages in Ahmedabad, India.
Brides around the world
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Brides around the world Brides around the world

Traditionally, the bride and her family are responsible for all planning expenses, the bride's attire, all floral arrangements, transportation on the wedding day, photo and video fees, travel and lodgings for the officiant if he comes from out of town, lodging for the bridesmaids (if you have offered to help with this expense), and all the expenses of the reception. The bride personally pays for the flowers and gifts for her attendants, the groom's ring, and a present for him.

The Wedding Reception

Of all their duties, the bride's parents' role as host and hostess of the reception is foremost. This honor is theirs because traditionally they pay for part, if not all, of the festivities. As such, their names have historically gone at the top of the invitations, and they play a special role at the reception of making guests feel welcome and ensuring that everything runs smoothly.

Traditional Roles for the Groom and His Family

The groom's family is responsible for corsages and boutonnieres for immediate members of both families, the lodging of the groom's attendants (if you have offered to help pay for this expense), and sometimes the costs of the rehearsal dinner. The groom is traditionally expected to pay for the marriage license and officiant's fees, and buy the bouquet for his "date" (the bride), as well as her engagement and wedding rings and a gift; he should also purchase gifts and boutonnieres for his attendants. The honeymoon expenses are classically his, as the head of his new household.

The Rehearsal Dinner

Both the groom's parents traditionally organize (and pay for) the rehearsal dinner. This can range in size from a small occasion for members of the wedding party only to a grand soiree (never to outdo the wedding, of course) that includes half or more of the wedding guests.

But they should never be expected to pay for a larger event than they are comfortable with.

Other Roles for the Groom's Family

In some circles, the groom's family offsets reception expenses by purchasing the alcohol; in others, the groom's family pays for all the floral expenses. However you work it out, make sure each party is comfortable with its contribution.

More from Martha Stewart Weddings:

The New Bridal Shower Rules (Toilet Paper Dresses and Awkward Icebreakers Not Included!)

7 Old-School Wedding Rules You Can Break

Common Wedding Traditions and Superstitions You've Never Heard Before

21 Gorgeous Engagement Rings of Real Brides

Kate Bosworth's Wedding: Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds Got Married, Their Exclusive Wedding Photos

How did your families negotiate wedding expenses? Let us know in the comments below.

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