Not Your Problem
Ah ha! There are, believe it or not, a few things that don't fall under your name in the wedding ledger of who pays for what. The breakdown of things you may not have to give a moment's thought to:
Flowers (the bride's bouquet, the boutonnieres, corsages for the mothers)
The clergy's fee
Lodging for out-of-town guests
The bride and groom are responsible for paying for each other's rings; the groom and/or his family pays for some of the flowers, the clergy's fee, and the rehearsal dinner; and your guests are expected to pay for their own lodging, though you (and the in-laws) may want to arrange to have a block of rooms set aside at a mid-priced hotel nearby.
You May Get a Break
Now that you've been through the breakdown of what the father of the bride has traditionally paid for, it's time to take a little breather and point out that tradition has pretty much fallen by the wayside in the last several decades.
More often than not, the engaged couple ends up paying for at least some of their own wedding, and the groom's family may end up contributing a large sum, as well. You may end up paying for a relatively small portion of this wedding, which is the good news.
It may be practical to divide the reception bill equally between you, the bride and groom, and the groom's family, since the reception tends to be the most costly venture, as well as the one part of the wedding that everyone can easily have an equal hand in planning.
The potential sticking spot here is that you may have to sit down and talk wedding and money, not just with your daughter and her future husband, but with your daughter's future in-laws, as well. If they're good people, this won't hurt a bit. If they have very strong opinions or are just plain cheap (but they want their names in big, bold letters as cohosts of the event), you'll have to find a way to come to some kind of agreement with them.
Pony Up, Bride and Groom
More and more engaged couples are paying for at least some, if not most, of their own weddings these days. The big reason for this is because more couples are waiting until they're in their late twenties or early thirties to marry — which means that they've both been working for a number of years and are able to make a significant financial contribution to their own wedding. Common sense dictates that if the engaged couple has a generous amount of disposable income, they shouldn't expect the bride's parents to foot the bill for everything — unless the bride happens to come from a long line of very old money.
Another reason brides and grooms are digging into their own pockets to cover many wedding expenses is simply because weddings are so expensive. The average wedding in this day and age costs upwards of $20,000. The more hands to lighten the load, the better.
If your daughter happens to be financially stable (she isn't getting married right out of college, for example, and she seems to have money for everything, from her little sports coupe to the best designer clothes) and she hasn't made mention of paying for a single thing related to the very expensive wedding she has her heart set on, go ahead and raise the issue. It's not a matter of your being cheap; it's a matter of being realistic. In other words, if you're about to dig into your retirement account to pay for a reception that she could cover with a couple of her paychecks, don't.
The Groom's Family
It's not uncommon for the groom's parents to chip in on the modern-day wedding. Where once they were simply invited guests at the ceremony and reception, nowadays the groom's parents may take a real interest in the planning and execution of the entire event.
What you don't want to do is plan a big wedding with the expectation that everyone will pitch in an equal amount. The groom's family may be deep in debt already. If you start throwing money around with the assumption that you'll be reimbursed, you may be sadly disappointed.
Now, it may well be that the groom's parents only want to pay for a specific part of the wedding (they want to choose the band, for example, or they want to hire a specific photographer). As long as the choices they're making are agreeable to your daughter and aren't in direct contrast to the general feel of the rest of the wedding (you're shooting for a formal affair, and they want to hire their folk-rock pals to play the reception), don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Anyone who's willing to pick up the tab for part of the wedding is trying to help you. Don't be angry that they won't pay for the food; be happy that they're willing to ease some of the financial strain.
How will you know whether the groom's family is planning on whipping out their collective checkbook? No, you won't ask them over dinner. It's your daughter's place to communicate with her future in-laws on this matter (or to have her fiancé initiate the negotiations). Once you have a rock-solid answer from her (such as, “Billy's parents said you should give them a call so that you guys can talk about the reception; they want to pay for part of it”), then you can take over the talks. Until that time, you can pretty much go on the assumption that they'll cover their traditional expenses and you'll cover yours…and anyplace that you end up meeting in the middle will be a bonus.