Parents often overspend on their children’s weddings, survey finds

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Parents cover about two-thirds of the total cost, but there are many ways to save

A recent study finds parents often overspend on wedding expenses for their adult children.  

Last year, just 1 in 10 couples paid for their wedding entirely by themselves. The rest looked to mom and dad for financial help on the road to “I do” -- and many parents spent more on their child’s wedding than they had originally planned.

Parents of the bride and groom contributed a combined average total of about $19,000 to the wedding, or about two-thirds of the overall cost, a survey by found. Additional findings showed the bride’s parents tend to shell out almost twice as much as the groom’s family -- $12,000 compared to $7,000, on average.

Long-term consequences

One-third of parents surveyed said they spent more on their child’s wedding than they had initially budgeted. One in 5 used a credit card to help with their kids’ wedding costs, and 10 percent used money from a retirement account.

But dipping into your retirement fund to help pay for your child’s wedding probably isn’t a good idea. Offering to help pay for major expenses like your child’s wedding or college education may seem like a kind gesture in the short-term, but it could end up being a financial burden to your children in the future.

Experts argue that it’s more important to make sure you have enough money saved for retirement. By taking care of yourself first, you can help to ensure your kids won’t have to take care of you financially later in life.

Ways to save

It’s clear, however, that many parents want to help ensure their child has the wedding they always wanted. Over a third of parents surveyed took it upon themselves to initiate the conversation about paying for the wedding.

While there’s nothing wrong with helping to pay for an adult child’s wedding, parents should keep their budget in mind. Going overboard on wedding costs won’t benefit you or your child in the long run.

Here are a few ways to help keep wedding costs down:

  • Change the day of the week. Weekend wedding dates are in high demand for vendors, which means you’ll likely end up paying more. But vendors are often willing to give you a better rate if you have the wedding on a weeknight or a Sunday.

  • Find a local venue. A beautiful, budget-friendly venue may be closer than you think. Charming settings for an exchange of vows include parks, art galleries, community centers, local bed and breakfast inns, or even the backyard of a family friend or relative.

  • Keep invites casual. In lieu of fancy engraved invitations, consider finding a cheap wedding invitation online. Printing your own invites from your home computer can be a big money-saver. Save even more by forgoing reply cards and asking guests to RSVP online or by telephone.

  • Save on spirits. Alcohol is one of the biggest expenses to come out of a wedding reception. To keep your beverage budget to a minimum, consider limiting the types of alcohol that are available to guests at no cost. Instead, have a wider variety available at the cash bar. Making it a B.Y.O.B. affair can also help cut costs.

  • Save in advance. If it’s important to you to help pay for your child’s wedding, then start saving a little from each paycheck as soon as possible. One in 4 parents in the WeddingWire survey set aside cash specifically for their child's wedding. More than half of those started saving when that child was a teenager.

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