Planning wedding expenses - deciding who pays for the wedding

From the blissful dreams of your ideal wedding, emerge the hard realities of facts and figures. Wedding expenses can hit you hard and you have to budget realistically, based on the following factors…

1. What you can afford

Establishing a budget within which you will try and fit all wedding expenses is of paramount importance. This may be easier said than done. While you may hanker after pulling out all the stops – after all, your wedding is a special day – you need to realize what it is going to cost you and that it will not drive you to bankruptcy. In order to figure out how much you are prepared to spend, you will have to talk to friends who have already been married, or if you are planning to hire a consultant, he/she is another good source to help you get a fair idea of what costs can run up to, based on the kind of wedding you are looking at. Accordingly you will reach a conclusion on the kind of budget you should arrive at, based on affordability and economy or whether you should scale your ideas down slightly to suit your pocket.

2. Who is going to pay for the wedding expenses?

An important factor to take into account while planning wedding expenses, is how they will be shared. Traditionally, the bride’s family used to defray most of the costs associated with a wedding. But the trend these days is for the bride and grooms families to split expenses either equally, or in a certain percentage, or to undertake certain categories of expenses. Alternatively, or additionally, the couple pitches in as well, especially when they are older and financially independent. An important consideration here is that when there are more parties involved in the sharing of expenses, there are also more opinions to contend with in the planning and decision-making. If the couple has a definite idea on how they want things done and brook no interference in the decision-making, it might be a good idea, if they can afford it, to finance the wedding themselves. Else, compromise is called for. It sets a bad note for the wedding if discussions on expenses are fraught with tension and are not conducted in an amicable manner.

Tips on budgeting

1. Fix a concrete amount

Don’t just leave the budget up in the air, but actually assign a dollar value to your budget. While you might deviate slightly from it, this will help you realize the actual dollar amount that you can afford and that you should not exceed it too much, if at all. By having a fixed amount decided on, you will realize that the major heads of expenditure cannot be more than a certain amount. For instance, if you have allocated 10,000 dollars for your wedding and honeymoon, and your reception itself in a fancy hotel is going to cost you in the region of 7,000 dollars or more, you will not have sufficient left over to cover so many other categories. In that case, you know that you will have to scale down the size of your reception, choose a cheaper venue or drastically cut down the guest list.

2. Research thoroughly

Don’t just settle for the first vendor, or decide to hire someone on impulse. Research a number of avenues and compare costs vis-à-vis what they are promising, before deciding on what gives you the most value for your money. For this, you require meticulous planning, an eye for detail and knowing what you want versus what you are willing to spend for it. It is possible to achieve quality and economy without going overboard on your budget.

3. Cutting costs

If you are looking at achieving economy and working within a slightly tighter budget, it is possible with a few compromises…

Morning weddings followed by a ‘brunch’ reception, or early afternoon weddings, are cheaper due to their informality as are casual weddings compared to a formal reception dinner

You could opt for a garden reception in a family member/friend's lawn as opposed to a posh hotel or club. Other cheaper options include a church hall, a park/community center, college or university halls etc.

Timing is also important. Getting married on a weekday (instead of a weekend), or even a Friday/ Sunday as opposed to a Saturday, when the demand is highest, will enable you get a discount. Avoiding the ‘popular wedding season’ (or holiday seasons like Christmas) is another option.

Planning in advance is always helpful. Last minute bookings are always at a heftier price. Booking a year or more in advance for even the less popular months may get you the best price possible. It is also never too early to start shopping for your wedding as long as you store things well, so keep your antenna up for sales or discount buys on wedding-related items.

Cutting down the scale of the wedding, the length of the reception or pruning the number of guests, is another way of cutting costs.

As credit card transactions cost vendors more, paying cash versus credit card could help you avail of a cash discount.

A wedding planner who charges hourly may work out better in the long run than one whose charges are a percentage of the total bill, as in the latter case he/she may not work as hard to cut costs for you, as a higher total bill would mean a higher earning for him/her.

In terms of transportation, consider other options too, like a friend’s luxury car, in case the limousine deal is working out too dear. Even a horse-drawn carriage might work out cheaper besides providing that romantic feeling. 

Another helpful tool in planning wedding expenses is to make a comprehensive and exhaustive list of all the wedding related items, categories and heads of expenditure. Just like you would approach any budgeting exercise, apportion your dollar budget and estimate how much you would ideally like to spend on each category. As you make your decisions and firm up various vendors or arrive at the actual dollar costs, make a note of how much you are actually spending on it. This will help you realize piecemeal if you are deviating from your budget, rather than get a rude shock when you arrive at totals at a later date. You could also add in other relevant details that will help you out at a later date. Such a tabulation will help you systematically record all your expenses, and more importantly, help you keep track, with a quick overview of where you need to trim costs and where you can afford to be lenient.

Various categories/expenses you have to plan for

It is advisable to make a list of various traditional costs and expenses that you can expect to incur when planning a wedding. It is best to be as detailed as possible so that there are no hidden costs or unexpected expenses at a later date. Some costs are unavoidable, for instance fees for a marriage license, while others are based on individual choices, such as having a wedding consultant or a videographer. Also, if the engagement is held very much in advance of the wedding, you may or may not choose to include the engagement costs in the budgeting for the wedding.


1. Attendants (Brides/Grooms)

Accommodation (if required)

Outfits (individual choice of bride, though ordinarily the attendants themselves bear this cost)

2. Accommodation

Out of town guests (Ordinarily borne by guests, but exceptions can be made in case of very close family)

Officiate of ceremony (If from out of town and invited by bridal couple to officiate)

3. Bride

Bridal gown

Bridal accessories (Including jewellery, tiara/headgear, stockings, lingerie, gloves, shoes

Hairdo/make-up/nails etc. (if professional is required)

4. Ceremony / other fees

Fees for church, place of worship or other location of ceremony

Officiates fee

Choir/Vocalist fees

Organist or accompanists fees

Marriage license fee

Blood test or other documentation fees

5. Decorations

Decorations for ceremony (other than flowers)

Decorations for reception (other than flowers)

Centerpieces for tables at reception

6. Engagement


Engagement party

7. Flowers/floral arrangements



Bridal bouquet

Matron of honour/bridesmaids flowers



8. Gifts

Gifts to attendants

Bride and Groom's gifts to each other

9. Groom

Purchase/rental of tuxedo

Tuxedo accessories


10. Honeymoon, Travel, Accommodation & Sightseeing

11. Invitations/ Stationary

Engagement invitation (if required)

Wedding invitation

Ceremony programme/ service leaflet

Thank-you notes


12. Music and associated sound items

Live band / recorded music

Master of ceremonies

13. Reception

Venue cost

Catering (per person cost including food/beverages – alcoholic/non-alcoholic)

Wedding cake


14. Rings

Engagement rings

Bride and Groom's wedding bands

15. Rehearsal dinner



16. Wedding consultant/planner

17. Transportation

Limousine/wedding car for the bridal party

Travel costs for officiate

18. Tips

For valets, drivers, waiters, bartenders, cloak room attendants etc. (if not included in the vendors fees)

19. Contracts with Vendors

It is extremely important to read the fine print in a contract with a vendor or a supplier. If you are not well-versed with such aspects, or are prone to missing out important details, take someone along with you (in the absence of a professional wedding planner) who will be able to look beneath the surface and get all the details out in the open. Also ensure that prices quoted are inclusive of taxes, else you might end up with a whopping bill – far greater than anticipated, if rates quoted are exclusive of taxes.

Who pays for what

As mentioned earlier, traditionally the bride’s family would foot practically all the expenses associated with a wedding, but as times have changed, so have traditions. While the division of expenses and sharing of costs still follows a more or less predictable pattern, there is nothing sacrosanct about it. The bridal couple may decide to shoulder the entire burden, or the parents of the couple may decide to go halves for the entire reception, or close family members may want to pitch in and cover certain associated costs. A typical division of expenses runs thus…
1. The Bride and Her Family

Engagement party (if held)

Groom's wedding ring

Wedding gift for groom

Bridesmaid's luncheon

Gifts for bridal attendants

Attendant's bouquets

Accommodations for bride's attendants (if needed)

Bride's wedding dress and accessories

Trousseau and lingerie

Invitations, announcements and stationery

Mailing costs associated with invitations and announcements

Wedding Guest Book

Transportation for bridal party from bride's home to the ceremony

Transportation of wedding party from ceremony to reception

Cost of ceremony - all related costs, i.e. rental fees, flowers, music, etc.

Cost of reception - all related costs, i.e. rental fees, food, beverages, decor, music, etc.


Wedding consultant's fees (if applicable)

Bride's physical exam and blood test

2. The Groom and His Family

Bride's wedding ring and engagement ring

Wedding gift for the bride

Gifts for best man, groomsman and ushers

Bachelor dinner (if not given by best man/if groom so desires)

Groom's physical exam and blood test

Groom's wedding attire

Ties and gloves for grooms attendants if not part of rental deal

Marriage license

Rehearsal dinner

Fee for wedding officiate

Bride's bouquet

Corsages (Mother/grandmother/close family members)

Boutonnieres for father, best man, groomsmen and ushers

Accommodations for groom's wedding party (if required)


Alcoholic beverages at reception (if applicable)

Transportation for best man and groom's attendants to ceremony

3. The Maid/Matron of Honour and the Bridesmaids

Purchase of dress and accessories

Gift for the couple

Parties or entertainment for the bride /Bridal Shower /Shower gift

Transportation to and from wedding destination (if from another city)

4. The Best Man, Groomsmen and Ushers

Rental of wedding attire/tuxedo

Gift for the couple

Bachelor dinner

Parties or entertainment for groom

Transportation to and from wedding destination (if from another city)

Bride and Groom

Gifts for each other

Gifts of appreciation for those who helped with the wedding

5. Flower Girl, Ring Bearer

The parents of the children are responsible for their outfits and shoes, unless the bride/groom opt to pay for it.

6. Out of Town Guests

Transportation to and from wedding

Lodging expenses

Wedding gift