Newport Manners & Etiquette: Who Pays for the Wedding?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


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The budget for a wedding can be sorted out a variety of different way with both the groom's and bride's families contributing their fare share.

How do we bring back eye contact when shaking hands? Who pays for my daughter's wedding? Global mourning when relatives are afar. Wedding etiquette for brother-of-the-bride dress code. All questions to Didi Lorillard this week at

Getting eye contact back in focus

Dear Didi,

How do I get my employees to make eye contact with clients when they shake hands? I don't get it. Doesn't eye contact authenticate the handshake? S.B., Providence

Dear S.B.,

You are correct. It is like love + marriage go together like a horse + carriage, you can't have one without the other. As you say, the eye contact gives sincerity to the handshake. Tell them that. Have a discussion. Say, "We're going to reinforce policy today. Several of us are bemoaning the loss of respect for eye contact while shaking hands. From now on, always make eye contact when shaking hands." Then, if you have to, role play with each staff member in order to get your point across. Suggest that when they're feeling self-conscious about their handshake, eye contact can make up for that insecurity.

Demonstrate: bellies facing, thumbs up, right hands vertical, eyes meeting, shake for as long as it takes to say, "How do you do?" ~Didi

Who pays for the wedding?

Dear Didi,

What is the norm for wedding expenditures once a child reaches the age of 26 and both she and her fiancé are employed in well-paying jobs? P.D., Baltimore

Dear P.D.,

When a couple decides to wed they usually meet with their parents to agree on a venue and budget. Beforehand both families discuss amongst themselves what they can contribute toward the wedding. A family member may have contacts that lead to huge savings, such as with a restaurant for a reception room, florist, musician, dressmaker, etc. In other words, the two families prudently and creatively pool resources.

The budget for the wedding can be sorted out with different family members pitching in on the various expenditures. The groom's family usually hosts the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding to introduce their family members and close friends who haven't already met the bride's family, as well as thanking the bridal party for their participation in terms of time and expenses. When the bride's family is unable to pay the full cost of the wedding, then the groom's family possibly shares the cost of the wedding with the wedding couple. Another relative or godparent might host a post-wedding brunch the morning after the wedding, or help with wedding expenses, such as pay for the flowers or minister, or to donate airline miles for a wedding trip.

The point here is that this is the first opportunity for the two families to work as a team while planning the wedding and paying for it. It is about good will. However, often when the wedding couple are gainfully employed and over the age of thirty, they plan and pay for their wedding or eloping. It is assumed that most young people these days are paying back college loans, so even if they are employed, they may not be able to pay for all of the reception or elopement.

Back to good will. A wedding is an opportunity to get to know the relatives and close friends of the wedding couple's expanding family. It is more than a social event, because it is a family reunion, a happy occasion to have aunts, uncles, grandparents, godparents, stepparents, and cousins all in one place at one time.

The 'norm' depends upon the resources that the family can pull together for the wedding. In some cases the groom's family may pay for most of the wedding and their names are also printed on the wedding invitation from the bride's family. Obviously, if either set of parents are retired and living on a strict budget, they would not be expected to pay for their son or daughter's wedding. However, they could find ways to pitch in even if it is lending their backyard so a tent can be set up as in the movie "Father of the Bride," or by calling in favors from friends. In many cultures it is a honor for families to host a wedding in celebration of the continuation of their family.

In a nutshell, the parents should decide what they are willing to contribute and then both families should meet to discuss the budget going forward. Giving an exact amount for expenditures would depend on the incomes of the parents and the wedding couple. As you pointed out, your daughter and her fiancé are gainfully employed, so start by asking them about plans and budget and then offer to pitch in where possible. For instance, paying just for the ceremony and the flowers or just for the photographer or the band, leaving them to pay for the cost per person for the reception, which could be anywhere from $100 to several hundred dollars per person, depending on the venue, menu, dj or band, etc. Be honest with your daughter, because she would never want you to fall into debt. ~Didi

Global mourning

Dear Didi,

A second cousin of mine suddenly passed away a week ago. He lived in Puerto Rico and my family and I live in the domestic United States. In the days following his passing, my family tried contacting his son and brothers to get information regarding the services so that we could send flowers. We were, however, only able to leave messages. When we finally thought to try to look up the information on the internet, we were disappointed to find that the services had already taken place. Nobody faults the son or brothers because we understand they are grieving, but would still like to do something to show support to my cousin's family and also show how very much he meant to us, even though we live so far away. He was a wonderful, generous, big-hearted man. I plan to send sympathy cards to the son and one brother that I knew, but what else can I do now that the services have passed?

I deeply appreciate any help you can provide. Thank you in advance. C.O., Manhattan

Dear C.O.,

If the deceased had a widow, send flowers to her house. You would write to her directly as well telling her how deeply sorry you are for her loss. Personally, if I were you, I would pick up the phone and call the widow to find out how she is doing and ask if there is anything in particular she needs? Could she use help with funeral expenses?

When there isn't a spouse or partner, you would call the next of kin or closest blood relative. Telephone the son and brother whom you know best. Be persistent and they will eventually pick up or return your call. There is nothing more smoothing and warmer than the sound of a sympathetic familiar voice. Often it is the conversations after the flurry of the funeral that are the deepest and most sincere, because time has allowed the jelling of your thoughts. You say the deceased was generous, then ask if you can send a check in his memory to a charity he supported. ~Didi

Brother-of-the-November-bride dress code

Hi there,

As the brother-of-the-bride, I'm trying to decide what to wear to a 4:30pm beach wedding in Charleston, SC, the last weekend in November, with reception to follow in a hotel. The groomsmen are wearing black tuxes, the females are wearing pewter/charcoal dresses.

I had originally considered a tan suit and burgundy shoes, but now I'm thinking either charcoal (black shoes) or grey sharkskin (burgundy shoes/belt). Perhaps even charcoal pants and a cream/beige jacket.

Considering the darkness of the groomsmen and the reception afterwards, I'm straying from the tan suit to something darker (and feel I would stick out in tan what with the wedding party wardrobe), but I would still like to stand out as stylish yet not awkward, hence the grey/burgundy.

What would your best suggestions be? Thanks! Drew, location withheld

Dear Drew,

I like the idea of the grey/burgundy OK. For a wedding, stay away from tan that time of day. A grey suit would be perfect. Off-white is currently off-season, so stick to the grey, which is very chic. I like the idea of a reddish tie, with a white collared shirt that does not button down. Burgundy shoes are essentially in the brown category, which you would not wear to an evening wedding. Wear black (charcoal) shoes and socks with your grey flannels.

If, as you say, you want to look stylish, wear a white pocket handkerchief in your breast pocket. As the brother-of-the-bride, you may be given a flower to wear as a boutonniere in your lapel, which would supersede the pocket hanky. Even chicer than a burgundy tie, go to the Web site for Turnbull & Asser, where you'll find smashing ties that stand out in a crowd. For you, I particularly like the woven-silk red tie with blue (almost grey) and navy (almost black) checks. Personally, I find a straight burgundy tie rather dull for your sister's wedding. ~Didi

Do you have a question to ask Didi? Email it to [email protected] or visit her at If we use your question, we can withhold your name and address. Didi researches etiquette and all matters of manners for her book,"Newport Etiquette." Prior weekly GoLocalProv columns are listed below. More topics can be accessed through a search.


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