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Breaking up the budget: Who pays for what?

Don't let the big-day budget become a hassle. provides some old-school breakdowns, with a modern twist, on how to split the bill.
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Don't let the big-day budget become a hassle. provides some old-school breakdowns, with a modern twist, on how to split the bill.

OK, time to have that cash chat. Get together with every single person who might contribute to the total cost of the wedding. That means all parents, you and your fiancé, and anyone else with a financial interest (may you be so lucky as to have an eccentric and wealthy aunt). This is the fastest way to find out how big you can dream. And, speaking of big, this is probably the time to ask both sides to submit a first-draft guest list. You'll need it sooner than you think!

More and more often today, weddings are paid for by a two-family counsel — and more than 60 percent of brides and grooms are paying for at least part of the costs as well. This makes it pretty clear that the old rules of divvying up the wedding bills simply no longer apply. What follows here is a slightly updated version of the traditional who-pays-for-what breakdown to help you put things in perspective. Bring it to your money talk to help the conversation along.

Tradition, modern-style

• Gifts for bridesmaids • Lodging for bridesmaids • Couple's personal stationery and thank-you notes• Wedding programs/guestbook  

Groom • Bride’s engagement ring • Marriage license • Officiant’s fee • Rental or purchase of his formalwear • Lodging for groomsmen • Gifts for the groom's attendants • Boutonnieres for self and groomsmen, as well as flowers for both mothers and grandmothers (It's much more common today for flowers to be paid in one lump sum, usually by the bride’s family.) • Bride’s bouquet (see above)

Bride and groom • The wedding bands • The honeymoon (In very traditional families, this is still considered the groom’s expense.)

Bride’s family • Engagement and wedding pictures • Wedding invitations • Wedding consultant, if applicable • Bridal ensemble • Ceremony fees: rental of synagogue or chapel, chuppah, aisle carpets, or other decorating items • Flowers: reception, ceremony, bridesmaids’ bouquets and fathers’ boutonnieres (see “groom” for more on wedding flowers) • Reception: site fees, caterer, food, bar, gratuities, decorations • Music: ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception • Bridesmaids’ luncheon (a traditional gesture of thanks) • Transportation for bridal party to ceremony and reception

Groom’s family • Rehearsal dinner (optional) or any other expense they elect

Bridesmaids • Bridal shower • Bridesmaid dress and shoes (flower girl/ringbearer attire is paid for by the child’s parents) • Any traveling expenses • Bachelorette party (optional)

Ushers • Rental of formalwear • Bachelor party (optional)

Guests • Traveling and lodging expenses (Even if you’re having a destination wedding, guests pay their own way.)

Bucking the trends
These are the most common ways that the old guidelines of who-pays-for-what are being adapted to reflect the multi-host wedding that is so popular today.

Groom’s family • All beverage and liquor service • Limousines • Music for the reception • Photography and/or videography

Bride and/or groom • Bride’s ensemble • Wedding flowers • All wedding stationery, including invitations, announcements, and thank-you notes

This content originally appeared in Modern Bride magazine. For more wedding tips, visit, your #1 source for weddings. For more wedding tips, visit .