Paying For The Wedding

By Kristen Castillo

October 29, 2010 5 min read

A gown, shoes, a venue, music, transportation and food. Yikes! Weddings are expensive.

According to The Wedding Report, the average wedding costs $23,867.

Paying for all the details of the day definitely adds up, so who's picking up the bill?

*Breaking Tradition

It used to be that the bride's parents almost always paid for the whole wedding, but that's changing.

"The biggest change I'm seeing is in the age of engaged couples," says Meaghan Schmaltz, a wedding and event planner for Weddings Made Splendid. "The average age of an engaged couple is now 28 years old, whereas 10 years ago, it was 23 years old. Today's 'average' engaged couple is now, oftentimes, self-sufficient enough to host their own wedding."

Schmaltz says half her brides and grooms have paid for their own weddings; 38 percent of weddings are paid for by the bride's parents; and 12 percent of couples split the costs themselves and with both the bride's and groom's parents.

*Getting Personal

When a bride and groom pay the bill, they get to take charge, too.

"By hosting their own wedding, a couple can make important personal decisions regarding style, theme and guest count, whereas when parents hosted the weddings in the past, the parents' wants were a larger consideration," Schmaltz explains. "As a result, I'm seeing a larger focus on a couple's personal tastes, whether it's through theme, meal selection or ceremony style."

Weddings are not so cookie-cutter these days, and that means couples have the freedom to do things their way. They can spend their wedding budgets any way they want. Some couples may hire a band to rock the reception; others may focus on creating a tasty and memorable menu.

"They are working harder to find the deal that will fit their budgets to achieve their wedding day priorities, whereas in the past, the wedding budget seemed a bit more 'bottomless' when the parents were hosting the events," Schmaltz says.

*Budget Basics

Wedding budgets vary from couple to couple, but the need for a budget is universal.

The wedding reception -- including food, alcohol and staffing -- is the biggest expense, often taking more than half of a couple's budget.

"I ask couples to talk about their wedding priorities and to define what these priorities are," Schmaltz says. "For example, if a couple say that their priority is 'food,' I ask them to be specific. Are they looking for an out-of-this-world display of hors d'oeuvres at cocktail hour? Or are they looking for the best cut of filet mignon for the entree course?"

*Money Well-Spent

When it comes to honeymoon relaxation, couples also are picking up the check more often these days.

"I definitely don't see Mom and Dad pitching in," says travel planner Ann Petronio. "I mostly see the bride and groom paying for the honeymoon themselves. It's not just the groom's responsibility. It's the bride and groom together."

Petronio says she sees a range of budgets but finds that couples are willing to spend money for a nice honeymoon. "Five thousand dollars is a good average," she says. "That's higher than a normal trip. They definitely are willing to spend more on a honeymoon."

Europe has become a popular honeymoon destination, especially for its sightseeing. But all-inclusive resorts are trendy, too.

"All-inclusive is always a popular honeymoon choice, especially because you know the budget ahead of time," Petronio says.

Paying for the trip doesn't necessarily happen all at once. Some couples pay upfront when they book the trip; others book travel options that require payment within 60 days of travel; and other couples set up a payment plan with a travel agent.

*Wedding Wisdom

Every wedding decision has a price tag. The person paying the bill gets to decide what is and what is not a wedding must-have.

Schmaltz suggests setting and sticking to a budget, researching the true price of products and services, and getting details in writing.

"Get contracts in writing from every vendor that outline the full costs of products and services to avoid nasty financial surprises at the end of the event," she says.

Plan your day your way, but do your best to avoid unnecessary wedding debt.

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