Wedding Etiquette: Who (Traditionally) Pays For What?

wedding etiquette: who traditionally pays for whatYou’re engaged to your best friend, your partner in crime, your ride or die now it’s time to start planning the biggest party you’ll ever throw.

The first thing on your mind is likely to be, ‘How much is all of this going to cost?’ In the UK, the average amount couples spend on their wedding is an eye-watering £19,184. Once you know that, the second question you might ask is, ‘How are we going to pay for it?’

The average UK salary is £29,588 and when you consider rent/mortgage payments and the ever-increasing cost of living, paying for your upcoming wedding can feel rather daunting.

But don’t panic! We’ve got a super powerful budget tool which uses thousands of couples’ real budgets to estimate the total cost of your wedding and then break that down so you have a good idea of exactly what each part will cost. We also have an in-depth guide to saving money on your wedding which is filled with cost-cutting tips.

But, if you’re looking to do things a little more traditionally, and get generous family members involved, who pays for what in a wedding?

Some families offer to help the newlyweds-to-be celebrate the most magical day of their lives, and we’re here to give you the lowdown on who traditionally (a big emphasis on the traditionally… it is 2023 after all) pays for what. Once you’ve calculated your budget and seen how much everything’s going to cost, you and your partner can both let your families know what they can help with. At the end of the day, it’s whatever works for you and your family.

If you don’t want to know about the whys and hows of these costs and want to get straight into what each side of the family should pay for, skip ahead to our quick reference cheat sheet!

Should the bride’s family pay for a wedding?

Photo © Emis Weddings | See their Bridebook profile

Once upon a time, a bride’s family paid the groom or his family a dowry to help the couple establish their new life as newlyweds. This hasn’t been a part of British culture since the 19th century, but has evolved into the tradition that the bride’s family will stump up for a large portion of the bill when it comes to the wedding itself.

Once again, beliefs and expectations have evolved, and in the 21st century, it’s no longer the case that the bride’s family are expected to pay. Now, in the UK and many cultures around the world, the bride’s family and the groom’s family – as well as the couple themselves – can help pay for a wedding.

But, as revealed by our annual UK Wedding Report, with modern couples generally getting married a little later in life (and therefore having higher-paid jobs and more savings), a third of couples pay for their entire wedding themselves. 

That still leaves two-thirds of couples who need a little extra help. So, the modern way to split paying for a wedding looks a little something like this:

  • Bride’s family – 25%
  • Groom’s family – 25%
  • The couple – 50%

With this in mind, based on the average cost of a wedding being £19,184, that still leaves you with close to £10,000 you might have to save yourself – and that’s if your family can lend a hand.

Should you ask the bride’s family to pay for your wedding?

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While it may have once been the traditional way to pay for a wedding (particularly among the Georgian upper classes), you should only ask the bride’s family to pay for your wedding if you know they can comfortably afford it. The same goes for asking the groom’s family. You’ll want to make sure they’re fully on board with your marriage plans, which might mean a lot of buttering up and being an exemplary son or daughter and future in-law.

The important thing to remember is not to go in expecting anyone to pay. Talking about money is personal, private and sometimes awkward. But, it can be done carefully without causing friction. For more information, read our guide on how to talk wedding budgets with your parents.

Who traditionally pays for different parts of a wedding in the UK?

Photo © Blooming Photography | See their Bridebook profile

If you’re lucky enough to have family who want to help you pay for your wedding, then the below guide should give you an indication of who might pay for what.

Before we dive in, each of these traditions is based on there being a bride and groom. Many modern couples have two grooms or two brides – or perhaps neither. If you’re an LGBTQ+ couple planning your big day, we recommend that you try to evenly split what you ask your families to pay for and use the below as a rough guide.

Who traditionally pays for an engagement party?

This expense is traditionally covered by the bride’s family since they often host the engagement party at their house as a way to welcome and bring together the two families (often for the first time). However, whichever family is feeling the most generous can offer to host or throw the engagement party. It all depends on space, funds and who wants to do the clearing up afterwards.

Who traditionally pays for the rehearsal dinner?

Since the bride’s family pays for the engagement party, the rehearsal dinner is traditionally paid for by the groom’s parents. They should only spend what they’re comfortable with, however, and hosting a small soirée the day before the wedding is more than enough.

In the UK, rehearsal dinners aren’t exactly common, so you may ask for this contribution to go towards the big day itself, instead.

Who traditionally pays for the wedding venue?

The venue is usually the single biggest expenditure of your entire wedding, and no one is pleased to be handed an invoice with that many zeros on it. Traditionally, this would be something that the bride’s parents would pay for and covers the cost of the ceremony itself.

Because the average wedding venue costs between £7,000 and £8,000, this can be a heck of a cost to expect one family to pay for alone. So, for more modern weddings, this is something that many families – together with the couple – split the bill for.

Read our post on how much a wedding venue costs to find out more about how much this might set you back.

Who traditionally pays for wedding catering?

This is another cost that traditionally lies with the bride’s family, which includes the cost of canapés, the breakfast and the evening buffet. The good news is that it’s not traditional for the bride’s parents to cover the cost of an open bar, with most weddings having a cash bar so guests pay for their own drinks.

Read our post on how much wedding catering costs to find out more about the cost of feeding your guests.

Who traditionally pays for the wedding reception?

The bride’s family traditionally pays for the wedding reception, though the costs do cross over with that of the venue, entertainment, decor and food.

Because of this, the more modern take on it is to split the cost between the bride’s and groom’s families, as well as the couple themselves.

Who traditionally pays for wedding transport?

Traditionally, wedding transport is paid for by both families. If you’re hiring transport for your guests, for example, a Big Red Bus, then this isn’t traditionally something your guests will be expected to pay for.

Read our guide on how much wedding transport costs for more information.

Who traditionally pays for a wedding photographer or videographer?

Your wedding photographer (and/or videographer if you choose to hire one) is traditionally paid for by the bride’s family.

For modern weddings, this might be something that the couple prefers to pay for themselves. Find out more about the cost of a wedding photographer and videographer in our dedicated guides.

Who traditionally pays for wedding flowers?

Traditionally, the groom pays for the bride’s bouquet. For an extra romantic twist, the groom could even pick wildflowers to be included as well. On the other hand, the bride’s side of the family will traditionally pay for all the floral decorations. Read our guide to choosing wedding flowers for more information on the types of flowers you might want at your wedding.

For modern weddings, the flowers are something that the couple will pay for, including the bouquet and floral decorations. Discover how much this might set you back in our post on the cost of wedding flowers.

Who traditionally pays for the wedding cake?

The wedding cake is traditionally paid for by the bride’s family, but this isn’t a tradition stuck to quite as closely as others. Many couples now choose to pay for their own cake, in part due to the traditions involved with cutting the cake and how it represents sharing everything. Learn more about the cost of a wedding cake here.

Who traditionally pays for the wedding dress?

One of the most closely stuck-to traditions is that the bride’s family will pay for the wedding dress. This also includes any accessories the bride may wear, such as a veil, a bag and shoes.

For modern weddings, the bride may want to pay for her own dress. But, the bridal party are still encouraged to attend fittings for all the fun and excitement that goes with it.

Read more about the cost of a wedding dress in our dedicated guide.

Who traditionally pays for the groom’s suit?

The groom’s family would traditionally pay for the groom’s suit and any accessories, such as a tie, shoes and pocket square. Nowadays, it’s more likely to be one of the expenses that the groom will take care of himself.

We have more information about the cost of wedding suits in our dedicated guide.

Who traditionally pays for wedding rings?

Traditionally, the cost of the wedding rings is split between the two families. But, wedding rings are super personal – they’re pieces of jewellery the two of you will likely wear all day for the rest of your lives and have a huge amount of meaning. For that reason, many couples choose to pay for their wedding rings themselves these days.

Read our post on how much wedding rings cost for more information.

Who traditionally pays for the engagement ring?

Traditionally, whoever proposes is the one who will pay for the engagement ring. It’s also tradition for the ring to cost the same as one, two or even three month’s salary, but with the average monthly income being £2,466, that would be one heck of a diamond! Another option is to use a family heirloom which has been passed down from parents or grandparents.

Some modern couples will buy an engagement ring together. This might take away the element of surprise when it comes to the proposal itself, but it can be a lot of fun shopping for an engagement ring together. Other couples might choose to wear an engagement ring each, and those who do this might pay for the rings together.

For more information, read our post on how much does an engagement ring cost?

Who traditionally pays for the bridesmaids’ dresses?

The bride’s side of the family traditionally pays for the bridesmaids’ dresses. But, with modern weddings, it’s becoming more common for bridesmaids to pay for their own dresses. It really depends on what your budget is, the type of dresses you want your bridesmaids to wear, and whether or not that’s within their price range. To avoid confusion later, we’d recommend discussing this as early as possible with your wedding squad.

Don’t know who should pay for your bridesmaid’s dresses? Read our guide on what your bridesmaids should and shouldn’t pay for.

Who traditionally pays for the groomsmen’s suits?

Unless they’ll be matching or require special suits, the ushers traditionally pay for their own attire. If the suits need to be tailor-made, however, it’s an expense that the groom’s side should cover.

Who pays for wedding guests’ accommodation?

Traditionally, each side of the family pays for their own guests’ accommodation. However, this really depends on what the families are comfortable with, as most guests pay for their own accommodation nowadays. Most hotels charge north of £100 a night, and if you decide to cover the bill that could set you back thousands. Thankfully, very few couples offer to pay for their guests’ accommodation, so it’s not something they’ll expect. Just make sure you mention this on your information sheet.

Who traditionally pays for a hen party?

Traditionally, the hens will pay for most aspects of a hen party, with the maid of honour taking the responsibility of arranging everything and making those important bookings.

Today, there are no set rules – it entirely depends on budgets and plans. Make sure you and your hens discuss all your options and what everyone expects early on.

Who traditionally pays for a stag do?

It’s tradition for the groomsmen attending the stag do to pay, but it all depends on budgets and what the planned activities are. For something more expensive, like a trip abroad which might be more expensive, it’s fine to ask the groom to contribute towards costs.

Who traditionally pays for a honeymoon?

Traditionally, it’s the groom who pays for the honeymoon. But, the average honeymoon costs £4,200, so this is no easy feat. Today, however, most couples split the cost, with many also asking for donations towards their honeymoon instead of wedding gifts. This is a relatively new tradition, which likely stems from the fact that people are generally getting married later and often already live together by the time they tie the knot. That means they probably don’t need (or want) a new toaster or a 24-piece dinnerware set!

Need a hand planning and budgeting for your honeymoon? Read our guide on the introduction to your honeymoon and our post on how much does a honeymoon cost?

Who pays for what at a wedding: the quick reference cheat sheet

If you’re looking for a list of who traditionally pays for what, check out our quick reference cheat sheet below:

Who (Traditionally) Pays for What at a Wedding: Quick Reference Cheat Sheet

What does the bride’s family traditionally pay for at a wedding?

Photo © Mae Photography | See their Bridebook profile

Traditionally, the bride’s family would pay for the majority of the major costs:

  • The wedding dress or outfit (and any accessories that come with it)
  • Bridesmaids’ dresses and accessories (NB. Nowadays, more and more bridesmaids pay for their own attire)
  • Any accompanying outfits for the bride (for example, going-away or honeymoon outfits)
  • Hair and makeup (along with other beauty treatments)
  • Transportation to the ceremony for the bridal party
  • Transportation to the reception venue for the bride and groom
  • Photography and/or videography
  • Flowers
  • Venue hire and decorations
  • Wedding cake
  • Catering
  • Wedding favours
  • Drinks
  • Entertainment
  • Wedding stationery
  • The groom’s wedding ring
  • Engagement party
  • Wedding insurance
  • Overnight accommodation for close family
  • Presents for the groom’s family

What does the groom’s family traditionally pay for at a wedding?

Photo © The Soul of My Lens Wedding Photography | See their Bridebook profile

Traditionally, the groom’s family doesn’t have to pay as many wedding-related costs, but there are still plenty of ways they can get their hands in their pockets:

  • The groom’s outfit
  • The best man’s suit and ushers’ outfits (NB. As with the bridesmaids, these now tend to be bought by the groomsmen themselves)
  • Groom’s going-away outfit
  • Transportation to the ceremony for the groom and best man
  • Transportation for the bride and groom from the reception venue
  • Buttonholes for all the groomsmen
  • Civil or religious ceremony fees
  • Church fees (plus any extras like church music and bell ringing)
  • Registration office and other venue fees
  • Passports and visas for the honeymoon
  • Travel and accommodation for the honeymoon
  • Spending money for the honeymoon
  • Travel insurance for the honeymoon
  • Bride’s engagement and wedding rings
  • Presents for the bridesmaids, ushers and best man
  • Presents for the bride’s parents
  • Press announcement for the wedding
  • Wedding night hotel fees

Plan your dream wedding on Bridebook

While some couples and their families choose to abide by traditions, things are quickly changing, so you shouldn’t feel obliged to stick to any of them. It’s down to you and your family to decide who pays for what, so everyone feels included and no one feels pressured to spend beyond their means. For money-saving tips from the experts, remember to read our ultimate wedding cost-cutting guide.

Whatever you and your partner decide, make sure you keep on top of it with our free wedding planning tools, and everything will be just fine. Be sure to also download our free Bridebook app for quick and stress-free planning. 

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Happy Planning!