Who Should Pay For The Wedding? A Logical Guide To Lavish Spending

Winter Valentine's by Colleen Kong-Savage
A Wintery Valentine's by Kongaline.com

Do you know what's crazy? Spending $25,000 – $30,000 on the average cost of a wedding in America if you make a median household income of $52,000. What's worse is going into debt to get married, especially since there's a 50% chance it won't last!

In many Asian countries, the parents of the bride foot the entire wedding bill because of the now backwards idea that the husband is “relieving” the parents of the financial costs of caring for their daughter. I can hear many Westerns scoffing at this way of thinking, but before the 1970s it was rare to have dual income households in America. One of my neighbors is a 30-something year old woman who still lives with her 55+ year old Chinese mother. Living with your parents until marriage is quite commonplace for many Asian and Hispanic cultures.

The one thing many Asian weddings have that Western weddings don't have is the ability to make money during your wedding. I went to my friend's wedding in Taipei and he actually made about $100,000 from his 50 table, 400 person wedding. The Chinese have a culture of giving monetary gifts in the form of red envelopes during weddings and Lunar New Year. If you are a business associate invited to the wedding, you better give at least $500-$1,000 or else you might not have much business left for the year!

In many Western countries, the parents of the groom pay for all wedding expenses. The thought process is that the groom's parents are honored to have such a wonderful woman be their son's life partner to love and care for him through sickness, health, wealth, and poverty. I like this thought process a lot, but as a son of middle class parents who went to a cheap public school, I would feel bad for my parents to pay. But as noted with the many commenters in this post, in America, there's also a strong tradition of the parents of the bride to pay.

Finally, there's a growing trend for many lovebirds to pay for the large majority of their wedding cost themselves. Out of the past five weddings I've attended, all five were predominantly paid for by the bride and groom. I've asked other 25-40 year olds and they've said the same thing. Perhaps parents might pay for the venue, or the flowers, but certainly not everything.

One of the main reasons why more wedding costs are born on the bride and groom is because they want their wedding to be a certain way. We're much more picky and elaborate nowadays it seems. And if your parents are paying for everything, they may put a lot of pressure on you to do things their way instead of yours. This may affect the guest list, the location, the vendors, and more.


Given it's the year 2015, all men and women are more or less equal. The gender wage gap for work performed is hardly noticeable now, and there are plenty of female breadwinners as more and more men figure out ways to convince their wives to work longer in order to be stay at home dads or live a life of leisure.

So many men I've talked to between the ages of 25-45 are extremely excited to have the opportunity to do other things with their lives besides working at a job they dislike in order to support a family. It's been a great blessing for more women to bring home more of the bacon!

Let's just focus on financials for determining who pays for the wedding given gender discussions can get touchy.

There are two parts to the Wedding Payment Rule:

1) Spend no more than 10% of your combined gross income on the total cost of your wedding. For example, the median household income in America is roughly $51,000. Therefore, spend no more than $5,100 on your wedding if you're a median household income earner. According to CostOfWedding.com, the average wedding in the United States costs between $25,000 and $30,000. In other words, most Americans are paying way too much. This does not include the cost for a honeymoon either. Spending more than 50% of your annual gross income on a wedding that lasts less than 24 hours is absurd, don't you think?

The whole idea of the 10% of gross income rule is to keep your emotions from getting the best of you financially. When you are in the heat of passion, lust, and love, it's easy to spend way beyond your normal budget. You want everything to be perfect. Then things cool off and you're stuck with a massive credit card bill.

2) Split the costs of the wedding proportionate to the incomes of the newlyweds. Once you've calculated your combined gross annual income and set your wedding budget equal to 1/10th of your annual gross income, simply split the cost proportionate to your income split. For example, let's say your combined income is $100,000 ($40,000 for him, $60,000 for her). The bride would pay $6,000, and the husband would pay $4,000. It's impossible to argue when equality is deployed because you guys are a team!

Given you want to start your marriage on the right foot, splitting costs between the two of you based on income cuts out all the problems that tend to come up when family is involved. It's your wedding, so you should pay for it. Your parents are also protected from further financial burden and the awkwardness that comes with discussing money with family.

Of course if your parents want to gift you money on the side, buy you a house, or buy you a car, then great. But once you start accepting money from one set of parents, then you are pretty much obligated to their desires.


The only potential problem with my 10% Wedding Payment Rule is when one spouse wants to have a mega wedding, and the other spouse wants something more low key. If the spouse who wants a huge wedding makes less, then conflict will occur. This situation may be a huge red flag if the spouse who wants a big wedding isn't willing to pay more, or at least his or her share. It's called being greedy.

It's important to align desires with responsibility. The reason why we get into mega-debt is due to entitlement and lifestyle inflation. Do not get into debt to pay for your amazing wedding. Figure out a way to make your wedding fit your budget.


1) Get married at City Hall (Kerry from SITC did it)

2) Get married at a public park, on the beach, in your home, at your friend's or relative's home, or at your favorite restaurant.

3) Request all your friends be your wedding photographers instead of an expensive professional crew. Cameras and smartphones have such great lenses nowadays, and you can just have your friends snap away at all angles. Even if just 5% of 2,000 pictures taken by 20 people are amazing, you'll have at least 100 free and amazing wedding pictures.

4) Hold an immediate family and close friends wedding only. Discriminate against nobody by discriminating against everybody with the invites.

5) Don't get married during peak wedding season (April, May, June, July, August). Fall has amazing weather. Shoot for September and October instead.

6) Have a friend be the DJ using his or her laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Surely you or one of your friends has a portable Bluetooth speaker you could use too.

7) Reserve flowers only for those in the wedding party. No need for beautiful bouquets of flowers at every table.

8) Follow my 10% Wedding Payment rule. Once you do the calculations, you'll most likely want to spend less money, not more. The way the wedding industry gets your money is by playing on your emotions. Be careful about getting taken advantage of during your joyous occasion.

9) Read The Average Net Worth For The Above Average Couple, to get you motivated to build wealth together. This post provides a framework of how to view wealth as a team.


We should be responsible for paying for our own weddings, like we are responsible for our own finances once we become adults. The money we don't spend can be used for more longer term things like buying a house, saving for retirement, or saving for our child's education.

The true value of marriage is being able to come home to someone you love everyday for the rest of your life.

Who should pay for the wedding?

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How much did your wedding cost? (Include all costs born by you, spouse, and family)

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Update: From the comments left in this post, it is obvious that there is NO one traditional standard on who pays for the wedding! The decision has become murky from the old ways of 50-100 years ago. I like the polls above, because it demonstrates the modern method: the people getting married split the bill. 

Related posts:

The New Rule For Engagement Ring Buying 

How To Get A Rich Man To Be Your Husband Or Boyfriend

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99 thoughts on “Who Should Pay For The Wedding? A Logical Guide To Lavish Spending”

  1. I was told that in America, the Bride’s parents would pay. But it really varies on a case by case level. I feel given the rising costs of wedding whoever can afford the bill should pay or at least split it accordingly. I recently went to a wedding where the parents of the groom paid. Although the wedding was small and probably not super costly, it was beyond my comprehension that a grown man did not pay for his own wedding. Putting such financial burden on the parents is really a disgrace. Then in another case, this girl is getting married and wanted a huge wedding that would probably will cost around $80 – 100K. Her parents will pay since it’s the ‘western tradition’. The parents are not rich and it hard for me to see them struggle financially and use the retirement funds to pay for one evening just to make the daughter happy. It’s really a foolish and sad situation.

  2. A little history on the Chinese customs (as far as I know):

    In olden times, the groom’s family provides the bride price to the bride’s family, while the bride’s family is obliged to provide a dowry for the bride. Traditionally, this can take the form of furniture (to be used by the couple in their new home), property, vehicles, jewellery, cash etc. The bride price is paid to the bride’s family while the bride retains ownership of her dowry. It is up to bride whether she shares her dowry with her in-laws after marriage (she usually does unless she wants a bad reputation). Upon her death, her remaining dowry is inherited by her children (step children, and her husband’s children by other wives are not entitled). If she is childless, her dowry reverts to her male relatives (brothers, nephews etc). Dowries and bride prices are usually negotiated to be more or less equitable, hence the emphasis on marrying within the same social class.

    For modern times, the traditional custom is followed more or less closely depending on where you are. Among Singapore/Malaysia Chinese, the bride price/dowry is mostly token in nature. Some families have chosen to do away with it. For others…well, my cousin’s wife came with property, new cars and gold bars as her dowry!

    For the wedding reception, I believe the bride’s family typically pays for them here. But they also get to keep the red packets (cash gifts) from the guests. Typically, the groom’s family may negotiate a number of tables to be reserved for them but still paid by the bride’s side (eg. 5 out of 30 tables) and the groom’s family gets to keep the red packets for these tables (pure profit, hehe). Wedding guests are expected to at least cover their plates with their red packets (current rate going at $100 to $120 for hotel receptions) while for relatives of the couple, the expectation can be higher. We recently gave a $1000 gift for three people attending. Couples and their parents typically do not make money on the wedding (after factoring in the costs of stuff like gown rental, photography etc). At best they hope to break even.

    Of course the biggest losers are the singles like myself! Since I don’t intend to get married, I’ll never get any of the red packets back! I estimate that among friends and families, my parents and I have spent upwards of $20K at the minimum on wedding gifts and will never see a cent back!

  3. I got married last summer and our wedding was about 20-21K for 150 guests. I wrote down every last penny on a spreadsheet and have given it to friends to help plan their weddings. Our total wedding cost about 16% of our gross income, and this just about killed me! It helped that both sets of parents chipped in quite a bit (although we never asked for or expected any help), and we only paid for a substantial fraction of the total cost.

    I am super frugal-will never pay full price for anything, wear clothes from neighborhood garage sales (designer clothing of course! but at $2 a piece), will not pay more than $10 for a piece of furniture and never owned a vehicle until my husband’s became half mine when we married.

    But I still think that this one splurge was worth it. We couldn’t do very much ourselves because we wanted our wedding to be in our hometown (where the majority of friends and family live), and we live a plane ride away. We are from different parts of the country so some guests were spending lots of money to attend. I couldn’t justify throwing together a backyard BBQ or renting out a club and have a chip truck roll up. We ended up going the more expensive route, but it was a good option for us given our circumstances and was definitely worth it! It was a first and hopefully only wedding for both of us, and we’re glad we were able to have a gigantic celebration!

    The thing I worry about is couples that continue to spend in a frivolous manner once the wedding bells stop ringing. It’s easy to justify buying the newest iPhone for a few hundred when you just spent the same on flowers that died the next day. Luckily, we didn’t fall into this way of thinking and quickly went back to being super savers!

    1. Take hear knowing your wedding came in below the US average :) $135 a person seems reasonable. Many 150 person weddings in SF cost around $70,000-$100,000, which doesn’t seem reasonable.

  4. Wow, I was a little a little surprised by the assertions made in this article. Most weddings in the US that I know of are paid by the bride’s parents. I’ve only seen/heard of the groom’s family paying (or more likely, chipping in) when they are wealthy or if the bride’s family cannot afford it. Groom’s family typically hosts (and funds) the rehearsal dinner only. For one friend’s wedding, the brides family had no money, so the couple was self-paying – the groom’s family kicked in $5k to help defray costs, but asked the bride to keep it a secret because they didn’t want their other 2 unmarried sons to find out about it (and expect the same). That said, it seems to me that more and more couples are paying for at least a portion of their wedding, particularly once they hit their 30s.

    I was also struck by your comments that “The gender wage gap for work performed is hardly noticeable now”. As an SF local, I’m guessing that you’ve read the Newsweek article on women in tech )… not to mention Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” movement. To be fair, I think the Newsweek article was slanted a bit heavily toward an extreme bias, but there are small-scale biases every day that do have an effect on the gender wage gap. As a female engineer in Silicon Valley, I’d say the “good ‘ol boys club” is still alive and well.

    Case in point: my newlywed friend is supported by her husband – they are trying to start a family. Shortly before their wedding, her husband’s boss granted him a 5% pay increase. It was not stated outright, but implied, that the pay is to help him support his family (wife + future children). I’ve never heard of a woman receiving a pay increase due to marriage or pregnancy (although I hear rumors that Google does increase pay for men & women equally for marriage/birth).

    Just my two cents…

    1. Jill,

      Who paid for your wedding? There’s a lot of different traditions based on various cultures and comments here so far. Pretty interesting imo.

      I used to think the gender wage gap was a big deal, which is why I wrote about it:

      Someone Has To Give Birth: Why Women Shouldn’t Be Penalized
      How To Solve The Wage Gap And A Solution To Gender Income Inequality

      But, based on the level of interest, comments, clicks, search results, it doesn’t seem like many people care. And one of the reasons is, the wage gap has narrowed. For example:

      A first year analyst at any bulge bracket investment bank will pay a male or female the same 85K base salary. Everything is structured.

      And of course there is billionaire Sheryl Sandberg. And there is a good female breadwinner movement now.

      There may be differences in pay based on amount of work performed and experience. But it sure seems to me that the wage gap has narrowed.

      What’s more popular now is: How To Convince Your Spouse To Work Longer So You Can Retire Earlier

  5. I think the bride, groom, and parents of both should each contribute a nominal but “usable” amount–say $1-2k each, assuming they are middle class and no one is in a horrible financial situation (if so, nothing is fine). Anything beyond the nominal amount should be considered either a gift (an act of generosity), the fair purchase of goods (e.g., “I am spending $4k on flowers because I want to have the real thing on my wedding day” “I am putting $18k toward the dinner because I want my friends invited and I want them to eat something good”). Either is fine, but the nature of the “gift” should be clear. I also happen to think that even if someone gives you a true gift, you still have an obligation to get a sense of how they would prefer the money to be spent or if something was especially desired (or not) in the wedding. Not to ask seems like ingratitude.

    Our wedding fit this model and included true gifts from both sets of parents. It was a blessed day–even more blessed than I anticipated–and I am so grateful for it. Had our parents given us nothing, we would have still gotten married, and it would have been special, but we would have sacrificed on our down payment (we closed on our house 2 weeks before) and I probably would have felt bad about having to serve our guests Costco food at the local park after they had purchased plane tickets to come see us. Having said that, our wedding did not come close to the price of the so-called “average” wedding. In the South, you don’t need (even) $20k to have an amazing, beautiful, catered party.

    1. That’s fantastic everybody pitched in! Congrats on buying a home and then getting married so soon after.

      It’s hard to do in a hot property market like SF. I love the South. Grew up in Virginia for 8 years.

  6. As somebody who works in the industry, I can say that $25-30,000 is normal (low end, even) for people to spend on weddings/receptions. Elevated standards throughout the years and parental influence are the main reasons for the high cost. The bride and groom should each pick one thing or vendor (maybe two) that matters the most to them, spend on that aspect within reason, and save on others.

    Depending on what state you are getting married in, some places that do not have their own liquor license will allow you to bring in your own alcohol as long as you provide proof of additional insurance that can be purchased through home insurance. Getting married in December can be a money saver, as most places are decorated for Christmas. And as you pointed out, the biggest money saver is a smaller guest list.

      1. I’m pretty sure a wedding in Hawaii any time of year is perfect :) They may not have as good of “deals” as places that get snow. Independent properties also tend to offer more flexibility in pricing.

  7. I am one of the few people who spent little. We only spent 5k and only 1k for Honeymoon. We paid for it ourselves. And our rings were expensive at $800 a pop. :P

    I completely agree that you need to discriminate against everyone. Specially since they don’t usually end up being involved I. Your life or marriage.

    I talk about our wedding in more detail. I understand people saying if you have the money to go right ahead but it still doesn’t make sense for me.

  8. Agree with most of what you’ve said with one exception: I don’t see the point in “splitting the bill” between the marrying couple – if you are getting married then you should be merging your finances IMO. If you’re keeping separate bank accounts or having a “my money and your money” situation instead of an “our money” situation what does that say about the future of the marriage? Take 10% of your now combined gross income and leave it at that – don’t segregate your Benjamins! This should be how a married couple handles their spending for everything moving forward so might as well start off on the right foot.

    1. Good point! I agree, but only if the couple agrees on what type of wedding they want. If one wants a super massive wedding, and one does not, then I say split it up proportionately with their desires.

  9. I’m old-fashioned and I think both parents of the marrying couple should help pay for the wedding. I think $25K is far too much to pay for a wedding — $10K is reasonable. This is for an average couple. Anything over that the bride and groom have to pitch in. Having said that our wedding was $68K which was absolutely ridiculous (not including rings, honeymoon, or pre- and post-parties). It was not the wedding we wanted, our parents took over and pretty much ran the damn event. We would’ve been perfectly happy with a smaller wedding but our parents had to have things a certain way and they wanted to “fit in” with the madness. Their friends held similar weddings for their children. Of the $68K I think my husband and I pitched in only $2K (some of that was my dress).

    1. WHOAH Nelly! $68,000 is big bucks! Were you guys combined making over $200,000 at least?

      $68,000 is like $100,000 in gross income.

      I wonder how much pressure our parents face when their kids get married in terms of showing off stuff.

      1. Yes it was ridiculous but our parents said all their friends are doing it, it will look “bad” if we don’t too. Those “friends” weren’t close friends, they were more glorified acquaintances. So yes, it was dumb and personally I wouldn’t drop that much on a party for my own kids. I’d rather help with a downpayment to buy a house. Still I am grateful for their generosity but my marriage would have started off just as fine without the grand affair.

        I believe at the time we got married we were grossing about $150K, but we are making more than that now.

  10. Felix Money

    We got married in June last year. We spent less than $1,000 on our wedding (less than 1% of our income at the time). We only invited close family and about 5 close friends, we had a jumbo limo take everybody to a nice spot in the mountains where we had an outdoors ceremony, since we love the outdoors (nothing was set-up, just us and nature). Then the limo brought everybody to our house, where we set-up the backyard ourselves (bought 2 canopies,folding tables and chairs). We had a buffet set-up by a caterer, and drinks. We gave people disposable cameras to take pictures and also signed up for an app called WedPics, where everybody with a smartphone can sign in and post the pictures they took with their phones.

    We did have a GREAT honeymoon in Italy, we visited Rome, the Vatican,Pompeii, ate a Pizza in Napoli, stayed in Florence and Venice. The honeymoon was under $5,000 (spouse had flight benefits at the time). We love to travel, so we don’t mind spending money on that. But we both thought it’s ridiculous to spend over $10,000 on a 4h affair (quotes we got for the reception).

      1. Thanks! My family is overseas and none of them could come. My spouses family came in vast majority, but they are not many, and to other friends and coworkers, we told that it’s a small, family wedding, and nobody seemed to get offended.

  11. We adopted tips 2 – 4 above for our own wedding over 6 years ago – married in Hawaii with only 5 other guests, it was wonderful! Also meant we could spend our ‘wedding’ money on a holiday / honeymoon in Hawaii instead!

  12. Nope. My inlaws had wanted 30,000 in dowry money from my folks, even though they werent exactly well off. So they felt disrespected when my parents sorta brushed them off.

    My inlaws got the money after hearing about other friends getting that much for marrying off their daughters in Hong Kong. However, I cannot confirm such custom over there.

    1. Wow… $30,000?! That almost makes an individual want to frequently get married no?

      $30,000 dowry sounds ridiculous for the average family. Paying for dinner sounds OK.

  13. My wife and I are Chinese-Americans. For our wedding, my in-laws demanded dowry from my parents, who refused to pay, since they did not demand any money for my sisters’ weddings. As a result, there continues to be bad taste between the two parties, and my father in-law almost refused to attend his own daughter’s wedding. Instead, I had to write my in-laws a check for $3300, despite being a poor medical resident (in debt). Ultimately, we paid for the wedding ourselves, which cost $30,000, but I feel it was worth even penny of it.

    We also received plenty of monetary gifts from our 150+ guests, including contributions towards our honeymoon fund (Traveler’s Joy). So instead of getting unnecessary silverware, we received contributions towards a memorable honeymoon in the Greek isles.

  14. same custom in Spain, each person is expected to contribute around 150€ cash per person, kids included. Not sure who paid for the wedding though. When my wife and I got married 30 years ago her Dad could only afford a 1000 dollars towards the wedding, so we got married at her parents place and had coffee and cake. didn’t even have a white dress, it bothered mefor years, but on our 25th I finally realised that while we didn’t have a traditional wedding it was quite unique and have come to terms with it.


  15. My husband & I had a surprised wedding in our backyard that cost about $10,000, with 70 guests. We told everyone we’re going to have a formal engagement party. Everyone was blown away when they arrived, on how we went all out for just an engagement party. We staged the event with a wedding officiant walked in saying she on her way to a wedding, but she got lost. She then asked if we wanted to get married. All the guests cheered with approvals. Husband & I changed into our wedding clothes and got married. It was awesome being able to pull that one off!

    Husband & I paid for the wedding ourselves. All the planning was done by both husband & I, so no one else has any say. We expected no gift or money (though we ended up gotten some). We wanted our guests to really just enjoy themselves without obligations of giving a certain amount of money when attending a certain wedding.

    Honeymoon? In our new home we bought seven months prior to the wedding. We even invited our closest families & friends back the next day and had a swimming party in our backyard.

    1. Honeymoon at your house? Brilliant! Sounds like you guys really maximized your place. Where do y’all live and how big is the house?

      Houses are too expensive in SF for the typical person to do such a thing :)

  16. Good post Sam. My first one costed a lot and ended up in a divorce after 5 painful years.

    The second one was cheaper. I convinced my then fiancé to spend less on the wedding and instead use the money for jewelery and a good honeymoon. I put it together in 2 weeks with the help of friends and we are doing great after 5 years. Moral of the story is – it’s not about the wedding, it’s about the marriage.

  17. BeSmartRich

    I was married in a very quiet and small but beautiful public park and it costed us $0 to use that beautiful place.

    I totally agree. It is too crazy for people to spend too much and get into debt to get married. Be frugal and use that money for financial freedom.

  18. Sam,

    I would love to hear your thoughts on an appropriate ring size/cost. My wife’s family had a diamond that we used for an engagement ring, but I am still saving for a multi-carat ring since I didn’t have to pay for the engagement ring. I’ve tried to convince my wife that she doesn’t need an upgrade but any married man knows that its waste of time. I want to give her what she wants but I also feel like diamonds are a waste.


  19. If it is first time, well blow away the money and don’t regret the decision if things don’t work.

    If again – it should be by the beach, a prenup, a priest & a ring – under the stars and a photographer. Then send all the pictures to friends & family & facebook for the sake of informing everyone. Simple.

    1. Really? I don’t understand why one should go all out the first time. But I definitely do understand why it’s better to keep things intimate and small the second time. What’ the saying, “Once bitten, twice shy?”

  20. My ex-finance, now wife of nearly 40 years, was agog at the time about the idea of the big wedding, but both we and both of our parents were poor so we had to make due with what meager resources were available. My wife made her own wedding dress, she got a 1/4 carat ring, we had a dinner catered at a local hall for about 100 guests – spent a total of about $2000 – certainly not more.

    I’ve been appalled by the subsequent inflation in wedding expectations: one-time-off dresses costing $10k, rings costing a multiple of the groom’s monthly salary, dinner budgets of $250 per plate etc. I would advise any person who has a similar reluctance that when confronted by someone who wants it all for their “special day” to bail immediately.

    1. I’m always impressed when a wife can make her own wedding dress. That’s a keeper as she is frugal and resourcefull! Target has some nice dresses too, according to my friend who just got married. She looked great. More than half the battle to looking good is just being fit and young. Then it’s all over after a while haha.

  21. We were married 13 years ago and spent less than $3,000. We were married on the beach and had a small reception at the beach house, which included sandwiches, apps, cake and a keg of beer. I was 23 and he was 25. No photographer, but our friends took pictures and then made us an album as a gift. It was awesome. All of our friends still talk about our wedding and how to this day was one of the best ones they have been to. My dress cost $30 from JC Penneys. lol

  22. The First Million is the Hardest

    The cost of our wedding/honeymoon was covered pretty evenly between her parents, my parents and us. In the end we ended up making a few thousand dollars on the wedding relative to what we personally paid into it.

  23. Having just gotten married in October, I can attest to the fact that prices are out of control. As soon as you say “wedding” to a vendor, they triple the price on you and tell the bride it’s her “one and only special day” to try to get you not to skimp. While my wife and I were fully aware this was happening, it made it nearly impossible to prevent budget inflation, especially in NYC. We tried to strike a happy medium by going with the budget option in nearly every category and only having 70 people, but the total damage was still over $30k. The good part was that, even though we picked the cheaper options, people told us it was the best wedding they ever attended. Go figure!

    We were pretty traditional about it,: I bought the engagement and wedding rings, my parents paid for the rehearsal dinner and the bride’s parents paid most of the wedding bills. We did share some cost, though, to make sure her parents didn’t get too much say!

    To your point about debt, I can’t fathom the motivation for borrowing money to get married. After all, nothing is more romantic than starting your lives together under a pile of unnecessary debt…

  24. With regards to cost, the most expensive mistake most people make getting married is in failing to get a prenup. Just like you don’t expect an accident but have car insurance, you don’t expect a divorce but you still need divorce insurance. Prenups are that divorce insurance. Best to sort any of that out when you love each other than after the claws come out.

    Regarding making money at your wedding, it’s not just a Chinese thing. Blue collar east coast weddings often have a dollar dance where guests pay to dance with the bride or groom. You don’t make material amounts but it does help defray the costs of the wedding.

  25. My wife and I paid for our own wedding 18 years ago. The parents wanted to pay but also wanted it there way so we told them thanks but no thanks. The whole wedding cost $3500.00. Costco appetizers and kegs of beer! It was great.

    After the wedding my parents gave me a check for $5000.00. We bought our first stock with that money. National Auto Credit. The symbol was nakd, which I thought was cool. Anyways, the company went bankrupt we lost our 5k but are still happily married. 1 out 2 aint bad.

  26. My brother is an ordained minister and the marriage licence was 60$ at city hall. We said our vows in our small studio apartment in front of three friends who happened to be in town. Total cost: 60$.
    This even with a six figure net worth at the time.

  27. It makes no sense to me to spend that much money on one single day and start your new life together in debt. I went to a wedding where the couple spent around $100k. That’s not counting the $20k diamond ring that the bride got. The groom kept telling me on the side that he might be forced to sell his condo to pay for the wedding. It was absolutely mind blowing.

    In terms who pays for the wedding I suppose it all depends on the individual situation. The most important part is you should only use money that you already have, rather than taking on debt so you can have a lavish wedding.

    My wife and I got married 3 separate times because we have families spread all over the world. Our total spending was significant less than the national average. In fact, after 2 weddings we only spent little over $5K (https://www.tawcan.com/getting-married-3-times-for-cheap-part-2/ shameless self plug)

    You can be very frugal with weddings if you make an effort.

  28. I think whoever has the money and wants the fancy wedding ought to pay for it. My wife’s parents paid for our wedding and my parents paid for the rehearsal dinner (I was young and broke and paid for the cake). When my wife and I look back at our wedding, we feel guilty that so much money was spent on us and we wish we could rewind and have a much smaller event. However, her parents seemed to be the ones pushing for a big wedding the whole time while I was just fine going to a courthouse and my wife just went along with her family’s wishes.

    To me, it seems that sometimes parents are the ones who want the big wedding more so than the bride or groom, and in these cases I think it’s fine if they foot the bill. I do not think that parents are obligated to spend tens of thousands of dollars on their daughter’s/son’s wedding, but if it’s important to them then by all means, spend away.

  29. Adam @ AdamChudy.com

    If you’ve got the money to be lavish, then by all means have the party of a lifetime (or if your parents want to splurge). But the people who drop 25-50% of their annual income on a wedding, when they have little to no assets and lots of debt blow my mind.

  30. My parents and in-laws agreed to provide us with money (an equal amount) that we were free to use toward our wedding, and if it turned out that it covered 100% or 10%, that was their ‘contribution’. In the end, we budgeted about another equal share to what they each had matched, and covered it without a problem.

    1. Did you use the cash for something for the both of you. Maybe i’m reading too into it, but it sounds like you purchased a property.

  31. RelentlessFinances

    My wife and I handled our own wedding. She picked out the items and I paid for them. We were able to have a very low-key, nice wedding with 120 guests. We spent total of ~$5,000. We used the clubhouse of my apartment complex, which was very NorCal resort-like and bought all our food at either Costco or a grocery depot store available to the public. I put the playlist together and had a friend handle the music through the speaker system installed throughout the clubhouse.

    My parents gave us our honeymoon by putting us up in a timeshare condo in Cape Cod.

    For the life of me I can’t realize why someone would want to spend upwards of $25,000 on a wedding. It just seems fiscally irresponsible. Especially so, when you consider that marriage results in taking care of each others emotional, spiritual, health and financial needs.

    Despite our setting a strict budget of $5k, we never heard about how cheap our wedding looked or how bad the food was. It worked out to our satisfaction and that’s all that matters.

  32. I don’t know how it is in Chinese or other Western countries, but in U.S. it’s typically the bride’s family who pays for the wedding. What goes around comes around though since women typically tend to file for most divorces and also get money back through alimony. In all seriousness, money shouldn’t dictate every decision in life. I see nothing wrong with spending $30k for a first wedding as long as the couple wants to and truly believe they’ll last forever and they’re not going to go into debt to do it. It’s supposed to be a once in a lifetime thing.

    From a purely financial perspective, instead of a prenup, it’d be nice if insurance companies sold catastrophic divorce insurance so no one end up getting their finances destroyed in the event of a bitter split up.

    1. Is it really the brides family? Maybe I’m wrong then! What is the reason?

      The weddings I’ve attended, the couples have always paid most of it and their parents gifted them XYZ.

      1. I guess for the same reasons you mentioned for why brides family pays in many Asian cultures. It’s slowly changing as more couples are paying it themselves or both parents are splitting the costs fairly evenly.

        1. Please clarify what asian country /culture had the tradition of the bride’s family paying for the wedding party.

  33. Actually in Chinese culture the groom is supposed to pay for the wedding because he is the “man” bringing someone into his family and also pay a dowry for the bride. So the bride’s parents gets tons of gifts. In Indian culture the bride’s family pays and gives a dowry. In Western culture traditionally the brides’ family pays.

    1. i love hearing about other cultures and how they do things for weddings. I think it’s taken for granted that people from different cultures understand how things are done in different places. This is all new for me!

    2. Interesting, as I’ve been to multiple massive Chinese weddings and there is no way the bride’s family paid because they didn’t have money. The groom’s parents were business people worth a lot. This was Taiwan.

      Are you talking China?

  34. In what western countries does the groom’s family pay for the wedding? I’ve only every known the burden to be on the brides family.

    1. I grew up thinking the brides family pays. When I have a daughter I will more than gladly pay for her wedding as my wife’s parents paid for ours.

      1. Maybe it’s a regional thing?

        I know here in the Midwest, the bride’s family is expected to pay for the wedding, with the groom’s family paying for the rehearsal dinner. I worked as a Wedding Planner up until about 5 years ago, so I dealt with this a lot. Although it seems to be shifting as couples wait longer to be married. It seems anymore that if the couple is established, then the expectation shifts more towards them covering the cost of the wedding.

        I assume the reasoning is based in tradition, which probably stems from the same ideas as what you stated in Asian cultures. Which is probably why ideas are shifting, as fewer women stay at home until they are married.

  35. I like the 10% rule in theory, but it seems like everyone I know spends much more than their income. And this doesn’t include wedding ring or honeymoon costs!

  36. My wife’s parents spent about 40K on our wedding. I was against spending so much money, but my wife insisted. We had about 125 people and it was a pretty great night. If we had to do it again or pay for it ourselves we would have spend significantly less and probably have done a destination wedding.

  37. Truth bullet: 90% of the people you invite to your wedding will not be in your lives even one year later. Younger marrieds invite a lot of college “friends”, and at one time in one context they were friends, but time, distance, work, values, and circumstances change that. Beware the wealthy parents of one spouse, or both, who might use the money as a form of ‘access.’ This pressure might seem like a good tradeoff, but all the benefits are realized on the wedding day and the downside lasts the rest of the marriage. When they start inviting business associates or distant family, the wedding becomes more about the parents than the bride and groom. Another weird thing is when the ‘gifts’ are compared and judged, and expectations based on how well they are doing are met, or not. Last point, ‘destination weddings’ are ridiculous; people I barely know have invited me to be in their wedding party, simply because they need to hit a certain number to cover the expense of their wedding. Not cool.

    FS, maybe you can solicit a response from “Michelle” who guest-posted about the high cost of divorce, and her cheating husband Jim? “That bastard!” I would love to know what she thinks about her big 300-guest wedding now, and what she would recommend to her three children, and what she would do for her next wedding. Update us if she got a ball-busting man-hating female lawyer with Daddy issues, to bring down the hammer on Jim. I also wonder if her philandering alcoholic lying cuckholding mediocrity of a husband has gotten a DUI, or worse wrapped his car around a lightpost, and put Michelle and her inheritance on the hook for his actions. Come on, Michelle, let it all hang out!:-)

    1. It’s not always about hitting a certain number. Sometimes it’s just about doing things easier. My wife and I would totally do a destination wedding if we had the chance to redo things knowing what we know. It allows people to combine a vacation with spending time with the people they love. Not everyone can take the time off or can afford a formal wedding. It’s more about making it easier for the guests and having the people you want there with you.

  38. My mother always said “If you can’t pay for your own wedding then you don’t need to be getting married”, which seems true in most cases.

    My understanding of the common social etiquette, at least in the south, has always been that the bride’s family pays for the wedding with the groom’s family paying for the rehearsal dinner. I’ve never associated western etiquette with the groom’s family paying, unless they were just lopsidedly wealthy.

  39. My best friend got married in Hawaii last fall and had the most gorgeous, huge wedding I have ever attended. It was so important to her, and so not important to her now husband, that she paid for the entire wedding herself, even though I think he makes 4x her salary. She spent $80,000 on the wedding. However, I think she made at least that much in wedding gifts (she is Asian via Hawaii, so her family and many of her friends gave them money as gifts). Then, her husband bought her a sweet car and paid for their honeymoon in Bora Bora. This story comes to mind only because I’ve never been to a more beautiful or expensive wedding, but it all seemed to work for her!

    1. Whoah, she paid the $80,000 wedding herself AND her husband makes 4x her AND he bought her a car and a honey moon to bora bora?

      What do they do, how much do you think they make combined, how much do you think the wedding was, and how old are they?!

      1. She did spend $80k on the wedding, but she lived at home for 5 years after law school and she was perfectly happy spending her life savings on her wedding. It was incredible! They are both attorneys, but since he’s got about 12 years on her, he makes more money (they are 30 and 42). I think they do pretty good (maybe just shy of 7 figures combined). I could never in a million years spend that much on a wedding but it made her happy and it didn’t cause them to go into debt, so good for her! :)

  40. “But once you start accepting money from one set of parents, then you are pretty much obligated to their desires”

    YES! I think the big deciding factor is whoever pays has the final say. My parents paid for my wedding ~10 years ago.

    I actually wanted a small, elegant, inexpensive wedding with only 50 guests, appetizers, and classical music playing. However my parents (and in-laws) wanted to invite all their friends (250 people), and have dancing, and full meal. Since they were footing the bill, that’s what we got. If a couple wants a wedding to be “theirs” they should pay for it. If they are ok with their parents getting to throw the wedding, then they can pay.

    In the grand scheme of a marriage, the wedding is such a small part. Make it fun and memorable, but don’t be burdened by debt for the rest of your life because of it.

  41. I think people should expect to pay themselves and then obviously welcome any contributions from family members with open arms. But this is coming from someone who does not believe in spending $30k+ plus on a one day/night event. I’ve been to a $80k wedding and I’ve been to ones closer to $10k, and they were both a blast. It will be a night to remember nonetheless.

    What I see people my age (mid 20’s) doing is paying for the wedding with their credit cards and hoping the cash gifts received will cover most of the expenses. This is just asking for a credit card disaster. I’ve tried to explain how this is a bad idea, without encroaching on someone’s personal life but it’s a tough spot.

    1. Completely agree with the first sentence. I had the whole thing planned into that year’s budget, but I certainly didn’t complain when both of our parents chipped in. It ended up working really well because there was no budget drama. If it was worth it to us, we spent the money – it’s so much easier to keep things reasonable when you’re the one writing the checks.

      As for credit cards… out venue gave us a 1% discount for paying by check instead of a credit card since they didn’t have to pay the transaction fee. Small, but every bit helps.

        1. Just over $11k both sides combined. Total was about $15,300. We fronted most of it and our parents gave us their contributions the week before the wedding.

  42. I totally agree with your post! It has gotten WAY too expensive to get married. We got married over 20 years ago- we paid for it ourselves (our parents didn’t have the money) and we only spent $10,000 on the whole thing. We received $10,000 in gifts! So we broke even and I wouldn’t have done it any different way. We started our married lives NOT in debt over a short lived wedding night. It’s the first sign of fiscal responsibility I believe in a hopefully long marriage.

  43. Gen Y Finance Guy

    I think the couple getting married should pay. We live in the 21st century now. When we were planning our wedding I negotiated prices down by about 20%, chose a Friday instead of a Saturday, and got married in an off peak month. As much as I would had liked to spend 10% of our combined gross income, it ended up costing about 20%.

    However, after all the cash we got from our 120 guests…the cost was less than 15%.


  44. I think whoever can pay should pay. But I’m fairly old school. My wife’s family paid for wedding and my family paid for rehearsal dinner. If we had to pay it would have been a much smaller affair.

  45. I think every couple, and every wedding, is different and is paid for differently. The prevailing cultural norm (in the US at least) is still for the bride’s family to pay for the entire wedding with the groom’s family paying for the rehearsal dinner. But, I think it’s all about what each couple wants their wedding to be.

    What I appreciate is that there’s no longer pressure to have a wedding that’s done “the one right way”–people get married in all kinds of different ceremonies and situations, which I think is awesome. As with most things in life, there are ways to frugalize a wedding and ways to spend lavishly on a wedding.

    What I can say, after being married 6.5 years, is that your relationship with your partner is vastly more important than any of the details related to a wedding. Also, I agree with you–starting off a marriage with wedding debt is a terrible idea!

    1. Funny; I was always taught the bride’s family paid for the wedding and the groom’s family pay for the honeymoon. Never heard a thing about the rehearsal dinner though. I guess that’s what happens when you’re a guy though don’t know all of the etiquette!

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