Do you remember the old Windows game “Minesweeper”? You’d sit down all excited, 99% sure you’ll be able to diffuse this simple puzzle. You stare totally focussed at the pixelated grey blocks on your screen for a few seconds and then click on any square that you feel comfortable with. BOOM! You accidentally clicked on a bomb and you are dead. Deciding on how to split the wedding bill is the Couple’s Version of real life Minesweeper. If you approach this explosive topic respectfully, trust your gut and avoid rushing a single step of the way you might get through this whole ordeal without clicking on a bomb of sorts. Finances are a sensitive topic to start off with – add “my baby’s wedding” to the equation and you’re in for one tough game of Minesweeper! has conducted an extensive survey with over 13 000 bridal couples participating, and in 2013 for the first time ever the average total cost of a wedding has skyrocketed to over $30 000 in the USA! South Africa is a much different landscape, but still, I believe that every couple that finds themselves planning a wedding will agree that it seems gut-wrenchingly expensive. 

Even if you are one of the lucky few that get to plan a wedding without a budget, the division of costs can still be a sensitive topic that needs to be addressed with due care and finesse. With the exorbitant costs of weddings, and couples getting hitched later in life there is a shift towards greater contribution from the bridal couple themselves instead of just relying on funds from their respective families. Still, many families wish to keep things traditional…ish. 

There is no right, wrong or fair division. Having the financial means to host a wedding ceremony and reception is a wonderful privilege, regardless of who pays for what. Willingness and ability to contribute to wedding costs differ from family to family, and it can’t be expected of anyone to take out a thirty year second mortgage to finance your special day. 

This is part one of a three part blog series covering different ways to split the wedding bill, and explaining a few of the practical implications you need to consider. 

The Traditional Split

The bride and her family pay for: (almost everything)

  • Reception costs, including food, music, drinks, entertainment, venue and other rental fees.
  • Ceremony costs including rental fees, decor and organist. 
  • Flower arrangements for the ceremony and reception. 
  • Bouquets and corsages for bridesmaids and flower girls. 
  • Bride’s wedding dress, veil and accessories.
  • All stationary including invitations, newspaper announcements and wedding day programs. 
  • Wedding photography and videography.
  • The groom’s wedding ring.
  • A gift to the bride. 
  • All make-up, hair and other treatments as preparation for the wedding day. 
  • Gifts for all attendants of the wedding.
  • Own attire and transport to and from the wedding.
  • Accommodation for close out of town family members.
  • If hosted by the brides family; the engagement party.

The groom and his family pay for: (not much)

  • The rehearsal dinner – including invitations, dinner, decor and all entertainment. 
  • A gift to the bride.
  • Marriage license and officiant’s fee.
  • The bride’s wedding and engagement ring. (have you seen our nice rings?)
  • The complete honeymoon.
  • The brides bouquet and going away corsage.
  • Corsages for mothers and grandmothers.
  • Boutonnieres for men and the wedding party.
  • Their own attire and transportation.
  • If hosted by the grooms family; the engagement party expenses.

Keep The Following In Mind

Tradition is not a bad thing altogether. Many families started saving for their daughter’s wedding day many years before you even met her. Some parents even view this as their final gift to their daughter (dramatic, but true). At the other end of the spectrum certain parents might not have a cent to spare for your wedding. You’ll never know until you have a conversation with the parties involved. 

It is undeniable that if the bride’s parents pick up the complete wedding bill that they will have massive leverage on steering certain decisions. From setting the budget to determining the guest list, you will have a third party involved. This might not be a deal-breaker to you, but it can add stress and frustration to the wedding planning process. Your feelings on this are your own, and no one can dictate how you should feel about parent involvement in your wedding decisions. Just keep in mind that there will be varying degrees of “I Pay, I Say” in the days leading up to your glorious wedding day.  

This traditional split is a very rare sight these days. In the next blog post (see it here) we’ll be taking a closer look at alternative, modern splits of wedding costs, some even with a traditional twist. Check back in one week.

Good luck with your Minesweeper game!

If you are just getting started with your wedding budget, why not take a look at our handy Wedding Budget Worksheet?