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What can I ask of my wedding guests?

Photo illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

So you’re planning a wedding? Congratulations! No pressure, but you’ll be the center of attention for a big day – or more likely, a whole weekend – and you want it to reflect your taste, identity, and undying love for your future spouse, with appropriate greetings to your respective families and friends. To make things even more exciting, you’ll probably spend more money on this than you’ve ever spent on anything else. Good luck.

But please, for the love of everything holy and marital, not Pass these costs on to your wedding party. If I have to hear one more story about a bridesmaid going into debt for a multi-day hen party in Mallorca that no one can afford, I’ll eat this wedding invitation myself. Yes, traditions change, but it’s never appropriate to burden your loved ones with costs in the name of loyalty. Here’s a guide to what you can, what you definitely can’t, and how to go about it.

Before you even begin planning your wedding (and who’s involved), you should come to an agreement with your future spouse and your respective families about who will cover the costs and roughly how much they will be. “Having an open conversation about money will set the tone for your wedding and your marriage,” says Allison Cullman, who leads brand marketing and strategy at Zola. “Remember, your goal is to come to the table with respect and gratitude, rather than expectations or a sense of entitlement.” (For more advice on discussing money with your partner, click here.)

Try to think of money as a tool that gives you opportunities, not limitations, she adds. “That energy will transfer to your wedding party, your guests and everyone else involved.”

If you are not sure how to ask your parents or relatives if they are willing to Hmpay for your wedding vision, here are some helpful phrases, courtesy of Lizzie Post, host of the Great etiquette Podcast and co-president of the Emily Post Institute: “You could say, ‘We’d love to talk to you about our wedding budget and see if there are any resources you’d like to contribute. If not, that’s totally fine. It will help us know where to start and what to plan for.'” Also, if they Do You want to contribute, but the donation comes with conditions. Make sure you understand these conditions before accepting.

Don’t assume anything, Post adds, and don’t put a price tag on participation. “Modern etiquette means having an open conversation, talking about the couple’s goals and dreams, and realistically balancing those with the resources you have available.”

“One trend I’ve seen is not having a bridal party at all, and I think that’s great,” says Kaitlin Ford, a California-based wedding planner. The result is less drama, less hassle, and a ton of cost savings for everyone. “When the bridal party is 10 or more people, couples often spend at least $5,000 on bridesmaids alone, flowers, photos, and so on,” she says. “Instead, maybe have certain friends do a reading or give a speech, or hire just a maid of honor and best man.”

There are plenty of other ways to get your friends to help without having to stand next to you at the altar in matching outfits. While I didn’t have bridesmaids, my girlfriends still hung out with me while I got ready on my wedding day, and I had a (very casual) bachelorette party. You can also assign your inner circle specific tasks that you don’t have to pay for, like keeping track of the wedding rings, rounding up people for group photos, or making sure your talkative aunt doesn’t corner you at your reception.

“I recommend that brides at least pay for their bridesmaids’ dresses, shoes, hair and makeup if they want their bridesmaids to wear something specific and look a certain way,” says Kia Marie, a Chicago-based event planner. “I think that’s reasonable and polite, and that’s exactly what I would do.”

Of course many brides not Offer to pay for these things, but they should be clear—don’t beat around the bush. Marie recommends saying something like, “I would really love for you to be a part of my wedding. I’ve done a bit of research, and this is how I envision my bridal party, bachelorette party, and other wedding events. I think the total cost for the wedding party will be about this for x, y, and z. Would you be willing to do that? If not, what is something you’re comfortable with? Our friendship is important to me, and I would never want to jeopardize it or make you feel like I have to.”

Then, she adds, insist that your friend take time to think it over. “I often see bridesmaids spend between $4,000 and $5,000 per wedding, and that’s not an amount to take lightly,” she says. Many people say yes out of excitement, but they really need a minute to think about it and factor it into their finances, just like any other major expense.

Usually bridesmaids Do pay for the hen party (at least their own travel, accommodation and expenses, if not the bride’s as well), plus a wedding gift for the couple and possibly another for the bride. They also usually have to pay for their own travel and accommodation for the wedding itself, although sometimes the couple will subsidize hotel rooms or an Airbnb if the bridal party is to stay at a specific location, Marie says.

It’s highly unusual — and in most cases downright rude — for bridesmaids to be tasked with paying for wedding-day things like their own flowers or photography, which are usually part of the couple’s larger wedding expenses. And should bridesmaids “pay their own way” for a bridal shower? That’s a no, unless they’ve specifically volunteered to host.

This can be tricky. Wedding costs aren’t straightforward to calculate, and many couples have no idea how easy it is to overspend. (For comparison, according to Zola’s 2024 First Look Report, the average wedding cost is about $30,000, higher than ever before.) You may have the best intentions to pay for your bridesmaids’ wedding accommodations—only to find that it’s a bigger expense than you expected.

Nevertheless, do everyone a favor by sticking to the budget for your wedding celebration – and not surprise them with last-minute expenses. If that requires you to cut costs elsewhere, do it – it is not your bridesmaids’ job to diminish your bottom line. “Your wedding is an important day in your life. It is not the most important event in your friend’s life,” says Post. Let me repeat: If something doesn’t fit in your budget for Your own weddingIt’s definitely not within your bridesmaids’ budget either.

This is not an official rule as far as I know, but I believe the more specific or difficult your request, the more you are obligated to pay for at least some of it. For example, if you want your bridesmaids to wear a certain color dress from a certain brand with matching shoes, you should buy those things for them. Conversely, if you want them to wear a blue dress that is about knee length with black shoes, they can probably manage that themselves.

The same policy applies to your guests. Are you planning a New Year’s Eve wedding in Japan? Then consider subsidizing the on-site accommodation of all guests. Or at least make sure you get hotel blocks in several price ranges, advises Ford. “You need to offer a budget, a mid-range and a luxury hotel,” she says. “I think it’s common sense that someone who is paying for something should have a choice in how much they want to spend.”

Above all, be gracious when your friends tilt do what you’re asked to do. “I want bridesmaids to know that they can say no, and that brides can’t take it personally,” says Marie. “It doesn’t mean the bridesmaid is a terrible friend. It doesn’t mean that they don’t care about you or that they won’t be there for you. It just means that it’s not the right time financially right now, or that they just don’t want to do it with their money.”

At the end of the day, just put yourself in your guests’ shoes. “I have to calm brides down all the time because they’re upset that a friend can’t come to their wedding or can’t make it to their bachelorette party,” says Ford. “I always say, ‘Remember that this person has their own issues too. Let it go and don’t let it damage your friendship.'”

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