Here comes the bill

Here comes the bill

Originally published in Wedding Album magazine

There was a time when a father would get a sympathetic pat on the back from friends when his daughter got engaged – the majority of the wedding’s price tag was about to settle itself on his chequebook. Luckily for fathers of daughters everywhere, times have changed.

These days, with many couples established in their own homes and careers before getting engaged, parents are largely off the hook as far as paying for the big day goes. This seems only fair, too, when you consider how weddings have changed over the decades. When many of our parents tied the knot, they arranged a date at the appropriate place of worship, booked lunch or dinner at the nearest formal venue, and probably paid around R4 for a bottle of Champagne. Modern brides will often spend the equivalent of a year’s university fees on their dress, and escalate from there. Why should your parents – who are far closer to retirement and perhaps even earning less than you – foot those kinds of costs?

Today, it’s more likely that the couple will save and cover the majority of the expenses themselves, perhaps with a small cash injection from mom and dad. If you are tapping into some parental funds, here’s what to keep in mind:

Be sensitive
Your families may be from different economic circumstances, and the last thing you want is for anyone to be embarrassed about their ability to contribute. Tread lightly so nobody feels pressure to ‘keep up’. If, for example, your parents can’t match your fiancé’s family’s monetary contribution, show them how much you’d appreciate their assistance in other areas (putting together a wedding requires about 897 menial tasks and a lot of legwork, after all).

Keep things in perspective
When you’re in the thick of wedding planning, it’s easy to start seeing luxuries as must-haves. Your loving parents may get as caught up in this as you do, and will likely want you to have everything your heart desires. But is it really worth letting them dip into their retirement savings so you can have an archway of living butterflies or hire that French photographer? (It’s not.)

Manage expectations
If either set of parents is putting up money, they may have ideas about how it should be spent. Nip this in the bud by making it clear up front that while you appreciate their generous financial contribution, creative decisions still rest with you.

Be transparent about where the money is going
It’s a nice gesture to assign their money to expenses that they will be able to see and be proud of on the day, whether that’s your breathtaking bridal gown or the filet mignon.


You don’t have to stick to the old-fashioned etiquette, but knowing who traditionally would pay for what may give you some idea of how to divvy up your budget.

The bride’s family paid for:

  • All stationery, from the save-the-dates to the guest book and, eventually, the thank-you notesThe bride’s dress, veil and lingerie, plus her honeymoon wardrobe

  • Flower arrangements for the ceremony and reception, and bouquets for the bridesmaids and flower girls

  • Gifts for the bridesmaids and flower girls

  • The groom’s band

  • Transportation for the wedding party on the day

  • The photographer and videographer

  • The reception, including the venue hire, decor, most drinks, food, music and tips for servers.

The groom’s family paid for:

  • The engagement ring and bride’s wedding band

  • The marriage licence

  • The officiant’s fee

  • The groom’s suit

  • The bride’s bouquet, boutonnières for the groom and his groomsmen, and corsages for the mothers and grandmothers

  • Gifts for the groomsmen and ring bearer

  • The rehearsal dinner

  • Liquor for the reception

  • The honeymoon.

The bridesmaids paid for:

  • The bridal shower and bachelorette party

  • Dresses and shoes

  • Travel expenses and hotel.

The groomsmen paid for:

  • The bachelor party

  • Suits and shoes

  • Travel expenses and hotel.

Be a pal...
If you’re insisting on your bridesmaids wearing matching dresses, shoes and accessories, as well as having professional hair and make-up done, it’s only fair that you cover these expenses. You don’t want to force any of your besties into a tight spot, financially. That leaves them extra cash to plan a great bachelorette too – it’s a win-win!

Grain of truth

Grain of truth

You make me feel like dancing

You make me feel like dancing