02/25/2015 09:13 EST | Updated 04/27/2015 05:59 EDT

Sticky Situation: Who Pays for a Modern Wedding?

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Sticky situation:

My niece is getting married in a civil ceremony, in May. Since this Valentine's Day announcement, the family climate is extremely explosive with regards to the payment of her wedding.

According to wedding etiquette guidelines, do her parents have to pay? Please enlighten us.


Getting married is expensive, especially if one dreams of a royal wedding à la Cinderella.A study by BMO, reports that Canadians spend an average of $15,000 for their wedding.

These days, modern couples usually defray all costs and often times parents on both sides contribute to the wedding.

Your niece's civil wedding, as opposed to a religious one, has no impact on the monetary question of her marriage.

The important thing is to determine whether her parents want to pay according to traditional customs, or if she and her husband to be will pay according to the contemporary practice of paying for it all, with the possibly of some input from their parents.

Traditionally, the bride's parents pay for most of the expenses, those associated with: the engagement, the ceremony, the reception, the brunch the next day and the bride's attire. The groom's family hosts the reception the night before the wedding, if there is a rehearsal dinner, the groom's attire and the boutonnieres for the family men on both sides. The bride pays for her attendants' flowers and gifts plus her future husband's ring and his wedding gift from her. The groom is responsible for the costs of the officiant, the boutonnieres and gifts for his attendants, his bride's bouquet as well as her engagement and wedding rings plus their honeymoon.

Note, according to modern etiquette guidelines, there is no longer an obligation to pay for anything, by either sets of parents.

First, couples must decide and agree on the theme and more importantly the overall budget that they will allocate to their wedding. Then, once in tune, they will meet their parents, in the following order; those of the bride first, to give them the opportunity to traditionally pay, should they wish to do so and then with the groom's father and mother, to present their wedding plans. Lastly, when the contributions of all are established, there will be a group meeting to formalize the plan and assign roles based on payment contributions.

Depending on their circumstances and the status of their relationships, it may be preferable for the future bride and groom to speak individually, without the other, to their parents together, or separately if Mom and Dad are no longer living together.

This conversation has to be planned. It should not be sparked as a matter of fact. Proper notice will avoid shock and surprises while giving parents a chance to reflect and prepare.

"Mom, Dad, Paul and I have discussed our theme and the budget for our wedding. We would like to share them with you. When would you be available to discuss this?"

After presenting their plans, they will ask their parents if they would like to contribute to the wedding, not how much they want to give.

"What do you guys think? Is there an element of the wedding that you would like to contribute?"

Notice to the bride and groom: your parents' financial participation may have conditions. Notice to parents: respect the wishes of the bride and groom; it is their day. Notice to all: listen with your heart, be patient and grateful.

I hope that my answer enlightens you and your family.

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