If you're looking for a handy way to start dividing expenses among willing contributors, the traditional breakdown goes like this:

The groom (not his family) pays for his own attire, gifts for his attendants, the honeymoon, the bride's ring, and the costs of getting married, such as the license and any church fee or officiant's fee. He may also choose to host a "bachelor dinner" for his attendants instead of having the best man host it.

The bride pays for gifts for her attendants, the groom's ring, and often part of her own attire. She also may host a bridesmaids luncheon for her attendants.

The bride's family pays for all of the pageantry and party elements of the wedding: the bride's fancy dress, the flowers, the invitations and announcements, the musicians, and the entire reception.

The groom's family pays for the rehearsal dinner, if they wish to.

You have probably noted that this breakdown of expenses assumes that the bride has virtually no money of her own: she is a young woman being married directly from her parents' home, not a degreed professional with an income, a career, and several years of living without parental supervision. Even at the beginning of the 20th century, when very few middle-class women were self-suppporting, etiquette books recognized that a couple old enough to live far from their parents' homes and support themselves was old enough to host their own wedding and pay for it themselves. Once the happy couple are out of their respective parental nests, parental help with wedding expenses is a kind and generous gift, not a requirement.

So let's say that the parents want to contribute. Everyone who is willing to make a financial contribution should sit down together, or at least talk over the phone at length, about what they are willing to pay.

There are two ways to handle a multi-way split of wedding costs. One is for the parents to write a lump sum check to the happy couple, to use for wedding expenses as they see fit. The other is for each set of parents to handle the bills for certain items-which those parents help choose, or at least set a maximum cost for. It is much easier for the groom's parents to receive the bill for, say, the alcohol at the reception, than for them to agree to contribute two- thirds of the cost of reception food, one-third the cost of musicians, and so on.

Remember that only the happy couple and their parents will ever know who paid for what, as it's impolite to announce how wedding costs were handled or to assign honors based on who paid more. In this situation, etiquette is most concerned that no one feel pressured into paying more than they feel is affordable and right. No parent- even a wealthy one-is required to fund an elaborate fairytale wedding against his or her will. Similarly, it is not rude for the bride's parents to refuse financial help from the groom's parents, if they wish to handle their traditional responsibilities in their own way.

Original article by Wende Vyborney.

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