The economics of who pays for what and how lavish a wedding to have can be very tricky to negotiate. So many factors come into play. In different parts of the country and in different Jewish communities, the expectations for the expense of your wedding are very different. In the past, the bride's family paid for most of the wedding, but today much has changed and it is quite acceptable for the bride and groom and their families to split the cost of the wedding two or three ways.
Bride and groom must serve as the go-between among their families. Though it can be intimidating, it will often be up to the couple themselves to create some openness and understanding about who can pay for what and what each party's financial expectations are. It falls to the couple to make decisions about what they can give up in order to make their wedding more doable for everyone.
What happens if one family is much more economically secure than the other? What happens when the groom's family expects the bride's family to pay for the wedding but they cannot afford it? What about when the bride and groom come from very different economic backgrounds and families and everyone in the wedding party has vastly diverse economic expectations for the wedding?
If one of the members of the couple comes from a family of great means and the other comes from a family of lesser means, and both families are going to split the cost of the celebration, the bride and groom must tactfully approach the family of means and explain the situation. The family of means must be willing to pay more than the other family without embarrassing them or the couple must find a way to plan a less expensive wedding that is just as tasteful and holy.
What's Really Important?
Though there can be much pressure in the Jewish community to have a wedding that is as expensive as the Schwartz's next door, remember, too, that Judaism values the meaning and spirituality of the wedding much more than the amount of money that is spent on it. Sometimes spending large amounts of money on a wedding can detract from its ability to be deeper and more meaningfully Jewish.
Make some decisions with your fiancé about what is truly important to you both. Use your wedding as an educational opportunity to make a statement that bucks the trend and focuses less on the things that cost lots of dollars and more on that which takes personal engagement and giving.
One couple opted for a backyard wedding and used the money they would have spent on a hall and large scale caterer on the music instead. They loved a certain Jewish singer and guitarist and felt this would add heart and soul to their wedding. Though the wedding did not have as much in the way of flowers or food, it more than succeeded in inspiration and joy.
For instance, you might decide to forgo the expensive wedding cake and opt for ice cream instead. You might nix arranging flowers on every table and instead put your energy into writing a beautifully worded introduction to your wedding booklet or a wedding covenant.