The Wedding Etiquette Guide to Paying for Plus-One Guests

With celebration season in full swing, here's how to map out who should be paying for what, long before you start mailing back those RSVPs.

A newlywed couple takes a selfie with two of their guests.
(Image credit: Getty Creative)

Weddings are fun. But the financial cost of attending all of those celebrations is not so fun. There’s the international bachelorette parties and black-tie attire and accommodations and wedding presents for the couple and, well, you know. Then there’s your date, which can bring another layer of stress and confusion around wedding finances. Who should be paying for what? It’s no wonder that according to a recent study, one in five Americans say they have declined a wedding due to the expenses associated with attending.

To help navigate awkward money talks, here's what a financial expert says about paying your way through wedding season as a couple. 

  • Set up a strategy session

As the invites start to pile up, sit down with your date to discuss which ones you will attend as a couple. “Similar to all other aspects of a relationship, communication is key when it comes to meeting your savings and budgeting goals,” says Mia Alexander, a budgeting expert and vice president of member success at Dave, a digital banking service. She says looking at all weddings on the horizon helps couples realize the expenses associated with each one and the bigger picture of the financial commitment. “Since money is one of the leading causes of relationship stress, carving out a detailed plan around weddings can be a great way for couples to start breaking the ice on communicating important joint life decisions,” adds Alexander.

  • Talk cost before you RSVP

Ultimately, there is no one rule for how couples should split their wedding expenses. There are a number of factors that come into play, including how long you’ve been dating and how much each person can afford. “Some couples like to split it 50/50, others like to contribute a certain amount based on their annual income, and others weigh it differently based on whose friend or family member is getting married,” says Alexander. The important thing is to be upfront with what each of you is willing to spend.

  • Be open to getting creative

Everyone’s budget is different. Instead of each person feeling guilted into spending more than they’re comfortable with, think up ways to cut down on costs, like staying at a cute Airbnb instead of the pricey hotel at the wedding venue. You can also plan to spread out expenses, so you aren’t having to dish out a chunk of cash at one time. One idea: Wedding etiquette requires you gift the couple with something, but you also have up to a year to do it.

  • Stick to the plan

If you and your plus-one have agreed that you’ll split the cost of a rental car, but then you decide you’d rather fly, it’s on you to cover the added expense. On the other hand, surprise expenses can—and frequently do—pop up, like a long taxi ride back to the hotel because the complimentary shuttle bus has stopped running. So be sure to have a discussion on how you’ll handle unexpected costs, too. And then, once you both have finalized your plan for handling wedding season expenses—maybe have a glass of champagne to celebrate. 

Jillian Dara

Jillian Dara is a freelance journalist with an enthusiasm to learn from the world, combining stories in travel and wellness, culture and human interest. Jillian also contributes to Forbes, Travel + Leisure, Shape, and Men's Journal.