Does a Groom's Family Pay for a Rehearsal Dinner and Alcohol at the Wedding?

by Gail Cohen

    Next to the agonizing exercise commonly known as “cut the guest list to fit the budget,” deciding who pays for what when planning a wedding can get downright stressful. Most wedding expenses are borne by the bride’s family, but today’s couple has been known to ignore tradition and play by their own rules. Communicating is at the heart of planning a successful celebration, which is why wise couples approach the occasion using both their hearts and their heads.

    Traditional Rehearsal Dinners

    It’s anyone’s guess how the rehearsal dinner came to be the responsibility of the groom’s family, but bridal planning guides all agree: Traditionally, the groom’s parents are charged with all aspects of the post-rehearsal dinner, including choosing a venue, setting the tone of the party and picking up the bill. Because the groom’s parents call all the shots when it comes to hosting the rehearsal dinner, it’s not uncommon for them to replace staid restaurant venues and formal sit-down dinners with picnics, barbecues or beach parties. One aspect of tradition remains regardless of the venue: Rehearsal dinners remain a popular way to help families and close friends break the ice the night before the big day.

    Contemporary Rehearsal Dinners

    Men and women are marrying later in life — often after each has established a career foothold and established a comfortable lifestyle. Sometimes, the net worth of the bride, the groom or both exceed that of the groom’s parents, so it’s not unusual for a couple to pick up some or all of the cost of the rehearsal dinner expenses themselves. This can be delicate business best left to the groom and his family to sort out long before the menu is set. Bride’s families with plenty of disposable income are not shy about offering to host rehearsal dinners, either, but savvy couples know that saving face is as important as a memorable meal, so diplomatic negotiation remains as important as the rehearsal dinner menu.

    Alcohol at the Wedding

    If the groom’s family can afford to pay all of the wedding expenses and the bride’s family is amenable, the wedding police won’t start issuing tickets. But tradition is sacrosanct for many couples, and the issue of who pays for the liquor at wedding receptions has launched some hot debates. Smart couples choose a cash bar to sidestep this landmine, but if wine and/or champagne are served at the reception, the groom’s family has been known to step in and pay for it. While Bride’s Magazine, Emily Post, the Wedding Channel and other resources do not mention the groom’s family paying for reception alcohol, wedding maven Martha Stewart does. “The old tradition is that the Groom’s parents should pay for the alcohol,” she writes on her wedding website. You decide whether to take Martha’s word or that of other authorities.

    Did Somebody Mention Flowers?

    Tradition reigns when it comes to paying for the flowers, and this expense typically appears on the “what the groom’s family pays for” list. Everyone from Martha Stewart to Emily Post, as well as Bride’s Magazine, the planning bible for most women, agree that unless there are extenuating circumstances, the bride’s bouquet, female attendant’s bouquets, boutonnieres for male attendants and corsages for both couple’s parents and grandparents all fall under the purview of the groom’s family or the groom. He and/or his family is also responsible for his tuxedo, the marriage license, select transportation, the rings and the honeymoon. Do the math. Even if the groom’s family pays for the reception booze, they’re still going to make out like bandits compared to the traditional expenses born by the bride and her family if everyone sticks to the rulebook.

    Photo Credits

    • kiss of a bride and a groom image by Andrii Oleksiienko from Fotolia.com

    About the Author

    Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.

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