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Who Pays for a Wedding These Days?

As you probably know, tradition had it that the bride's family paid the majority of the wedding costs. This was great for the groom's family, but could cause serious pocketbook stress for the parents of the bride.

As tradition dictated, the bride's family would cover the costs for goods and services listed as follows:

Money Morsel

While the groom was traditionally responsible for paying for the honeymoon, some families of either the bride or groom now pay for the honeymoon as a wedding present to the couple.

  • Engagement party

  • Cost of the ceremony, including location, music, rentals, and all other expenses

  • Entire cost of the reception, including location, food, beverage, entertainment, rental items, decorations, and wedding cake

  • Bride's wedding dress, veil, and accessories

  • Wedding gift for the couple

  • Bridesmaids' bouquets

  • Bridesmaids' luncheon

  • Photography

  • Flowers

The groom's family, on the other hand, was traditionally responsible these expenses:

  • Rehearsal dinner

  • Travel and accommodations for the groom's family

  • Honeymoon

  • Wedding gift for bride and groom

As you can see, tradition was not financially kind to the bride's family. Fortunately, at least if you're looking at the situation from the viewpoint of that family, times have changed. Rather than burden one family with practically the entire cost of a wedding, it is common practice these days for both families—and sometimes the bride and groom—to share expenses.

Some modern options for paying for a wedding include:

  • The bride and groom pay for the entire wedding

  • Expenses are divided evenly between the couple, the bride's family, and the groom's family

  • Each family covers the cost for the number of guests it invites

  • The bride's family and groom's family split the expenses evenly

How you decide to divide the costs of your son's or daughter's wedding depends primarily on the financial situation of each family, and of the bride and groom themselves. Circumstances and common sense—not tradition—now dictate who will pay what for a wedding.

If your daughter is marrying a man who comes from a wealthy family, your future in-laws may offer to pay for the entire event. Or they might pick up one or two of the big costs, such as flowers or liquor at the reception.

Maybe you've been stashing away money ever since your daughter was born for the sole purpose of someday giving her a beautiful wedding. If so, you may want to cover most of the expenses.

If the bride and groom are older, as many couples are these days, they may each have been working for five years or more, have some money saved, and be perfectly willing to pick up some of the tab.

The best way to decide who will pay for what is for both families (or all the families that apply) and the couple to sit down together and have a frank discussion about what each party can afford to contribute. Some people are terribly uncomfortable discussing their finances in front of others, so be sensitive to that. Separate meetings are sometimes necessary, but it's best if you can get everyone together at one time to brainstorm and share information. Read Saving on Wedding Costs for help on sorting out the expenses.

Don't Go There

Starting out thousands of dollars in debt is great stress for a newly married couple, who may still be paying off college loans or planning for a family. If your son or daughter is considering taking out a wedding loan, do everything you can to discourage him.

Only when you learn how much money each family and the bride and groom can chip in can you know what kind of wedding to begin planning.

Don't feel bad if you're a parent of the bride and can't afford to pay for the entire wedding. Very few people expect that anymore. And, don't offer to pay for something you can't afford. There's no law that says every wedding has to cost more than $15,000, or $10,000, or even $5,000.

Some couples, or their families, decide they simply must pull out all the stops for a wedding. They want nothing but the best, even if they can't afford to pay for it. To facilitate their dreams, they take out wedding loans.

Companies that offer wedding loans, such as the MBNA America Bank, will tell you that it's great to take out a loan, so you can have exactly the wedding you want. Information on MBNA's Web site (where you can actually apply online for a loan) tells the bride to go ahead and order beef for her guests, instead of chicken. She should get that designer gown, MBNA says, instead of buying one off the rack. As you can imagine there's a catch involved, and it's a huge one.

The small print at the bottom of the ad tells you that MBNA will set your interest rate at between 12.99 percent and 27.99 percent, depending on your credit rating. We'll tell you right now that anyone who takes out a loan for a wedding at nearly 28 percent interest is crazy. She'd do better to charge the whole thing on a credit card and pay it off over time.

If you feel you absolutely must take a loan to pay for a wedding, don't even think about a wedding loan. Look at a home equity loan instead, for which the interest rate would be much lower.

More on: Family Finances

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 40s and 50s © 2002 by Sarah Young Fisher and Susan Shelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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