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Wedding Budgets

Wedding Budget Help


Wedding Budget Dilemmas


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Wedding Budgets

Who Pays, What Power Do They Get, and How Does Money Impact Wedding Planning Decisions


Money is the root of much wedding stress and drama in wedding planning. For many reasons we'll discuss, wedding budgets often fly out the window when the rubber meets the wedding planning road.


Money is more than just money; it’s emotion, relationships, loyalty, obligation, influence, control, competition and gives you choices


Only about 27% of parents pay for the entire wedding. The rest of us have some combination of either paying it all ourselves, paying for most of it, splitting it with one set of parents, or splitting it among all families. I want to share a story to illustrate the intense issues around these early wedding budget decisions.


A couple gets engaged and the bride decides on a wedding budget all on her own. She then tells her groom to ask his parents for 50% of the money. What happened?


Parents do not appreciate being told, not asked, for money. They especially do not like being kept in the dark and expected to just hand over their wallet. Some parents aren't good at conflict so they may actually say "OK" and then hold resentment throughout the wedding planning process and years into the new marriage. (This is what happened in this case.)


You should you NEVER ask your parents for money (you can ask if they are interested or willing to help out, see who pays for the wedding for more on this.) Todays weddings are in a destructive "my day, my way" culture which to its logical extension means your day, your way, your wallet. There are no longer norms about who pays for what which is one of many reasons why weddings have become more stressful than ever. You are inventing norms with every wedding, every couple, and every family.


The grooms family held much more traditional views of weddings so they were quite taken aback to be paying half of their sons wedding.


The brides parents were divorced and remarried, representing, in the eyes of the grooms parents, two complete households. This means if things were equal, each set of parents should pay 1/3.


The wedding budget was HUGE. It made the mother of the groom gasp when she asked what dollar amount they were supposed to pay out. THIS IS NOT A GOOD WAY TO START A MARRIAGE, shocking your future in-laws by demanding a lot of money, without a single warm up conversation, and not splitting the budget evenly by all parental households. Even though the bride knew enough to have her groom talk to HIS Parents, it did not make her look good to decide such a huge wedding and without any conversation, explanations, detail-sharing, etc. There were also negative feelings around perceptions of wealth on the grooms parents end, making it seem like the bride felt she could have an expensive wedding because of their financial situation.


The grooms family and friends were always going to be a tiny portion of the wedding. While we do not necessarily advocate a "price per whose side of the family is going" approach, it added even more salt to the financial blow when they had very few guests in attendance.


So before even coming up with a budget, keep the following in mind:


  • Clarity, clarity, clarity (about who pays, for what, when, what if costs run higher?)
  • Money brings influence but not the power to dictate. Values should dictate wedding decisions even if money creates limits.
  • Those who do not put up money can still have influence.
  • Money should not trump relationships and should not be the "no more discussion" end point in a disagreement because money by itself is nothing more than paper.
  • Don’t use money to blackmail, threat, or manipulate—or you will pay a big price.     



When you look at your wedding planning checklist it is imperative to determine who is paying for what and what role that money provides them. See the parent wisdom page for more guidance on how parents can play a healthy role in the wedding planning relationship. If you are the engaged couple the Parents page can help you and your parents prevent the negative path many go down or it may also help solve some roadblocks and let you move forward. If not, our wedding stress coaching service is a wonderful way to get past circular fighting, miscommunication that never ends or to simple have a trained marriage and family counselor to help navigate you through the complex wedding planning process.


Common Mistakes or Traps:


A set dollar amount is promised without clarifying the details such as:


  • Who else needs to be involved in spending the money?
  • Who wants to be kept updated on the latest dollars being spent?
  • Who is going to determine whether something is actually within the budget or not (because wedding planning is both linear and scattered, a decision early on will greatly impact a later decision when the money pot dries up)?
  • What else and who else does this decision impact - if you are throwing a huge dollar amount at something it is vital to realize what else that decision will impact, be it issues in transportation, freedom or restrictions with the venue or policy you are signing, etc.


Remember in an ideal world they KEY stakeholders (bride, groom and their parents) have either never planned a wedding or the wedding was 20-40 years ago (your parents.) A sibling may have been married in which case one set of parents may be more up to date on the current wedding culture. But regardless, it's new terrority for most of us and there is a lot of ignorance which can end up costing you a lot of money, stress, and fighting.


You will find wildly different ways you should spend your money if you plug in budget calculators on places like theknot . com. I actually put in what we spent and the number of guests on theknot budget checklist and was shocked at the output! It was so impractical, illogical, and made me wonder who benefits from it!


We're working on creating a "smart wedding budget" checklist but for now, tread carefully down your wedding budget path and be aware of the many emotional landmines you are about to enter whether you are paying for the wedding yourselves or having others contribute.