When it comes to the wedding etiquette and budget, should Mums and Dads still pick up the big day bill or should we be paying for our day, our way? In Part 1 of our guide, Wedding Ideas looks at the options facing couples when planning their wedding budget.
There’s been much speculation recently about who will pay for the royal wedding and – indeed – how posh it should be when the country is facing cutbacks. Luckily most couples don’t face the same scrutiny over their wedding plans, but who picks up the tab can cause disagreements – or worse. Today, the average cost of a wedding is around £20,000 which is beyond the reach of most couples. And while tradition says that the bride’s family pays for the wedding reception (including the venue, food and drink) while the groom pays for the honeymoon, transport and the church or ceremony fees, these days, few couples play by those traditional wedding budget rules.
Some go it alone completely and don’t get any help from their parents, others pay most of the costs themselves but are happy for parents to chip in. Kelly Chandler of the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners says that as couples take more control over the type of wedding they have, they also tend to stump up more of the cash.
“Most couples can’t afford to pay everything but there’s often a trade-off between accepting financial help from your parents and having the wedding you want. If parents are putting up a large amount of money towards the wedding budget they’ll normally have their own ideas on how it should be spent.”
If your parents pay for the reception you can pretty much guarantee that they’ll want to have a say in how many guests are invited. Parents often want to invite long-lost aunts, second cousins and other family members you’ve not seen for many years. If you and your fiancé are paying for the wedding you can have more of a say about who gets invited and – crucially – who doesn’t.
Wedding Ideas reader Samantha and her fiancé are getting married abroad and are paying for it all themselves. But what’s more, they haven’t told anyone. “We’re not telling any of our family or friends until the day we fly. We’re paying for the wedding ourselves and we really want it to be our day. We’ve been together for nearly ten years and would feel we had to do what other people wanted if they paid for our wedding.”
But while you might like the idea of being able to pay for your own wedding, it’s not realistic for everyone. High deposits and student debts mean that money is tight for many couples in their 20s and 30s. Lynsey and her husband Gareth got married two years ago and Lynsey knew they would only get limited financial help from their parents. “My Mum and Dad had a wedding budget for me but it went on a deposit for my flat! In the end my parents paid for my wedding dress and Gareth’s Dad paid for us to stay for a couple of nights in the hotel after our wedding. We paid for everything else except for the honeymoon which family members and friends chipped in for.”
Kelly Chandler says that an increasing number of couples are getting friends or relatives to pay towards their honeymoon or to give them cash presents, something that was far less common in the past. “Some people are happy to pay towards the honeymoon but others prefer to buy something tangible and not everyone likes the idea of giving cash. It’s something to be aware of.”
Nicola Neilson is another bride-to-be who’s turning her back on tradition and splitting the cost of the wedding with her fiancé. But she says that saving for the big day has been quite a challenge. “There always seems to be something else to spend your money on, like having to take the dog to the vets, so you have to be very disciplined. We found that paying for things like the wedding venue and invitations as soon as we had the money was the easiest way to do it.”
Guest list gripes
Nicola says that even though it’s been tough finding the money they need, she likes the fact that she and her fiancé can have the wedding they want. “A lot of people have questioned why we’re paying for everything and we’ve said it’s what we want. The biggest thing was the guest list as people ask why they haven’t been invited but we can be honest and say it’s down to money.”
“If you and your parents have very different ideas about the wedding reception but they want to contribute towards the cost, why not let them pay for something like the wedding cake?” says Kelly Chandler. “Most parents want to help with the cost of the wedding budget. One way to reduce the stress is to work out what you want done your way and what you can compromise on and let them pay for that.”
If parents are putting up a large amount of money they’ll want a say on how it’s spent!