I have no immediate plans to get married, partially because weddings seem incredibly stressful, and because they are so expensive. It makes me wonder, who would help me pay for my wedding, should the need arise? While couples getting married might choose to avoid large weddings, as well as age-old wedding traditions, many parents still choose to honor the custom of paying for their children’s big day. This is mostly because of the exorbitant costs of wedding ceremonies and couples needing the extra money to cover the expenses. However, this particular custom does have roots in history.

The tradition goes back at least a thousand years, with the bride’s family typically paying for the wedding. Unmarried daughters were often considered to be a liability to the family, mostly due to the risk of them getting pregnant, which would result in families having extra mouths to feed.

Considering all these factors, families with daughters considered it in their best interests to marry them off by presenting a dowry in the form of money, goods, or an estate. Generally, the woman’s family paying for the wedding was also part of this deal. Even though this certainly reduces the daughter to a piece of property to be sold off, it also served the purpose of protecting her. The dowry would be returned to her family if her husband committed any heinous offenses.

Today, both sides of the family often contribute to funding the wedding, covering anywhere from 35 – 42%  of the event. Again, a lot of that has to do with simply helping out with what is an increasingly pricey occasion. Weddings have gone from an average of about $27,000 in 2017 to $44,000 over the course of a year.

The custom of the bride’s parents paying can still be found in some cultures, but the actual expectations and rules revolving around who pays have evolved, especially because not all weddings consist of a bride and groom. Fortunately, more rights have been granted to LGBTQ folks across the world hoping to get married.

Typically, the bride’s family handled the costs of the wedding planner, invitations, dress, ceremony, and reception. On the other hand, the groom’s family traditionally took care of the engagement party, rehearsal dinner, honeymoon, wedding day transportation, and the officiant. The bride herself would be responsible for wedding flowers, bridesmaid gifts, the groom’s ring, and a gift for the groom.  Additionally, the groom himself would cover the bride’s engagement ring, the wedding ring, and groomsmen’s presents.

But even with parents’ contributions to the wedding, most couples these days are directly funding their own marriage. Many families choose to split the costs as well, though it can cause a bit of tension in relation to each family’s financial status. There is also some concern that if one family pays for most of the wedding, they can exercise a certain amount of control over it. This can be attributed to the simple fact that planning a wedding involves many varying opinions.

As shown by a 2018 survey from Minted, an online design marketplace,  63% of mothers, 32% of fathers, and 44% of future in-laws all had input in the wedding planning. This can spur a lot of disagreements, especially if those involved are of varying cultures. At least one couple from Waco, Texas experienced this as the groom was raised Christian while the bride was raised Muslim. While the couple preferred a more secular ceremony, the bride’s parents wanted her to have a traditional Muslim wedding, so they ended up having two ceremonies to please all parties involved.

Sometimes the insistence of adhering to tradition in some cultures can cause anxiety surrounding the prospect of getting married. Planning a wedding risks sparking conflict among couples and their families, especially since parents can feel apprehensive or vulnerable. In many cases, they feel like they are “losing” their child. Similarly, children may also feel insecure when their parents pay for the wedding.

So who should pay for your wedding if you decide to get married? It’s important to understand that tradition often does not apply to how couples and families operate nowadays, and if it does, there may be a need for compromise.

Ultimately, no one is obligated to fund the wedding and there aren’t any strict rules designating who gets to pay for what. Just remember that if someone else does contribute to the wedding, they may feel entitled to a certain level of input. Everyone involved needs to understand their expectations, their limits, their boundaries, and be willing to work with each other. Ultimately, the day is about the couple getting married, and not whoever paid for it.

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  • Amanda Justice

    Amanda Justice was born and raised in Los Angeles but has spent a significant amount of time living in middle Tennessee as well as England and New Zealand before returning to California. She has a Bachelor’s in English Literature and a Master’s in Journalism and when not writing she enjoys traveling, reading horror, urban fantasy, and romance, gaming, and watching campy fantasy shows.

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