While many aspects of weddings have become less traditional and cookie-cutter over the years, one convention stubbornly remains: In heterosexual unions, the bride’s parents are still writing the majority of the checks. Is this because the parents of females are somehow magically wealthier? Of course not. It’s because many years ago, before women could own property, they were “given away” into marriage with a dowry, which was essentially a way to pay the groom’s family for taking their daughter off their hands.
This tradition needs to die a quick death. But according to a new report from WeddingWire.com, the parents of the bride are still paying for the bulk of weddings — which, we don’t think we need to tell you, is a lot of money. The survey, Brides reports, questioned 506 sets of parents whose children had recently tied the knot. It found that in total, the parents of the bride and groom contribute an average of $19,000 to a wedding, which is about two-thirds of the total cost. The couple usually covers the rest.
But there’s a big discrepancy: Among parents of heterosexual couples, the bride’s parents give about $12,000 (43% of the bill) and the groom’s $7,000 (24%), which means the bride’s family is paying about twice the amount.
Traditionally, the bride’s family is expected to pay for the venue and the reception, which usually ends up costing over half of the total bill. With the average U.S. wedding costing about $35,329, according to a survey from The Knot, it’s no wonder that 10% of families end up spending retirement money to pay for their children’s weddings. Additionally, one-third of parents say they spent more on their kids’ wedding than they planned. About a quarter said they started saving for the big day in advance.
Wedding-related finances, with all the class anxiety they can evoke, are tough enough without archaic gender roles leading the decisions. Parents may not always know better and simply do what they think is expected of them, so it’s time for couples to have a conversation with their parents around this. Either way, it’s important to sit down and discuss your wedding budget early on in the process. But try to avoid comparisons — your sets of parents might be in different financial situations.
“Weddings bring up a lot of expectations and social pressure for parents; telling them exactly how much your partner’s family can afford can really sting,” Rachel Wilkerson of Lover.ly told Brides. “So avoid mentioning it and try to keep the conversation focused on the number that makes them most comfortable.”