How Are You Paying For Your Wedding?

More honesty, less shame

If there’s one word associated with weddings, it’s money. Not romance, or timeless, or dreamy, or any of those words wedding media is fond of overusing. Nope. The one thing that you really can’t avoid when it comes to weddings is spending some cash. No matter how no-frills you go, your wedding is going to cost you something, even if it’s just the cost of your marriage license. For a lot of us, our wedding works out to be one of the largest one-time expenditures in our lives, so figuring out how to pay for it is stressful and complicated… and something nobody really talks about.

Today, we thought we’d go all in (anonymously if you want) on discussing the many ways that you can pay for a wedding and how you personally paid for yours. Because you know all that shame out there about the “bad” ways to pay for weddings? Well, a lot of us who don’t happen to have money trees in our backyards paid for our weddings in those less encouraged ways, like debt.

Though interestingly, as I worked on this post, I found that the majority of women I spoke to seemed to harbor some guilt about how they paid for their wedding. Were they spoiled if their parents paid? Were they spendthrift if they paid (and didn’t save that money)? Were they doing it irresponsible if they needed to use debt? And while most women had been shamed at some point or another about how they paid for their wedding, none of their male partners had.

So with that in mind, let’s discuss the main strategies folks use to pay for their weddings.

Funds from other people

This is a very traditional option, as was once considered the “norm” for the parents to kick in for the wedding, if not pay for it all outright. In my circle of friends, this is actually a less used option, since so many people are getting married later in life and can afford to finance their weddings on their own. Having family contribute to your wedding can be an awesome way to keep your own costs down while having the wedding of your dreams, but keep in mind that the check you receive may come with conditions.

Our contributor Eve had this to say about her wedding that her parents paid for:

I planned a big wedding when I was twenty-two, and then I canceled it. My parents had offered to pay for that one, and while everyone was relieved when it didn’t happen, I’ve always felt guilty for almost spending all that money on a bad idea. Ten years later, my parents offered to pay for my wedding again. I hadn’t expected it, but my fiancé and I had no money—zero dollars—for a wedding, and their offer felt genuine, generous, and exciting. I loved the idea of something small, but I also loved the idea of a huge celebration. We decided to take their offer. My parents didn’t pressure me too much about they day they were paying for, but it was impossible not to keep them in mind anyway. We did not, for example, have nude fire dancers.

For a while, it was kind of a stressful memory, and I felt guilty for spending money on a day that wasn’t literally magical. This past summer, however, I finally found the time to put together our wedding album. When I see photos of my parents’ smiling faces, and our guests laughing and dancing, and my husband and I exchanging rings, I feel only happiness and gratitude. I know we were so lucky, and I focus on the reality of the day instead of shaming myself or perceived judgment I’m afraid of from other people. Every aspect of this wedding was a good idea, and I refuse to wish it were any different.

Save and pay for it yourself

This is the most unglamorous of all options, it’s the “diet and exercise” of finances. On the plus side, you and your spouse will get to your wedding day knowing you didn’t have to rely on anyone else, and that you have no post-wedding bills to pay. But depending on how fast you’re able to save and your wedding budget, you could be delaying your wedding for a long time, which is why a lot of people don’t opt to a hundred percent save and pay for their own weddings. Most people—including myself—do some level of saving, but have to supplement their savings with other means.

A friend described their choices this way:

My fiancé and I pooled our savings and set aside an amount for the wedding. We’re both anti credit cards. We considered our wedding budget as a regular line in an expense sheet in the grand scheme of financial planning. I learned early on to take out emotions when it comes to finances. The hard line kept us within budget. I could’ve had some allowance for a fancier dress or vintage champagne, but decided to use the money for more long-lasting investments.

The Combo Option

Maybe your families are ready to fork over some cash to help pay for your wedding… but the amount of cash they can offer simply isn’t going to pay for the wedding that you (or they) want. When that’s the case, often the couple will put in funds as well… or combine money saved with money borrowed.

APW’s EIC Meg explained that their wedding was paid for using this model:

When we got engaged, my husband was in law school, but he had some money in savings. I was working at an entry-level job at an investment bank, and I didn’t have a ton in savings. My husband’s parents felt that as parents of the groom they were not responsible for paying for the wedding, but they wanted to help. That meant they offered some cash, but nowhere near enough to cover the bill. My parents couldn’t afford a ton, but helping to pay was important to them, so they ended up throwing in the same amount that his parents did.

The tricky part was, the family contributions only paid for about half of the wedding. It was super important to everyone that we were able to invite David’s huge Jewish family, along with the rest of our friends and loved ones. His parents also really wanted us to serve a traditional sit-down meal—which is expensive pretty much any way you slice it. To make it work, David contributed money from his savings, and I saved till I had enough to cover the rest. In the end, the wedding costs ended up roughly split equally four ways, between our two families, and the two of us. Paying for half of the wedding was tough and frustrating at times, but it did give us freedom to call the shots on things we cared about, so it was worth it in the end.

Get a side hustle

Making some additional cash for your wedding is another route a lot of folks take. Depending on your skill set and location, there are lots of things you could do—drive for Uber or Lyft, rent on Airbnb, make deliveries, sell items online—you name it, and there’s something in the gig economy for it. If you’ve got some free time, it might be worth using that time to make some extra cash on the side to put toward your wedding.

Keriann, APW’s Director of Partnerships, and her partner made their wedding happen this way:

When we got engaged, we knew that we’d be paying for a wedding completely on our own. I had also just dug myself out of post-college credit card debt, so the option to go back into debt was out for me. We decided we would have to save up for a wedding, and spent the first year of what ended up being a two-year engagement talking about our hypothetical budget goal. Talking, but not saving. In the end, it was way more motivating for us to actually make plans so that we’d have a real-life budget goal and a due date (erm, wedding date) to work toward.

Amazingly, as the puzzle pieces (aka bills!) of our wedding started falling into place, creative ways to pay for them started popping up—my now-husband is a designer and ended up earning thousands of dollars through pop culture t-shirt websites that were a Thing for a second in 2010. I was working for an interior designer at the time, and she would throw a bunch of odd jobs my way. (If you think IKEA is a threat to your relationship now, just imagine the fights when you’re making your husband be the muscle because you’re getting paid to shop for other people.) Oh, and we skipped out on all traveling (sad face) for a year and a half. Basically our wedding was paid for through a little deprivation, a lot of hustle, Doctor Who t-shirts, and early mornings at IKEA.

Put it on a credit card

Don’t clutch your pearls, using a credit card can be a good tool for financing your wedding, if you’re strategic. If you’re the type who pays off their card every month, using a credit card to pay for your wedding expenses won’t incur you any additional debt. If you do this with a rewards card, you can even score enough points or cash back to pay for your honeymoon. Additionally, a lot of cards offer additional protections in case something happens, so it’s advisable to pay for large contracts by credit card, even if you pay it off immediately.

Beyond that, yes, some people do use credit card debt to help fund their wedding. Our CRO Maddie explained:

We paid for our wedding through a combination of parental help and our own money. But being fresh out of college, super broke, and very bad at budgeting, we didn’t exactly have any savings to pull “our own money” from. So instead, we bet on our future. We knew that we’d be getting a tax break from our freshly minted married status, so we put things like our decor and the down payment for our photographer on a credit card, with plans to offset the bill when our tax return came through a few months later.

But joke was on us. Our financial instability meant that when the wedding was over, we continued to put unexpected expenses on our credit card (our sick dog, new apartment, the set of pots and pans we had to buy because I was convinced we would get a set as a wedding gift and had given away all our old ones). And it took the better part of a decade for us to pay off the debts from those first few years of our marriage. But I’m not sure I would have done it any differently. Looking back, I’m pretty sure we would have ended up with all that debt, wedding or no, and we would have had to wait close to ten years to be able to afford a wedding outright, and we would have ended up with something much more expensive. So #NoRegrets.

If I had to do it all over again now that we are more financially stable, I would still put everything on a credit card, though. Now that we’ve learned how to use them responsibly, I would rack up all the JetBlue miles I could get, snag myself Mosaic status, and upgrade our honeymoon with the money saved on tickets.

Get a personal loan

Another option that people look down upon but can really be a lifesaver in a pinch. Full disclosure: my husband and I exercised this option for our wedding. Also full disclosure: this is the first time that I’ve shared with anyone that we got a personal loan for our wedding. Why had I never shared this? Well, there’s a lot of wedding shaming out there, especially on social media. Every week there’s another conversation on Twitter bemoaning weddings as a “waste of time and money,” and who wants to be judged for their choices? As our wedding was 90 percent self-funded, our options were limited in how we could pay for our wedding. Our short engagement meant either radically changing our lifestyle so we could save aggressively, or drastically scaling back on the wedding. Neither of those options were things we were willing to do, and we also didn’t want to turn to our families for a short-term loan. A personal loan from a peer-to-peer lending firm turned out to be the best option for us, because we had a lower interest rate than using a credit card. We weren’t thrilled that we needed a small loan, but it really helped out in a pinch, and paying off the loan early helped our credit scores.

Tell us APW readers, how did you pay for your wedding? Was it worth it? If you could go back, would you do something different?

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  • Amy March

    Just a note on using credit cards- I think it’s a good idea when you can, but many many vendors will not accept credit card payments, especially for the biggest ticket items. Make sure to read your contracts closely if you really want to pay by credit card because the catering company might require a check for $15,000, and that is a nasty surprise.

    • Violet

      Yes! It was a total bummer we couldn’t use a credit card for our venue, because, the points!

      Also, if you pay your credit card balance off in total at the end of the month, that behavior doesn’t *really* fall in the same category as “using credit cards.” It’s using your credit card as a de facto debit card. And that’s not really what people mean when they say they put their wedding on their credit card.

    • flashphase

      Or they will accept credit cards but they charge a 1-3% fee, which you might not have accounted for in your budget – and if you accrue interest on that, it ends up being way more than 3%.

    • Eenie

      Yup. Our restaurant wanted a check, but they didn’t state that in their contract, so it ended up going on our credit card. Well, credit cards because we didn’t have a card with a limit high enough to cover the entire amount!

      • Eh

        Our venue was sold to us as being inclusive (venue, bar, food, service and linens). In our contract there was no mention that the venue and bar were one invoice and that the food, service and linens were another invoice. Both expected payment for the remainder the night of our wedding. We only brought enough cheques for the vendors we thought we needed to pay by cheque that night (e.g., DJ, photographer, bag piper, venue/food combined). When I realized that I was one cheque short I had a slight panic but luckily the venue (including bar) let us pay with our credit card.

    • Lisa

      Yes, this! There are some on-line programs that will convert a credit card into a check for you, but they will charge the 2-3% service fee that vendors typically eat.

    • sofar

      Yep. All our big-ticket vendors (photographer, caterer, venue) did NOT take credit cards, much to our disappointment because we had the cash in an account ready to go (to pay off the cards right away), and would have earned so, so SO many points while paying no interest.

      Alas.

      • lamarsh

        Ugh, same. It was such a disappointment.

    • Rose_C

      One thing that we have come across is vendors who accept PayPal and Venmo (sometimes with a fee) which has been a good way for us to get the points for those big purchases. And a bit of purchase protection as well.

    • penguin

      Yep. Most of our vendors took credit cards for deposits only, and then required checks for the rest or would have charged a percentage fee that was more than the cash back we’d get from the credit card rewards. This bummed me out but at least we knew ahead of time.

  • Katie

    Ohhh, weddings and money, my number one favorite wedding subject! (not even kidding.)

    Our wedding was going to be fully financed by my mother-in-law. I felt uncomfortable with it, my husband didn’t – he knew that she had helped with weddings of his brothers and wanted to help with ours. I thought our budget would be $10k – exactly what she offered us – but the costs kept rising. It took me a while to realize that a wedding that cost $10k 5-7 years ago (when his brothers were getting married) now costs almost double that.

    That’s when my mom stepped in. While they don’t have a ton of money, my parents threw in another $4k, and while it didn’t exactly cover all the other expenses, it was of immense help. I should add, my father-in-law is covering the alcohol, so it is another $1k or so not budgeted into our wedding.

    The planning is not over yet, and right now it looks like we have to spend close to $16k on the wedding. I got a side job on weekends and pick up extra hours at my main job whenever I can.

    I am still grappling with feelings like “I want us to be responsible to pay for our own wedding” or “Why spend so much money on just one day”, but I’m slowly coming to terms with it. First, while having somebody else pay for you puts some restrictions on you, it doesn’t necessarily mean (in our case) that they will boss you around with planning. I had to concede to having more guests than I had originally had in mind, plus a couple of things I didn’t really care about but my MIL does. Second, yes, it is just one day, but it’s also very likely the only opportunity to gather as much family and friends as we can to celebrate us and have fun together – how can we pass?

  • Rose

    We did a combination; I had healthy savings, my fiancee didn’t at the time. So about half the cost ended up coming out of my savings, and my in-laws kindly offered to pay for the other half. My parents weren’t in a place to contribute a ton of money directly, but the reception was in their yard, which was a pretty major investment in time and energy from them, and in our case ended up saving money. So it all felt very balanced, even though it wasn’t exactly the same. We could have managed something quite modest from just my savings (like, punch and cake at the church kind of modest), but it was really nice to be able to have a somewhat larger event.

  • LCS

    I really appreciate your sharing that you used a loan.We too are using a loan, and you know what? I’m SO ok with it. My parents are contributing about 5% of the wedding costs, which I appreciate since I know it’s a lot for them. We have decided on an epic three day wedding weekend on the lake in the woods and while we know it’s unconventional (and more expensive), we feel that for us, our top wedding priority is having real quality time with our loved ones. We are also in a unique and lucky position: we do not need to save for a house, we will not be having children, and have stable jobs and have made a debt repayment schedule. I am coming off of a terrible year with a health situation (on the mend!) and I have had a good hard look at my values and I’ve realized that as long as I know I can pay off said loan, I can live with the debt. I don’t want to wait 5 more years to marry this man and I want a big ass awesome party. Because we need to celebrate life extra these days. No shame.

  • Eh

    A few years before our wedding my dad and step-mum had a fight about how much to contribute to their children’s weddings. Between them, they have 7 children. At the time, my three step-sister’s were married (before my dad and step-mom were married) and my brother was married (eloped around the time my dad and step-mum got married). The trigger for the fight was that my step-brother was getting married. When my step-sisters got married, my step-mom was a single mom who worked two jobs to pay the bills and she couldn’t contribute very much. She gave them each about the same amount of money with the idea that it would cover the cost of supper. When my step-brother got married, my step-mom’s finances were in a much better situation because they were combined with my dad’s. My dad felt that they should contribute what they could afford but my step-mom insisted that her son should get the same as her daughters to be fair. In the end, they agreed that the three of us that weren’t married would get the same amount. So to be transparent about the situation, me and my sister were told what we were getting ($4K) and why about two years before we were even engaged.

    Money is a touchy subject with my inlaws. They don’t like sharing their financial information with their sons (and they never taught their sons how to budget or financial literacy). We get snippets, for example, after our wedding they told us that they needed to pay off the previous two years (2 weddings, a grandbaby and a graduation) so they were going to cut back on vacations and home renovations (we actually didn’t notice a decline in these activities). A couple weeks after we got engaged there was a wedding show and I went with my MIL. While we were there, she told me that they were giving us $10K for our wedding/house down payment (which she said was the same amount they gave my BIL/SIL). To me, this was a huge amount of money. We decided that out of the $10K we would put $4K towards the wedding and add the rest to our house fund.

    Our whole wedding and honeymoon cost about $17K. My husband was a student at the time but he was able to save up about $3K and I was able to save the remainder during our one year engagement. We were also pretty lucky that neither set of parents put strings on the money or were demanding as a result of the contributions. My MIL was overbearing and opinionated at points, but that was because she wanted to be involved after my BIL/SIL had not involved her and MIL/FIL received complaints from other family members – she just didn’t want the same complaints about our wedding. My MIL does not have any daughters, so she frequently feels left out of her son’s lives (as she assumes me and my SIL communicate and involve our families of origin more than them), and she wanted to fully embrace the role of Mother of the Groom that she was denied when my BIL got married. As a result, she was delighted when we asked her to host the rehearsal supper.

    • Katie

      Who are the people who voice their “complaints” about somebody else’s wedding???

      • Eh

        Complaining is a sport in my husband’s family. There were complaints that some cousins’ children were invited but others weren’t (and my BIL/SIL used the excuse that they were paying for the wedding, which wasn’t totally true, so this group of cousins 9 children would cost them too much money). As a result we were asked to invite the cousins’ children (which we were planning on doing since I was inviting my cousins’ children), a long with some other people who supposedly expected to be invited to my BIL/SIL’s wedding (great-aunts and uncles, and my MIL’s best friends) and were insulted that they were not. Another complaint was that the wedding was in the middle of no where an hour from where everyone lived and there was no hotels nearby, so they asked that we get married in their hometown (note: my family lives 8 hours away so that meant all of my family had to travel – but they said their family wouldn’t travel to our wedding). People also complained that it was the hottest day of the year and my BIL/SIL got married outside (in a large gazebo so we were all in shade). So they asked that we not get married in the summer and that we get married in a climate controlled location. My BIL/SIL also didn’t send out thanks you notes so we were told that we had to because it would look bad on my MIL/FIL (I planned to send out thank you notes so this wasn’t an issue).

        • Katie

          I mean, okay, I can see how somebody can be miffed about no thank-you notes. But all the other stuff? You were invited to a heartfelt celebration with a nice (free!) meal and possibly dancing, and you complain about driving for an hour and being hot? I mean, by all means, be offended, but to actively share it with the family… Sending kudos to you for putting up with that kind of dynamic planning your own wedding!

          • Eh

            I wasn’t impressed with the way it was presented to us. That is, people will be upset if you don’t do things this way, and they will complain to my inlaws who will look bad. We were already planning on having a non-summer wedding, which would probably be inside (since spring and fall here can be sketchy), we were already planning on inviting the cousins’ children and asking my inlaws who else they wanted to invite (being hyperbolic that people were offended to not be invited didn’t need to be added), and I was planning on sending out thank you notes so I didn’t need the lecture/guilt trip. The one thing that annoyed me was the location comment. We live an hour away from their hometown and my family lives 8 hours away, so we had been looking at other locations. It did put a lot of pressure on us to get married in their hometown instead of other locations we were considering.They had never met my family so my family was a bit of an abstract thing to them. This was also an interesting comment since my MIL is very much about tradition and etiquette, and it is traditional that the couple be married in the bride’s home town.

  • theteenygirl

    Our original wedding budget was 10k (Canadian) which was just about do-able for us with savings we had, but I wanted to pay down my student debt first so I threw my tax return down on my student debt and was able to get that paid off. Then for the 6 month engagement period we didn’t put any money into to retirement or savings accounts and put the money we would save into the wedding. Then my parents surprised us with an amazing gift of 5k so we upped our budget to 13k – in total we paid 8k ourselves. Not being able to save for 6 months freaked me out a bit, but I was very happy that we started the engagement without debt, and then we came out of the wedding and honeymoon without debt.

    • flashphase

      Similar but opposite in some ways! I had been putting extra money towards my student loans, but once it became clear that we were going to get engaged, I started paying the minimum on loans so I could save more for the wedding. Basically all extra savings went towards the wedding, but we were fortunate to already each have some emergency funds so we didn’t have $0 in our checking accounts.

      • theteenygirl

        If I hadn’t been SO CLOSE to paying off my student debt I would have reduced my payments to the minimum for a while too… I was just absolutely chucking as much money as possible to the loan immediately after graduating and then by some kind of tax miracle (in reality, I used all my education tax credits in one go) I got a huge tax return that exactly covered my remaining balance. We made sure not to touch our EMERGENCY savings, but yeah, any money that would have gone towards our future went to the wedding for a little while. No regrets, it was worth it!

  • alphabet soup

    My parents are paying for the whole thing — they always expected they would, and it’s within their means, and our family is pretty big.

    One question I have is about the host line on the invitation — something I see here a lot is the sentiment “the host line is not for sale” — but what does hosting entail, if not paying for/organizing the festivities? It’s so complicated to sort out all these feelings about money and “hosting.” It’s in my parents’ city and they’re paying, so they’re on the host line, but my fiancé really wanted “together with their families” because it felt more equal… and I really DIDN’T want it to say “together with their families” because his parents have been so blatantly unhelpful in every way (in terms of finances, emotional labor, even getting us a list of names of people they’d like to invite). So it’s not that I thought the host line was “for sale” to my parents, more like I thought having them listed as hosts accurately reflected the situation, and their feelings would be hurt if they were not honored in that way.

    Our compromise was to put his parents on the invitation under his name, so he still feels like they’re represented, but I don’t feel resentful on my parents’ behalf that they have to share credit for such a nice party with people who have been such jerks.

    • Amy March

      I think hosting doesn’t always equal paying, but often it does! And if one set of parents is paying for the wedding I think it’s a pretty reasonable expectation that they be listed as the hosts.

      • Meg Keene

        The issue comes up (and I’ve seen this too many times, I mean frankly once is too many times, but I digress). Where Dad A is like “Well, I gave WAY more money than your mom, so I should be listed as the host. Also your mom is broke, so she shouldn’t be in the invite at all.”

        Which you know, fuck that guy. Not to put too fine a point on it.

        • Engaged Chicago

          This is too real, but swap dad with mom. It came up in our thank you speech when I blanketedly thanked my parents and my mom was hurt for not being named by name. Now,I do wish I had singled out my parents (“thank you mom for being a big part of this evening, etc. thank you dad for printing everything.”) but at the time, 1) we planned it all ourselves and I was proud of that effort and 2) I didn’t know how to do it without embarrassing my dad. I do feel for mom since she financed so much and then shared credit (invitation wording, every parent gave a speech, representation in photos) – like I’m worried about her ROI -but it’s tricky!

    • LilyinNYC

      We actually had the same issue- but we’re paying for it ourselves completely. His parents expected to be listed along with my parents as the hosts for some reason, but I had not planned on listing either of them since we are hosting. Honestly, while the line isn’t for sale, if someone is contributing (whether financially, emotional labor, whatever), they deserve to be recognized. I think your compromise is totally fair.

    • Abs

      We felt the same way about the host line–we paid for the wedding ourselves, but it was in my family’s city and my family did WAY more work, by any possible interpretation. His family are lovely, but they did literally nothing to help us except being pleasant on the day. I thought it might be nice to say “together with their families”, but was worried my family would be offended, and my partner didn’t want to give credit to his family. So in the end we opted for just hosting ourselves.

      ETA: And for what it’s worth, no one in either of our families seemed to notice the wording of the invitation at all.

    • Anon

      So, to me the difference between paying and hosting is who is picking out and having the final say on things, who is determining the guest list and who will be receiving invites. So, for us, my ILs are paying, but they gave us a lump sum of money and told us to do whatevs – also with the caveat that if we decided not to have a big wedding we could just have the money as a gift. We’re considering ourselves the hosts since we’re researching and booking everything ourselves and having final say on the guest list, and we’ll be actually receiving and coordinating invites. We’re going to do “together with our families” to basically indicate ourselves as the hosts. My parents are contributing, but a lot less – for us it is pretty proportionate to income/wealth level so it did seem equitable. If either parents were doing nothing, I might feel differently about giving a light nod.

    • Meg Keene

      Hosting is an emotional thing. If you both want your parents to be listed as the host, because it feels like they are hosting, that’s not a bad thing. The way you’re talking about laying it out IS the traditional invitation wording, which assumes the bride’s parents are paying and doing all the work. And that seems like it’s an accurate reflection of your situation.

      But in many cases, both/ all the sets of parents feel like hosts, even if they’re offering different amounts, or no money at all. Or clearly, you’re self hosting. It’s really a judgement call.

      • alphabet soup

        Though sometimes you run into that issue where one parent (or set of parents) “feels like a host” but hasn’t done anything to merit the privilege (whether that’s money or being helpful or giving emotional support or some other thing). This one is so hard!

  • Anon

    I’m surprised to see personal loans and credit card debt being recommended. You can get married for the cost of a license. Is a party really worth debt? Is this really a good idea?

    • Eenie

      For some people yes! Nowhere does it say everyone should take out a loan/put everything on their card. There are two VERY specific examples in the piece from two people who did those exact things and would do it again.

      The whole point of the post is to stop shaming people based on their choices.

      • Eh

        I know my BIL/SIL took out a loan for their wedding. They didn’t tell many people (which is totally reasonable, as it’s no body’s business) but they got a lot of negative comments about it, especially since my inlaws gave them $10K (CAD) which could have paid for a whole wedding (but paid for less than half of their wedding).

        • Eenie

          Yes! I really appreciated Jareesa’s explanation on why they went with a loan. It makes perfect sense in certain situations. I bet it’s a lot more common that we think, because it’s not talked about a lot due to the judgment. The important thing is to consider how it impacts your personal financial future, and if the risk is worth it.

    • LCS

      I guess it’s just a matter of the couple’s priorities and financial position. And it depends on what your future looks like – if I was going to have kids I wouldn’t have such a big wedding. But I’m not, and we are a little older, and it’s all good. I am not recommending a loan. I’m just making the choice to do so for myself, mindfully and unabashedly. Everyone’s needs are different, and that’s ok. It’s a good idea if you know that you can manage the debt responsibly and if having a big party with the people you love feels like the way you want to celebrate your marriage.

    • Violet

      I don’t see anywhere that it’s recommended. This is written as a descriptive piece, not a prescriptive one.
      I think most people would agree that looking at ONLY the financial factors, using credit to fund a consumer purchase is not a prudent move. But whose life is only about financial factors? Anyone who’s ever gone out to eat when they could have stayed home and cooked made a financial decision that wasn’t the least expensive. Our purchasing decisions almost always factor in other values, such as entertainment, social enjoyment, convenience, corporate responsibility, etc. You can either live like a monk or recognize that we all spend money in unneeded ways, all the time. To only value money and not other factors would be a life I wouldn’t find worth living. So to your question, “Is a party really worth debt?” to some people, the answer is yes.

    • Meg Keene

      I donno. Have you had to make that decision? If so, you know your own answer. If not, then you really can’t sit in judgement of any sort.

    • PAJane

      Taking out a loan and paying it off in good time can help build credit. Being responsible with a credit card can do the same thing.

      • Violet

        Yes, though to build good credit with a credit card, you need to pay the balance in full every month. Carrying a balance is not good. That is a common myth out there, so I just want to clarify that for anyone who’s unsure.

  • Sarah Jane

    We had a combination of parental gift and personal loans – we had just bought a house, had (still have) mountains of college debt, and a pretty good pile of credit card debt, so there were virtually no savings to speak of. My parents gifted us $5k, my husband’s mom loaned us $3k (which we paid back immediately using the majority of the money we received as gifts at the actual wedding), and I took out a personal loan of $5k. It’s been a little weird with our parents – my parents are very anti-debt, and were very annoyed that my husband’s portion of the guest list was a little bit bigger than ours, and yet his family ‘wasn’t contributing anything’. We ended up not telling my parents about the loans, because that would have been so.much.drama.
    And honestly, I don’t regret it. We paid back my mother in law right away, and the personal loan has a low interest rate, and we got the wedding that we and our families wanted. I wouldn’t go back and change anything.

    • Meg Keene

      I’m a big fan of the idea that nobody needs to know what other people gave. You give what you give and at the end there is a wedding, THE END. Anything else isn’t your business.

  • Kaitlyn

    We’re a combo of ourselves and our parents. Each set of parents contributed about a quarter of the costs, and then we’re paying a little more than half ourselves. We had a long engagement (19 months) so we could save the money and all the extras of the past two years (tax returns and performance bonuses) went straight to the wedding fund. We did zero budgeting for the honeymoon, so most of the hotel/flights is on a card (~$1200 maybe?) that we’ll pay ourselves back for. J just won $250 in Superbowl Squares last night so that’s going towards the honeymoon too hahaha

  • flashphase

    Ours is a textbook case of “be prepared to pay for your wedding yourselves.” My parents told us right when we got engaged that they would be giving us $X – this amount was the same as they had given my sibling, but my sibling had a different kind of wedding and got married much younger, so the money from my parents was their entire wedding budget. For us, the money from my parents ended up covering 50% of our budget.

    My MIL said she would give us $Y, but it was specifically as a wedding gift to be used as a down payment and not for our wedding. I mentioned before that my partner made a comment about how the down payment dollars would sit in our savings account next to the wedding dollars. $Y would cover about 30% of our wedding, so we thought we would end up paying 20%.

    My MIL is a well-meaning person but likes to have things her way. I don’t believe she intended to use the money as a way she wanted to pull strings/manipulate our wedding/life, but that’s how it worked out. My partner ended up asking MIL for some of the money about a month before the wedding. We were already having some conflicts about the wedding, and it became a fight, with her accusing us of being irresponsible and coming up with reasons why she shouldn’t give us the money anyway. Finally she relented and gave us half of what she said she would, or about 15% of our budget.

    So in the end, we covered 35% of our budget, not 20% as planned. Luckily we were able to do it from savings – we combined accounts after getting engaged which helped us to see that we had a little more than we thought. All extra savings and money that used to go to extra loan payments went towards the wedding. We also didn’t register for too much stuff, so we ended up with a lot of checks as wedding gifts – this was huge in replenishing our savings.

    The other half of the money from her we did eventually receive over a year after our wedding, well after we bought a house (so odd that she didn’t give us the money in time for the down payment!) after asking several times. I’m glad to have it and of course it was a very generous gift. But the hoops we had to go through – the anger we felt at being manipulated – my partner having to go back again and again to say, “hey, remember that wedding gift?” was really unpleasant and definitely had ill effects on our relationship.

    • flashphase

      Oh! And we did a minimoon with a honeymoon much later. After a short engagement, this gave us time to plan and save just for the honeymoon.

  • Julie whom disqus hates

    So, we haven’t actually had our wedding yet so this could (hopefully won’t) change…

    When we got engaged, my dad announced *the next morning* that they would give us $10,000 but that that was just a starting number and they would be willing to pitch in more. We started planning by counting relatives and close friends to come up with a guest list number (150). Then we started looking at venues. We found a hotel where the all-inclusive (cash bar) reception for 150 people would come to about $10,000. So we told my parents that they would pay for the reception, and we would pay for everything else.

    That said, my mom insisted on paying for Save the Dates because we were originally going to just send an email and she thought they should be cards. (Mom has a fair number of opinions about how things should be done but to be fair to her she’s also very willing to pay the difference for us to upgrade, so it’s ok with me.) And my gramma paid for my dress (and all the accessories/underpinnings) as a gift because she was just so happy to be there when I was trying on dresses. I’m the last granddaughter to get married (on both sides actually) so I feel like I’m benefitting from a lot of generosity/excitement.

    For the rest, fiance and I have so far benefited from being able to spread things out. I doubled the number of classes I taught last semester, which was partly something that just kind of happened to me, but I definitely wouldn’t have been willing to be that stressed if I hadn’t had the incentive of socking away a few grand for the wedding. With the reception taken care of, it’s not bad at all (fingers crossed), which I am extremely grateful for given that we’ve both spent most of our adult lives as students/underemployed and have very little capital for something like this.

    • Lisa

      I think it’s totally worth it to let people pay for something they really want if it doesn’t hurt what you’re trying to do in some way. My parents paid for most of our wedding, but there were expenses they wanted removed from the budget because they were afraid we would cut them. Since those were important to them, I was fine, say, having a videographer present even if it wasn’t the first place I would have put the money.

      • Julie whom disqus hates

        Yeah, so far it’s been harmonious. Fiance and I put some research into how guests could get from the church to the hotel — he’s already really familiar with the public bus routes, we walked around and figured out parking for the church, and we took a test taxi to see how much that would cost — and after running it by friends decided it was totally reasonable. My parents are now making noises about needing to hire a bus but they also seem to view it as their own expense so… hopefully that holds.

  • Eenie

    We were lucky to have money in savings to pay for the wedding we wanted. We also agreed that we wouldn’t accept any gifts from parents above $X amount (we didn’t want them taking on debt for us). Both parents gave us generous gifts of money well within their means, and we put this money in savings to offset the money we spent.

  • Nonny

    We’re a few months out from our wedding, so not done with all the details yet. But our wedding is basically being paid out of my savings account. Fiancee is more recently graduated and has some student debt that needs paying off more urgently. We have an agreement that she will pay me back half of the wedding costs over the next year. My parents may end up contributing some money for wedding/honeymoon, my future parents in law likely won’t. I feel okay about it – it’s the best solution – but also a little bit iffy about the uneven economics of it all (especially when I want fancier things than my fiancee does – and she is very firm on paying her own half of it all, just later).

    The hardest thing is to weigh the emotional importance of what we want the wedding to be (a real good party for the important people) vs savings for eventually trying to have a kid and buy a house.

  • Lisa

    I had a decent amount of savings when we got engaged, which I had assumed would be the basis for our wedding planning if we didn’t get help from our parents. Early on in planning, I had a discussion with my parents about money. (I honestly can’t remember who brought it up first.) My parents researched the average cost of a wedding for the year we got engaged and came up with a number they were comfortable contributing. They told us that we could spend however much of that number we wanted and that the difference would be given as a check. Anything over would be discussed as a possibility, but we would be expected to start fronting costs at that point.

    Our wedding came in slightly under budget around $24,500, and we told my parents not to worry about the rest since we were sure there might have been smaller expenses that got lost along the way, plus there were items my parents paid for that were important to them that they didn’t want included in the budget. (A videographer was the one thing my dad really wanted and was high up on our cut list.)

    Husband’s parents paid for the ~$2000 rehearsal dinner.

    We used the cash gifts we received from guests to fund our honeymoon and buy a few registry items that didn’t get purchased.

  • Emily B

    We’re going for a combo–my fiance and I don’t have much extra to pay for a wedding right now (he’s working out some old debt, I just finished 8 years of grad school). We’re both feeling the ‘new life stage, time to unburden ourselves of old crap’ thing and selling stuff online. Fiance is working extra hard to spruce up his house to sell and might sell his truck too (we’re moving to a city where it won’t be of as much use). We’re also both cutting back a lot on extra expenditures (all home cooking all the time, riding my bike to work through the winter instead of taking the bus, etc.).

    We also both wanted a smaller thing to begin with, regardless of $–we’re doing the ceremony at city hall with immediate family and a few very close friends (~15 total), then the next day having a bigger (~30 guests) ‘reception’ at my parent’s house. They’re old hippies who love a good shindig, and actually renovated the house after my brother and I moved out to make it a better party house! Fiance is Cajun–cooking and revelry are big important parts of his culture, so he and his childhood friends are going to cook up giant pots of gumbo and jambalaya for the party. Music will be provided by all our musician friends getting tipsy and jamming.

    His folks can’t really contribute to wedding costs (totally ok, of course), but among other points of privilege, mine can. They will be paying for things like transportation for out-of-town guests, tents for the party, extra food and booze, and my dress; fiance and I are paying for rings, the ceremony, and a few other ‘minor’ things that add up. APW has helped a TON in helping relieve my stress/guilt about what a wedding ‘should’ be and embrace what we want it to be, *and* the ways in which we can make it happen. I honestly wish I could hug all of the APW staff, so instead I will just hug my APW books!

    • Amy March

      This wedding sounds awesome!

      • Emily B

        Haha thanks, I’m so excited about it! And so so relieved, after we decided to ditch the big, ‘traditional’ wedding plans for something that felt right for us. Just decided all of this last week and I’m still walking around on a cloud :D

    • Mjh

      Your wedding sounds fantastic! Hope everything goes wonderfully.

      My wedding was a similar size and it was absolutely, unquestionably the right fit for us. I’ve been to a bunch of different types of weddings ranging from ~a thousand guests to just twi guests and plenty in between. IMO the most fun weddings are the ones in which the size reflects the couple’s style of engagement/comfort zone.

  • Another Meg

    At a wedding for a high school friend, we ran into someone else from our class – serving at the buffet. We said hi, and it turns out that she was engaged and doing cater-waiter work to get some extra cash and a discount on her wedding reception’s catering. #smart

    • rg223

      … this is brilliant!

      • Another Meg

        Right? We were super impressed with her ingenuity.

  • MNP

    We are doing a mix of family contributing, my savings, and credit card being the last option. My parents and I have had a discussion and they were able to provide a concrete number that they were comfortable providing and they have been very relaxed about how we are deciding to use that money (ie: they came with us to look at venues but there was no “We’re paying so you must choose this” type of thing. They want to be included but they want us to be happy above all). My fiance’s mother will also be contributing but her amount is more vague so I am hesitant to count on her fully without knowing what limit she is comfortable with. To make up for that wiggle room and anything that might go over what family is willing to budget, I am actively saving up and putting money aside. My fiance was never a saver and is therefor in a tougher financial situation than I am currently, so I’m fine with using my savings for the majority of what we might have to contribute. Anything over that will probably be minimal and put on one of our credit cards.

  • beeethanyj

    We paid for it ourselves using our savings. We had 40 guests and did the wedding and ceremony at a restaurant so it was pretty reasonable (~12k-ish, with a lot of that being photography costs). We did put a lot on credit cards that we paid off immediately and got a ton of money back in rewards.

  • Lexipedia

    My parents are paying for the catering, venue, and my dress. His parents are paying for the bar, the rehearsal dinner, and the photographer. We are paying for rings, flowers and decor, his suit, attire for our wedding party, officiant and his travel and hotel.

    Split is probably 50% my parents, 30% his parents, 20% us. We were both surprised by how much our families very generously wanted to contribute, and grateful that they did. We could’ve spent more of our own money, or had a smaller wedding, but our parents didn’t want us to dip into savings – especially after the fire we had last fall. My parents wanted to pay more because we agreed to have our wedding in their city, and because we invited more of my extended family than we would’ve if we had it where we live now.

  • LilyinNYC

    We’re paying entirely ourselves using savings. There’s a few small items that my mom has offered to buy as a wedding present/ engagement present (like the ketubah and the breaking glass). While no one has really brought this up, we actually had this conversation before we got engaged. My fiance knew I wanted a traditional jewish wedding and that it would cost us a large portion of our savings, but we ultimately decided it was worth it to celebrate with our family and friends.

    I have disclosed this only to a few people who have made assumptions that we weren’t paying, but of course got a lot of responses about how we could be using the money for a house or whatever. I remind those people that they all had weddings, and even though they may not think it was important now, they already had it… (same conversation came up in happy hour about the “i’m so over weddings crowd” who already did it… same thing applies to the payment of the wedding. Sigh.)

    • Meg Keene

      I mean, also, it depends on where you live, but the assumption that your wedding could pay for a downpayment on a house can be a little bit of a joke. The WHOLE amount we spent on our wedding was 16% of our eventual downpayment. Our contribution (because parental contributions were offered for the wedding, not for whatever we wanted to save it for) would have been about 8%. So yeah, I guess we could have not had a wedding and bought a house like… a few months sooner? But then we wouldn’t have had a wedding. And also, it took us another 7 years to buy a house anyway. Talk about dreams deferred!

      • LilyinNYC

        Yes- people seem to have unrealistic ideas of what a down payment would cost. We plan on buying a house in Boston area, which certainly is not cheap and our wedding cost would make a dent, but would not amount to an entire down payment. I feel like every time I have said that to someone they tell me that I just have unrealistic expectations for a house and that they’re sure we could find something (but obviously they aren’t looking- they’re just sure). Also, we’re 27. There’s plenty of time to save and buy a house in the future.

      • Jan

        I have to remind myself of this. We probably spent about $10K out of pocket and that’s only a fraction of a down payment in the price range we’re looking for. But, still… 10K, ya know?!

      • Katie

        Well, our wedding is very close to what our down payment was (maybe even more). But yes, I never thought “Oh, let’s just rob ourselves and your parents, who significantly contributed, of a wedding of their last son and a cool party, to get a house instead”. Funny enough, the house came before the wedding, but still, it’s an experience and “just one day” that we will hopefully cherish for the rest of our lives!
        But again, it’s all about priorities: people value experiences over material things or vice versa.

  • My parents paid for (and largely planned) our entire wedding* (in my hometown). We (well, my husband) paid for the rehearsal dinner (taco truck to come to my parents house, maybe some alcohol?) My husband’s family also planned and paid for a reception in the city where we and they live.

    *My husband will claim that they planned the reception, which is probably true (he makes a difference between the wedding[church] and the reception[party]). Other than booking the church (which needed to be done in person because my parent’s church is not good at scheduling) and some ribbons, my husband pretty much 100% planned the entire wedding ceremony. I just gave a few comments and picked out my clothes.

  • Duke Alum

    We are using a combination of all 3 methods. His parents/grandparents are covering a rehearsal dinner and farewell brunch. We are covering the welcome party (for everyone, more casual than a rehearsal dinner which is bridal party only), ceremony, and reception. It’s a huge expense. It was a paid for partly out of our savings and partly with a personal loan that will be fully paid off about 6 months after the wedding. Honestly, the personal loan helped a lot with money management. We put it into a separate savings account with our savings and then committed to only spending what’s in that account. We could have had a longer engagement, but his grandparents are 91, and we really wanted them to be at the wedding. The compromise is that it will take us about 6 months post wedding to 100% have it paid off.

    That said, we are making extra payments on the personal loan to have it paid off by then, which means we are saving less in our short term savings, but still maxing out both 401(k)s and Roth IRAs. Sometimes I can’t stomach that we are spending around $47,000 on our wedding weekend, but I don’t think it’s seriously impeding long term financial goals, with the exception we would pay of our student loans earlier if the wedding was less. I should add we live in a high cost area where many wedding planners consider us to have a “budget” wedding.

  • Elizabeth M

    We used a combination. We had a few gifts from family (my grandmother bought my dress, my parents paid for alterations, his parents gifted us money), but we mostly paid for our wedding ourselves. We did put some expenses on a credit card, but only carried a balance one month. Mainly, we just cut back. No full reception-just cake & lunch, very little decor, etc. We also decided to move our honeymoon to our first anniversary to help with the cost of the wedding.

  • Yael

    We are paying for it ourselves.***

    *** It is really important to me to pay for this in order to avoid family drama/entitlement (I was previously engaged and his parents were paying for it and thus felt they could demand things that were actually hurtful to me and my family). We are luckily in a position to save up enough money (we expect around $15k but are aiming for $10). A’s parents offered to help pay for the wedding, but after we told them no (see above; also, they offered to pay for certain guests that they wanted to attend, but we decided to draw a firm line) they still said they would give us $10k because that’s what they gave his brother and SIL. We intended to use that money towards a house or adoption fees, but since all our wedding savings are in Germany and the wedding will be in the US and transferring money between countries is a PITA plus expensive, we will likely use the money A’s parents are giving us plus some of our US-based savings, and use our Germany-based savings for a house/adoption (which we would do in Germany). It’s a bit of mental gymnastics but it gives me peace of mind.

  • sage

    We used a combination, 25% my parents and the rest split equally between my and husband’s savings. We put everything we could on credit card but paid those off immediately.

    The best rewards magic we had was husband opened a Southwest CC at the end of last year, we got a large number of bonus points after the first three months and made sure the points hit in the new year. We then put the entire reception/catering bill on the Southwest card, and now that those points have posted we are very close to getting a Companion Pass that we can use for the rest of this year and next year.

  • mskyle

    We’re really lucky in that we have a lot of income right now, but we also have a lot of important financial goals we didn’t want to sacrifice for the wedding, so our wedding (three months ago) was sort of in the “it’s complicated” range.

    My (divorced) parents both gave us money. My mom had specific line items she wanted to pay for (beer and base venue). My dad told me up front that he was going to give us the same fixed amount he contributed to my sister’s wedding, no strings attached. This was generous and great but also brought up a lot of uncomfortable feelings for me, because it felt like some kind of dowry – like I only deserved the money once I found a man to marry me, not unconditionally or even for being a successful, independent adult for the last 18 years or so. Also like a wedding was the only thing worth paying for (when there were definitely other times in my life when the money would have been much more useful to me – seriously, why not offer me this money when I was working two jobs, six days a week and going to grad school part time?). I know this isn’t the way my dad thought about it or would want me to think about it (and he has given me smaller but still generous gifts in the past), but still. It felt really weird. I was not ready for how weird it felt.

    Regardless of the money from my parents, we were already saving really aggressively (we’ve both had substantial increases in our income over the past few years, we’re natural savers, and we’d like to buy a house or condo in the Boston area someday). So we basically tried to pay for as much as possible out of cash flow and short-term savings so we could keep the gifts from my parents in the “house” category. Which means right now we’re still scrimping a bit so that we can max out our IRAs before the tax deadline – sort of a loan from ourselves, with a very short payback period! We tried to keep our expenses low (though we still ended up spending a lot more than we wanted), and we haven’t yet planned a honeymoon.

    • Eenie

      Oh I find your reaction to your dad’s money very interesting! Do you think he wouldn’t do the same thing if you had a brother too?

      I always assumed a lump sum with no strings attached given/communicated early in the planning process was the best kind of way a parent could contribute to a wedding. This is what both our parents did without prompting, and we were so glad it didn’t require additional emotional energy.

      • mskyle

        Only sisters, and I genuinely do not know how things would have played out if I had a brother who got married!

        The gift of money for the wedding was wonderful and generous and easy, but it still felt like my wedding was getting prioritized over the rest of my life up until this point. As I said, I have really complicated feelings about it, but it just kind of felt like a narrative about how life is supposed to work got prioritized over how my life actually worked.

        The gift came just when I needed it least (at age 39, making more money than I’ve ever made in my life, and partnered with/splitting expenses with a guy who’s also doing well financially), and I needed to get engaged to unlock it (had I but known, I could have found some guy to get engaged to before grad school!).

        • Eenie

          Ah that makes a lot of sense. I missed what you meant by being an independent adult for the last 18 years :) I thought you were comparing it to your mom’s contribution.

          • mskyle

            No problem! I was an OLD BRIDE (but I looked great :P). My mom’s contribution just felt different, partly because of the dollar amount but mostly because of the difference in my relationship with my mom vs. my relationship with my dad – I *knew* it was super-important to my mom that I found someone and got married, but I never thought my dad felt the same way.

        • Lexipedia

          I had a similar feeling about when the gift came in my life timeline. My parents are so, so generous and I’m very lucky, but the same amount our wedding costs, or even a portion of it, toward my grad school expenses would’ve put me in such a better place for savings, debt, etc.

          I know my parents’ financial situation is different now (very much so, which means that my below comment isn’t really valid, but still), and I know that this event is about our whole family, but paying for a wedding but not helping with grad school at the beginning felt a little bit about rewarding finding a guy to marry vs. my academic and professional growth.

        • Meg Keene

          I feel that. I’m not sure I had the same feelings (maybe because I was 29 at the time, and didn’t have a ton of money), but at least one chunk of money we got was for the wedding ONLY. Which, ok fine. But… yeah.

        • Lisa

          I totally understand your thoughts on this. I’m one of three daughters, and my younger sister and I both got married within 6 months of each other. We were both given the same amount of money for our weddings. My youngest sister was just graduating college and has never been in a serious relationship. Equality between us has always been very important to m parents, and I’ve honestly wondered at what point the baby will get $25,000. It doesn’t seem fair to make her wait for it when she could have that in investments or use it as seed money for a down payment or whatever.

          • mskyle

            I’m the oldest, and my two-years-younger sister got married ten years before me; my ten-years-younger sister has no plans for marriage or serious relationships that I know about, so even without brothers in the mix it gets really complicated! I suspect my youngest sister may have negotiated some kind of non-wedding payout of her gift, and if so, good for her.

            My family also tends to be SUPER UPTIGHT about talking about money, and I haven’t been much better historically, so who knows what I would have been given if I’d just, you know, asked. I’m sure my dad didn’t want to got out of his way to find a way to say, “Well, it sure looks like you’re going to die an old maid so you might as well have the money now, to invest in cats!”

            I’m sure it is crazy hard as a parent to be fair and equitable. I don’t think anyone did anything wrong, and I appreciate the gift as a gift, but… the feels, they are there! And then on top of that are the guilty feelings for having the ungrateful feelings in the first place!

          • Amy March

            Eh, my parents paid for my sister’s wedding and haven’t offered to cash that gift out for me now. I think it’s completely fine. They’ve saved, in part, because they want to pay for a wedding! And they don’t want to give me money to invest or a down payment. It’s a gift, not an entitlement and I’m grateful that they’re even thinking of giving us both money at all.

          • mskyle

            Yeah, part of the weirdness for me was that my dad’s gift really was no-strings – if we’d gotten married at city hall in our regular clothes, we could have kept pretty much all of the money, and my dad encouraged us to not spend all of it on the wedding (we didn’t). So was the money for a wedding, or not? Obviously these are not
            conversations I’m going to have with my dad: those stopped with, “This
            is so generous, thank you so much!” and I really am grateful.

            Of course gifts are gifts, and the giver gets to decide what to give and when. But I find that gifts also have a habit of revealing how well the givers and receivers know and understand each other, and what the giver wishes the receiver wanted.

        • CP2011

          When my mom told me that my parents would pay for my wedding because “that’s what’s done/bride’s family responsibility/Southern pride” I asked if she would have made the same offer if I had born a boy (I’m an only child). She responded that they wouldn’t be ok paying for my wedding if I was a man…unless I was a gay man. Which, I guess is nice in a fuck-the-establishment type way??

    • theteenygirl

      My parents also gave us a lump sum at the beginningish with no strings attached and let me know that this money had been earmarked for a wedding since I was a kid. It was super nice of them to do that, but it DEFINITELY brought up feelings of “WTF?” with me. First of all, my parents didn’t contribute to my university education a whole lot (they would buy my groceries every so often and let me live with them for short stints a couple of times but not with tuition or anything) and the fact that this money could have helped with some rough times in school kiiiiiind of made me feel like a wedding was prioritized over my education. Also, I have two sisters (unmarried) that my mum said would receive the same amount when they get married. Except, one of my sisters is in a very long term committed relationship and they’ve decided that they’re not going to get married. Do they get the money still? if so, when? I have some complicated feelings about it all.

    • Eh

      My dad and step-mom have slightly different views on money for a “wedding”. My step-mom feels that it’s for the wedding (she asked that it go towards the reception). My brother/SIL eloped. My step-mom felt that since they didn’t have a wedding that they shouldn’t get money that was earmarked for a wedding. My dad’s feeling was that even though they didn’t have the expense of a wedding they would have other expenses of starting their life together so he gave them money. At least one of my step-siblings had bought a house with their partner before getting married and my step-mom refused to give them the “wedding” money for the house, even though they could have used it then. If it was up to my dad, he probably would have given my step-brother the “wedding” money when they bought the house (however, this would have resulted in a level of complexity for my step-mom, for example, potentially not being listed as a host on the invitation and potentially not being able to invite her friends to the wedding).

  • Another Meg

    We got married while I was in grad school, so it was important to us not to go (further) into debt. My parents have never had the funds to help with a wedding, and we actually had to budget to pay for their lodgings to make sure they could come. My husband is an only child, and his parents were able to provide a lump sum that we included in our budget. They made no demands, which was really nice.
    We had a lot of time to plan, so we were able to stretch our budget more than I think we normally would have. We did a lot of stuff by hand to get more out of our 10k budget. We pretty much lucked out that we both have huge families who are artistic, so we could delegate.

  • Combination of parents and savings.

    We’re both debt free and have savings, and our parents are both contributing some. My mom gave me some money years ago which was intended for us or for our wedding whenever that happened, so I’m using some of that and then when we got officially engaged she gave us $1K. My partner’s parents told us they’re giving us some money but didn’t want us to let that influence the wedding decisions so they haven’t told us how much or when we’ll get it. Not sure what that means, but I think they thought we’d get a horse and carriage or something if we knew they’d help out (we’re not.)

  • Eve

    Fiancé and I were originally planning on paying for the wedding ourselves out of our already-saved savings and with savings built up over our engagement. And then my divorced parents said that they’d love to pay (which I was very much not expecting) and each offered us a lump sum. When we realized that the offered lump sum was only enough to cover catering, they graciously upped their offer. My fiancé’s parents also wrote us a check that we can use for whatever, but money for the rehearsal dinner does have to come out of that check.

    We’re paying ourselves for some of the smaller line items, like invitations and favors and dress alterations. We’re also footing the bill for our wedding rings, which fiancé is making and aren’t really a small line item. The thought is that there will be extra metal left over, and he’ll be able to make some other jewelry to then sell and make up the cost of the metal.

    The only difficult part so far is that my parents’ divorce was nasty, so my dad especially wants to make sure that their contributions are equal (“and it’s all coming out of his support checks anyway so he’s really paying for the whole thing” *eyeroll*). But that’s been the only awful part, aside from the initial sticker shock. And he’s getting easier to shut down as we get closer to the wedding.

  • crock-pot-of-doom

    Our wedding was a brunch wedding for 50 people on New Years Eve in a large Southern California city. The grand total was a little over five thousand dollars. We paid for it almost all ourselves through savings and making it a monthly line item in our budget (my grandma bought my dress $300 and my mom gave us $500). It was important to us to pay for it ourselves and maintain control of our wedding so we graciously declined his parent’s offer to pay for catering (they aren’t the types to just cut a check, they would have expected input) and my dad was not in a position to help out financially (but he helped out physically setting everything up and emotionally when dealing with the rest of my family and aforementioned in laws)

    • Pickle

      You screenname is killing me, just sayin :)

  • louise danger

    my mom bought my dress, and mr danger’s family hosted the rehearsal dinner. we used our own money for everything else (photographer, decorations, honeymoon airbnb, flowers, cake, mr danger’s clothes, my accessories and hair, etc etc). Mr Danger opened a credit card (he didn’t have one before so had been planning to get one anyway) to cover the cost of the reception, which we had at a restaurant.

    he said he felt like a complete badass plonking down a credit card for the bill for a “lunch for 50 people, including wine and beer” tab lol. some of the wedding checks all but covered the card balance. we used some other gift cash to treat ourselves to a just-us super fancy dinner that evening.

  • emilyg25

    My parents gave us a cash gift that we could use however we pleased and we chose to use it to cover the wedding, plus a little from our own pockets. We wanted to get married right away so if we hadn’t had that, we would have rented a community park and done burgers and dogs or something like that. Their gift was big to me but not big by wedding standards. We had a lovely backyard barbecue for 100 people.

  • lirr

    Our parents are pretty much entirely paying for our wedding, and I’ve actually felt really embarrassed about it. Every time I talk about it to anyone other than our wedding planner (and every time I say the words “our wedding planner”), I worry that it sounds like I’m bragging. Our wedding is going to be bigger budget than pretty much every wedding I’ve ever been to, and I worry that my friends and family will think that means that I think less of theirs.

    Of course I know that I am incredibly lucky that my biggest wedding planning problem is “how do I tactfully talk about how big our budget is”, but part of the problem is that most of it is coming from my in laws, so spending this much money is just foreign and uncomfortable for me. I keep worrying that I’m not thanking them enough. Plus my mom has asked me not to let my dad find out that my in laws are contributing more than 10x as much as my parents, so now I feel awkward whenever wedding stuff comes up with them.

    But mostly I’m just very very grateful that our parents are helping so much. We’re both grad students, so if we were paying ourselves, we would either be planning a $500 wedding or taking on a lot of debt. Even though this wedding is turning out to be bigger and fancier than I ever dreamed, I’m so happy that our parents are giving us this gift, and I’m doing my best to accept it gracefully.

    • Meg Keene

      Spending money outside of the range that you’re comfortable with is a whole mess of emotions. And since we’re a country that’s decided class doesn’t exist, and hence we won’t talk about it, I think it’s even more complicated. Because really it’s all sorts of class issues and conflicts at play, but SHHHHH. Instead we’d like you to just feel embarrassed and be quiet.

      • lirr

        omg, thank you for replying Meg, I was sitting here like, oh no maybe I shouldn’t have commented about my very minor problems!! You’re right that a lot of the discomfort comes from class issues, but I think for our families, cultural differences are the big thing. My parents are white, introverted, and hated their own wedding. Fiance’s parents are Indian, extroverted, and have been looking forward to their kids’ weddings since before the kids were born. So on top of his parents having more to give, they also value it a lot more.

    • Anon

      This is me so hard. My ILs are a lot wealthier than my decidedly not struggling middle class family. My family is contributing an amount that’s more than most of the budgets on this thread and it is less than 20% our total budget. ILs are contributing in the 6 figures. The wedding will cost almost as much as my masters degree, which I’m about to start, and realizing that I’m signing a student loan the size of my wedding is a mind fuck. I know we’ll get gifts that will contribute to grad school too, but I have a lot of feelings. Everyone is being very kind, but I can’t think about it too hard or I start to feel dizzy

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  • Zoya

    We ended up buying a condo right around the time we started planning our wedding. I still feel outrageously fortunate that we were able to afford both just from our savings. When it became clear that this was happening, we pulled funds out of our respective savings and separated the money into two buckets: “Wedding” and “House.” We ended up spending every penny of what we’d set aside, but not more.

    We never asked our parents for financial help with the wedding, but they each ended up volunteering to plan and pay for one of the associated events. His parents paid for the lunch after our civil ceremony, and my parents paid for the “rehearsal dinner,” which was really just a dinner for out-of-town family members. My folks also paid for a couple small expenses like printing signage, and a bartender friend provided kegs of beer and cider as her gift to us. Other than that, we paid for the entire wedding out of our savings.

    Honestly, the thing that still gives me Feelings is that 95 percent of both the wedding and the house budget came from my husband. We hadn’t joined finances yet, and I think it was the first time I really understood how different our financial realities were. The income disparity is something I’ve struggled with our entire relationship, and this threw it into really stark relief. On the other hand, it showed how much and how happily he was willing to invest in building a shared life together. It probably helped me turn the corner on thinking of this as *our* money rather than *his* and *mine*.

    • Anna

      Sort of from the other side of the income-disparity situation (I’m the significantly higher earner in my relationship, although pretty much all of our savings have been accrued during our relationship since we started dating in college):

      Husband and I combined finances in spirit when we’d been dating for 2-3 years (i.e., we stopped nagging each other about who had paid for dinner more recently :-P) and on paper when we moved to our current city (about a year before our wedding). I was prepared for the actual literal we-share-a-bank-account-and-credit-card-now to elicit Feelings, but it really… didn’t – I’d kind of already had those Feelings back when I consciously decided to consider my money to be his money too. And fully joining finances before getting married meant there was no friction whatsoever around our joint finances when we actually got married. (We didn’t pay for our own wedding, though; my parents covered it.)

      It’s interesting to me that, as far as I can tell, Husband doesn’t seem to have any of the Feelings you describe about the fact that our money largely comes from me; he casually jokes sometimes (with friends close enough to be at least broadly privy to our financial situation) that his paycheck just barely covers our rent and mine is for everything else, or that it doesn’t matter which of us they pay back for something because “it’s all our money anyway and two-thirds of it is from Anna” (closer to three-quarters these days, but whatever). I’m hoping this means that I’ve also done a good job making it clear that I am invested in our shared life…

    • L.

      My BF has always earned significantly more than me due to our chosen career fields, and after six years, we split expenses but don’t have joint bank accounts or anything (except for our joint short-term investment account to save for our future wedding). I’ve always struggled with him wanting to pay for things I can’t afford, or wanting to “forgive” some of what I owe him so I don’t financially strain myself, etc. But I know we’re going to be getting engaged soon, so I really need to “turn the corner,” as you said. I think I struggle with it because I’ve always been pretty independent when it comes to money and don’t like asking others for money, but…he *wants* to help me out, and we’re in a committed relationship, so I shouldn’t be so uptight about it. Thanks for sharing your story so I realize I’m not alone!

  • Rose_C

    We are doing a combination finance model. My parents made a really generous lump sum contribution. Fiance’s dad has given us a generous number but wants to pay bills rather than write us a check- so we will maybe not use all of that contribution, but we’ll see. And we are saving a lot this year to cover about half of the total.
    I have a very lucrative job right now that is really really what I don’t want to do long term. We are planning to start trying to have a kids right after getting married and I feel very strongly about being in a different position- with more stability, paid time off, easier hours, etc.- before trying to conceive. It’s actually a really stressful tension since taking another job would be much better long term but would definitely mean taking a pay cut. I feel like our savings are in a good place now, but cutting the cord on that income is tough.

  • Abs

    We used money that I inherited shortly before the wedding (well, technically it was life insurance rather than an inheritance). If my dad had been alive, he would certainly have paid for the wedding, but as it was, he paid for it in a different way. This was kind of strange, because we were paying (in the sense that any money that we didn’t spend was our money), but we didn’t actually have to save.

    Also it was strange because my family had several different interpretations of what this meant. My parents are divorced, and my dad’s side loved the idea of my dad paying for the wedding, but my mom interpreted it as us paying for it ourselves (she actually made a point of bringing this up in her toast). I felt really uncomfortable with her saying that, because it felt like false pretenses–we weren’t paying for our wedding the “good” way, by saving, so we didn’t deserve credit (which in itself is a ridiculous concept).

    I would say that we escaped the expectations associated with families paying for things, but I’m not really sure that’s true. I think we probably catered to family expectations about the same amount as we would have if they were paying, but with less attendant conflict because there was no sense that it was about money.

    • Meg Keene

      Inheriting money after someone dies (life insurance or not) is so emotional and complicated and sad and happy, and feels nothing like winning the lottery.

      • Abs

        Yes–exactly. I think about that line all the time.

      • Anna

        My paternal grandmother just died about a month ago; I was never especially close with her, and she’d been suffering from severe dementia (to the point that she couldn’t recognize any of her family members anymore) for years, so the moment of her passing wasn’t a hugely emotional one for me – I’d already had any feelings I was going to have about her absence when she stopped knowing who I was.

        But then I got contacted by someone handling her estate about some inherited money, and suddenly there was a whole new set of emotions that I totally did not expect. I’ve been putting off responding because it feels really heavy. Partly it’s that there really wasn’t much left, and it sort of drove home how her dementia drained pretty much everything out of her life, eventually including money; but partly it was some kind of stark reminder of the difference between a living person, albeit maybe not the same person I knew her as, and… the legal entity that’s left over when a person dies.

        • PAJane

          My grandmother passed in December, and was also living with worsening dementia. My sympathies to you.

    • ManderGimlet

      We’re also paying for our wedding with money from tragic circumstances and I while no one has said anything to me about it, I am kind of steeling myself for any judgement regarding it. Weddings are already so fraught, add death into the mix and a lot of people have a lot of opinions.

  • magoo

    We did a little bit of column A, B and C. We were in grad school for the majority of the 18 month engagement and then moved across the country 4 months before the wedding for my new job, which was hectic, exciting and expensive. Grad school doesn’t really allow for much savings, so we had to get a little creative

    We kept our costs low by getting married in the town where we went to grad school which was in the Midwest and super cheap, especially compared to the Bay Area, where we moved. I had a couple of moments visiting wineries the few months before we got married imagining a golden Northern California wedding, but then I realized the base cost for most of those venues was more than our entire wedding, so I noped right out of the fantasy pretty fast. We also DIY’ed a lot of things like the cake (cupcakes were homemade), dj (we just used an iPod), and photobooth. Here’s how things broke down for our $16,000 budget.

    Parents. My family wasn’t in a position to contribute financially, and my husband’s offered to pay for the rehearsal. They also would give us random, super generous gifts throughout the engagement. One that stands out is when they gave us $1000 for an Easter present, which is not usually a gift giving holiday in either of our families. We really appreciated their generosity and these gifts came to about $5000. My husband’s aunt and uncle also provided support through paying for a chocolate fountain, which was a delicious and a super huge hit with my friends.

    Side hustle. I was lucky enough to be able to add in a part time paid internship while finishing up my PhD in grad school, so I ended up with both my expected grad stipend and an additional ~$13,000 from the 10 hours per week of work I did over that year. I used the stipend to live off of and banked my internship pay. We dipped into this a bit to cover portions of our move not covered by my relocation expenses, so we had about $9,000 left by the time the wedding rolled around.

    Credit cards. At the very end we sort of ran out of money, so we put about $2000 on a joint credit card to cover last minute expenses (e.g., my parent’s hotel room, the liquor for the open bar, our road trip honeymoon). This was added to a fair amount of credit card debt we already had that had slowly accumulated over grad school (things like broken cars and computers were not easily budgeted for). Luckily, we knew I was headed to a well paying job and we crossed our fingers and hoped to pay it off soon. We zeroed out credit cards 5 years later, so I think it was worth it to be able to throw money at some problems at the end.

    • Meg Keene

      I’m always envious of people who have a cheap place to go back to (for weddings or house buying or whatever). We’re from Southern California, lived in NYC, and now live in the Bay Area, so it’s a little pick your poison.

    • lamarsh

      One of the reasons we got married in my hometown (1000 miles from the major city where we live) was because I got on the planning committee for an event at my law firm and learned how much venues and catering actually cost in a major city. (And wowzas.) It was so nice to be able to have the wedding we really wanted at a much much much lower pricepoint.

      • Lisa

        Ironically, planning events in Chicago for my job was what convinced me would be able to afford to have the wedding somewhere in the city instead of in my smaller, suburban hometown. The type of events I did were typically 25-150 people, which was great for learning about the type of venues that could accommodate different amounts of people and what level of catering/food I could expect at different price points.

        We could have definitely saved money doing it somewhere cheaper, but guest accessibility was one of the most important things to us, and a major city was better for that than where I’m from.

        • lamarsh

          That’s really interesting. I guess I am somewhat lucky in that my hometown is also a college town that people love to visit in the summer. Not the most accessible place, but I did love showing all my east coast friends the great midwest.

          • Lisa

            My husband’s family is mostly from California and the west coast, and we had a lot of friends who were flying in so Chicago was a great hub for people to get to easily instead of my smaller regional airport. Since the public transit is so good in the city, most guests didn’t even bother renting cars and took the L around town instead. If we had used my small town, people would have had a lot more expenses associated to getting to us and with getting around once they got there.

  • lamarsh

    We split the cost of our wedding with my parents. It was somewhat complicated, but there were some items (invitations, DJ, church, husband’s suit) that my husband and I paid 100% for, some things that my parents paid 100% for (hair & make-up for the bridal party, my dress, string quartet during the ceremony and jazz combo during cocktail hour, welcome reception, and morning-after brunch), and then a few things we split according to the proportion of guests (catering, venue rental, flowers). It was a little ad hoc but it worked out for everyone, especially because we ended up paying 100% for things we felt were important. My husband’s mom paid for the rehearsal dinner.

    Splitting by the proportion of guests turned out to be the best way to go for us, because my parents paid for their (my) extended families and their friends, and my husband and I paid for our friends and his extended family, and so when my mom tacked on her cousins that I had never met before a month after invitations went out, I could just be like, that’s fine, they’re paying for them and I’m not going to stress.

  • Stephanie Diaz

    My husband and I got married last April and were very fortunate both our parents helped contribute–mine gave us a chunk of change we could use however we wanted, and his parents covered flowers and the rehearsal dinner (and gave us a nice gift to help with our honeymoon). We did end up paying for a couple small things out of pocket here and there, and it took a LOT of budgeting and being thrifty on our end to keep the total for the whole shindig around $5k, which allowed us to have a little bit left over from our parents’ gifts. We also made use of credit cards throughout the planning and spending process, whenever possible, to get airline miles and hotel points to cover a lot of our European honeymoon expenses. (Shout out to The Points Guy for all the tips.) All in all we were so happy with our wedding and so grateful our parents were able to help! ‘Cause we were both not in a place where saving even just the $5k would’ve been very feasible on our own, within the timeline we wanted to get married.

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  • anonymou$

    We’re using a combination of options. My fiancé makes good enough money that we can live on what he brings home, and throw my paychecks right into our savings account. I don’t make a ton, but it’s a lot when it’s all savings. In the future that may mean vacations or paying down our mortgage faster, or buying new cars when our old ones wear out, or maybe investing more wisely, but right now that means saving for emergencies and our wedding. We’re in our mid 30s, live together, and are fortunate that the only debt we currently have is our mortgage. We combined our checking and savings accounts, but have separate credit cards. I’ve also always maintained a rainy day fund, and he’s happy to do the same, now that our finances are combined and we can afford to.My parents are generously providing a flat $15k for our wedding. They haven’t given it to us yet, but it’s available whenever we ask for it. His family hasn’t offered anything, and we don’t expect them to, because they wouldn’t be able to afford it. Anything over my parents’ contribution is on us to cover. We expect their gift to cover our venue, food, and service for everybody. Hopefully our total cost will fall somewhere around $20k, but I won’t be surprised if it falls more around $25k.Our engagement will be a total of about 2 years, which allows us to pay for things in chunks as we go, and hopefully avoid any debt. We’ve put down a $7k deposit to cover half our estimated venue/food/service cost, and payed by check with money pulled from our savings account. Other costs have, so far, gone on my credit card, which I then pay off at the end of the month (1% cash back). This includes things like the $1k deposit to our photographer, and my dress, split into two payments with the dress shop. We haven’t sent our Save the Dates or invites yet, but again I intend to pay initially with my credit card, then pull money from our savings to pay off the cc bill. My limit on that card is $4k, which I may raise, because bigger bills will come due closer to the wedding (several thousand to the photog, another $7k to the venue, at some point we’ll have to buy the rest of our alcohol, I’ll need to pay my hair dresser and/or makeup artist), and I’d like to put as many of those as possible through the credit card to get the % back. I also don’t like to spend the whole balance of the card, even if I’m paying it all off.

    • anonymou$

      I feel like I need to add, I am in a decent financial situation to start in large part because of my parents, who taught me to be careful with money and credit, helped me build my credit score from a young age, and invested money that paid for my schooling and the down payment on my house. Most of my peers are still paying off hefty student debts. I do my best to handle my finances wisely, but there is no way we would be free and clear to pay for things basically in cash as we go if they hadn’t set me up from the start. So what they aren’t directly paying for, is still in a lot of ways thanks to my parents.

      • Zoya

        YES. My husband and I both come from relatively well-off backgrounds. We got full access to the unwritten handbook of financial privilege. That’s absolutely set the course of our adult lives, and it’s why we were able to accumulate enough savings to pay for our wedding ourselves without putting other things on hold (like buying a house).

  • Anon

    We are doing a combination. My parents are a little neurotic about things being equal between their children. They were looking at quicken from 7 years ago and tallying up exactly how much they spent on my brother’s wedding so that they could give me that number (I’m surprised they didn’t include inflation!). I was like “uh I think some rounding and estimation is okay in this situation” but it felt weird giving suggestions on how they should be deciding how much money to give me. Their contribution is around 50% of our wedding budget. It’s cash without really any strings on how it should be spent. I’m sure there are some strings, but the wedding we’re planning meets their ‘strings’, at least so far.

    Fiance’s parents gave us the “well how much do you need?” run around. It ends up that they are paying for the rehearsal dinner and a few other things. Their contribution is about 25% of the budget.

    And finally, fiance and I are covering the remaining 25%. We are both savers and in our late 20s/ early 30s, neither of us went to grad school and have both worked full time since finishing undergrad (and also had lots of parental support in undergrad such that neither of us has student loans). I also received a large amount of cash (large for me!) from my grandparents estate that gives us a lot of wiggle room in the budget. Had that not happened we’d definitely be more worried about going over budget.

    Note on the down payment thing. Our wedding is going to cost a lot. In our area, it would cover about 24% of the total down payment we’d need for a house. Plus, like many have said, our parents contribution is for a wedding, not a down payment. Take out their contribution and we’re looking at 6% of a down payment.

    • PAJane

      My parents did the “What’s the per-head cost these days?” thing when they were deciding how much to contribute. Well, that depends *entirely* on how much you give us. We’re not deciding between a formal sit down dinner or pizza and a keg at a fire hall until we know what our total budget is. We went back and forth a few times, and I think eventually my mom asked her friends what their kids’ wedding cost.

      • penguin

        Yep we had that back and forth with my husbands parents. They told us to plan the wedding we wanted and then they’d decide how much to contribute – no thanks! Although they didn’t end up giving us their check until a month and a half after the wedding (which was a nasty surprise to us), so there are definitely things I would do differently…

        • PAJane

          I followed that whole thing, and it was frustrating from the sidelines!

      • Anon

        I didn’t understand how they couldn’t know an amount they feel comfortable with. Like sure we can give you a number, I guess, but… what if that number is 5x of the $$ you have in the bank. Or what if that number is 1% of what you thought we’d say? I think this is also complicated by the fact that fiance and I have enough money between us to pay for the wedding outright without help from either of our parents. So when we say whatever you are comfortable with, we really mean it because it doesn’t affect what we’re going to plan or execute. It’s just that much less $$ we have to use from our savings.

        • PAJane

          Right. You’re giving me free money. Possible a lot of it. I’m thrilled, but I sure as hell don’t want to ask you for it, or how much. You tell me what your gift is.

          • Lexipedia

            Ugh, we had this too on both sides. Like, just pick a number and we’ll work around it! Otherwise we just ended up sharing catering quotes, etc. and feeling really anxious about it every single time. Like, if they said we are each giving you $5k we would work with $10k and then decide what we could get for that plus what we wanted contribute.

            Instead they wanted us to come up with a budget first, for an unknown number of people, and an unknown “fanciness” level of venue, in an unknown city…

            I don’t think that they got how much our planning would be based on what we could pay for.

          • Amy March

            Yeah I think it’s just hard all around. Like, if what I want to give you is the equivalent of a Saturday night country club for 150 people, but I have no idea if that’s $15,000 or $50,000 or $80,000, that’s a tough call! Obviously no you cannot be expected to plan and budget 5 options for your parents to consider I just think it’s a challenging thing alround.

  • Jane

    Thinking about family contributions in any detail literally makes me tear up with gratitude because so many family members helped in ways that were perfectly them. My mom and step-dad gave us a big lump sum at the beginning of wedding planning and then pitched in on extra things (like musicians) that they cared about. They also let me live with them for months while my then-fiancé had to live in a different state so that I could save. My in-laws threw the rehearsal dinner and paid for it and PLANNED it themselves. Which was amazing and such a weight off our shoulders. But they also paid for things like the booze and more music (I guess our parents are more into live music than we are?). My dad contributed (which he’d never done for anything else in my life – but he wanted to try to help so he really saved to do it – his money was meaningful but also great because he didn’t know how much he’d be able to do or when. So it felt like extra. We considered just swapping out our own contributions and keeping the budget the same when he gave us money, but decided to add things (like a professional bouquet for me that I wanted but had cut re: budget reasons at first and a videographer, which we are soooo glad we did). And later, months after the wedding, I realized that my step-mom had paid for a bunch of my siblings to be able to attend by paying for their airfare and lodging.

    My now-husband and I paid for a lot ourselves out of our savings (probably about $10K of $25K for the wedding/rehearsal dinner) – but we would never have been able to afford the wedding we had on our own.

  • Julia

    We went the combo route based on specific items – i.e., my parents paid for food and the flowers (based on an agreed upon budget), his mom paid for the DIY of decor items (she wanted to handle decorating, which was totally fine with us, and we agreed to keep things simple), and his dad paid for alcohol based on a set limit. We paid for everything else out of savings, but we were 29 and 30 with no kids and good jobs, and kept costs pretty low wherever possible. I think ours cost around $15K total. The only thing we put on a credit card was transportation for guests (paying for hotel shuttles) because four days before, both of us were like shit, we forgot to do that! Ha.

  • Sarah E

    We sort of did combo? We had kinda expected to pay for it ourselves, saved in a half-ass way, and in the end, my partner’s parents graciously covered the bill, which all told was between $5,000 and $6,000. I think my mom paid for a couple of items, too, as we used a couple of her friends as vendors.

    Had we paid for the wedding ourselves, it would have taken a much longer time for us to become financially secure (easily meeting monthly expenses, emergency money in the bank) as my employment was insecure at the time. Then we were floored with the amount of cash gifts that we received, and that amount basically paid for our honeymoon, which we were paying for ourselves. Those gifts (from in-laws and from everybody) are one of the major factors we’re doing so well financially right now.

  • Alysssa

    Or another option you didn’t mention is scaling down your wedding to the amount you can afford… lol. I’m not surprised this wasn’t mentioned, but it’s still kind of hilarious that people don’t consider it an option. My husband and I paid for our wedding ourselves, by looking at our savings and our income leading up to the wedding and calculating what we could/were willing to spend on it. We ended up with what I like to call a hybrid wedding-elopement, getting married in a park with a secular officiant, and then having a “reception” at a local bar that let us bring in food we ordered from a nearby Thai restaurant. By deciding not to attempt to have some big elaborate party we couldn’t afford, we ended up with an awesome fun wedding that felt completely “us” and we didn’t have to exhaust ourselves working extra jobs leading up to it, or face debt for months of years after it. I get that some people want to have their “dream wedding” no matter what the cost/sacrifices, but I wish people were more encouraged to get creative with the budget they have, instead of getting creative with how to spend more…

    • MarissaF1

      I think the point of this article was to help people not feel bad about making the financial choices that fit with their own personal priorities. I am currently planning my wedding and scaling back wherever possible, but the whole thing is still costing a lot more than I was initially comfortable spending on a day. But, since we are just trying to plan a celebration where everyone (me, finance, both sets of parents, guests) will have a great time, we are trying our best to just embrace it.

      • K.K.

        FWIW, we are making Alysssa’s choice, possibly less dramatically, and I am feeling bad about it. So many relatives had these big “traditional” weddings and here we are with our…well we’re not quite sure yet, but it won’t be that. I wish this was in the original post, in the APW spirit. There are many ways you can wind up feeling bad about your financing choices.

        • MarissaF1

          So true! I just don’t appreciate the sentiment that it’s irresponsible to not “scale down to the amount you can afford.” It’s a hard thing to plan a wedding, no matter what it looks like- “traditional” or creative. Adding money shaming in either direction and dealing with expectations one way or another just sucks. We are having a more traditional wedding, but are also throwing out a lot of things that we don’t care about enough to spend money on and get so much side-eye from both sets of parents/ extended family. I’m sure your wedding will be wonderful, best of luck not worrying about your choices!

        • ManderGimlet

          There’s no winning. No matter how much you spend or where you get the money from or your intentions behind it all, there’s always someone who has something to say about it (while fully enjoying your open bar and blithely forgetting that you had to fly cross country and stay in a hotel for their wedding…when you were a college student living on loans)

    • Tiffany

      I’m positive that 99% of people planning a wedding scale back on things because of money. Maybe not the same things you scaled back on, but they definitely scaled back.

    • Anon

      Ok, so you paid for it yourself. You figured out how much money you had to spend and then spent if. If you said “hey, a bigger fancier wedding is more important to me” you would have figured out a way to supplement that. Having to decide what scale your wedding is with the money available to you is a thing literally everyone planning a wedding does. It’s implicit

    • SS Express

      That’s not what this article is about though. If you want to talk about making your wedding fit your budget, APW has a billion articles and two books about that. This specific post is about where that budget comes from in the first place, and the practical and emotional implications of that.

    • emilyg25

      I agree that this should have been listed as one of the options (albeit with less judgement attached).

      If my parents hadn’t given us a nice gift, we would have had a cookout in a community park. I would have worked myself into a tizzy about how it wasn’t “enough” for all the folks who had to fly in, but now I’m planning to fly to my cousin’s wedding that will most likely be similar and I’m really just excited to see my family and celebrate his happiness. It really can’t be said enough that a wedding doesn’t have to be a big production (and it’s also fine if you want the big fancy wedding or something in between).

  • Anne

    Our situation was similar to Meg’s. We had been able to accumulate a small chunk of savings during graduate school (thanks, funded PhD programs). I also had an internship at the time that made it a lot easier to cover the venue deposit. We initially came up with a minimum estimate of what we thought it would cost to include all of our two large extended families, and asked whether each set of parents might be able to contribute to that. Both sets of parents ended up offering more than we expected, but then things also cost more than expected.

    We were planning from a distance (but both sets of parents live near the venue), and I think my parents wanted to pressure us to hire people to do things rather than always trying to do the absolute-cheapest-hectic-DIY. My mom had other Opinions as well, and it was an ongoing process to figure out how much to accommodate them. We did try be totally transparent with both sets of parents about how we spent their money, and therefore shared all the final budgeting details with them.

    Looking back, what I feel most uncomfortable about is that husband’s parents are not as well off as my parents, and they made much bigger financial sacrifices to be able to contribute as much as they did. There was never really a point when we could have said no, keep your money – they were decisive and generous right from the beginning. My parents were much more wishy-washy and generally had a lot more implicit expectations for how we were going to do things and include them. But overall, we just feel incredibly grateful for both their contributions and how everything turned out.

  • JC

    We’ll be doing a combo. My parents have already gifted me the money that is their contribution to our eventual wedding. It’s nice to have that “no-strings-attached” money waiting. They learned a lot from my sister’s wedding two years ago, so I’m not expecting lots of push back from them about things. His family is expecting to contribute too, as a gift to us, but I don’t know how much. I believe they’re paying for his brother’s rehearsal dinner, which is super generous. The other fortuitous part of our budget will be that I’m to receive a nice little (big) bonus this summer, which makes our monthly savings not quite so urgent. I’ve definitely been doing career planning around this wedding, the way that people plan their careers to be able to afford to have kids or buy a new car. There’s some weird work-identity feelings around that that I haven’t quite nailed down yet, which is unexpected. I can’t quite express it so if others had weird feelings about work while trying to save for a wedding, I’m here for it.

  • Pannorama

    This is something we’re just trying to figure out right now. It’s looking like each of us will pay for a quarter and his parents will pay for half. My mom has volunteered to make all our paper goods, and has said they might cover all or part of my wedding outfit. We’re still figuring out our general budget, but I personally am finding it stressful that, no one will just say a number. I’m super grateful that his parents are willing to contribute so that we can actually have the things that are a priority for us (especially because as soon as we started actually planning the upper limit in FH’s head quadrupled, and paying for that ourselves would be a stretchhhh). I just don’t want to start working on anything that’s going to end up being way outside our budget.

  • Hope

    It’s a long time ago so I’ve lost track of specifics.
    But, it was my second marriage, and we paid for it using some of my divorce settlement and some of my inheritance from my mum’s death. It still seems like a nice way to use money I received through hard circumstances.
    Husband’s parents paid for the rehearsal dinner. My family travelled from overseas which cost enough and they had contributed to the wedding for my first marriage.

  • Tiffany

    My parents gave us the vast majority of the money for the wedding; $15,000. The remaining $3,000 or so, we’re paying for ourselves. This money did not come string-free, but the strings were things they would have demanded even if they weren’t paying for it (things like an actual minister officiating, my mom was super demanding about me wearing a veil.)

    The money did come with a suggestion to not spend it all on the wedding and save whatever was left over. But, you know, $15,000 seems like a ton of money (and it is!), but it only goes so far in the wedding world.

    Both my parents, but my dad especially, had been pushing for us to get married for quite a while before we got engaged. They were super happy to pay for it if it meant we were married. I am grateful for the money, and mostly understanding of the strings that went with it.

    My wedding is this Saturday, and I kinda regret choosing to do a big wedding. There is no way that one day can outweigh how stressful this entire process is.

    • Katie

      Hey, congrats on the upcoming wedding! I hope it will be an event you will NOT regret. I agree that planning can be super stressful at times, but if no relationship was damaged in the process, it might be very worth it. You say yourself that you understand the strings that went with it – so maybe just try to let go of all the nerves and negative emotions. Enjoy your day, and don’t stress too much over little things! Good luck :)

    • SS Express

      Congratulations! Designate someone (like a bridesmaid or a helpful cousin) to be the problem solver on the day and send anyone with questions about directions or music timing or menu changes their way, so you can just concentrate on having fun! I hope you have a great day, and a great marriage.

    • Zoya

      Congratulations!! If it helps, don’t think about it in terms of the one day outweighing the stress of months. Think of it as “this was stressful as hell, but now we get to party, and then it’s over and we never have to do it again.”

      Signed, someone who loved her wedding and HATED wedding planning

    • suchbrightlights

      Congratulations! I hope you will be surprised. We were courthouse-inclined people who had a big wedding, and our faces hurt at the end of the night because we’d spent the whole day smiling. Not on purpose. Just because we’d been that happy since about 2 in the afternoon and we couldn’t stop smiling. I hope you feel the same.

    • EllieS

      I really felt this same way before our wedding. Try to view the day of as being a separate thing from, not a consequence of, the planning, if that makes sense. I think Zoya says the same thing below. I still think that wedding planning was a terrible experience (I asked my husband why we didn’t elope 2 days pre-wedding), but that my wedding as great. Both of those things can be true at the same time.

    • emilyg25

      For me, planning was stressful as hell and I insisted on mentally letting it all go the week before and just enjoying the day however it played out. Now five years later, I mostly just remember how much fun our wedding day was and have to think hard to remember all the little details that drove me crazy. Congratulations! And good luck!

  • Jan

    We paid for the majority out of our savings, and his parents paid for the buffet dinner. I have complicated feelings about how much we spent. On the one hand, we were fairly thrifty, and we slashed a lot of things we didn’t feel we needed from the list entirely. We managed to put a really fun, emotional event together. But, it totally drained us, and I haaaaate that.

  • Anon

    Man, people really like to talk about this. I think it’s because figuring it out takes a LOT of emotional energy and negotiation, and then you just….can’t talk about it with anyone IRL because it’s personal. Weddings are expensive AF and during the process everyone turns into this expert on negotiating family politics and floral arrangements and how to read contracts and then there’s just no use for that knowledge anymore – it’s all very strange.

    • Zoya

      My husband has been complaining about this since the wedding! How we have all this new knowledge now and no place to use it.

    • emilyg25

      I actually love when people whisper, “Can I ask how much your wedding/house/daycare cost?” Yes! Please! Let’s all just talk about money. Then I think we’d feel a lot better about things because we’d realize that only like three people are actually doing everything “right.”

  • ManderGimlet

    We originally planned to pay ourselves/some family help and keep it super small. Then my brother died unexpectedly 2 weeks after we got engaged and he left me as the beneficiary on his modest life insurance policy. So we decided to use some of that money to throw a big party for all our family and friends as a sort of thank you to him and a celebration of his love and generosity and just all around have a happy, joyful memory together to help us all heal from that.

  • Anna

    My parents paid for our wedding; Husband’s parents paid for our rehearsal dinner. This was fairly easy to default to because the people who cared could point to “tradition”, but it also made sense proportionally based on the financial positions of our families (Husband’s parents are very comfortably upper-middle-class, but my parents are… significantly wealthier than that).

    I don’t actually know off the top of my head what our wedding cost, although I can ballpark it. I doubt my parents do, either; they just kind of paid for things as they came (in fact, I had their credit card and just put small-to-medium-size purchases and deposits on there, and then my mother wrote checks for vendors night-of). Based on my best estimate of the whole cost, we could in theory have paid for the whole thing ourselves, but it would’ve cut into our savings significantly. Having my parents pay meant that we didn’t stress over decisions that made our lives easier (or made us happy) but cost more – we just went for it. (That said, it wasn’t an excessively extravagant wedding, either – 60 guests, my dress was from BHLDN, we had liquor only during cocktail hour and just beer and wine at dinner, etc. But it’s also somewhat telling that I feel the need to clarify that “my wealthy parents paid for our wedding” doesn’t mean “we drank Dom Perignon all night with 250 of our closest friends”.)

    My parents were fairly hands-off, despite paying for everything. Husband and I did all the planning; my parents mostly asked to be informed rather than explicitly having a say (we did ask them for advice several times, along with Husband’s parents, but they didn’t provide much of it unsolicited). I’d do it again; my parents barely noticed the expense, and it seriously decreased my stress level to not have to spend time price comparing beyond a vague “yeah, that seems reasonable”.

  • L.

    I’m pre-engaged, but I think we’ll probably end up with a combination. We’ve had a joint short-term “future wedding” investment account with Betterment for the last couple of years that we contribute to every month. We just received a check from our escrow account because of a surplus, and I talked BF into depositing half into the Betterment account – win! My dad has already mentioned wanting to give us money for our future wedding (he wanted to give us money for our down payment when we bought our house two years ago, “as a wedding gift,” but we politely declined because…we weren’t getting married yet). We suspect that BF’s dad and my mom will also want to give us some money, though altogether, we don’t have high expectations on the amounts, which is totally fine. We don’t expect that his mom will be able to financially contribute at all and, now that I think about it, perhaps we should be proactive in finding other, non-financial ways she can participate and contribute. We’ve been together for six years, so while I don’t really know what will happen (mainly because BF has *no* idea what kind of wedding he wants), I’m pushing for something small and simple that’s ideally less than $5,000. We have more than half of that saved up already, and with contributions from parents and perhaps saving income tax refunds, if needed, that shouldn’t bite into our savings at all. But, then again, being together as long as we have, we could also go the opposite direction and decide to throw a big celebratory “we *finally* got hitched” party that might end up in the $10K-15K range, so…it will be a surprise! Ha.

  • KatCardigans

    (Hi! I’ve read APW for a long time, but I’m new to being an active participant.) Although my fiance and I are still hashing our budget out, it’s looking like my parents will pay for my dress and probably help out a little where we fall short, and his parents might cover the rehearsal dinner. We’ll be paying for the bulk of the wedding ourselves, pulling a little from existing savings but mostly by starting a new savings plan. We’re also trying to save for a downpayment, which we will probably have to put on hold for the next year and a half.

    My parents are excited about being able to help as much as they are able, and for the most part, people in my life have been good about not extolling the virtues of eloping or getting married at city hall when I’m trying to be excited about the medium-sized wedding we’re aiming for. So, I feel pretty good about how things are being paid for. However, I AM feeling a lot of guilt about saving for big, important things while carrying student loan debt. Personal finance blogs’ frequent focus on paying off student loans before taking major life steps gets me right in the gut–I feel as if it’s what fiance and I should be doing, too, like it’s the ‘right’ way to do things. But between my grad school debt and fiance’s law school debt, we could have 37 roommates and eat nothing but ramen and it would still take decades for us to pay off our loans! We have good jobs, but they’re never going to pay as much as they cost to get.

    We’ve had a lot of conversations about how student loans are what they are, and how we’re fortunate not to have much credit card debt, and how we will continue on with our payment plans and not let student loans keep us from starting a life together. Conversations that remind me our lives aren’t merely dollar signs followed by negative numbers comfort me a lot. But if we’re talking about shame in wedding finances…that’s definitely where I feel it.

    • Sarah E

      Good on you for continuing to bring yourself back to the reminders to live life. My student loan debt is minimal, but we’re still buying a car (and taking on a loan to do so) before paying it off. It’s better for us to have reliable transportation sooner rather than later, and the debt is getting paid bit by bit.

      And you can turn the guilt into rage at our broken education system :-) A little righteous anger always helps!

    • Pannorama

      This is TOO REAL. I had a small breakdown about this the other day. Generally, I’ve been telling myself that a wedding is something I’ll probably only do once and that celebrating our marriage and planning a lovely event for our friends and family is worth an extra year or three of payments.

    • Eenie

      I think a lot of people get married and pay for a wedding with student loan debt! I did it. I know lots of people who’ve done it. I think there’s a lot of factors that come into play with student loan debt that doesn’t mean you should always pay it off first. A lot of it is personal debt – which is important if you divorce or one of you dies (I know, sad things to think about). There’s lots of options for restructuring payments, especially with income based repayment, that make the debt repayment lower risk vs having fixed payments you have to make every month. Plus, depending on where you are with incomes, it can be advantageous to be married for tax purposes! So having a wedding sooner may even be the smart financial choice.

      • KatCardigans

        Yeah, we’re both on IBR, for which I’m very grateful! And my field offers the possibility of forgiveness sooner rather than later, although we’ll see how the political winds blow on forgiveness programs. Most of my friends who are married still have student loan debt, so I don’t think it’s, like, rare or anything–it just still weighs on my conscience more heavily than other financial matters. Like, I personally feel I have more control over credit card debt, even though the interest rate is higher, because I can pay $500 and see actual results, while paying $500 on my loans is a drop in the bucket that ends up getting eaten by the (relatively low) interest. I think for wedding planning purposes I’m just going to try and put it out of my mind as much as possible. It’ll be there for me to worry about later.

    • E.

      We got married with student loan debt from me and while saving for law school for my husband. It’s fine! Student loans take so long to pay off I can’t imagine putting life on hold until you’re done!

    • emilyg25

      I had a wedding, bought a car AND bought a house before my loan was paid off. I had a pretty low interest rate (and total amount) and I’d already baked the payments into my budget so I just carried on with my life.

    • What you mention is something that turns me off from most personal finance blogs/books – this idea that one should sacrifice everything to get rid of their debt. I just don’t believe that, and I’m not willing to be unhappy in a studio apartment eating ramen every night to pay off my student loans a few years faster. Some people are willing to forego personal happiness to achieve the goal of being debt-free, but I am not one. And looking back, I’m so glad that we did have the wedding we had, with our friends and family coming together the way they did. My wedding photos are the last professional photos I have of my grandmother, who passed away last year. It was the last time I got together with all my siblings. Those memories are more important to me than the ability to pay off my student loans.

  • sparagmos

    We did a combo of contributions from all corners and our own savings as well. My parents contributed the largest chunk, which covered about 55% of the wedding costs. My husband’s parents contributed as well, about 19%, plus the rehearsal dinner (which they planned, paid for, and executed with almost no input from us, which was lovely). I had been saving for a while for a wedding specifically, and I upped that amount I was putting away during our engagement, which was about medium-length. That ended up being just over the amount my husband’s parents put in. And then we had other contributions such as a small cash amount from my grandparents and the gift of wedding invitations from my aunt, who did things like that as part of her business.

    It was very important to me that no one go into debt for our wedding. I’m still not entirely sure my parents didn’t take out a loan for the portion they offered, but it was the amount they wanted to give (well, my mom did; she kept upping the amount after they originally gave us a number because “we’re going to give the same amount to your sister when she gets married and her tastes run more expensive than yours”).

    Weirdness arose from my parents wanting to be seen as The Hosts, even though it was very much contributions from all sides that made the wedding we had possible. That friction put a lot of strain on my relationship with my mom for the duration of our engagement.

  • LindseyM

    My parents went the route of offering a lump sum toward either a down payment or a wedding. That way they gave the same to both my sister and I—my sister was buying a condo around the same time. In retrospect, we should have used the money for a down payment, but at the time we knew we were not going to be buying a house for at least five years due to education and likely cross-country moves. A wedding seemed more imminent.

  • EF

    in the UK (but back then not london) in 2015: my dude’s parents contributed £1000, we contributed about £2000, my aunt contributed a week long stay at her timeshare for the honeymoon. we didn’t have credit cards.

    we were both working nonprofit endeavors and his mom had just been diagnosed with cancer. things worked out more or less, and it was all in cash basically, but fine.

  • K.K.

    I mean, it’s complicated, right? We’re paying from savings. But the only reason we have enough savings to be comfortable using it even for a fairly budget wedding is because both of our parents paid our undergraduate expenses completely, from tuition to healthcare, spending money, and support through the summers – a cost an order of magnitude greater than our wedding budget.

    • Anonymous

      Totally feel this. We are in the beginning stages of wedding planning (hopefully settling on a venue this month!), and while there might be small gifts from both of our families, neither can really afford it so we are planning on paying for everything from our (technically my, soon to be our) savings… which only exist because I was lucky to get a super well-paying job for my first years out of school (now I have a more normal-paying job, haha) that allowed me to pay off my student loans, and put 20% down on a house, and save for a wedding. I feel VERY lucky that it worked out that way, although it’s still kind of stressing me out to part with all that money for ~*~*just one day*~*~… we’ll still have a good-sized emergency fund left over if we stay within our planned budget, and hey, that’s what I saved it for, and also we love parties. So it’s okay.. right?!?

  • Anon

    if we ever get around to organizing or planning something, it will be all us. we’re the minority here, but I did choose the down payment route when my parents offered a considerable amount for either (a fancy) wedding or towards down payment or new vehicle or whatever. they made it clear that there was no funds after the gift. It wasn’t the whole amount as I’d been saving for a long time, but it made it happen faster. in our market, this was the right decision for us as prices have gone up a bonkers amount here (our home would be double the cost). depending on what type/size of wedding we decide to do – it could take a long time to save for wedding when there are many competing demands on our time & funds (house repairs/remodels and now kids savings). so I suppose the wedding we’ll one day have will be no where near what we could have had if we’d gone with the other decision. but then we’d have missed out on some amazing experiences we’ve had in our home with friends and family too. when we do plan a wedding, it will likely be pretty low key.

    • emilyg25

      My mom chose to use her parents’ gift to go to nursing school and when it came time to marry my dad, they just had a potluck at a relative’s home. Sometimes having a big wedding is important to people and sometimes it’s not.

  • SS Express

    Our wedding cost around $30k. My parents gave us a lump sum of $15k at the start but also paid for a few additional items over the course of planning and gave us extra cash here and there so they put in about $20k all up. My in-laws paid for a few specific items, totaling around $2-3k and we paid for the rest ourselves. Neither set of parents expected us to do things any particular way, apart from adding a few relatives and family friends to the guest list (which we were fine with anyway), so there wasn’t any tension around people thinking they’d bought a say in the planning.

    I don’t feel weird or guilty about taking my parents’ money because I know they wanted to do it and it made them happy – I was surprised they gave us so much because they’re not exactly rolling in it, but I guess they are rolling in a bit more than I thought! We didn’t have that much when I was a kid, and my dad grew up very poor indeed, so it’s really meaningful for him to be able to give us nice things. BUT we’ve been through some tough times in our marriage and both said that if we broke up we’d feel terribly guilty for wasting my parents’ money (I mean, not if we divorced after 10 or 20 years. But if we divorced in the first year and it was really a mistake to get married in the first place, yeah I’d feel guilty about that.)

    The letter the other day from someone whose husband’s parents paid for their daughter’s wedding but not their son’s really resonated with me because my in-laws covered the cost of their daughter’s wedding and said many times (including before we were engaged, when they pestered us about getting married and we said we couldn’t afford to) that they’d help us with ours too, and while they did do that, it wasn’t the kind of money that made a difference between whether or not we could afford a wedding. Of course we were grateful for the help they gave us (and they’re very generous to us in other ways too), and in any case it’s up to them how they want to spend their money, but I think it was hard on my husband. He’s the middle child and I think he often does feel overlooked, and it bothered me to see him treated differently yet again.

    Money’s weird man.

  • HI Natatat

    My parents contributed a lot to my wedding, not necessarily in checks ‘n cash, but by handling various sectors of the wedding at their own discretion (like: florist, etc). I’d say they did about 1/4-1/3, although I’m foggy on the exact dollar amounts since they weren’t really broken down that way. I had some strange personal deep dives about how to deal with them paying for it – I decided on trying to be as sincerely sensitive as possible to what they *wanted/were excited* to be (not just *were OK with*) contributing, spending exhaustive hours searching for the best, most budget friendly deals, and being very honest with myself and others about them helping us out. (And, of course, effusive gratitude.) So much of wedding planning is a discouraging “HOW did they AFFORD that, am I a financial failure?” type of game and I wanted to really be able to honest with people about what we per se really could and could not afford as reasonable, average twenty-somethings.

    Interestingly, two years before I would never have imagined being able to float the other 75 to 66 percent of the bill on our own and we did it with a couple of serendipitous professional windfalls: I happened to get a higher paying job and a really great (temporary) side hustle. My husband got an *extremely* higher paying gig than his previous one that actually ended up compromising his values slightly, so that ended up being temporary as well (not worth it if you feel like shit!). In the end, he says his few months there paid for our wedding so he doesn’t regret it, but he also doesn’t regret ditching it when he realized it wasn’t something he wanted to be a part of. In conclusion, just at the time of wedding bills, we happened to find ourselves with money we normally wouldn’t have! Thanks, universe. We also had a lot of friends who offered to pay for and do things for the wedding as their gifts. Yay for friends!

  • suchbrightlights

    My husband and I were 100% going to go to the courthouse because 1) we did not care about having A Wedding and 2) we had just bought a house. My mother had Feelings about this… and also, it turns out, Feelings about how paying for a wedding was How To Be A Good Mother of a Girl. It turns out that my parents had put money aside for this. (I had had NO IDEA.) So we had a wedding. And she paid for the whole thing. And where I was all about the budget options, she was not- while a frugal and creative person well-versed in making do and DIY, it was also important to her to have a certain level of aesthetic, which she was willing to pay for. It was a beautiful day and we were very lucky to have all of her support to make it that way.

    My husband and I paid and hosted our families for the rehearsal dinner. We paid for transportation and hotels for our honeymoon off of travel points saved on our credit cards, and put the rest back on the same cards, paid off out of savings from our joint account, to start the nest egg for our next trip. Yes, we are incredibly fortunate.

  • Cdn icecube

    Right now it’s looming like we are going to be paying for about 80%, with my mom and his parents chipping in for the rest or us paying for the rest. My dad recently went bankrupt so we don’t expect or want anything from him. His parents could help but feel that their kids should pay for their own weddings. Which is a little odd because I know that they paid for his siblings invitations and rehearsal dinner so we shall see. My mom has said that she will pay for my dress but I’m not sure if it’s just the dress or if it’s dress and alterations. In any event we are saving as if it’s us paying for all of it to be safe. I get a little irritated when people keep asking us “why are you having such a long engagement” and are SHOCKED when we respond with “well weddings are expensive and take a while to save for”. I wish I could say “well Linda your parents paid for your whole wedding so it makes sense that you had a 6 month engagement.” But that’s rude.

  • b

    My mom paid for 1/3 of the costs, and the rest we paid in cash. We had a very short engagement and not a lot of savings, so in order to pay for the wedding we drastically cut back on our expectations. We got married and had our reception at the working farm where we volunteer (which meant a free venue, but also a very humble venue – porta potties, dirt floor barn, etc.), we had almost no decorations, no favors, had buffet-style BBQ, a homemade cake, beer donated by a brewer friend, and our community pitched in to set up tables/chairs from the local grange hall, hay bales for ceremony seating, and the like. Everyone raved about how relaxed and fun the day was, and only one person (out of 140 people) complained about the porta potties/ dirt floor barn. It wasn’t a Pinterest wedding but all the photos show people smiling from ear to ear, dancing, enjoying themselves. And that makes me super happy.

  • Anonyguest

    My husband and I haven’t really talked this with anyone since our wedding. I was so appreciative of the handful of friends who volunteered information about how they paid for their weddings while they were planning, so in the interest of paying it forward, our breakdown was as follows:

    Total: $18,000 (We had a “destination” wedding in that we were the ones traveling to the city where most of our friends and family live. This total included the cost of our flights and five nights in a hotel – one of which was comped by the amazing staff there – plus food and drink for a welcome gathering and our wedding rings, which I know is a bit different from the way APW totals things for real wedding posts.)

    Our savings: $11,500 (We had an unexpectedly long engagement – 30 months – so we built this up by saving a couple hundred bucks each per month during that time.)

    Husband’s parents’ contribution: $3,000 (This included the welcome get-together, which they had offered to pay for, and another check that was a surprise once we had decided on most of the big stuff.)

    The rest (about $3,500): credit cards. This was mostly travel-related or decor and last-minute expenses that we couldn’t buy until we arrived at our destination. Thankfully, that’s paid off now, but it did take the better part of a year.

  • ABC

    About two years after my now-fiance and I started dating, I did something that I read about on a personal finance blog and have been thanking myself for ever since: I started putting away $250 a month in a savings account, using the online bank’s auto-pay (so I didn’t have to remember to manually do it). I didn’t know at the time that we were going to get married, but I had a good feeling about it, and I figured, I was going to get married at some point (probably). If not, the cash was liquid, so I could use it for something else too. Three-plus years later, including interest, I’d saved something like $10k-$11k without even noticing.

    Now that we’re actually getting married, we’re very fortunate that our parents will be covering most of the costs. But having that $10k of our own has been key. It allows me/us to not feel like we’re entirely relying on a handout. If we and our parents did get into a big disagreement about some vendor choice, I could just say, nope, I’m going to pay for what we want. (Fortunately, this hasn’t come up, but it’s more about having the confidence to handle it if it were to.) I recommend auto-pay savings accounts to everyone, and to start early!

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  • K

    My “average” budget mid-size Massachusetts wedding will be funded jointly 1/3 by my Fiance’s parents, 1/3 by my parents, and 1/3 from my fiance and I’s savings. On one hand I’m really really excited and feel extremely blessed and fortunate, on the other I struggle with guilt over spending the money every day.