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"Dad wasn't having a bar of it." 11 women share who paid for what on their wedding day.

Mamamia logo Mamamia 5 days ago Ali Moore

In 2019, the matter of who pays for a wedding is murky at best.

Are the days of parents paying over? What if it’s your second wedding? Or your third?

We asked 11 women to break down their wedding budget and share who paid for what when they got married.

Anna, 31.

Income: $45,000 annually as a vet.

Wedding Location: Porongorup in Western Australia, 60 guests.

Who paid for what?

“We paid for everything. It never occurred to us to expect our parents to help out. And that was years ago.”

Lily*, 29.

Wedding Location: Winery in Western Australia’s Swan Valley.

Who paid for what? 

“My parents paid for our entire wedding, except for the drinks which my father-in-law paid for as he wanted to offer a gesture. All up our wedding cost around $65,000. We had a three course meal plus a cake. My other in-law paid for a string quartet as a gift for the wedding. Basically, my in-laws both contributed in ways they wished to, despite having five kids of their own.

“My dress was $3000 and the other major expense besides the venue and florals was the photographer and videographer. We wanted to hire the best of the best because those things would last a lifetime.

“I come from a well off ‘old money’, somewhat traditional, English family. Both my parents are independently wealthy and retired early. I am also an only child – so that helped. Like many things, I think the politics of who pays for a wedding comes down to your family’s economic position. Parents who have three or four kids of marrying age may like to pay, but that stretches things kind of thin. While I loved the day and don’t necessarily regret it, I do feel some guilt about the amount spent. We could have had just as nice a day for a smaller amount and used the rest of the money on charity or something less selfish.”

Rikki, 30.

Wedding Location: Lilli Pilli Reserve and Rydges Cronulla.

Who paid for what?

“I got married in 2013 and my parents insisted on paying for our reception. We didn’t ask them for a cent and didn’t want them to contribute but my Dad wasn’t having a bar of it. My husband’s parents paid for the alcohol. That’s a bit old school I think.”

Helen, 28.

Wedding Location: Gold Coast Hinterland.

Who paid for what? 

“My parents are traditional and wanted to pick up the bill for the whole wedding, but we didn’t feel comfortable with that. We made up a budget knowing what our venue would cost and the approximate costs of everything else in advance, which totaled $36,000. We chatted to both sets of parents and decided that each side and us as a couple would contribute $12,000 each. We stuck to the budget pretty much perfectly.

“We know we’re incredibly lucky to be in a situation where we could afford the wedding we had, and that our parents were in a position to contribute. It comes down to the dynamics of each family and what they value. My mum LOVED the fact that she could feel she had invested in such a special event and still mentions how proud she is of how our wedding turned out.”

While you’re here, we’re guessing you might want to know some more about how to plan a wedding. Mamamia’s wedding planning podcast Hitched is here to help. Post continues after audio. 

Elizabeth, 29.

Wedding Location: Boat Club in Sydney, 120 guests.

Who paid for what? 

“We were prepared to pay for everything ourselves however my parents gifted us $10,000, which mostly covered our reception. My husband’s parents gifted us $5,000 and were open about it being less than what his sister would receive later, with the tradition of the bride’s parents paying more of the cost.

“We tried refusing both but our parents were very excited about their kids getting married and they wanted to contribute financially too. My parents probably paid a bit extra too because they got excited along the way and upgraded our car and rounded up to actually cover the full reception which wasn’t much more. We were extremely grateful as ultimately we had a much nicer wedding than we could have afforded to pay for ourselves, having purchased an apartment before we got married.”

Lisa, 30.

Wedding Location: Newcastle, 50 guests.

Who paid for what? 

“My wedding cost approximately $10,000. I insisted that we pay as I’m fiercely independent and my parents are pensioners so it didn’t feel right expecting them or anyone to chip in when they couldn’t. My parents surprised us with a $5,000 gift and I think my in-laws gave us $2,000 so we weren’t too out of pocket.”

Beckie, mid 30s.

Income: High income earners.

Wedding Location: Airlie Beach.

Who paid for what? 

“We paid for our wedding ourselves, we are both high income earners and wanted a nice wedding. We also wanted full control of our guest list and it just makes it easier when you pay to do this.

“We are not traditional – we made the decision to start a family before getting married due to our age, so we felt no need to be traditional in planning our wedding. Our guest list were people active in our lives, with minimal extended family and lots of friends. We splashed out on the venue, food and wine rather than additional people we barely saw or spoke to.

“I personally believe that you should pay your own way, unless it is a cultural or religious affair that it is custom for the parents to pay. I know parents often ‘gift’ something, like the cost of the suit or the dress or the alcohol, for example, which I think is a more modern way to contribute.”

Louise*, 28.

Income: Primary school teacher and copywriter working in advertising.

Wedding Location: Ravensthorpe, Wollongong.

Who paid for what?  

“My mum and stepdad gave us $19,000, my dad gave us $20,000 (but my stepmum think he only gave us $7000 – that’s a long story), my husbands parents gave us $8000 (which was a third of the reception) and we put in $11,000 and paid for our honeymoon. Our wedding was about $55,000.”

Sara*, 28.

Income: Combined income of $250,000.

Wedding Location: Italy.

Who paid for what? 

“The total cost was just over $35,000. We paid for our rings and the majority of the wedding. We didn’t ask our parents or expect anything from them, but both my parents and his parents offered to put in $5,000 (without realising the other had offered the same). Our parents both felt it was important to contribute in some way so we let them do it.”

a person standing posing for the camera: Image: Getty. © getty Image: Getty.

Nikki, 30.

Wedding Location: Hamilton Island, 100 guests.

Who paid for what? 

"My mum contributed $10,000 – because she wanted to. We didn’t ask for anything. She is a single parent that struggles but she saved for so long for us.

"My husband's family picked up the bar tab which was $8000 – we were super grateful and didn’t expect anything. The wedding day cost us $40,000 (including the contributions from the parents). This also included dressing the bridal party, us, rings, hair and makeup – everything! As we had asked all our guests to travel, we had no expectations of presents and didn’t include anything in our invites. About 80 per cent still gave us presents. We wouldn’t change a thing about our day."

Regan*, 24.

(Getting married later this year)

Who is paying for what? 

"Both of our parents are contributing to the wedding, with my parents putting in $20,000 and his parents putting in $16,000 (this is the same amount they gave his sister for her wedding).

"We were not expecting any money, however both of our families have expectations on who is invited (all aunts, uncles and cousins etc) so we are very grateful for the money because it allows us to afford to invite everyone they want and avoids any guest list drama. We are then also contributing another $5,000 ourselves to invite our friends and people we want there outside of family expectations.

"In the thick of it now, we are torn with our feelings and sometimes wish we had eloped with just our closest friends, but we are also glad we are avoiding a lot of family drama by going with the flow – again very mixed feelings."

What about the next generation of newlyweds?

For the next generation of newlyweds, the consensus is divided. While many millennials believe parents should still pay for weddings, others are taking the financial responsibility entirely upon themselves.

"If I got married I would pay for the entire wedding myself. Neither of our parents make the same kind of money as us, we out-earn them so it would be crazy to expect our parents to pay," Leanne* told Mamamia.

"We paid for our entire wedding ourselves, not because we didn't want our parents to, but simply because they weren't in a position to. We had lived together for about eight years by the time we got married so I felt it would be strange if we didn't pay. In saying that, I wouldn't have said no, weddings are really expensive," Nicolle told Mamamia.

"My parents paid for their own wedding and I think I’ll want to do the same. My parents just retired and I’d hate to think they’d spend their hard earned cash on one day in my life," Gemma told Mamamia.

a woman holding a wine glass: Image: Getty. © getty Image: Getty.

For others, the line is unclear.

"I’m not married but when I do I am expecting that my parents will contribute. This is because when they got married 23 years ago my mum and dad’s parents contributed to the wedding. I’m not planning on having a big, expensive wedding and wouldn’t ask them for an amount, just what they think is appropriate. If they’re not in a financial position to contribute, I wouldn’t be upset at all," Ellen told Mamamia.

"I personally would want me and my partner to pay for our wedding ourselves, but I've had friends where their parents will buy them the dress, or pay for an aspect of the wedding, which I think is nice," Jess told Mamamia.

And for others, parents paying for a wedding remains an important cultural tradition.

"In our culture, it's pretty unheard of that a child pays for their own wedding. We basically invite everyone we know/may know/don't really know but parents pay and take a strange pride in it," Meghna told Mamamia.

"I would pay for my own wedding but I'm Indian so I won't be," Emily told Mamamia.

*The individual is known to Mamamia but has chosen to stay anonymous for privacy. 

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