Liz and Lizzie Post on Dividing Up Wedding Costs

Dividing Wedding Costs


[When I write an advice column for the The Broke Ass Bride in 2013, I got the opportunity to talk to Lizzie Post, the Great Great Granddaughter of Emily Post, about the etiquette of dividing wedding costs between couples and family members.  This is part of that interview]

Lizzie has put her famous last name to good use, tackling taboo etiquette topics on TV, radio, in magazines and online. She’s also authored and co-authored three books out of the Emily Post Institute. She recently partnered with Bank of America to provide advice on how to reduce stress and budget wisely during the holiday season. Reduce stress and stick to a budget? We’re all about that over here, right? So, how long did I have to talk to her, I asked. “Ten minutes,” was her representative’s reply.



It takes me ten minutes to finish saying a sentence, and you know, just by reading this column, how much trouble I have being succinct. I took a deep breath, took a look at the Post Institute’s wedding etiquette page, thought a bit, boiled that thought down, and very, very early on Wednesday morning, after a couple of tech glitches (mine) this is, more or less, how it turned out:

Liz C.: I read a little bit on your website about the traditional division of wedding finances, of who pays for what. A lot of the breakdown was familiar; the bride’s family pays for the engagement party, the ceremony, the reception, her dress, the groom’s ring. The groom and the groom’s family pay for the cheapest parts of the wedding, the marriage license, the officiant, the rehearsal dinner. He’s also supposed to pay for the honeymoon, but that still seems a little inequitable to me!

Lizzie P: (Laughs) Sure.

Liz C: That article was written in 2009, and it did point out that those rules didn’t really apply any more –

Lizzie P.: That’s so true.

Liz C.: – And couples finance their weddings in various ways: they pay for it themselves, or their families divide the costs right down the middle, or the couple and each side of the family each pay for a third. But, even in the past four years, the demographics of engaged couples have changed. Thinking about the clients that I work with as a wedding coordinator, a lot of them are older, not as many are walking out of college one weekend and down the aisle the next. A lot of them are professionals that are making good money on their own. Some of my couples are gay, so there might not be that expected separation of “bride’s” responsibilities and “groom’s” responsibilities.

Lizzie P: Of course.

Liz C: But, even given those circumstances, weddings can be expensive. Nationwide, the average cost of a wedding is between $20-25,000 [ed – add another $10,000 onto that now]. That can double or triple, depending on where you live. A lot of couples, no matter where they are in life, could use some help with that.

Are there new rules of etiquette for the division of wedding finances? Given that etiquette is basically what you should expect to do, and what you should expect from others, as a couple planning their wedding in 2013, what should those expectations be?

Lizzie P: What we suggest is that Brides and Grooms sit down and have a very open and candid conversation with both sets of their parents, or whoever they think would be open to helping out, or has said that they want to. Sometimes the conversation is about the traditional financial divisions, and their parents might say, “We’re happy for you, we love you, but you’re on your own.” That does happen.


Liz C.: Yeah, sometimes parents aren’t able to give anything at all.

Lizzie P.: But, no matter what, it’s very important that a couple starts out with a budget that they’re comfortable with, that they believe is going to work for everyone. And, we also suggest that they set up a banking account just for the wedding. … So that when you’re shopping for your dress, or at catering options, or looking at different venues, you can check your bank account and know what’s pending, what’s already been paid, what amount you have left in your budget. You can even set up alerts, to ensure that you pay vendors on time. It’s really easy, and it makes sticking to your budget a lot easier, too, and you don’t have to worry about it. Less worry creates less stress, and less weirdness about the whole thing!

Liz C.: So, branching off of that, if you do need help, how should you ask for it? What should you say?

Lizzie P: (Laughs) “Hi, I need money!” You can be a little more tactful than that! I think that the best way is to say, “We just wanted to check and see if the wedding budget is something you feel that you can can contribute to, or if it’s something you don’t think you can or even want to contribute to.” Understanding that you might get a “No” is a great place to come from, so you won’t feel so heartbroken if it happens.

Liz C: And from the other side of that, as parents, can you offer financial help, but still set limits on how much, and for what? Should you expect to have control over how that money is spent?

Lizzie P: (Laughs) Right! This is the other part of that candid, respectful conversation that you have with your folks. Not just about the amount, but the expectations of what comes with that money. So, if Mom says, “I want to pay for your wedding dress,” you can reply, “That is such a generous offer, but I need to find out what you have in mind. Because if you want me in a specific dress that might not be what I want, or what I’m comfortable with, that’s not going to work.” It’s okay for you to say, “Thank you, but I think I’m going to cover this on my own.” (Laughs) The polite turn-down. And parents should be aware that could be the response they’ll get!

Liz C: A lot of it is just about simple communication. People are afraid to say these things, because they think they’re going to offend the other person.

Lizzie P: But, the more open and honest you are, on both sides, the better off everyone’s going to be.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Dividing wedding costs can cause scary conversations, but every couple needs to have them, where they’re talking about dividing wedding costs between themselves or amongst their families. Here is the truth: EVERYONE has a wedding budget, no matter how big or small. Here is another truth: Weddings run on money. Given that, it’s important to set expectations and boundaries as soon as possible – you’re going to run into them anyway.

Do you need help sticking to and getting the most out of your wedding budget? Let’s talk. Complete the contact form below and tell me more about you and your wedding, and I’ll get back to you ASAP to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation.

Los Angeles Wedding PlannerSee you at the end of the aisle,

Liz Coopersmith

p.s. This post does contain affiliate links – if you click on the links and make a purchase, I may receive compensation, at no additional cost to you.

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