Wedding Etiquette Budget: A groom and bride pouring two bottles of champagne onto a tower of glasses at an outdoor reception.

Wedding Etiquette Tips to Handle Your Budget Like a Pro

Navigating Sometimes-Befuddling Financial Planning
BY NORA HORVATH / 09 16 22
Photo by Jose Villa

Let’s get financial! There are so many joyous parts of your wedding countdown: the anticipation of sending out the save-the-dates, sampling a million cakes, and picking out the perfect dress—but dealing with the proper wedding etiquette around who pays for what is not usually one of them. Most couples want to enjoy almost every step of the planning process, but navigating who pays for what in a wedding can be awkward and confusing, especially when families get involved. Creating a financial plan and figuring out how to pay for the wedding is, however, one of the most important parts of the process. But what are the rules about who pays for what at a wedding? 

Before we get into everything, it’s worth noting that while this is the traditional wedding etiquette around budgeting and tipping wedding vendors according to Emily Post and other experts, traditions held by these experts can often be a bit outdated. These old school rules are also not as inclusive to the LGBTQIA+ community, and often only list rules in a heteronormative format. You should absolutely consider your own personal preferences and comfort levels when evaluating what wedding budget rules to follow and which ones to leave in the past.

Wedding Etiquette Budget: An indoor reception setup with chandeliers hanging above and blue tablescapes.

Considering the average wedding cost, it’s very normal for couples to ask for help when paying for their big day. After all, according to our 2022 wedding survey, 97% of couples believe wedding costs have risen this year. But having more people chip in sometimes makes the wedding etiquette rules that much more perplexing. To help you journey through the challenging conversations, and understand the history behind these traditions, we’ll break down certain costs for a wedding and who pays for it, and other budget concerns to discuss with your partner. This includes particularly sticky topics like the proper etiquette around asking for money on your registry and wedding tipping. After all, the last thing you want on your special day is to be worried about budgeting mistakes or faux pas you may have made. 

Budgeting for your wedding is a major part of the wedding planning process, as it is essential to bringing your vision to life. We’ll show you the details of budgeting and wedding etiquette for all who are involved in the lead-up to your event. This includes the right wedding etiquette for all budget-related concerns, including wedding vendor tipping and gift giving.

Wedding Etiquette: An outdoor seating area with pink accents near a tree and Spanish-style building in the background.
Wedding Etiquette Budget: Two long rectangular reception tables on a stone patio at a wedding in Palm Springs, California.

Wedding etiquette: Who pays for what at a wedding?

With wedding etiquette who pays for what is a complicated matter. Almost every part of a wedding can be tied to tradition—the couple not seeing one another before the ceremony, the father walking the bride down the aisle, and even the bride donning a veil—and so, it’s no surprise that tradition extends to who pays for what at a wedding. Like many other wedding rituals, the division of the expenses is historically split between the bride and groom’s families. While there are traditional rules for who pays for what at a wedding, these practices are just guidelines and definitely not hard and fast rules. When it comes to who pays for what wedding etiquette, here’s the breakdown by family, according to Emily Post, home to the top experts on all things related to social rules.

Wedding Etiquette Budget: Three oversize hanging floral installations over a long rectangular reception table at a tented wedding.

What does the bride’s family pay for? 

If you ask the parents of the bride this question, they’ll probably say “too much.” And they’re not totally wrong: Historically, it’s proper wedding etiquette for the bride’s family to pay for the actual wedding day and all the events that happen throughout, in addition to a mix of other pre-wedding costs. If, like us, you’re wondering, “Why does the bride’s parents pay for the wedding?”, it can all be traced back to the tradition of the family of the bride giving the groom’s family a wedding dowry (so yes, this whole idea is antiquated).

Wedding Etiquette Budget: Vibrant turquoise  and coral wedding invitation suite laid out on a blue backdrop
Wedding Etiquette Budget: A pair of wedding shoes on a table with a colorful floral arrangement, next to a veil and wedding dress hung up nearby.

If the bride’s family ends up paying for the wedding, this also makes the bride’s family the de facto hosts of the evening, so they get the most sway over all decisions made that day. These decisions can include everything from choosing if they want an outdoor tent wedding or a big-city venue, to the vendors and the seating chart. Traditionalists may want to follow these norms, but remember that these are merely guidelines, not rules. With that in mind, the full financial expectations of the bride’s family may include: 

  • Services of a wedding planner 
  • All invitations and other stationery or signage
  • The bride’s wedding gown, veil, and any accessories (which can be thousands of dollars, considering the average cost of a wedding dress)
  • Floral decorations for the ceremony and reception, bridesmaids’ flowers, and the bride’s bouquet
  • Any tents, awnings, or aisle runners needed
  • Music for the ceremony and reception
  • Transportation for the bridal party to ceremony and reception
  • Dinner and drinks at the reception
  • Services of a traffic officer or security, if necessary
  • Photographer, wedding photographs, and wedding albums
  • Videographer and completed video, if you choose to have one 
  • Transportation and lodging expenses for the officiant, if the individual is coming from out of town, and if that person is invited to officiate by the bride’s family
  • Bride’s gifts to her bridal party
  • Bride’s gift to groom 
  • Groom’s wedding ring
  • Wedding vendor tipping of all vendors mentioned above  

All together, these costs can add up fast. That’s why it’s important to do the research when deciding who pays for what at a wedding, and to find the right vendors for your budget, like photographers and florists.

Wedding Etiquette Budget: Cream colored draped wedding reception tent with neutral tables and chairs, and centerpieces of large palm fronds.
Wedding Etiquette Budget: Monogrammed cowboy hat next to the groom's orange-banded watch and carbon black wedding ring in a cream ring box.
Wedding Etiquette Budget: Gold and cream three-tiered wedding cake in a brick-lined doorway with a black wooden door, adorned with a neon let them eat cake sign.

What is the groom’s family supposed to pay for? 

While the bride’s family is typically on the hook for most expenses, there are still things that the wedding etiquette for groom’s parents dictates they should pay. In the list below, you can see everything the groom’s family is supposed to pay for when following the tradition of who pays for what in a wedding etiquette. Like the rules surrounding the bride’s family (and most other wedding etiquette rules), this is a more dated approach to budgeting and can definitely be altered (or completely disregarded) based on circumstance or your preferences as a couple. But we’re also sharing these general guidelines to make sure there aren’t any surprise costs come wedding day. 

According to the wedding etiquette for groom’s parents, the groom and his family are typically expected to pay for the rehearsal dinner and any bachelor-related events and activities. While these costs may seem imbalanced with the list for the bride’s family, today it’s much more common for a couple to compromise and split the expenses in a way that works better for them. 

  • Bride’s engagement and wedding rings
  • Groom's tuxedo and accessories, including those for the groomsmen
  • All costs for the rehearsal dinner
  • Officiant's fee or donation
  • Transportation and lodging expenses for the officiant, if the individual is coming from out of town, and if that person is invited to officiate by the groom’s family
  • The marriage license
  • Transportation for the groom and best man to the ceremony
  • The bride’s bouquet (when it is local custom for the groom to pay for it)
  • The bride’s going away corsage, if she plans to wear one
  • Boutonnieres for groom’s attendants
  • The officiant’s fee or donation
  • Groom’s gift to bride
  • Gifts for groom’s party
  • Honeymoon expenses
  • Wedding vendor tipping of all vendors mentioned above
Wedding Etiquette Budget: A flat-lay of a black cowboy boot, wedding ring, watch, undone bow tie, cufflinks, and boutonniere.
Wedding Etiquette Budget: A groom from the neck-down, wearing a tuxedo with a bow tie, white floral boutonniere, and custom handkerchief.

It’s also important to note that most of these antiquated situations and traditions around who pays for what wedding etiquette also assume a certain level of privilege and financial stability. Not everyone’s family can or will pay for a wedding, so it’s also perfectly normal for couples to find themselves in a situation where they have to self-fund the wedding costs. There are also certain cultures in which the parents haven’t historically paid. In this case, the couple hosts (and pays for) their own celebration, which removes having this type of who pays for what wedding etiquette conversation from your to-do list. 

It's also considered more modern and common these days for couples to pay for their own wedding, have their families equally split the cost, or have friends and other relatives offer to help. All of these arrangements are acceptable and practical, but make sure to communicate clearly with your families, friends, and partner about who will be paying for what to avoid any awkwardness surrounding your big day.

Wedding Etiquette Budget: A green couch with white chairs on either side in a brightly-lit indoor room.

How do you manage decision-making with family?

Once you’ve calculated your wedding budget and sat down to have a discussion with your partner over who will be paying for things, you then have to manage the impact of who pays. Paying for your own wedding, in turn, buys couples more freedom when it comes to making decisions, but on the flip side, it can be a burden on young couples to pour money into the event. No matter how much your families decide to contribute, having your family sign a check isn’t usually the end of their involvement. 

The wedding etiquette around who pays for what also dictates that the financial backers of the event get a say in things that go on during your special day. Things like invitation wording and who gets to make important decisions can change based on who pays, so you’ll want to use discretion when deciding who to involve. A few examples of ways this dynamic can play out includes:

  • Invitation wording: If one set of parents pay for the event, the invitation will likely say “Mr. and Mrs. [last name] invite you to the wedding of their [son or daughter], [son or daughter’s name] to [partner’s name]. If the couple pays for it, it’s typical to not have a lead-up and say “[Name] and [Name] invite you to their wedding.” And if both families are paying, it’s common to write “Together with their families, [couple’s names] invite you to their wedding.”
  • How decisions are made: Sometimes people who are paying for the wedding feel like they should have a say in the decision. This may affect everything from the guest list to the food served at dinner, and is an important thing to keep in mind when asking someone to chip in for your wedding. 
  • Guest list: Maybe you and your partner want a small, intimate wedding with just a few close family and friends. But if your parents are footing the bill and want to invite their closest friends and family, you might end up with way more people than expected. Unfortunately this can be a tricky discussion to have together—after all, they are paying for it! 
Wedding Etiquette: An outdoor reception setup with wooden tables and chairs and blue candles, cups and napkins on the table.
Wedding Etiquette: A gold-dusted shelf with a sign that says,

Wedding vendor tipping: How much should we plan to tip wedding vendors? 

When it comes to wedding vendors tipping the pros who play a huge part in making sure that every detail of your day runs smoothly is key. That being said, we highly recommend tipping them, especially when they go above and beyond. While it’s not usually  required to tip wedding vendors, and not all vendors will expect gratuity, in most cases it’s highly encouraged. Tipping wedding vendors is the best way to thank your trusted team of experts for a job well done.

Before diving into the specifics of wedding vendor tipping, here are some helpful pointers to make sure you’re doing it fairly and reasonably. When it comes to tipping wedding vendors, you want to first check all your contracts to be sure that gratuity has not already been included in the price. You don’t want to accidentally end up tipping wedding vendors twice! You should also tip wedding vendors when you feel you’ve received amazing service. Not all vendors expect wedding tipping, so if it’s not discussed beforehand you can make the call on a case-by-case basis. When dealing with larger businesses, you generally do not need to tip the owners, just their employees. Small business owners, on the other hand, should be considered for wedding vendor tipping based on the quality of service you feel you’ve received.

And regardless of how much cash you decide to tip, the best wedding vendor tipping move is to leave  them positive reviews online. It’s one of the best ways to ensure they find new customers and receive more business in the future!

Wedding Etiquette Budget: Wait staff in white coats holding guests' escort cards at cocktail hour.
Wedding Etiquette Budget: A band performing on a white stage at an outdoor venue with white fabric hanging from the structure.

Tipping wedding vendors: How much to actually tip wedding vendors 

If you ask the pros themselves about wedding vendors tipping rules, they’ll probably tell you that the sky’s the limit. In terms of how much to tip wedding vendors, it’s primarily up to you, your partner, and anyone else who’s offered to pitch in financially. Realistically, wedding vendor tipping follows a similar pattern as giving gratuity in restaurants or other occasions in life. But if you still have questions, we can help you get a bit more guidance than that: Ultimately, your tip should depend on a mix of things including your wedding budget, level of satisfaction, and the kind of services you’re getting. 

Here are some quick wedding tipping guidelines for all kinds of vendors, according to The Penny Hoarder: 

Wedding Vendors Tipping Advice:

  • Wedding planner: Up to 15% of the total bill. This is not typically expected, but is a nice gesture if you’re thrilled with their service. 
  • Wedding venue coordinator or catering manager: $100 to $200
  • Officiant: $50 to $100
  • Photographers and videographers: $50 to $100 per person
  • Ceremony musicians: $10 to $15 per musician
  • Florist: $50 to $100, plus $10 to $20 each per flower delivery person 
  • Hairstylist and makeup artist: Up to 20% of your total services fee
  • Transportation: Up to 20%
  • Wedding band: $10 to $15 per musician
  • Wedding DJ: Up to 15% of the bill
  • Reception waitstaff: Up to 20% of labor costs on food and drink bill, like how you would tip a server in a restaurant.
  • Reception bartender: Up to 20% of the total bill, in addition to whatever cash tips they receive from guests
  • Valet or parking attendants: $1 to $2 per vehicle

Of course, this is a lot to take care of the night of the wedding, and the newlyweds should not be expected to carry around hundreds of dollars in cash to be dolling out as they’re tipping wedding vendors. Instead, we recommend having your bridal party or close members of your family handle the wedding vendor tipping so you and your partner can enjoy your night together as newlyweds. This designated wedding vendors tipping crew can also handle everything before the party really starts. Tipping wedding vendors early cuts down on potential end-of-the-night forgetfulness and can serve as a gesture of confidence in the people you’ve hired. 

Wedding Etiquette Budget: A repurposed teal VW wagon designed to work as a photo booth with a light-up
Wedding Etiquette Budget: A server holding up a tray of chips topped with caviar.

What is appropriate wedding etiquette surrounding the registry? Can I ask my guests for money? 

Budgeting rules aren’t reserved to who pays for what in a wedding: Gift-giving is a huge part of wedding celebrations, but there are lots of questions around what is appropriate to ask for as part of your registry. While new sets of wine glasses and InstantPots make excellent gifts, sometimes there’s nothing a newly married couple needs more than some money to start their lives together. So what are the wedding etiquette gift rules? 

Asking for cash can sometimes feel a bit awkward, but it doesn’t have to be in these situations. It’s easier than ever for couples to ask for money: While couples used to have to hope for cash or checks on their special day, it’s become more common to ask for financial gifts through online services for honeymoon or down payment funds. Using online platforms to communicate this makes it easy to direct people to the right funds easily through your wedding website or by sharing a link. Some guests might feel that this is impersonal and bring money to the wedding as a gift anyway, whether or not you ask for it, which is totally appropriate too. This is also a great opportunity to use the power of word of mouth: let your parents and bridal party know that a cash gift is preferred, so they can pass the word on to anyone who asks. It's important to remember that when it comes to the wedding etiquette gift rules, you’re suggesting, not dictating to guests what they must give. It’s ultimately up to the guests to choose what they’re comfortable with.

Wedding Etiquette: A light pink golf cart with woven seats parked outside a hotel.
Wedding Etiquette: A pile of white gift boxes wrapped with a soft pink printed ribbon.

One frequently asked wedding etiquette question is, “How do I communicate to my guests that money is what I want?” We recommend that if you're asked directly about what you want, be honest and polite and say something like, "We're saving for a down payment on a house, so if you'd like to give a check, that's how we'll use it. But we will be so thankful for whatever you decide. Thank you for thinking of us." This lets your guests know that cash presents are perfectly acceptable, as long as they feel comfortable with the idea. Some people simply don't like giving money, and that's okay too. For this reason it's a good idea to set up a traditional registry, even if it has only a few items on it, so guests won’t give you lots of items you don’t want or need (like multiple blenders, eek!)

Wedding Etiquette: Wedding reception setup under a large oak tree, with an aisle lined with spring flowers and greenery, leading to a wedding arch made of the same flowers.

Final thoughts on wedding etiquette 

Etiquette is complicated in all situations, but never more than when dealing with who pays for what in a wedding. Sometimes it seems like there is no end to things to open your wallet for when event planning, so having a budget is something important to keep at the front of your mind at every step of the way, from the first deposit to the final night of wedding vendor tipping. 

No matter what direction you and your partner decide to go when deciding who pays for what in a wedding—paying for the wedding yourself, asking for familial help, or getting the support of friends—the final decision should be personal to you and fit with your values as a couple. You should also never feel pressured to ask for financial help from family or friends who don’t have you and your partner’s needs or wants in mind. 

Now that you’re equipped with the historical context to wedding budget etiquette, you can design an event that fits your budget and comfort level. Ultimately whoever pays for your wedding and the associated events should feel unique and right for you, just like the rest of your special day. While it can be complicated to sift through the opinions of friends and family, you have to do what’s right for you as a couple—you’re married now, after all!