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Who Pays for the Wedding? Tips for Chinese-American Couples

Congratulations! If you landed on this page, you probably just got engaged! While you’re enjoying this magical moment, you might also be starting to think about your dream wedding. When wedding planning, one of the first things that come to mind might be “who pays for the wedding?”.

Even though there are no set rules dictating financial responsibility, some people prefer to follow typical wedding traditions while some modern couples look for different ways to split the bills. So how should you approach this topic? We created this guide for couples planning a Chinese-American wedding that discusses how to handle your wedding finances.

Who Pays for The Wedding Traditionally?
Who Pays for The Wedding Traditionally?

When it comes to wedding finances for both Chinese and American weddings, there are both similarities and differences. You might already be familiar with the more common traditions when it comes to paying for a wedding. In American culture, usually, the bride’s family covers the majority of the expenses. However, in Chinese wedding culture, it is the complete opposite–the groom’s family is expected to pay for most of the wedding expenses.

The Chinese Wedding Tradition

The Chinese Wedding Tradition

Traditionally, the groom’s family pays for most of the wedding expenses, including the wedding rings, ceremony, and the Chinese wedding banquet. On top of that, in Chinese wedding culture, to officiate the engagement with the bride’s family, the groom’s family is responsible for sending betrothal gifts, which may include golden jewelry, wine, and traditional Chinese wedding cakes. So if you are following the traditional Chinese wedding route, note that there will be a bit more financial stress on the groom’s family.

The American Wedding Tradition

White Wedding Ao Dai

If you’re following the American wedding tradition, then wedding expenses are expected to be paid for by the bride’s family. From the invitations, the wedding ceremony, floral arrangement to accommodations, the bride’s family usually takes care of almost all of the expenses (except for the rehearsal dinner, which is paid for by the groom’s family). If you include the wedding dress and hair and makeup, the bride’s family ends up having quite a bit to manage financially for the wedding. 

How to Approach Wedding Finances for Modern Times 
How to Approach Wedding Finances for Modern Times

However, the “who pays for what” is more complicated when your wedding is a Chinese-American wedding that blends both cultures. Do you follow the Chinese tradition or the American tradition? Or should you not follow any tradition at all and just figure out your own ways of paying for the wedding? It’s a tough decision to make and you will need to discuss the finances with your partner, parents, and in-laws. 

Many couples nowadays are more willing to explore different options to split the costs of the wedding more evenly. Perhaps you could split the costs equally between the two families or one side of the family takes on a little bit more. No matter how you plan on dealing with the wedding financial responsibilities, it’s smart to have these conversations started as early as possible. 

We understand that it could be stressful to sit down and ask for financial help from your parents or in-laws. Here are some tips below for you to help make that conversation easier.


1. Be Realistic

The first and perhaps most important tip is to set realistic expectations. Take a sensible look at your wedding expectations and your financial situation. Even though you can’t wait to walk down the aisle and have the wedding that you have been dreaming of, it’s a good idea to take a step back and have an honest talk with yourself–how much can you actually afford and what are the things that you truly need versus simply want? 

2. Communicate with Your Partner First 

After having an honest conversation with yourself, don’t forget to have that with your partner too. You could communicate your expectations and your financial situation with your partner as well. Listen to what your partner wants for the wedding and set an expectation together, such as the size and location of the wedding. It’s possible that the two of you have different visions for the wedding. And that’s ok, as long as you communicate and make necessary compromises. From there, the two of you can discuss how much money each of you would be able to take on and how much help you would need from family. 

3. Have a Budget in Mind 

Before sitting down and talking about the money issue with your parents or in-laws, it’s helpful to have a budget in mind. You should do some research and calculate a reasonable budget for the wedding with your partner beforehand. That way, when you talk to your parents and in-laws you’ll know exactly how much you will need help with. When you have a range of the costs in mind and are transparent about it, it’s easier to get the family onboard about sharing the wedding costs.

4. Be Respectful and Grateful 

When talking to your family about splitting or helping out with wedding expenses, you’ll want to express your respect and appreciation. Also, be mindful of their personal financial situations. Instead of asking them to cover a certain amount of money, ask them if they would be comfortable with helping out first. Perhaps your family is very happy to cover all of your wedding costs. Perhaps they are not able to take on as much financial responsibility. Whether or not your parents or in-laws agree to help, be mindful of their financial situations, and be respectful about it.


Wedding Budget Breakdown
Wedding Budget Breakdown

Now that you feel more ready to talk about who pays for each wedding expense, to help you plan your budget, here is a sample cost breakdown for a Chinese-American wedding. You could use this as a reference to discuss with your family and divide up your wedding budget.

  • 5%: The Chinese Betrothal Ceremony
  • 5%: Wedding Planning (e.g. hiring a wedding planner)
  • 3%: Wedding invitations and RSVP cards
  • 5%: Rehearsal dinner
  • 10%: Wedding attire such as the wedding dress, groom’s suit, bridesmaid dresses
  • 10%: Venue for the wedding ceremony
  • 5%: Music for the wedding ceremony
  • 5%: Attire for the Chinese Tea Ceremony such as Qun Kwa, Qipao, and Tang suit
  • 20%: Venue for the Chinese wedding banquet
  • 2%: Wedding decorations and floral arrangements
  • 5%: Photographer and videographer
  • 15%: Catering (see what are some popular Chinese wedding foods to serve)
  • 5%: Music for the wedding banquet (e.g. live band or DJ)
  • 5%: Transportation and hotel arrangements for guests

This list only covers the essential expenses for a typical Chinese-American wedding. There are a lot to keep track of when it comes to laying out the wedding budget. Hopefully, with this sample cost breakdown list, you’re feeling a little less stressed about wedding planning. 

As for the next step, you could use this breakdown to start outlining the potential costs of your wedding. After you have your cost breakdown, you could then sit down and discuss with your partner and parents/in-laws about it. Following these tips above, you’ll be able to have a stress-free conversation with all parties and work together to figure out the best way to divide up the wedding budget.


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