Is The Bride's Family Really Supposed To Foot The Wedding Bill?

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Dear Alimay,

I'm getting married next year, but before my fiancé and I dive into wedding planning, I have to know — what's the protocol for paying for it? Is my family supposed to cover the whole thing? That seems so old-school. Plus, his family is a bit more well-off than mine, so it would be nice to have them contribute too. Is it rude to ask? What if we want to pay for part of it ourselves? I don't even know how to start thinking about it. Please help!

Partially Bankrolled Bride 
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Dear Partially Bankrolled Bride,

We totally get your confusion — whenever money's involved, things can get complicated. Luckily, there are as many different ways to divvy up wedding fund sources as there are weddings — each situation is different, unique to the marrying couple and their families.Traditionally, it's been up to the bride's family to cover costs of the wedding ceremony and reception. 

Of course, this "tradition" stems from the centuries-old practice of a bride's parents providing a dowry to her betrothed. But, today of course, we're not necessarily talking about a co-ed bride and a groom. There may be two brides or two grooms. 

Since we live in a very different time, the assumption that the "bride's" family pays for everything doesn't hold true. In this day and age, it often comes down to who can pay for it — and who wants to. If a couple and their families want to go the traditional route, the parents of one party can cover the ceremony and reception, from the venue and floral fees to the catering and bar costs; then, depending on the couple, the other set of parents can host the rehearsal dinner, the post-wedding brunch, and any other incidentals.

But, anything can happen. It's certainly not unusual for the couple's families to split the costs evenly, for the bride's family to fund everything, or, even, for the groom's family to pay for the whole shebang if they are better able and willing. These days many couples also contribute themselves. You may add money to what your parents provide in order to have the wedding you truly want, or you may pay for things you don't want your families to be responsible for, like the after party. 

Oftentimes, people who get married later in life, or who are more established when they walk down the aisle, pay for the wedding and reception themselves. It truly is situational.

But, no matter who ends up paying for the wedding, it should definitely be discussed before planning gets underway. Money can be a sensitive topic. You and your fiancé should first talk about what kind of wedding you want. Then each of you should talk to your families individually to find out what kind of wedding they envision and feel comfortable contributing to. It's important that everyone be open and honest about their goals for the day. 

Families may want very different things — perhaps one side is dreaming of a blowout party while the other prefers an intimate affair — so both should be respectful of the others' wants, and take them into consideration when dollars are discussed. If everyone is clear about their expectations, it doesn't matter who pays for what, as long as each party is comfortable with what's decided.
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