Should The Parents or The Couple Pay For a Wedding?

Today we welcome our regular Tuesday contributor, Catherine Alford!

In the past, the bride’s family used to pick up the tab for her wedding. However, many couples today are paying part or all of their own way to wedded bliss. This is due to a combination of people getting married later in life and the exorbitant costs of weddings, which might require some to split the bill with their parents.

That being said, who do you think should be the ones to pay for the ceremony and reception? Should it be the parents or should it be the couple?

Who Paid For My Wedding?

My parents paid for my wedding. I was only 22 years old when I got married, and I was only one semester into graduate school making a very small stipend. My (future) husband had just started a new job, and we definitely didn’t have the funds to pay for our own wedding.

Maybe it was the deep south culture or maybe it was just our age, but there was no question that my parents would be paying for my wedding. This was something they had mentioned on and off since I was a child. My mom even told me that she’d only pay for my wedding if I graduated from college, and I, of course, made sure that I did (for more reasons than just that!)

My husband and I did pay for our own honeymoon, but that was only a small fraction of the cost of our wedding. His parents paid for the rehearsal dinner and the flowers. My family took care of the rest. Our wedding was beautiful, and I know that it would not have been nearly as nice had I paid for it myself.

However, if I was getting married today at 26 years old with a healthy savings account and a good job, I would certainly have offered to pay for part of it. Maybe I would have offered to pay for the alcohol tab, the invitations, or my dress. I still would not be able to pay for the whole thing, but I would have likely offered to do something to help my parents out.

Of course, all of this would be a little easier if the cost for weddings weren’t so marked up or the idea of an expensive wedding weren’t so pervasive in our culture. Now, TV shows promoting brides buying $5,000 dresses as if it’s no big deal make everyone feel as though they “deserve” something out of a fairytale.

Many more levelheaded people would argue that a wedding is just a day like any other, a simple symbol of the beginning of your marriage. Perhaps the thousands of dollars people spend on their wedding would be better suited towards a down payment on a house or another investment.

All I can say is that I’m grateful for my parents’ generosity, and I hope that if my husband and I have a daughter one day, we can help her pay for her wedding.

I do realize that couples have their own opinions and ideas of how the process should work, so please share your opinions of who should pay for what in the comment section below.

**Lance’s Two Cents** As you all know from the wedding posts my fiancee, Tori, has posted, we’re paying for almost all of our wedding costs out of our pocket. We’re just having a small frugal wedding, but a big party isn’t that important to us. However, if our parents could afford a blowout party… maybe we would have taken them up on it? We’ll never know…

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About Catherine Alford

Catherine Alford is a personal finance freelance writer who received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Virginia Tech. She enjoys sharing her adventures on her blog,


  1. If I get married I would have a small ceremony and pay for it myself I think, although my parents paid for my sister’s wedding so they would insist on paying for fairness. She had a big wedding so if I get the same amount I will still have a small wedding and put the rest on a trip or a house deposit.

  2. My grandparents did something similar, and so did my parents for us: they gave us a set amount of cash to use as we please, either for a bigger wedding or for a smaller wedding, with the rest to be used for a house down payment or whatever. The thing I like about that idea is that it encourages the recipient to live within a budget. I’m not sure quite how we’ll handle the weddings for our 4 kids, but they won’t have a free pass to spend whatever they like. Most likely we’ll give them a set amount of cash too. Great article, Cat!

  3. We paid for most of our wedding ourselves. We also had a very small, frugal affair. I hope my girls do the same, or I’m in trouble:)

  4. We’re paying for our own wedding, but that’s because we don’t really have a choice. Also, we have lived on our own for so long and have already been living as though we are married, so taking money from his parents wouldn’t make much sense for us. Luckily his parents are helping with other things, such as finding vendors and we get to use the family estate for the ceremony and reception!

  5. eemusings says:

    We hada small self funded wedding. Pretty non traditional, very us.

  6. I’ll be paying my own way due to my family’s financial circumstances. I’m not sad about it, and I’m sure I’d choose more frugal options regardless of who was footing the bill

  7. I think the way it worked out for us was just about perfect. Our parents each gave us a sum of money (it was the same amount) and we were able to put it toward our wedding, but the total cost was then on us.

  8. I would be perfectly fine with my parents contributing a small amount for a wedding, but I could never ask them to pay for the entire thing. Like with many big items I have purchased, I would set a budget and save up for it.

  9. I think it all depends on your personal situation. We were fortunate in that my father in law had budgeted for this over the years and helped us maximize that for the wedding which was an immense help. We paid for the honeymoon and a few other odds & ends.

  10. It’s your decision to get married in the first place, there’s no reason why you should drag your parents into it… I mean the financial part. Have a small wedding if you must, something you can afford. But if your parents volunteered, well, you can say no or you can accept it as a gift. 😉

  11. We had a huge wedding. My father in law paid part of it, but my parents chipped in. I was beginning a new job and had a little money, so I paid for the disc jockey and limo. It was a joint effort. The bad news? I barely remember any of it. I heard it was a fantastic celebration, but for Cheryl & I it was a blur.

  12. There always no question that we would pay the costs for getting married. It never even occurred to us that it would be any other way with our families and our personalities.
    Paying for it ourselves was great, though. It gave us complete freedom to make it whatever we wanted =)

  13. When we married (45 years ago), my wife’s parents paid for the wedding. It was considerably less expensive then and we just graduated from college. If they did not for whatever reason, we probably would have postponed the wedding or reduce the size and cost.

  14. Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries says:

    I never thought about my parents or Leslie’s parent’s paying for our wedding. I always assumed I would have to pay. I think it’s awesome when someone’s parents are able to help cover the costs though.

  15. We paid for our own wedding and honeymoon, as my wife’s parents were not able to pay. I had a bunch of cash, so it wasn’t a huge deal. If/when we have a daughter, we are definitely planning on paying for her wedding. being the frugal people we are, it’ll be comparatively inexpensive, and we would LOVE to show our love in that way. Obviously, life circumstances might prevent us from paying, or wanting to pay, but I love the idea of blessing your children by paying for a wedding, or college, or a down payment on a home. I guess we’re kind of old school that way 🙂

  16. Our wedding cost $7K. My parents gave me $10K cash as a wedding gift – I could’ve done whatever I wanted with it. But essentially my parents paid for my wedding. If we eloped we could’ve kept all the money, but it was nice to have friends and family around.

  17. This is a very family and life stage-specific matter. My parents never discussed once with me who would pay for a wedding – all I knew was that they paid for their own wedding. My parents, my in-laws, and my husband and I all ended up bringing roughly equal amounts of money to the table, which I think worked out well. We wanted a short engagement so if our parents hadn’t given us any money we would have thrown the wedding on whatever savings we were willing to spare – no time to save! We were also fairly young (24) and in graduate school so our parents knew we didn’t have much cash flow for a wedding (and of course wouldn’t go into debt).

  18. My inlaws paid for our wedding. He originally offered me $5K to elope and I called his bluff. Overall it wasn’t too expensive considering how many people showed up. We kept lots of cost down by choosing to have our wedding on a Friday night in February. We did offer to help pay, but he refused.

  19. We paid for our daughter’s wedding. She was the only girl in the family and we wanted her to experience the joy of a church wedding with family and friends around. It was limited to 150 persons because that was all we can afford.

  20. I’ve “given” my dad about an extra 8 years or so to save up for my wedding ;-). That being said I know that he won’t be paying for the wedding and if we do decide to have a party we’d be paying. I’m fine with that since I’d never planned on him paying for the wedding. I know my parents (mom and step dad) paid for parts of both of my sisters’ weddings. I wouldn’t ask them for any money but they will probably want to pay for something small in principle since they did so for my step sisters.

  21. It depends on the family, I suppose. Sometimes, the parents can’t afford it. My friends got married and their parents paid for about half of the wedding, and they paid for the other half. I think that’s fair.

  22. Alex @ Searching for Happy says:

    I think parents will always be approached for help (at least by some couples), but I do believe that the onus should be on the couple as a starting point. I imagine that would lead to a lot of smaller weddings!

    My wife and I paid for our own wedding and it was rather a small and intimate affair. We both loved it.

  23. My husband and I actually paid for our wedding. It was very simple farm wedding. The most expensive part was the liquor and food and I still don’t think we paid a thousand dollars.

  24. I’m getting married in September. I have three biological siblings and three step siblings. Of my biological siblings, I’m the only one left who hasn’t already eloped and my father is a bit more inclined to help out financially with the costs. He originally told me how he’s giving his kids XX amount of money out of his retirement (he has enough in retirement survive so he’d rather give more away to avoid tax penalty later as what happened with his own parents). My sister got new kitchen cabinets, my step brother got a partial home down payment, my step-sister got her wedding paid for, etc. so my dad already said he was giving me that for my wedding.

    As far as costs, I’m totally supportive of the idea of giving XXX cash to the couple and then letting them do the rest. I think that encourages frugal weddings.

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