Wedding tips - who pays for what?

Written by

Stephanie Reid

Stephanie Reid is a financial services expert with over eight years of experience writing money-saving articles at Novuna Personal Finance. She has written hundreds of articles on a variety of topics including interior design, home improvements and weddings - with a keen eye for spotting money-saving opportunities and passing these tips onto readers. As a mum of two, Stephanie knows how important budgeting effectively is for parents and often incorporates family budgeting tips into her guides.

Monday 5th June 2023

Wedding planning can be one of the most exciting periods of your life, but it can be stressful… and expensive. Should engaged couples be expected to foot the full bill for their big day, or can they expect their families to chip in?

In this guide, we’re sharing our tips on who traditionally pays for different elements of a wedding.

Who traditionally pays for the wedding?

Traditions vary depending on individual circumstances and cultural backgrounds, so it’s important to remember there’s no ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ when it comes to who pays for the big day.

The majority of the wedding expenses (including the venue, catering, decorations and entertainment) were traditionally paid for by the bride’s family, while the parents of the groom paid for the rehearsal dinner, marriage license, flowers, transportation to the wedding, and accommodation for the newlyweds. Many couples are bucking tradition and now choose to pay for the whole event, or at least part of it, themselves.

You might want an extravagant wedding that goes beyond your parent’s budget, or you might earn more as a couple than your families do and therefore might feel it’s more appropriate to pay for the big day yourselves. You might simply decide as a couple that you’d prefer to fund your wedding independently.

It really does come down to individual preferences and financial circumstances. It’s recommended to have an open and honest discussion with both sides of the family at the early stages of planning for a wedding. This ensures everyone’s comfortable with their contributions.

Now let's look at who traditionally pays for different elements of a wedding...

Who pays for the stag and hen do? 

Costs for stag and hens dos are usually covered by the attendees rather than the groom, bride or their wedding party.

Research suggests that the average cost of attending a stag or hen do in 2023 has skyrocketed to £385. So while it’s expected each guest will pay for their own accommodation, food and activities, some brides and grooms are choosing to subsidise the costs to ensure their nearest and dearest can attend. For example, paying for a shared house for the whole entourage saves attendees worrying about how they’ll find the cash to pay for pricey accommodation.

As stag and hen dos are usually organised by close friends or family members, many choose to cover the cost of the stag or hen attending. This is often dependent on the type of stag or hen do, though. If a bride or groom is expecting a five-star trip abroad, it’s fair to expect them to contribute.

Who pays for the wedding rings?

More often than not, the person who proposed will have paid for the engagement ring. But what about wedding rings? Traditionally, the bride (or her family) would pay for the groom’s ring while the groom (or his family) would pay for the bride’s ring.

These days, couples often shop for their wedding rings together and often pay for them jointly too.

Who pays for the wedding dress?

These days, the bride’s family often still pay for the wedding dress as a nod to tradition. The bride’s mother will often help her to choose the dream dress, and so many view it as a nice opportunity to contribute.

However, if the bride and groom are paying for the entirety of their wedding day as a couple it’s not uncommon for the price of the wedding dress to be swept away in the overall cost of the big day.

Who pays for the bridesmaid dresses?

The bridesmaids are usually responsible for buying their own wedding outfits. However, there’s been a shift in tradition in recent years. Should the bride decide to choose the dresses, it’s often expected she’ll pay for the main outfit while the bridesmaids will pay for their own accessories such as shoes and hairpieces.

Bridesmaids may be more willing to pay for their outfit if they’re able to choose their dress (and wear it again in the future). Many brides choose to give their bridesmaids a rough guideline, such as a colour scheme, to make sure the wedding party looks coordinated. This still gives each bridesmaid the freedom to choose an outfit they feel most comfortable in – and perhaps more comfortable paying for it, too.

Communicate your plans as soon as possible with your bridesmaids. If you’re expecting them to pay for a bespoke dress, for example, this should be made clear at the earliest opportunity so your wedding party has time to prepare.

Who pays for the groom’s and groomsmen’s suits?

Traditionally, the groom or his family would pay for the suits though groomsmen these days are often expected to pay for their own outfits. This will depend on whether the suit is purchased or rented, who chooses the style of the suit and how many groomsmen there are. Like most things to do with wedding costs, who pays for the groomsmen’s suits will often come down to individual preferences and financial circumstances.

For couples on a budget, it could be a good idea to ask groomsmen to wear a suit they already own. You can then simply pay for accessories such as shoes or a tie to make sure the outfit looks in keeping with the overall theme.

Who pays for wedding guest accommodation?

Guests rarely expect the bride and groom to pay for their travel or accommodation. That’s why it’s recommended to send out Save the Date cards a year or two in advance – particularly if you’re hosting a destination wedding – to give guests an opportunity to plan and save if they do want to attend.

Some families may pay for their own guest’s accommodation but this is by no means expected, and should be simply seen as a generous and personal gesture.

In terms of accommodation for the newlyweds, traditionally the groom’s family pay for the wedding night hotel. If a bride and groom are holding a wedding at a hotel, though, a bridal suite is often included in the overall price of the wedding package.

Who pays for the honeymoon?

Traditionally the groom’s family would often pay for the honeymoon. However, it’s becoming more and more popular for couples to ask wedding guests to contribute to the honeymoon as an alternative style of wedding gift.

What gifts do the bride and groom need to pay for?

  1. Wedding favours

Couples often spend a few pounds per guest on wedding favours. They’re a small gesture of thanks for being there on the big day. From personalised trinkets to edible goodies or even charitable donations, wedding favours are a lovely token of appreciation. They’re almost always paid for by the bride and groom themselves.

  1. Wedding party gifts

The bride and groom often show their gratitude to their main wedding party by giving a gift on the big day. It’s up to the individual couple how much to spend, but these gifts are often personalised and meaningful – something the wedding party can really treasure.

  1. Parental presents

The happy couple often choose to give gifts to their parents on their wedding day as a gesture of gratitude – particularly if their parents have contributed financially. These gifts are usually very sentimental, such as personalised jewellery or an ornament.

  1. Tokens of love for one another

Brides and grooms traditionally don’t see each other on the day of the wedding so, as a final token of love and commitment before the ceremony, many couples choose to exchange gifts on the morning of their wedding. Flowers, jewellery or watches are common choices though, if you’re sticking to a smaller budget, a love letter can be just as meaningful.

  1. ‘Thank you’ gifts

It takes a team of people to make sure a wedding goes off without a hitch. From the officiant to your wedding planner, there might be lots of people who’ve gone above and beyond to make your day special. Many couples choose to thank those involved by giving them a thoughtful gift such as a mug, plant or a bottle of fizz.

  1. Post-wedding thank you notes

The bride and groom will pay for thank you cards themselves. If you’ve received wedding gifts, it’s customary to send a handwritten note thanking your guests for the kind gesture.

How will you pay for your wedding?

Your own wedding might be just around the corner. Or a close family member might be getting married and you’re looking to contribute. Whatever your situation, you might be wondering if there's a way to make the cost more manageable.

A wedding loan could help you to pay for the day of your dreams upfront, allowing you to spread the cost over a timeframe that suits you. Borrow between £1,000 and £35,000 with competitive rates from as low as 7.4% APR Representative £7,500-£25,000).

Find out how much it could cost to fund a fairytale wedding with a personal loan by using our online calculator.