Who pays for what? How to divvy up a wedding bill

Photography by Rachel Fesko Photography.

Societal conventions are shifting, which means there’s no longer a set formula for who should fund certain aspects of a wedding. Gone are the days where the bride’s parents pay for everything. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for the couple to pay for their wedding by themselves.

While the ‘who pays for what’ discussion may seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Below we’ve listed the traditional wedding cost breakdown to get your started.

Keep in mind that although this may be how things have traditionally be done, that doesn’t mean this is how you have to handle your wedding expenses. As always, do what’s best for you!

  • The groom’s wedding ring
  • Gifts for the bride’s attendants (jewelry for the ceremony, a custom robe for getting ready photos, etc.)
  • Gift for the groom

Bride or her family

  • Engagement party
  • Invitations, announcements, enclosures
  • The bride’s wedding attire and trousseau (lingerie and honeymoon attire)
  • Rental fees for ceremony and reception locations
  • Flowers and decorations for ceremony and reception
  • Fees for musicians, such as the organist, soloist, or string quartet
  • Food and beverages at the reception
  • Photography (including bridal portraits) and videography for wedding and reception
  • Wedding-day transportation
  • Gift for the newlyweds
Critsey Rowe Photography
Photography by Critsey Rowe Photography


  • Engagement and wedding rings for the bride
  • Gift for the bride
  • Marriage license
  • Gifts for best man and groomsmen
  • Fee for clergy or officiant
  • The honeymoon

Groom or his family

  • Rehearsal dinner
  • Groom’s wedding attire
  • Bouquet and going-away corsage for bride, corsages for the mothers and grandmothers, boutonnieres for men in wedding party
  • DJ or band at the reception
  • Their own travel and hotel accommodations
  • Wedding gift for the newlyweds
Critsey Rowe Photography
Photography by Critsey Rowe Photography.


  • Their own wedding attire, including shoes (In some cases, the bride may give accessories as gifts, and the groom may give cufflinks or ties.)
  • Travel expenses
  • Wedding gifts for the bride and groom
  • Costs of bachelor/bachelorette parties and other events leading up to the big day
  • The maid of honor and bridesmaids typically host and coordinate the bridal shower

Whether the couple pays for all of the wedding, or their parents pay for some of the wedding, this much is for sure: Clarity makes for smooth planning, so it’s best to agree on a budget and decide early on who will pay for what.

This first appeared in Carolina Bride magazine in the Summer 2016 issue. It was updated in October 2018. 


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