Why Are The Bride's Parents Still Paying For Most Of The Wedding?

Photo: Getty Images.
While many aspects of weddings have become less traditional and cookie-cutter over the years, one convention stubbornly remains: In heterosexual unions, the bride's parents are still writing the majority of the checks. Is this because the parents of females are somehow magically wealthier? Of course not. It's because many years ago, before women could own property, they were "given away" into marriage with a dowry, which was essentially a way to pay the groom's family for taking their daughter off their hands.
This tradition needs to die a quick death. But according to a new report from WeddingWire.com, the parents of the bride are still paying for the bulk of weddings — which, we don't think we need to tell you, is a lot of money. The survey, Brides reports, questioned 506 sets of parents whose children had recently tied the knot. It found that in total, the parents of the bride and groom contribute an average of $19,000 to a wedding, which is about two-thirds of the total cost. The couple usually covers the rest.
But there's a big discrepancy here: The bride's parents give about $12,000 (43% of the bill) and the groom's $7,000 (24%). So, the bride's family pays about twice the amount. Traditionally, the bride's family is expected to pay for the venue and the reception, which usually ends up being over half of the total bill. With the average U.S. wedding costing about about $35,329, according to a survey from The Knot, it's no wonder that 10% of families end up spending retirement money to pay for their children's weddings. (Educated guess: Most of them are families of brides.) Additionally, one-third of parents say they spent more on their kids' wedding than they had planned. About a quarter said they started saving in advance.
Wedding-related finances, with all the class anxiety they can evoke, are tough enough without archaic gender roles leading the decisions. So — no matter where their parents stand on the traditions — it's important for couples to sit down and discuss the budget early on in the wedding-planning process, and be as specific as possible.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series