If you go by tradition, then the bride's family pays, but keep in mind this is a throwback to the days of dowries and pre-arranged wedding negotiations. In today's modern culture, most marriages are for love, not money. In fact, research shows brides and grooms have been paying for the majority of their wedding costs on their own -- including the ceremony, reception and honeymoon. According to a 2010 survey in The Wedding Report, brides and grooms, on average, each pay about 29% of the wedding costs, for a total of 58%. From there, parents, friends and relatives make up the rest.
For example, when Katherine and Gary Gomez got married last summer both of their parents offered to help contribute to their big day, which included over 200 guests. In total, the New Jersey couple's wedding amounted to $32,000. Katherine and Gary contributed $22,000, while parents on both sides paid $5,000 each.
While every couple's budget will be different, the fact remains: mixing money and family can be a sticky situation. If you're getting married and unsure if, or how, to broach this topic with your family, here's some etiquette.
First, don't assume you're in it alone. If your family doesn't reach out to you first about contributing to your wedding, it doesn't mean they're not interested. The only way to find out is to ask politely. Awkward or not, it's a conversation worth having. The Gomez couple admits it was uncomfortable asking their parents if and how they'd like to contribute financially to their wedding, but they have no regrets. "I felt it was a smart move to put our pride aside and ask our parents for help," says Katherine. "We wouldn't have had the wedding that we had."
But, of course, you want to be tactful when you ask. Not sure even how to start the conversation? As planning begins, sit down with both sides of your family - one at a time - and say you've drawn up a budget for the wedding. Share with them what that number is, as well as your rough plans, and then ask if they'd like to contribute. Sometimes families like to be considered and want to be involved in some capacity. Also, let them know them that assistance doesn't have to come in the form of cash. Referrals, vendor discounts and donations to expenditures other than the wedding -- such as the honeymoon, or a down payment on a house -- can also be valuable contributions.
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If they choose to offer cash, provide them a bit of time to get back to you with a figure, and make a point to ask if they have preferences on how that money gets spent. "I said [to my parents], 'you don't have to tell me an amount today,'" recalls Gary. He recognized that they were on a budget and emphasized to them that they should only agree to an amount they could handle and manage.
That said, be prepared to let your family know how much you may need. Begin by calculating what you and your partner can each contribute comfortably on your own first -- then see where you're at. It's best if you can pay for most of the event yourself. That way, you're not reliant on anyone's contributions - or considerations. Think of family gifts as a bonus -funds to "dress up" the wedding of your dreams.
What do you think? Should weddings be a family affair? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and remember to use the hashtag #FinFit.