Steven Petrow is the author of Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners and The New Gay Wedding and writes on this website every month as Hilton’s Modern Manners expert. This year he’ll be answering your questions about LGBT life, especially weddings, engagements, and anniversaries. Send him your questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two brides ask: Are our parents expected to pay for our wedding?
Q: My fiancée and I grew up knowing that the bride’s family traditionally pays for a wedding, but we are two brides and are confused about what to do. Are there new rules for same-sex couples about asking our families to “host” our wedding? Can you help?
A: Of course I can — that’s my job. But first let me debunk that myth about “tradition.” Yes, it’s true that a generation or two ago the bride and her family often bore the brunt of wedding expenses: the wedding dress, the flowers, the reception, photography and videography, the bride’s gifts to her bridesmaids and groom, the groom’s ring, music, any rentals…and on and on. The groom and his family often paid for the rehearsal dinner, along with the bride’s rings, the groom’s attire and gifts to his groomsmen, the officiant’s fee, the marriage license and a few more odds and ends, but those costs were nowhere near the bride’s family’s outlay. Talk about unfair! But that tradition is largely a thing of the past, regardless of sexual orientation.
These days, most straight couples sit down with their parents to talk through what kind of contribution each family is able to afford. As a result, the groom’s family is now often asked to pick up more, such as the tab for not only the rehearsal dinner, but also a Sunday (or day after) brunch, the honeymoon, and at least part of the reception.
But when it comes to same-sex couples, things get blurrier. Why? First of all, many (if not most) gay brides and grooms host their own nuptials, from soup to nuts (or from the rehearsal dinner to the honeymoon). In a 2016 study on same-sex wedding trends, Wedding Wire reported that “a strong majority of same-sex couples (74%) continue to pay for all or most of the wedding costs on their own,” although the number receiving some financial assistance is increasing. That’s a good thing, because Wedding Wire also reported that the average cost of a same-sex wedding and reception has increased a whopping 88% in the past three years as gay couples spurn “city hall” type events for more traditional, elaborate ceremonies.
I’m delighted that families are playing bigger roles because it indicates a greater acceptance of their LGBT sons and daughters. My recommendation is that both of you put aside any expectations as to financial contributions from either family, and then set up a time to talk with them about whether and how they might contribute. I regularly hear that parents like to hear the details and are happy to give what they feel they can afford. Regardless, be gracious about whatever they agree to contribute.
The bottom line is that the rules about who hosts and pays for a wedding are history. The new rule: Plan a wedding you can afford. Congratulations!
Read more from Steven Petrow in our Modern Manners section.