If there’s one thing people don’t love to talk about, it’s money. Money is one of the most notoriously uncomfortable subjects of conversation, but when you’re planning a wedding it’s a topic you must broach in order to get anything booked or paid for.
Because money is involved in every wedding decision you make—whether you should book in spring or fall, what kind of dress shop you should visit, how many bridesmaids you have—it’s important to be on the same page as your future spouse and anyone who is helping you with the wedding budget. To help you make some decisions and have those awkward money conversations, we decided to answer some of the toughest wedding questions about money there are.
1. Who pays for the wedding if my parents are divorced?
Traditionally, the bride’s parents paid for the entirety of the ceremony and the reception, with the groom’s family pitching in to pay for the rehearsal dinner. Today, the modern couple pays for a lot of the ceremony and reception themselves, and it’s not uncommon to see both sets of parents chipping in equally.
If your parents are divorced, matters of money can be infinitely more complicated. The answer to this question is that, frankly, it depends. The best thing to do is evaluate your particular situation. Would one parent paying for the wedding upset the other parent? Are both parents able to equally contribute? Be frank and set boundaries with your parents right up front if one or even both of them are offering to chip in.
2. How should we divide the wedding budget if our parents want to help?
If you are lucky enough to receive your parents’ help with the wedding budget, the best thing to do is to sit down with them and ask exactly how much they are able to contribute. While this might sound like an uncomfortable conversation, you want to know exactly how much you’ll have in your overall budget so that you can plan better.
Having an exact number from your parents (plus the amount the two of you will be contributing) will help you determine how much to allocate towards the venue, catering, alcohol, invitations, etc. This also gives you more control over what services and venues you book. Your parents could object to having a wedding at a particular place or give you unwanted opinions about a caterer if you are asking them to help you with the wedding budget piece by piece.
3. My future spouse and I don’t have any parents helping us with the wedding budget. What’s the best way to plan for costs?
If you are paying for the wedding yourselves, you’ll need to decide how big of a wedding you’ll have and how you will want to pay for it. Take stock of how much money you both have in savings and how much money you could feasibly save after all of your financial responsibilities each month. What you want to avoid is incurring a lot of credit card debt—something that could wreak havoc on your future financial lives when you’re married.
The average cost of a wedding is about $25,000 and rising. There are plenty of ways to creatively cut costs, but throwing a wedding for 100+ people is going to cost a pretty penny. The best way to plan for these costs is to think about them realistically. This means that if you don’t have all that much saved up, you’ll need to plan for how long it’ll take you to save the money required to pay for the wedding you want or think about throwing a smaller wedding.
4. My in-laws have a long guest list, but my parents are paying for everything. What should we do?
You and your spouse-to-be determine the final guest list—period. Have a cap in mind for the guest list (this can either be mandated by the wedding venue you chose or by a number that sounds comfortable to the both of you). If your in-laws want to invite extra guests, you’ll need to be firm and let them know that there is simply no room with the plans you’ve already made. If these guests must be invited, then ask if your in-laws would be willing to contribute to the overall cost.
5. How do we ask our parents for help with the wedding budget if they haven’t offered a financial contribution yet?
The best way to go about it is to not expect that they have a secret wedding fund saved for you. Ask if they are able and willing to chip in over dinner one night—and prepare yourself for the answer. Some families don’t have the means to help with the expense of a wedding, and that’s perfectly OK. You may have to readjust what your idea of a realistic wedding looks like or spend some time saving on your own throughout your engagement so that you can get there eventually.