A guideline for divvying up the costs of the big day.

By Real Simple
Updated December 19, 2007
Q. I recently got married. My mother and sisters threw my shower and helped with the DIY wedding. My mother- and father-in-law were in charge of the rehearsal dinner, but they did not lend a hand in any other way, including cleaning up after the wedding. My husband and I never even received a gift or a card for our big day. I am very disappointed with them as a result. How can I broach the subject?Laura H.Rochester, New York A. Congratulations, and welcome to married life—complete with a new family that does things a bit differently from what you’re accustomed to. Your own kin sound delightfully helpful and hands-on, while your in-laws appear to be more traditional: They met their formal wedding obligation and pitched in no further.But remember that the Y in DIY stands for yourself. You can’t expect everyone to take on the work of a homemade wedding, even if you wish they would. You might feel upset about that, and, yes, a present or a card would have been a thoughtful gesture, but remember: Their expectations and behaviors are not the same as your family’s, and it will be easiest for you (and them) if you get used to that idea.So don’t broach the subject at all. Instead, move forward by focusing on the generosity they have shown and the fact that they gave you the greatest gift of all: your husband.—Catherine Newman
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Below is a traditional breakdown of expenses shared by the family and the bridal party. However, given modern wedding protocol, the bride and the groom need not be so hung up on who should pay for what. Consider the personal and financial situations of your family, friends, and bridal party. You may want to pick up some of the costs, such as paying for the bridesmaids’ shoes if you want to be sure they all wear the same kitten heels, or hosting the engagement party if you want it larger than what the groom’s parents can afford.


  • Couple’s personal stationery and thank-you notes
  • Wedding programs and guest book
  • Gifts for bridesmaids and flower girl
  • Lodging for bridesmaids


  • Bride’s engagement ring
  • Marriage license
  • Officiant’s fee
  • Rental or purchase of his formal wear
  • Gifts for the groomsmen and ring bearer
  • Lodging for groomsmen

Bride and Groom

  • The wedding bands
  • The honeymoon (in traditional families, this is still considered the groom's expense)

Bride’s Family

  • Engagement and wedding pictures
  • Wedding invitations
  • Wedding planner
  • Bridal attire
  • Ceremony fees (including rental of synagogue or chapel, chuppah, aisle carpets, and other decorating items)
  • Flowers (arrangements for ceremony and reception, as well as all bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres)
  • Reception (site fees, caterer, food, bar, gratuities, decorations)
  • Music (ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception)
  • Bridesmaids’ luncheon
  • Transportation for bridal party to ceremony and reception

Groom's Family

  • Rehearsal dinner (or any other expense they elect, such as all beverage and liquor service, limousines, music for the reception, or photography and/or videography)


  • Bridal shower
  • Bridesmaids’ dresses and shoes
  • Bachelorette party
  • Any traveling expenses


  • Bachelor party
  • Rental of formal wear
  • Any traveling expenses

Flower Girl’s and Ring Bearer’s Parents

  • Attire for flower girl and ring bearer


  • Traveling and lodging expenses (even if you’re having a destination wedding, guests pay their own way)