What’s considered the right amount of money for a wedding gift?
Q: What’s considered the right amount of money for a wedding gift? I’ve recently been laid off and can’t afford to give my friends as much as I had originally planned. I don’t want to seem cheap, either. Clifton, New Jersey
A: There isn’t any set amount that’s considered appropriate for a wedding gift. You give what you can afford. Period. Let’s face it, the bleak economy has cut into nearly everyone’s budgets and, with your job loss, it’s perfectly understandable that you can’t be as generous as you’d like. If writing a check makes you feel uncomfortable, then select an item from the couple’s registry list. They’ll be glad you were a part of their special day, and they’ll appreciate receiving something that can be put to good use in their home.
Should we give gifts to the people hosting our pre-wedding party and performing at the ceremony?
Q: We plan to give gifts to everyone in our wedding party. However, my godmother is hosting a pre-wedding party for us, and some friends are performing at the ceremony. Should we give something to them as well? -Buffalo, New York
A: Smart of you to ask! You’re right on target and, yes, your godmother and friends should receive a token of thanks. To be more specific, gifts should be given to soloists and musicians or to anyone who goes above and beyond to assist in some way. And don’t forget the guest-book attendant, friends or relatives who host or drive out-of-town guests and your parents. These gifts needn’t be expensive, so don’t panic about the cost. Money clips, business-card cases, key rings, picture frames, small jewelry items or decorative boxes, engraved pens, flowers or plants, scented soaps, potpourri, candles, votives, stationery and mani/pedi gift certificates—all are wonderful presents that won’t break the bank. Believe me, the gesture is well worth it, and your friends and relatives will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Do I need to pay for an out-of-town bridesmaid's travel expenses?
Q: One of my bridesmaids lives in another state. Am I responsible for paying for her transportation to and from my wedding? —Akron, Ohio
A: You are not responsible for your attendants" travel expenses. However, you are responsible for their accommodations and should make arrangements for your out-of-state attendants to stay with you, another member of the wedding party or any friends and relatives who graciously offer a room in their homes. Its probably a good idea to discuss travel costs with your bridesmaid now so that there is no misunderstanding about finances later on. And if the travel costs will be too much of a burden for her, you may want to help contribute to the expense as a gift for being in your wedding.
Do we need to pay for guests to travel to a destination wedding?
Q: My fiancé and I have planned a romantic destination wedding in the Caribbean and have invited 20 guests from the U.S. Are we responsible for their airfare and lodging? —Stanhope, New Jersey
A: Not to worry! It is solely the responsibility of your guests to pay their own way if they want to attend your wedding. You should, however, try to make their travel plans as pleasant, convenient and budget-friendly as possible. Set aside a block of rooms at a hotel and look for leads on low airfares (you may be able to get a good deal if a lot of seats are bought at once). Why not send your invited guests a brief newsletter now with hotel and airline recommendations, itineraries and any other interesting and useful tips about your destination? Your guests will appreciate your efforts and will still be free to make their own travel arrangements at their convenience.
How much should we tip our vendors?
Q: Are there any particular guidelines for tipping wedding professionals? I am not sure whom to tip or how much I will need to give them. —Corpus Christi, Texas
A: Tipping depends somewhat on where you live and, in some cases, is included in your overall fee (especially when dealing with caterers or banquet halls). You should clarify this when you sign your contract. An additional tip of 15 to 20% is generally expected for your maitre d" or banquet manager. Limo drivers also expect to receive a 15% tip, as do many wedding consultants.
It is not necessary to tip musicians, florists, bakers or photographers, however, unless they perform an extra-special service. Clergy members are generally given a small "gift" (ask what's typical for your congregation), while civil officiants charge only a flat fee. Other possible people you will need to tip: ceremony assistants (altar boys or girls), organists, powder and coat room attendants and parking valets. Again, many of these gratuities will be included in your overall fee, so be sure to ask.
How can we bring up the budget to our parents?
Q: What's the most tactful way to ask both sets of parents if they will help pay for the wedding? —Portland, Maine
A: Asking parents if they intend to help out with wedding costs should not be a scary thing. But for a lot of couples broaching the subject can be a bit uncomfortable, especially if their parents have not said a word about making any contributions. Naturally, you do not want to be in limbo wondering how much you will be able to spend on your wedding, so the sooner you do ask, the easier it will be to start your planning.
First, discuss with your fiancé the type of wedding you want to have—and be practical. Chances are a guest list of 500 for a wedding in Venice will not fit into your budget! Decide how much you both can afford to spend. Determine a rough estimate for your guest list, the time of year you would like to marry, the day of the week and where you might like to have your reception. All of these factors will determine the expense of the wedding. Next, ask your parents if they can meet for lunch or dinner—you will want the setting to be relaxed and casual - to discuss wedding plans. You and your fiancé may choose to do this together or you may want to talk with your own parents separately.
When you do get together with your mom and dad, let them know the type of wedding you envision, how much you think it will cost and what you and your fiancé can afford to spend. Ask your parents if they had planned to help out in any way. And make sure they understand that your intention is not to embarrass or pressure them, but to determine if you need to alter your plans to accommodate a smaller (or maybe even larger!) budget. How they respond depends upon their financial status and personal beliefs. They may not be able to contribute a great deal of money, but may offer to pick up the tab for some part of the wedding. Let them know that any amount offered is appreciated.
If neither set of parents can provide any financial assistance, you and your fiancé will probably need to rethink your original plans. But do not get discouraged: Most wedding pros will offer suggestions in order to work within your budget. And with a little ingenuity and creativity, many couples have had beautiful weddings for far less than they imagined.
Read our article on Budget Basics for hints about requesting parental contributions.
What do the groom's parents traditionally pay for?
Q: Help! My future in-laws are insisting that I plan a very traditional (and somewhat expensive) wedding but are refusing to help pay for anything. Is there an official list of financial responsibilities for the groom's parents?—Houston, Texas
A: You may be surprised to discover that a "list" of monetary obligations for the groom's parents does not exist simply because, traditionally, they were only expected to pay for the rehearsal dinner. The bride's parents paid for the majority of the expenses, including all ceremony and reception costs (food, liquor, wedding cake, music, photos, flowers), the wedding invitations and related expenses, and the bride's attire and trousseau. The groom himself picked up the costs of the marriage license, the bride's engagement and wedding rings, the bride's bouquet, corsages for the mothers, the boutonnieres, the ceremony officiant's fee, and the honeymoon.
However, with the costs of weddings growing and many couples marrying later (when they are more likely to have careers and incomes of their own), more and more brides and grooms are contributing to - or even picking up entirely—the costs of their weddings. If this is your situation, then you are certainly entitled to spend your money as you see best in order to stay within your budget. Explain to your future in-laws that as much as you might want to include several traditional aspects in the wedding, you must limit your expenses and would greatly appreciate their understanding. Ask them if they have any suggestions or advice so that they realize how sincere and concerned you are. After all, you do not want to disappoint or antagonize them but you and your groom-to-be must be realistic about your financial situation and goals for the wedding.
Most importantly, be sure that your fiancé fully supports you in this decision and that you together present a united front. Even if his parents are contributing to the costs in some way, you are not obligated to heed their every wish. In this case, though, you might give them the option of putting their money toward those elements that mean the most to them.