How Should Wedding Costs Be Split?

by Tamila McDonald
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wedding costs

Tradition previously dictated that the bride’s family paid for the vast majority of the wedding expenses. However, times have changed. That approach isn’t necessarily practical or expected today. As a result, engaged couples and their families are having to determine the best way to split the costs associated with the celebration. Considering that the average wedding cost was $33,900 in 2019. That can be surprisingly difficult to do. If you are wondering how wedding costs should be split. Here’s what you need to do.

What You Can Bring to the Table

Today, many people may contribute financially to a wedding. Couples are increasingly funding at least a portion of the event themselves. This is especially true if they have established careers, earn a solid living, and are financially secure.

Before approaching anyone else. Couples need to determine how much they can afford to cover. Discussing the state of each persons’ finances is a must. To include how much they have in savings or what they could reasonably gather before the chosen wedding date. At times, this amount may represent the entire budget. And not everyone will have family members who can help.

Have Honest Conversations About Wedding Costs

It’s still common for family members (particularly the parents of the bride and groom) to assist with some of the expenses. At times, there may even be contributions from others, such as grandparents.

However, it’s important to understand that no one should be expected to handle any wedding costs if it isn’t financially practical for them to do so. As a result, engaged couples need to have honest conversations with those who may want to contribute.

The couple needs to sit down with family members separately. It isn’t wise to talk with both sets of parents together initially, for example, especially if their financial means are dramatically different. This allows for frank, private discussions about their ability to contribute without feeling like they need to keep up or outdo the other set of parents.

At the start of the conversation, the couple should ask whether those they are speaking with want to contribute. If so, they need to find out how much can realistically be provided. Ideally, this should involve asking a parent or other family member to go into debt. Similarly, expecting them to make withdrawals from their retirement accounts isn’t particularly reasonable.

Couples shouldn’t be trying to squeeze every dime they can get out of others. As mentioned above, no one is required to provide financial assistance for a wedding, regardless of tradition.

But, once these conversations are finished, you may be able to come up with a plan. Precisely what that will look like can vary, as everyone’s situation is unique.

Factoring in the Number of Guests

In some cases, having private conversations with those who want and are able to contribute is enough. All parties may be comfortable with the total budget and flat amount they are willing to add to the pool. However, if someone wants to help, but is ambiguous about their contribution, you can potentially determine a fair amount by examining the guest list.

At times, parents want to invite certain people to their child’s wedding, even though the bride or groom isn’t necessarily concerned about that person being a guest. For instance, often parents see weddings as an opportunity to reconnect with long-lost family members or old school friends they lost touch with years ago. They may use online tools like people finder to find loved ones they wish to invite. When that occurs, it can be appropriate to factor in the cost of those guests, especially if they go above and beyond the number of people the couple would otherwise invite.

Guest-oriented expenses – like food, invitations, and, potentially, the reception venue if it needs to be bigger to accommodate the requests – could then be broken down by percentage. For example, if 20 percent of the guest list would be invitees one set of parents wanted to add, they would need to cover 20 percent of those costs. If the parents aren’t comfortable with the resulting amount, they would need to pare down their guest list additions accordingly.

Now, this is only one option for deciding on a split. If those who may be contributing have no say in the guest list, this approach won’t work.

Fund One Decision at a Time

In some cases, parents want to be involved in decision-making. When this happens, it isn’t unreasonable to ask that they at least chip in for the related costs.

For example, if the bride’s family has specific meal requests or the groom’s family is insisting on a particular venue, especially if those costs are higher than the couple’s selections would be, asking for help with those costs might be reasonable. Essentially, it is putting a premium on being able to have input. If the person making the request isn’t able or willing to help with the expense, you aren’t obligated to do what they ask. However, if they do, then you may be on the hook for sticking with their choice.

If you don’t want anyone else to be involved in any decision-making, then its best for the couple to foot the entire bill. In many cases, it’s the only approach that can almost guarantee your autonomy, as you maintain the financial power using that approach.

Deciding How to Split the Costs

Any of the options above can help you decide how to split wedding costs. However, it’s important to understand that they are only guidelines. Every couple, family, and situation is unique. Ultimately, you have to choose an approach that makes financial sense for all of those involved, whatever that may look like.


When it came to splitting wedding costs, what approach did you use? Did you favor one of the options above or did you go a different route? Tell us about your choice in the comments below.


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