Traditions have a way of sticking around for much longer than we think. Even traditions that have no practical use are things we adhere to strictly.
When asked why the bride’s family pays, people can’t come up with a good answer. The same goes for who foots the bill for weddings.
Why do the bride’s parents traditionally pay for the wedding?
Hundreds of years ago, the bride’s parents had to pay dowries to the husband’s family. The payments were meant as a down payment for the husband’s family to take responsibility for the daughter. The tradition, though much different today, continues, and most of the time, the bride’s parents are expected to pay for all or most of the wedding festivities.
Of course, hearing that’s where the tradition comes from is a bit strange. It all sounds somewhat sexist and outdated by today’s standards. Still, planning for the expense of a wedding is something many parents begin years in advance because the expectation remains.
If you’re interested in learning more about why the bride’s parents typically pay for weddings and how the tradition is changing in modern weddings, here’s some information to help you plan for your big day.
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Views Differ on Who Foots the Bill
It should be no surprise that fewer families are sticking to the strict interpretation of wedding traditions. These days, who pays for what is much looser.
The “rules” are simply guidelines, and families are finding what works for them and choosing their paths forward.
Decades ago, many married couples assumed the bride’s parents would pay for everything. When single-income families were more the norm, the bride’s father would be breaking out the checkbook.
Cue the funny movies and stories about crazy wedding expenses and stressed-out fathers. It became almost a stereotype. The spoiled young daughter wanted a fairytale wedding, and the obliging father went into financial distress to make things happen.
Now, however, things are a lot different. Here’s how:
Parents might need to pay for weddings when the kids are 20 years old.
Parents may feel different when asked to foot the bill for the wedding for their 40-year-old daughter, who has a great job.
People are paying more for weddings now than they did in the past. Before, all but the wealthiest families had simple wedding ceremonies and receptions.
The bride’s parents will usually gladly chip in as much as they can for a wedding that’s out of their budget, but most recognize that it’s not a good idea to take out a second mortgage to fund a wedding.
If the kids want something bigger, other people will have to contribute.
Parents don’t want to spend a ton of money on a wedding unless they can do so comfortably. It doesn’t make sense to overextend themselves.
In cases where an older bride wants a bigger wedding, the parents will often offer to pay for a portion.
For example, they can pay for the reception, dress, and ceremony. It all depends on each family’s situation.
Before we begin, we want to reiterate that modern traditions are by no means rules. They are simply guidelines.
There is certainly a lot of pressure built into the wedding tradition, so you must navigate these waters carefully to avoid insulting people or hurting their feelings.
Here is how the guidelines generally go today.
The bride’s parents usually pay for an engagement dinner to welcome and show the groom off to their friends and family.
Engagement parties are usually low-key events where both sets of parents, grandparents, and close family meet together. You can book a nice restaurant and invite wedding party guests as well.
The groom’s parents are traditionally responsible for hosting and paying for the rehearsal dinner. This usually happens after the rehearsal and is held at a nice restaurant.
Rehearsal dinners involve some toasts and are a more intimate setting than the reception.
The invitations are typically the bride and her family’s responsibility.
Rather than list out everything that’s part of the wedding day, suffice it to say that, for generations, the bride’s parents have paid for almost everything that happens on the wedding day. That includes the ceremony, the reception, the officiant’s costs, and everything else.
They’re also expected to host the reception and manage any issues.
In most scenarios, the groom pays for all of the honeymoon expenses. However, it can feel strange when a bride and groom are already living together and sharing finances. Again, things are changing when it comes to wedding expenses.
Navigating Large Wedding Costs
Again, we’re not living in a world where a woman married a man from the same town, and both newlyweds were from the same socioeconomic class.
These days, people get married from vastly different families and walks of life.
However, it’s not always easy to shift the responsibilities of costs. Weddings can be weird because pride gets involved.
The bride’s parents may insist on paying for everything even if their daughter is marrying into a family that’s much better off than they are or is bringing way more people to the wedding.
If it’s your parents you’re worried about, you need to head things off before relationships get strained.
The Groom’s Parents Should Make Offers to Pay
When the groom’s parents request decorations, location, food, or anything else, they should be ready to break out the checkbook to pay for things.
One way the groom’s parents can chip in is by offering to pay for certain aspects of the wedding.
For example, they can tell the bride’s parents that they have a hook-up on food or wine and would like to pay for it.
The bride’s parents can either politely refuse or graciously accept. It’s a relatively easy way to dance around who pays for what.
If the groom’s parents are better off, they can keep offering to pay for things and come up with reasons why they should be paying for them. The bride’s parents can stick to their guns to the point where they feel like they want to pay for things.
Weddings vs. Other Gifts
Not everyone wants a big wedding. For couples who want something smaller, it’s common for the bride’s parents to offer to give them a substantial gift in some other way.
It’s not rare to hear about couples foregoing the large wedding and getting help on the downpayment for their first house.
Parents are finding other ways to help set up their kids for success, no matter how old they are. If you are in the middle of wedding planning, take whatever help your parents can give you.
Avoid getting upset about any inability to pay, and do what you can to fill in the rest. When necessary, reduce the size of your wedding to keep costs manageable, and you’ll still have a fantastic wedding experience.