When parents are contributing to the wedding, having them pay by percentage may be the best way to go.

Wedding Budget, Bride and Groom Figurines on Money
Credit: JGI/Jamie Grill

When the couple and both sets of parents are contributing to the total cost of the wedding, it can be hard to determine who should pay for what. If everyone is in the lucky financial position to contribute whatever it takes to bring the couple's vision to life, that's a great thing, but it's rarely the case for most couples. In this situation, it makes more sense to split costs in a way that leaves everyone feeling comfortable and financially secure, such as by percentage (just as you would do with a bill at a restaurant). That's exactly what Manchester-based bride-to-be, Megan, and her fiancé chose to do; they had two sets of parents eager to make financial contributions to the celebration, but when they looked at the actual numbers, the couple realized that unless all sides contributed equally, one family would essentially end up paying for the other's guest list. To make the process a little more fiscally fair, they decided to ask each set of parents to contribute by percentage according to the number of people they wanted to invite rather than asking everyone give the exact same amount.

"My [future husband's] parents are retired so we wanted them to spend less anyway, but they have considerably less guests, so we felt it was only fair," Megan explains. To keep everything fair, the couple asked both sets of parents what they felt comfortable spending, then asked that each side make an equal contribution to items like the photographer or florist based on the max number. Then, in terms of paying for services associated with the guest list, like invitations, catering, and alcohol, the couple asked them to base their contribution on the number of people they were inviting.

The couple discovered that there was a major benefit to splitting the bill this way. Each side was able to invite the guests they wanted to, without feeling any guilt about having a large guest list than the other side. Although it took a little more attention to detail to make sure the numbers worked out fairly-you need to keep a rolling headcount as guests send in their RSVPs, and the couples used a carefully updated spreadsheet to track everything-the bride and groom believes that it was worth the extra work.

Another option is to break everything down three ways. Australian bride-to-be Ava inherited this method of contribution since her fiancé's two older brothers had used the same technique when they were married. Ava's parents are divorced, so the family contributions were broken down into three groups. The groom's parents covered 50-percent, and each of her parents contributed 25-percent for items like flowers and the photographer. When it came time to factor in the costs that were incurred based on the guest list, the families split their contribution by their percentage of the guest list-her future in-laws covered the cost of their more than 200 guests while her parents paid for each of their 40 themselves.

Relationship expert, founder and CEO of the relationship app Lasting, Steve Dziedzic says that conversations about money can be emotionally-charged so he advises choosing the right words when you approach your family about making a per guest, or by percentage, contribution. "First, start gently. Second, use the 'I feel' equation, which sounds like, 'I feel X, when Y happens. I need Z.' And third, avoid using criticisms at all costs." If you are nervous about talking to one side about making a larger contribution because their guest list will be larger, consider using Dziedzic's approaching and avoid using accusatory language about the number of guests they intend to invite.


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