Groom Duties

Who Pays for What: And the Check Goes To…

Many years ago, in a happier time when cigarettes were good for you, flight attendants were called stewardesses, and work lunches came with a stiff martini, weddings were always—without exception—funded by the bride’s father. It was simple. It was tidy. It was understood.

And then something unsettling happened: women stopped getting married just after prom, they went to college, they moved into their own apartments, and they even started having “careers.” As the age of newlyweds soared higher and higher, it seemed absurd, eventually, for parents to subsidize the wedding for an independent, plasma-tv owning, 33-year-old couple. Where does this leave you? Screwed. You can no longer assume anything. It’s complex and confusing. You need to communicate with the parents (both sets) to find out how much, if anything, they’re willing to kick in.

See also: The Disgusting Budget Basics

Many In today’s wacky who-the-hell knows environment, you’ll use one of three wedding payment plans:

1) The Old School Plan
2) The Squabbling Parents Plan
3) The Lucky You Plan

1) The Old School Plan

For the traditionalists and the wealthy. Even in this bride’s-parents-pay scenario, however, you’re still not totally off the hook. Here’s the breakdown of who pays for what:

Your family:

  • The honeymoon (Maybe. Often this lands in your lap.)
  • Rehearsal dinner (if thrown at all)
  • And…that’s it! Their expenses are relatively modest. Your mother no longer hates you for not being a girl.


  • Her engagement ring.
  • Gifts for the groomsmen.
  • Tux. Just buy the damn thing, okay? It’ll pay for itself in three weddings.
  • Boutonnieres and junk
  • Marriage license
  • Officiant’s fee
  • Corsage for the moms
  • Gift for the bride
  • The honeymoon (Maybe.)

Your fiancée:

  • A piece of jewelry that will instantly make you 15% more desirable to every other woman for the rest of your life…even though at the same time, paradoxically, it means they’re now off-limits. In other words—your ring.

The bride’s family:

  • The reception fees
  • The cake
  • The music
  • The decorations
  • The caterer
  • The booze
  • The insanely-priced dress
  • The photographer
  • The videographer
  • Stationary-type crap (invitations, thank you notes, etc.)
  • Bridesmaids gifts
  • Wedding favors
  • Limos and other gaudy means of transport
  • Ceremony fees
  • Basically everything else

2) The Squabbling Parents Plan

You know how when you go out to your dinner with your buddies, you have the one laywer-friend who insists on picking up the check, which makes your clay-sculptor-friend uncomfortable? Thanks to this inequity, the clay-sculptor feels guilty for ordering that second beer, no one besides the lawyer dares orders appetizers, and there’s the ever-so-slight possibility that the lawyer, if he’s a dick, will lord his magnanimity over the table. When you split the check evenly, you eliminate all of that awkwardness. But there’s still squabbling. For more on uncomfortable money issues, click here.

In this approach, both sets of parents will contribute to the wedding, possibly on a 50/50 basis. Or maybe they volunteer for buckets of costs—one set gets the food and booze, one set gets the rest of the reception. Or something that’s becoming more common: you slice the budget (like the guest list) into thirds—her parents, your parents, you and your fiancé. Or any combination therein.

3) The Lucky You Plan

Congratulations! You now get to piss away your savings. The good news is that you have (almost) complete autonomy of your financial decisions, meaning that you should be respectful to your parents…but not beholden.  You’ll also sleep better. The knowledge that you’re paying your own way, self-sufficient, will grant a peace of mind that’s hard to quantify.

Something else that’s easy to lose sight of: no one will think any less of you-or your fiancée-if the wedding isn’t glamorous. And if they do think less of you, they suck, and they don’t deserve your friendship. Last year, my buddy Stephane (who employed the Lucky You Plan) threw a reception in his local Brooklyn pub.  No dinner, no band, no floral arrangements, just great friends and a great time. And you know what? Everyone loved it. The authentic, low-key vibe matched their personalities to a T.  It just felt right. If you’re on the Lucky You Plan, it’s imperative that you calculate how much you can afford before your fiancée goes hog-wild with a “wish list.”  If you let her first brainstorm all the things that she wants to have, then the budget will mushroom like the Yankees’ payroll. Be realistic. And remind her that every $1,000 you spend on seafood consommé is $1,000 less that can be used for a mortgage.

See also: God And Money – Valid Reason To Skip The Open Bar? 

Obviously your fiancée might not be down for the “Local Brooklyn Pub” solution. We get that. The key takeaway, though, is that for the Lucky You Plan, always keep things in perspective and remember that this one day, while important, will not define your marriage. It’s a big day. But it’s only one day. So before you go into debt, remember that you have thousands and thousands of other days to feed yourself, your wife, and your eventual children. Don’t begin your marriage in a hole.

Join The Plunge (Don’t Worry: It’s Free)

Even More Groom Duties