• Thu, Mar 13 - 4:00 pm ET

This Isn’t The 1950s, So Don’t Whine When Your Parents Won’t Pay For Your Wedding

shutterstock_134554997I would really like to know if any families still honor the age-old traditions that dictate how parents pay for weddings. From my limited understanding—and I promise you that I have hardly seen this play out in real life—the bride’s family pays for the wedding, and the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal dinner. Right?

As a bride getting married just three years ago, I can tell you that definitely didn’t happen for me. My parents had never mentioned paying for my wedding, so I assumed it wasn’t on the table. My husband’s parents also have a modest income, though they did give us a generous check as a wedding gift. These factors contributed to why my husband and I chose a destination wedding—because we knew we were going to be paying for everything ourselves after living together for two years, and we didn’t want to share with anybody.

Thinking back to many of the weddings I have been to over the years, it seems like the traditional parent payment plan is almost null and void. I assume that parents have at least paid for some of the weddings of their adult children, but I know most people today don’t have buckets of cash sitting around for a lavish ceremony.

If you’re really interested in diehard tradition, here are the Martha Stewart guidelines for wedding payment:

  • Engagement Party - Bride’s parents
  • Engagement Announcements – Bride’s parents
  • Wedding Ceremony and Reception - Bride’s parents
  • Marriage License/Minister Fees - Groom’s parents
  • Rehearsal Dinner - Groom’s parents
  • Alcohol/Flowers (optional) – Groom’s parents

Yeahhhh. This was not how my wedding panned out. I had the wedding I’d always dreamed of, but a traditional payment plan was not involved whatsoever. My sister did throw my husband and me an engagement party, which was incredibly nice of her. She was kind enough to pay for the party, and everyone who attended paid for their own meal.

I know there are tons of etiquette rules surrounding what is and isn’t tacky when it comes to paying for a wedding. I also know that most people today don’t have much money to spare. I think it’s time that we buck ridiculous wedding payment tradition and embrace reality. Plan your wedding the way you want to, but don’t expect your parents to pay for it all.

(Image: Guzel Studio/Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Bethany Ramos, on twitter.
Share This Post:
  • keelhaulrose

    My parents did pay for my wedding, but it was very clear it was a gift, and in return I should try to limit their costs. My mom and I did a lot of the planning together, and we were both really happy with the outcome (open bar was the best expense ever).
    But I get parents who say no. No one should go in debt to have a wedding. If parents have the money to spend, and they make that choice, great, but if they don’t a gift should never be expected.

  • CW

    Most of the families I know set a certain budget for their daughters, and if she wants to spend above that, it’s on her and her fiance’s dime. That’s what my in-laws did for sister-in-law’s wedding in ’11, my aunt & uncle did for my cousin’s wedding in ’08, and my parents did for my reception in ’00 (we had a quickie civil ceremony at the end of ’98 but my parents insisted on throwing a big reception for us on our originally planned wedding date). My cousin and her fiance did pay for about half of their wedding but that’s because they had high-end tastes (got married at a chi-chi resort in Colorado).

    • CW

      My parents were not going to be denied their big shindig (I’m their only daughter) and they threatened to hold it without us if I didn’t go along with their plans. They insisted on a traditional sit-down dinner at the officers’ club when I’d just as soon have had a casual clambake on the beach. That’s the downside of having them pick up the tab.

    • Bethany Ramos

      If someone offered me an awesome party, I wouldn’t say no… :)

    • http://www.ambiencechaser.com/ Elizabeth Licata

      I was in the same situation. I would certainly not have faulted my parents for not throwing me a wedding. I would happily have just gone and gotten it done legally and then been done with it. But they wanted a big damn party, so we had a big damn party. I’m never going to say no if someone wants to get me a fancy dress and throw me a huge party.

  • Brittany Anne

    My parents paid for my wedding, and my husband’s parents paid for the rehearsal dinner and the honeymoon. But we both come from very traditional families. We still had a really cheap wedding, and I don’t forget for a second how privileged we were to have parents who were willing to essentially pay for a nice party and a vacation for me and my husband.

    • Brainspace

      When we got engaged, it didn’t even occur to us that our parents would contribute to the wedding, so we set a date a year and a half away to give us time to save. Lo and behold, all parents contributed–my dad paid for the entire wedding and reception, H’s parents paid for the rehearsal and honeymoon, and my mom threw us a beautiful shower. We were shocked at how fortunate we were.

  • jenni

    When I got married (way back in 2011) my dad gave my husband and I a lump sum of money that had no strings attached. He didn’t care how we spent it, but he said that that was his gift to us for our wedding and that was that. My mom offered to buy us our wedding cake, but I ended up figuring out that we needed a fridge for our new house before a cake and so that is what she ended up getting for us. She also bought my $600 wedding dress.
    My in-laws hosted our engagement party (major faux pas that literally nobody gave a damn about) and covered the cost of the rehearsal dinner.
    This is in contrast to my SIL who had a bill of over $30k for her wedding in ’09. I don’t understand that. Ours came out to a bit above $6k.

  • Tinyfaeri

    We didn’t have an engagement party or announcement, but my parents paid for most of our wedding and reception, and my in-laws paid for the rehearsal dinner and I think at least some of the tuxes. My in-laws also paid for our honeymoon. We were super lucky, and tried to keep the cost down as much as possible, and let them have a lot of input into where/what was done. We have a daughter, and are already thinking about how to set something aside for her wedding someday should she choose to get married. I guess if she doesn’t we’ll all have one hell of a vacation! :)

  • pixie

    Hahaha, even if my parents offered to pay some of it, I would refuse. Help in other ways, that’s cool, but I don’t like taking money.
    Here’s how I’m imagining my future wedding.
    My Dress: made by me and my mom, so however much that fabric costs
    Bridesmaid(s): probably only have 1 or 2, but my mom and I can make their dress(es) as well, they can wear their own shoes and I’ll pay for hair and nails if they want
    Food: Fuck it, we’ll cook it ourselves
    Cake: I can do cake
    Venue for ceremony: If I’m still riding at the same farm I’ll ask my coach how much she’d charge to hold the ceremony there (knowing her, probably only a couple hundred bucks at most) and clean up the area myself
    Reception: At someone’s house so guests can crash there for the night afterwards, if it’s not my own house, I’ll clean that, too.
    SPLURGE ON ALCOHOL.

    As a side note, my mom made her own wedding dress, her bridesmaid dresses and her mother’s dress for their wedding, baked her own cake, and her mother made their food. My parents had a very small wedding because they didn’t have much money. My mom and I have also had girly talks while watching Say Yes to The Dress about making my wedding dress and she’s cool with that idea and offered to bake a wedding cake for me. Getting married isn’t currently in the near future, though.

    • Brittany Anne

      My mom made my wedding dress, and it was wonderful. It was great bonding for us, she got bask in the pride of everyone oohing and aahing over my dress at the wedding, and I got an amazing dress that I never would have been able to find at a bridal store. Win-win-win.

    • Bethany Ramos

      That is so sweet! I order my dress from a very sketch website in China, made to order, and I was really shocked when it actually came. Only $200, and I loved it because it was the only backless beach dress I could find.

    • m

      I also ordered my dress from a Chinese website, and people seemed to think it was really pretty and were surprised when they heard where I got it from. I had to do a couple of small altercations, but all in all I really loved my dress :)

    • pixie

      That’s fantastic. And a unique dress is definitely one of the upsides of having a homemade dress :)

    • Taxes Make Kittens Cry

      You should do a horse ranch wedding for sure!

      That’ll result in a stable marriage. But I’m sure your future husband doesn’t wanna be saddled with the costs. Maybe a cheaper location won’t mare the relationship?

    • pixie

      HAHAHAHA. I love your puns.

    • Valerie

      Hopefully, his parents would pony up. But the mane thing is that you are happy.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Hahahahah

    • Valerie

      Had to show him he’s not the only one with a million lame puns. ;-)

    • Taxes Make Kittens Cry

      Hay! If it behooves you, I have more than a million. Mule regret this if it’s the last thing I ever do!

    • Valerie

      Whoooaaa! Better stall your anger before you get a case of the trots! You would have to quickly manure your way to a bathroom.

  • Paul White

    We did it traditional but we got married young (21) and kept it pretty simply–I think the total bill was 10k or so for EVERYTHING including the snack thingies we had at the reception–which was held in the basement of the church we got married in.

    EDIT: I’d also add there was considerable pressure to invite a lot of her family (it’s way bigger than mine) so I feel like that was fair. If you want us to invite all 12 aunts/uncles and their families, you can certainly help pay for their food!

    • noelle 02

      My situation was similar. We married soon after our 21st birthdays and college graduation. My parents paid for my dress, invitations, flowers, minister fees, reception (which we catered ourselves in the church gym) for a grand total of $4000. Husband’s parents paid for the rehearsal dinner at Ryan’s Steakhouse. Husband and I paid for our simple honeymoon driving to Florida to go to Disney World. We economized but my parents did foot the bill.

  • whiteroses

    This is going to be an unpopular opinion- but I would argue that, in this day and age, if you can’t pay for your own wedding you should probably think about scaling down on the ceremony. If someone gives you extra cash for it, great. But really all your guests/attendants/family HAVE to do is show up.

    • Paul White

      A lot of it depends on what familial expectations are. My in-laws *really* wanted all thier siblings and families to be able to attend. And there’s no way in hell that, at 21, we could afford to feed all of them (seriously, they each have 4-5 siblings who ALL at that point had spouses and kids). The catering bill was probably 1/2 the cost of our wedding and they did pay for it.

      I guess we could have made a fuss and not taken the money AND not invited them but A: it was good to have them and B: why start off married life with a massive family fight for no real reason?

    • whiteroses

      I don’t disagree. But if there’s something that someone really wants in YOUR wedding, then they can contribute, like your in laws did- you know? Everyone doesn’t have to have their perfect princess day that costs 70K and a white horse rental. Expecting someone else to pay for your party is pretty terrible, imho.

    • Paul White

      Yeah, but how many people–particularly younger people getting married for the first time–DON’T have parents that really want something particular about the wedding?

    • whiteroses

      I agree- but if they can’t contribute, then it shouldn’t be an issue. If you, yourself have an idea that other people should be giving you money for your wedding then it needs to be scaled down.

    • pixie

      Apparently the horse I ride is trained to pull carts, I figure I’ll hook him up to one and see how that goes lol. He’s not white, but he’s got a lot of white on him so…close enough!

    • Katherine Handcock

      I would agree with being realistic about wedding planning whoever pays – my parents wanted to pay for our wedding, but we were clear that there were definite limits to what we spend. I would say, though, that whoever wants the wedding to be bigger/fancier than what the budget allows should be the one who pays the difference. So, if Mom and Dad (of either partner) are giving $10,000, and the couple want a $30,000 extravaganza, I think that the couple should make up the difference; if the bride and groom have set a $15,000 budget, and Mom or Dad insist that the dress has to be designer, it has to be at the most expensive place in town, etc., I think it should be the parents that pay for those changes — IF the couple is wiling to go there in the first place.

      But I think there definitely needs to be a conversation about weddings going bonkers. I loved my wedding, and it was pretty simple – relatively few guests, a stand-up reception with a few cheese plates/hors d’oeuvres, etc. My sister-in-law had a more traditional wedding and reception – more people and a sit down dinner. Both were what the couple in question wanted, and were great. But when I was looking at wedding magazines, there was NOTHING about the kind of wedding I wanted. I still remember my mother-in-law, excited by the prospect of the first family wedding, looking at a wedding planner with me. One of the tips on the “decide your wedding theme” page was “consider renting your favourite castle for a spectacular destination wedding.” WTF? How achievable is that for any person who’s buying a $19.99 plan-your-own-wedding guide?

    • whiteroses

      I agree completely with you. I also think that everyone is so focused on their wedding being “memorable” that they’re willing to put themselves in debt to achieve it. What most bridezillas don’t get is that your best friend from third grade isn’t going to talk about your wedding for years and years afterward.

      I have a friend who had a society wedding. She planned it for nearly two years and spent upwards of 100K on it. I remember her wedding colors, the dress she wore, and the fact that the chicken she served was incredibly dry. Not much past that- and I was part of the wedding party.

      The most important thing in the end is the fact that you’re married.

    • Abby

      I had my heart set on a memorable wedding–but I wanted it to be memorable because my guests had a great time and not because we splurged on ridiculous things like renting out a castle or fireworks or anything like that.

      So my now-husband and I sat down and talked about the things that we loved and hated about weddings and planned around that. Our only major splurge was the food because neither of us could recall attending a wedding where we came away and said, “Man that food was awesome,” but beyond that, all the fun little touches we had (a lightsaber battle at the end of the reception, coloring pages of a comic version of us for all the guests, a free photobooth area that our photographer set up because she was trying the idea out for the first time) were relatively inexpensive and just as memorable.

      Which I think is the thing about wedding planning: people think that your wedding will ONLY be memorable if you spend ridiculous amounts of money to make it the kind of celebrity mess you see on TV, and that’s not true. Your guests remember it best if you plan the wedding and reception around what they’d enjoy and what they’d need; everything else is icing.

    • m

      My wedding was pretty small (~25 guests), but everyone told me how great it was, and will probably remember it. We had someone from the magistrate to marry us at the reception place, which was a restaurant at a very tall building with a great view of the city. My parents did pay for the wedding, but I think they also were pretty happy with it, and also it wasn’t super expensive.

    • ted3553

      We paid for ours without even a thought about either set of parents paying. It’s our wedding-why would they pay. I have always thought that even if they’d offered i would have been very wary because my feeling is that once they’re paying for a good chunk of it, all of a sudden, their input has to count and like I said, it’s our wedding. I have seen too many girlfriends frustrated because mom/dad are paying and want to invite certain people or have it a certain place etc.

  • aCongaLine

    We eloped locally. Got married by a JoP (who also designs tee shirts for my husband’s sports clinics, lol) in a hotel chapel that was really pretty here in town, had lunch in the restaurant upstairs, and went back to our apartment to have coffee and cut the cake, which came from our favorite bakery.

    The whole thing lasted 4 hours from arrival to when everyone left, and that was enough for me, I was 20 weeks preggo, and asleep on the couch in my wedding dress before our 6 guests (3 from my family, 3 from my hubs’ family) made it to the elevator.

    My mother bought my dress, because she insisted, and because her mother bought hers, and it’s a thing she always wanted to do. My parents footed the bill for our 8 person lunch, too, because my father really wanted to. Other than that, we paid for everything else. The whole shebang cost about $2K, including our little honeymoon.

    We were planning a big thing, but, pregnant. So with new priorities came new budgets. My parents wanted to help- and it was more of an emotional thing for them. They gave us the rest of the money they had saved for my wedding as a cheque as a wedding present, and it helped us begin to save for a down payment for our house.

  • val97

    I got married in 2004. The total cost was $1200. We had 35 guests. I remember what each and every little thing cost because my husband and I paid for it all. Some of my friends have told me it was the best wedding they’ve ever been to (but maybe they were just being nice).
    I have been to weddings (in modern times) where the bride’s and groom’s families foot the bill. I really hope this trend goes away because I don’t want to pay for my own kid’s lavish parties should they choose to go that route.

  • Jell

    Here’s how ours went down. Spouse wanted a big wedding. I didn’t. Both families agreed with spouse and both contributed financially so we could have the wedding that was desired by the families and my then fiance. Because both families contributed to different aspects they also got a say in how those things went down. I believe that is totally appropriate. If you don’t want a parent’s imput you shouldn’t be taking money from them.
    As for me I didn’t actually care either way how it happened as long as we didn’t go into debt over it. I showed up on the day and that was the important part. Our families got the big event they wanted. He got his dream wedding. I got a relatively stress free day of eating delicious cake.

    • Paul White

      pretty much the same here, except my cake wasn’t tasty :( It was gorgeous but it tasted like cardboard. I felt gypped.

    • meteor_echo

      Ohgod, you reminded me of the cake I had at my workplace’s New Year party this year. It was delicious and had this huge fucking rose on top, made of some sort of frosting. So I managed to get the piece with the rose, scooped this thing off and shoved it in my mouth.
      …I immediately regretted this decision. It tasted bitter (!) and salty (!!). My co-workers still laugh at the face that I’ve made, and I joke that I took one for the team so that nobody would have to eat this frostrosity.

    • WriterLady

      Frostrosity!! Haha!!! I hope I have the chance to use that term sometime in the near future.

    • meteor_echo

      I also use terms like catstrosity, childstrosity, manstrosity, etc. If “strosity” can be tacked onto it, it can and shall be used :3

    • LiteBrite

      My cake was one of the highlights of my wedding. There is a bakery in town that makes wedding cheesecakes, and I love me some cheesecake. My best friend had it at her wedding, and it was the one “bridezilla” item I insisted on having.

  • Brittany

    We had a pretty unusual wedding. I tried to get out of having a wedding with the excuse of being a poor college student and my (not quite yet) husband just graduating from a different university. Ya, that wasn’t going to fly with our parents, I guess. Probably because we were the first offspring to get married in either family.
    We still managed to have a small wedding, at least by wedding industry standards, and we were married at the courthouse, something I wanted because the courthouse in Seattle is gorgeous. My husband and I paid for the getting married at the courthouse part. His parents paid for the dinner after we got married for both sets of parents, us, and our siblings. My parents paid for the reception the next day, which was small and as stress free as possible.
    Honestly, I was surprised my parents decided to pay. My dad has always had the belief that paying for a wedding was a “dowry” of sorts. But the moment I told him we were just going to get married in the courthouse, that line of thought seemed to disappear. Again, maybe it has to be with being the first child to get married.

  • val97

    I can’t believe the groom’s parents are/were supposed to pay for the marriage license. If you can’t afford the literal piece of paper, maybe you shouldn’t get married.

    • WriterLady

      I had no idea that was a thing, either. That part seems extremely antiquated.

    • Tinyfaeri

      I would guess it’s symbolic more than anything.

  • LiteBrite

    Funny story. My MIL contributed a large sum of money to my BIL and SIL’s wedding many years ago. She also invited pretty much everyone in the tri-state area, including her golf buddies, her bowling league, and relatives my BIL hadn’t seen since he was in diapers. When my BIL complained about the guest list getting out of control and other aspects of the wedding planning she took over, my MIL’s response was “I am paying for this wedding, so I get to do whatever I want.”

    My husband said when he heard that he decided right then and there she wasn’t contributing a dime to any wedding he managed to have, even if that meant he had to get married on a side street. It didn’t matter by the time we got married though as we were both in our early-mid 30s, fairly financially stable, and could take on the cost ourselves. Both of our parents did contribute, but we didn’t ask and certainly didn’t expect them to.

    Plus DH did most of the wedding planning (I’m not kidding. He’s kind of a control freak.), so all I had to do was show up and get drunk. Score!

    I don’t think it’s wrong for parents to contribute nor do I think it’s wrong for them not to. However, I would say that money often comes with strings, so beware.

    • CW

      Yeah, I didn’t even know half the guests that my parents invited (they were my dad’s business colleagues). We’d already been married for 18 months at that point (had a quickie civil ceremony with just us and one of DH’s Army buddies & his girlfriend as witnesses). My parents insisted on throwing us a big sit-down reception and since they were footing the bill, they got to do things their way. This is when it would’ve been REALLY handy to have had an older sister rather than being the only daughter.

  • Gina

    Ugh. This still infuriates me when I think back to our wedding. My now-husband and I saved up a decent amount, and my parents kindly paid for the rest. But his parents didn’t. even. offer. Mind you, my parents have 5 kids to his parents’ 1, but they felt no compulsion to even pitch in.

    I don’t feel it is either set of parents’ obligation to pay for a wedding. If we had been paying for it ourselves, it would have been cake and ice cream on the lake for 20 people (which, actually sounds kind of awesome). But the fact that his parents handed us a long list of people they expected to be invited and thought they had a voice in the planning process, all while assuming MY parents would pay for the whole thing, blew my mind.

    Ok, my eye’s twitching. Must stop typing.

    • whiteroses

      Yeah, that’s unfair. If you don’t contribute money, you don’t really get a voice in the proceedings, imo.

    • Paul White

      and that’s when you can tell them to take a hike.

    • Raquel

      my eye is twitching in sympathy! your husband is their only child and they didn’t even offer?

    • Rowan

      My parents paid for my wedding and my ex-in-laws didn’t contribute a bean. Despite that, it was the MiL who wanted to invite the gazillion distant relatives and organise the seating plan. At the end of the evening, she went into the kitchen, rounded up all of the wine my dad had got sale or return and handed it out among her family. Then she told them all to help themselves to flower arrangements – one of them made off with my bridesmaid’s bouquet. Classy bunch.

    • Patty Lynn Bugger-Partida

      i totally agree with you!i have a dtr getting married in a couple years…im willing to pay half and feel grooms parents should pay the other half….no ones poor except the couple lolol…..

  • CrazyFor Kate

    I know a lot of families pay for part of the wedding in lieu of a gift (say, the flowers), or offering a service they’re good at free, and I would be fine with that – IF it was their suggestion. Letting my parents foot the entire bill? No way! It’s a pride thing.

  • WriterLady

    I come from an upper middle-class family. My husband comes from a very working class family. Honestly, that is really here nor there. My dad would have shelled out $35K for our wedding if I really wanted such a spectacle, but I actually find those types of weddings to be obnoxious. The thought of 250 people staring at me walking down the aisle, eating in front of them at the reception, dancing, etc. seems really odd, for some reason–plus it makes me anxious (everything makes me anxious!!!). Also, I think it’s just silly. So, instead of going for a moderate, cheaper wedding (perhaps outdoors, with fewer guests), my husband and I announced one month prior that we would be getting married at the courthouse, and only immediate family would be attending. Important note: We already had a 3-year-old at the point and are in our 30s, so we did things bass-ackwards. Maybe if I had been 25 and child-free, my opinions would have somewhat different. I still know that I wouldn’t have wanted a fairytale wedding.
    Now, my brother, on the other hand, got married about a year before me, at an extremely lavish wedding in Chicago (where his wife is from). It was held at a place called the Beverly Country Club, for goodness sakes, and my God was it outrageous. My parents spent about $8K alone on the rehearsal dinner and drinks–mind you, I’m talking about drinks just at the rehearsal dinner and a little after-dinner bar thing with the bridal party and immediate family. The bride’s parents….holy shit! I would imagine they shelled out around $45-50K altogether. I know for a fact that photographer was over $4K. My parents ended up giving them an unknown sum to help even out the costs, but the girls’ parents still bore the brunt of the cost.
    I will say that I did accept a rather nice monetary wedding gift from my parents—the same amount as my brother and his wife received. I wasn’t *expecting* anything at all, but I figure that a.) they have the means, and b.) since it was a gift of money, our family could put it to good use.

    • meteor_echo

      Hahah, I’m 26 and vehemently childfree, and I think that courthouse weddings are the way to go. Bridal gowns give me fashion anxiety, and I’m NOT inviting a fuckton of people I don’t even know to an event that’s actually about me and my SO.

    • WriterLady

      Yep, I completely agree. I did think that my brother’s wedding was lovely, and since they wanted it, I was happy for them. However, even being present at–and involved–in their wedding gave me anxiety, let alone my own! My SIL is extremely outgoing and really wanted a super-nice wedding, so it worked for her. But after being a part of that shindig, it sealed the deal for me that I did not want anything fancy at all. Our little civil service wedding was perfect for us, and I don’t regret it for a second. As for the dress, I wore a short, simple off-white dress purchased from Macy’s. I loved it, and it can be worn again to other functions. :)

    • meteor_echo

      I think I’ll get me a gothic lolita dress or something similar. They’re pretty, don’t cost too much unless you’re buying an expensive brandname dress, and look good on me (dresses almost never do). Or something sorta kinda medieval with a corset.

    • WriterLady

      Very cool! I bought mine on the actual day of the wedding…that’s how unprepared I was. Perhaps that was a little extreme, but I really lucked out on finding that particular dress. I rarely wear dresses, so I was surprised to find something that wasn’t either too princess-like or matronly. But I love your idea…very unique and sounds lovely!

  • Angela

    I don’t think it should be a given that parents foot the bill and there’s definitely some truth to the idea that if you can’t pay for a wedding (or scale things down to something within your means) then you’re probably not mature enough for a wedding. I do think it’s a nice gesture if the parents do want to contribute, and they definitely need to pitch in if they want something fancier than what the couple is planning or want to add to the guest list (and even then only if the couple’s ok with it).

    I do think, however, that parents need to be fair and not use money or gifts as a means to control and manipulate their adult children. If you’re thinking of your money as leverage then it’s better not to give at all.

    • WriterLady

      That is another reason why I didn’t want a big, fancy wedding–or, as is went, much of anything at all. My father—whom I love and adore—is a financial control freak. His anxious-obsessiveness (not sure that’s the way to phrase it) regarding money and other things has been passed down to me, apparently. And while he monitors his various CDs, stocks, and accounts like a hawk, he kind of likes to show off a bit. He is a paradox of miserliness and exhibitionism. We have a couple extended family members who are legitimately ultra-wealthy (his oldest nephew is the CEO of a major insurance company), and when his children got married, my dad couldn’t stop talking about the their decadent affairs. When I decided not to have a *real* wedding (in his eyes), he seemed embarrassed and offended–even though I know, deep down, he was most certainly grateful not to have to spend a bunch of money. So, in essence, while he has been very generous over the years (particularly during the college years), there was always an expectation that, along with any monetary assistance/gift, he was to become more and more involved in my financial affairs. I don’t like that; it was fine as a college kid…it’s not okay as an older adult who is independent. I don’t want to tell him that I have medical debt, and I get seriously annoyed when he asks if I’ve paid off grad school yet, because it’s always stated in a condescending tone. Anyhoo, love the man to death, but he, I, and money issues do not mix well. Oh, and politics. Definitely politics. The man still has a John Boehner yard sign well displayed in his garage, which makes me want to projectile vomit each time I see it. :)

    • moonie27

      My parents have made it pretty clear that they’ll fork over for my wedding. But knowing them, if I got married, they’d just fork over the money and let me spend it as I wish on wedding stuff. They’re kinda awesome like that.

  • waffre

    I’m with you, I don’t think this is a “must” etiquette-wise anymore. I didn’t expect my parents to pay for the wedding at all, but then my dad was like, “Let me know when you need to buy stuff for the wedding” and I said, “Wait, you’re paying for my wedding?” and his reply was, “….Yeah, of course!” It was kind of surprising because my parents aren’t traditional /at all/ and I kind of thought that wasn’t really a thing anymore if both marriage partners were financially independent.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Nice surprise!

  • Ally

    I think it tends to depend on age, or where you grew up? I’m not sure. But, my parents paid for my wedding (around 15k to 20k I think- i’m very grateful) and my husband’s parents paid for the rehearsal dinner and most of our honeymoon. And all my friends who have been married recently had something similar. I got married at 22, and I’m now 26. By the time we’re in our 30′s and getting married maybe that will change, but i’m not sure. I love reading everyone’s experiences, etc. So much variety : )

  • Jallun-Keatres

    My wedding was awesome. I didn’t buy a wedding dress- just a nice dress I found at ross for about $60. Hair in a ponytail like normal and no makeup because I don’t wear any. No bridesmaids or any of that stuff, no flowers, no people getting specific dresses. No cost for the venue. We didn’t want to have a reception but my husband’s huge family thought we needed one so they camped out at a local park and church families brought food, snacks, cake, and flowers. A church-appointed historian took pics with a nice camera and we just had pics taken with various cameras. We didn’t bother with professional photos.

    It was awesome, although by then all I cared about was getting boned (we waited until marriage to get it on hahaha) and getting closer to baby time! I did hold a little reception a week later for my side of the extended family at a fancy restaurant but my parents were planning on paying for it (my dad’s dad decided to pick up that bill since he couldn’t come [nor did I really want him to anyway, but I am grateful!]) and that was by far the most expensive part of the whole thing.

    Even our honeymoon didn’t cost much. My grandma owns a beach house on the Oregon coast that she let us use for a week without having to pay rent and we just drove out there with my car and spent most of our time getting it on or hanging out in the touristy areas. We’re not picky. haha

    It was this frugality that caused my parents to justify selling us their house for about $50k behind what it appraised for. So yeah, we’re 24/25 and live in a 4 bedroom house. We’ve got to grow into it!

    • Bethany Ramos

      That sounds so fun! And yay for boning! ;)

  • lizinthelibrary

    In someways my family is traditional, in others not. At my sister’s wedding, they actually followed the who pays for what etiquette book stuff to the letter. But my sister and her husband were poor college students. My husband and I had some more money of our own and we paid for a good chunk of it. My parents paid for the bulk of it. His parents paid for a lot too (including alcohol, rehearsal, and brunch the day after). Of course rehearsal dinner and brunch the day after was at my in-law’s lovely home which was perfect.

  • lpag

    A lot of this is cultural. I’m an Orthodox Jew, and the parents pay even if you’re a 47 year old CEO (and in the more common case, where the couple is in the 19-22 range, the parents generally contribute to living expenses in the beginning to help the couple get on their feet). The wedding is really the parents’ event: their chance to show off that they have successfully raised the child. People save for marrying off their children the way you might save for college. Parents expect to help out their kids when they are raising young families, and then the kids are expected to help out their parents when they age. It seems crazy to those who are used to the American concept that you are on your own and self-sufficient when the clock strikes 12 on your 18th birthday, but this is how we do things, and it works well for us. We are not the only ones either- this is quite common in many Eastern cultures. The American way has its advantages, to be sure, but there are other ways out there. I am happy to explain at another time.

    • moonie27

      Very few Americans expect their children to be self-sufficient at 18. Most expect their kids to start getting their sh*t together at that age, but a lot of parents will help out as necessary well into their kids 20s.

  • Kara

    Our wedding was simple and beautiful, we were married by a young air force chaplain, at Lovers Point in Pacific Grove CA. It was breezy and sunny, a gorgeous day! The only people there were my husband’s classmates and thats it. The day would of been perfect except at dinner that night his friends confided in me (when my husband went to the bathroom) that the girl that was there at the wedding taking photos for us told them during the ceremony that he should dump me and marry her instead. We eventually did get our wedding photos and we never saw her again :) 10 years and 3 children (with one on the way) and we are still very much in love.

  • C.J.

    We got married in 2001. My parents paid for meal and alcohol at the reception, limo and wedding shower. My husband’s brother paid for the wine that was on the tables and wine as favours for each guest to take home. My mother and father in law gave us a cash gift. We had about 100 guests. The only thing my mother asked is that she be able to choose the menu. If I wanted to pick the menu she would have been fine with it, since she is a chef I was more than happy to let her do that.

  • SunnyD847

    My mom gave me a set amount that she would contribute (very modest) and my dad matched it. My husband and I paid everything above that. We kept the budget in check and still had a great wedding. I can’t imagine asking my parents to take on debt or dip into their savings just for a party. If you can’t afford it, go to city hall! You’ll still be married which is the important thing.

    BTW- I never understand people who won’t get married until they can have the “perfect” day because of money, weight, etc. Isn’t marrying the person you love perfect enough?

    • EmmaFromÉire

      That’s kind of condescending. It’s a big day, it’s well within reason for someone to want it to be perfect for them. Everyone’s definition of perfect is different, and some people have dreamed of having a lovely wedding because they might not ever have had any party to themselves, or may never have the chance to have something big to themselves again. Some people think perfect is eloping, some people want a quiet and informal civil ceremony.

      I’m waiting. I’m waiting until I have the money, because I have an absolutely enormous family and I want them all there, so that’ll cost me a lot of money but I don’t care, because I want to share my day with all of them because even though were a huge family, we’re all close. Himself also wants his huge family there. So sorry if waiting until we can save for that isn’t perfect enough in your eyes. I’m spending the rest of my life with someone, too fucking right I want to wait and have a big party about it.

    • Katherine Handcock

      Waiting because you want to have everyone there, though, I think is different from waiting because “If I can’t buy the $15,000 designer dress my day is RUINED!” There seems to be a lot of pressure in wedding planning now for the wedding day to be enormous, extravagant, and expensive just because that’s how it’s done.

      Good example: when my sister-in-law was planning her wedding, she got a little crazy at one point. The moment that snapped her back to reality? Telling her mom, “It’s not a REAL wedding if it doesn’t have a DJ!” – whereupon my mother-in-law pointed out that neither her wedding, nor my wedding, had DJs, and they were both plenty real!

      I think it’s wonderful that you want to have your whole family there, but you also don’t sound like you would delay the wedding forever in order to accomplish that.

  • Name

    I’m getting married this year! My dad has very generously offered to pay for half of the wedding. My fiance and I will be paying for the other half. My dad even offered to throw us a small rehearsal appetizer/drink party since we were just going to skip it entirely.
    My fiance’s parents (who are very comfortable finance-wise) have made no mention of anything whatsoever. This comes as absolutely no surprise to us…

    • Patty Lynn Bugger-Partida

      shame on them!

  • Williwaw

    My husband and I got married on a weekday, after work, in a friend’s apartment overlooking the park. The cost of the marriage licence, official’s fee, and bottle of wine we gave the friends who witnessed it totaled about $250. I wore a dress that was already in my closet. It was lovely. We called our parents the next day and informed them we had gotten married (we were already living together). Everyone thought it was hilarious (two of my brothers had already had huge weddings). I would hate wasting a ton of money on a big party, and I don’t like planning social events, anyway. Someday we might renew our vows in a drive-through wedding or zombie wedding in Vegas, but I’m happy with what we did. Even if my parents had offered us money for a big wedding, I’d have turned it down.

  • CMP414

    Both sets of parents paid for our wedding 7 years ago when we were both pretty young. That being said, neither set of parents went crazy on spending. We stuck to a reasonable budget and had a nice but not over the top wedding. I remember calling one venue whose prices started at $75 a head and did not even book an appointment to see the place because I knew my dad (who was paying for the reception part) would think the price too high. I hope I can help pay for some of my kids’ wedding one day but they will have to keep the budget in check or pick up the rest of the tab themselves.

  • Rachel Sea

    Both my parents and my MIL gave us a few hundred dollars towards the wedding, and my MIL made all the dresses, but we paid the rest on our own. It never occured to me that either of our parents would be on the hook for it.

    A big white wedding was important to us because we wanted every single guest to recognize the event as a normal wedding, not a gay-wedding, or a commitment ceremony or whatever. It was not easy, big weddings are not cheap, but we scrimped hard for a year, made some very good deals, and made it happen.

  • Valerie

    My parents paid for our big traditional wedding. Looking back, I sort of wish we had done something smaller and more intimate and I feel guilty at how much my parents spent. But it was 8 years ago and my mom still literally lights up when my wedding comes up in conversation. I feel like it was for her and my dad as much as it was for me and my husband. I’m the only daughter in my traditional Italian family and I know my wedding meant a lot to them. I’m very grateful they paid for it but if we were to do it now, we would invite half as many people and make it all way more low-key. I don’t think I even came close to talking to all of our guests at the reception and I still feel bad about that now.

    • Bethany Ramos

      One of my reservations about a bigger wedding (besides the CASH MONEY) was not being able to talk to everyone! I have a bit of extroverted social anxiety. :)

    • Valerie

      So much this!! It is an unspoken tenet of our marriage that my husband will do most of the talking in situations where I need time to warm up. Lol. Our wedding was def one of them. He talked to a lot of my parents friends that I hardly knew while I chatted with my bridesmaids and had a drink. I’m very outgoing once I’m comfortable but before then, I prefer to observe quietly. He is so understanding if my quirks. #blessed

    • Guest

      My mother is the same way – even though we ended up getting married just the two of us far away we had the big reception for everyone and I think my parents were really proud.

  • effingplates

    My husband and I paid for our wedding. We didn’t have much and honestly did not care to spend anything on it, so it was in the (admittedly beautiful around Christmas when we did it) San Francisco courthouse. My MIL and DIL did pay for a weeklong honeymoon in San Diego and I am still grateful years later.

  • Alicia Kiner

    My in laws paid for my husband and I to get married because we had two kids under two and just didn’t have spare money. We didn’t have a wedding but they bought my wedding band, my dress, paid for the license and the court fee. Then they took us out to dinner.

  • Athena A

    In Belgium, where I live, the traditions are a little different. Nowadays, as in the past, it is very common for the parents of both bride and groom to share the costs of the reception. Other costs are generally paid by the couple themselves. Also common is for parents to have saved up a sum for their son or daughter, which they will then give to spend as they wish on the wedding.
    I should also say that here we don’t have rehearsal dinners here (I don’t really see the point of it, besides spending even more money). Engagement parties and announcements are also not really done here. People might go out to celebrate, but actually having a party with lots of invitees and sending out cards to inform people of said engagement, nah, money down the drain in my opinion.

  • Athena A

    In Belgium, where I live, the traditions are a little different. Nowadays, as in the past, it is very common for the parents of both bride and groom to share the costs of the reception. Other costs are generally paid by the couple themselves. Also common is for parents to have saved up a sum for their son or daughter, which they will then give to spend as they wish on the wedding.
    I should also say that here we don’t have rehearsal dinners here (I don’t really see the point of it, besides spending even more money). Engagement parties and announcements are also not really done here. People might go out to celebrate, but actually having a party with lots of invitees and sending out cards to inform people of said engagement, nah, money down the drain in my opinion.

  • Kendra

    My parents did pay for my wedding, essentially, and my MIL paid for the rehearsal dinner. I paid for my dress and my veil, some bridesmaid expenses, and some various small decoration expenses. I want to close this comment (before everyone thinks I’m a spoiled snob) by just commenting that my entire wedding was less than $5,000.

  • Maggie May

    My dads paid for my dress, engagement party, invitations and 3/4 of the venue. I didn’t ask them to, or expect them to. Three weeks after my husband proposed they handed me a check, told me if I didn’t deposit it into the wedding savings account they would and then went back to playing Mario Kart with my daughter. I cried.

  • PrairieCoast

    We got married young–age 22 and 23. Our parents offered to split the bill. My parents paid for the dress and my husband and I paid for the photographer. The total cost minus the dress and photographer was around $8000, so it was nothing crazy. We grew up in the tradition of NO co-habitation or sex before marriage, hence the young age of getting hitched. I think that also contributed to willingness of our parents to foot the bill–it was the only way to keep us from living in sin :-) If we got married now (age 30), I think we would pay for the whole thing, but our parents would probably still offer to help.

  • Cristina

    When my parents got married (back in 1989), they had to have a large wedding (all four of my grandparents wouldn’t hear of anything otherwise, as both come from large Italian families). While my parents helped pay for their own wedding, all four of my grandparents agreed that my dad and his parents would pay for his family and whatever friends they invited from his side (approx. half the wedding, engagement party, etc.) and my mom and her parents would pay for her family (the other half). While I intend on helping pay for my own wedding as much as I can, it’s kind of out of the question to have a small one or a destination wedding (family politics), so I feel like if you have to go a bit bigger and the parents want to help out (like mine intend to), that’s kind of the only fair way to do it is to split all the expenses. Other things, such as my mom’s dress, was paid for by other family members and was their wedding gift to my mother (such as her two aunts split paying for her dress because she was the only girl and they didn’t have any children) or something along those lines.

  • evilstepmom

    We paid for our own and had a wedding that fit our budget… sort of. We had a number of “extras” but only because I have absolutely amazing family and friends who kept volunteering to do stuff! Music, DJs, rehearsal dinner… all friends and family! <3

  • Guest

    I figured my parents would help out when the time came (they’re not rich but any help is appreciated, especially since I was 1st to get married) and hoped my inlaws would. I was optimistic when my husband told me that his parents footed the bill for all 3 of his siblings 1st weddings (all 3 got divorced asap). They also put money towards the oldest 2′s second marriages. They ended up giving us $1500 which was helpful but knowing they paid more for his bitchy little sister’s photographer than our entire shindig grated on both of us. Also having my middle class parents fork over more than his wealthy parents was irritating. This is why I think if you’re going to contribute to your kid’s weddings you should make it known what you’ll help with or an amount and make it across the board for all of your kids. It just pisses me off that my husband, the responsible one, got jipped while his stupid siblings wasted away much more money on weddings that didn’t make it past a year. I intend to have wedding funds for all my kids to chip in a bit (I don’t agree with paying for the whole thing unless you’ve just got money burning a hole in your pocket).

  • Guest

    The extremes I’ve seen around here for weddings are insane. I’ve known people who did the courthouse route and one friend’s parents paid for everything and gave them a gift of a 20% downpayment on their house :-O
    I intend to help my kids out but not pay for everything under the sun.

  • jsterling93

    My husband and I paid for our wedding ourselves. We were over 30 with careers and frankly more income than our parents had ever had. My mother bought my wedding dress because she insisted. Otherwise we did it all. However it did cause some drama. His side of the family tried to dictate the ceremony. They are a very different faith than we are and felt we should “respect” their faith by doing things their way. Nope not happening. My mother tried to invite a bunch of people I had never met because they were her friends and she wanted to so off her daughter and all. Nope family only. I wasn’t paying for a bunch of strangers to come to my wedding.

    If family wants the ability to invite people or dictate some big aspect of the wedding they need to foot the bill.

    • darras

      UGH! I hate that some people think it’s their right to interfere with somebody’s wedding plans! The wedding day is about the bride and the groom, not about everyone else and their mothers. geeze.. poor you having to deal with that! All I had to deal with was a cousin on my husband’s side getting pissy about not having had an invite (despite me not having been able to invite all of my SIBLINGS..). I came down relatively heavy on that one so I like to think nobody else had the guts to risk it ;)

  • SA

    My parents said they would help (it was very important to my mom for me to have a wedding and not elope). I asked them to give me an honest $ amount of what they felt comfortable with that way I would know when looking at things not to get excited over a $1k dress in front of them and them feel like they wanted to end up doing more. They gave me a very modest number and my husband and I paid for everything over top of that. We had a very inexpensive wedding – did it during the day, my dress cost $100, had a buffet style casual lunch catered, made an iPod play list and didn’t serve alcohol (for a few reasons). #1 Set of inlaws did rehearsal dinner and #2 set of inlaws paid for the bulk of the honeymoon.

    I hope to be able to do the same for my daughter as well. But I will give her an exact figure that we can afford and anything over that she’ll have to do on her own.

  • darras

    I wouldn’t have let my parents pay for it even if they’d offered. They don’t have all that money and I am child number 7 of 8 so I think it’d be unreasonable.. My husband and I saved for 2.5 years so we could afford the wedding that we wanted, it was awesome and I still feel pride that we did it on our own. I don’t judge those whose parents helped out or paid for their weddings though, not if the parents wanted to do it instead of having the expectation that they would.
    Having said that I hope to instill enough financial wisdom into my child that he will also want to do it off his own back.

  • Lackadaisical

    I think the difference is that traditional weddings paid for by parents usually accompanied traditional brides and grooms who were still living with their parents (the bride at least). As a modern woman I had already left home and was living with my now husband when we got engaged, so it was natural that we pay for it all like a modern couple. When you live with the person you are marrying getting your parents to pay not only seems not quite right but it also reduces a grown and independent person to child who needs a parent to care for them. I really, really didn’t want to give my parents an excuse to feel like they owned my wedding (and me in the run up to the wedding) and treat me like a kid again having left home years before. Had I been living with my parents still and desperately saving for the things needed to start a new life with my future husband in a home that neither of us had lived in before than some help from parents would have been appreciated but that happens a lot less these days.