Notes On Splitting The Wedding Costs

Planning another bride’s wedding is simply never unpleasant: you get to dream up fabulous ideas, creative themes, exciting details that come together into a perfect wedding. In other words, one can let the event planning  imagination run free – you’re not the one paying for it.  The sober reality of a budget is only a theoretical idea when it’s someone else money.  You’re not the one asking yourself: so, where and how am I going to get the money for all of this. The bride, the groom, their families are, however, keeping a keen and constant eye on the bills like a diabetic on his blood sugar levels, and the ever so delicate matter of who’s paying for what and how much is an ever present elephant in the room.

Thankfully, there’s precedent to lean on; there is in each community an accepted (more or less) custom about splitting the costs. In the ‘frum’ circles the FLOP method with its ill-fitted name divides the expenses between the sides, like countries on a map, along the borders of the various wedding services. (Check out our FLOP wedding checklist.) As such the bride’s side pays for the food and the hall, while the groom’s covers the Flowers, Liquor, Orchestra, and Photography (Video). It’s not exactly 50/50, but the ‘FLOP’ can often cost almost as much as the catering / hall. Depending on the size of the wedding band and the self professed creativity of the photographer and the cinematographer a.k.a. the video guy, the groom’s side can easily ‘outdo’ the bride’s in wedding contributions.

Here lies the secret benefit of the FLOP method. Let me explain this way: Say you’re building the Mishkan, a temple, a synagogue or any other lofty undertaking that consists of multiple elements and parts. You’ll need a building, an altar, chairs, tables, chandeliers, other decorations, and many other miscellaneous items. You can go about getting these things together in two ways: You can have all your congregants, members chip in some set amount in funds and then go out and purchase the items needed, or you can have your members and congregants donate or sponsor a particular element of the undertaking. FLOP resembles the latter approach, where each side takes upon itself to see that the wedding elements that are of their contribution will be done right. This often can lead to a ‘catching up with the Joneses’ phenomenon where each side will make sure not to be outdone by the other, thus improving the quality of the overall affair. (This in itself may not always be of benefit to everyone; but the method in general splits up not only the financial responsibilities of the wedding but the actual planning, ordering and making sure that its done right as well.) There could also potentially be another benefit: if one of the families is not as liquid in their financial resources, they may substitute their creative, networking (i.e. they know someone in the business) and bargaining resources and as such contribute their ‘share’ of high quality wedding elements without having to bear a financial burden that is more than they can carry.

Sometimes FLOP splits the wrong way. To some a wedding is best described as the only opportunity a girl gets to take pictures in a wedding gown in full make up. And as such, would rather serve chicken with cranberry sauce (or sandwiches for that matter) at the reception and spend the rest of the wedding funds on the best of glamour photography. According to FLOP, however, the bride’s side deals only with food and venue. That’s not to say that these rules of wedding financial conduct are written in stone, and if a one side is very particular about one wedding ingredient over another that the families will not be able to modify the FLOP according to their needs.

I don’t have any statistics on this, but I do wonder how many families within the kosher wedding world select the 50/50 method and how many go for the FLOP, or any other approach to sharing the wedding costs. The contemporary mind certainly finds the 50/50 split appealing for its clear-cut simplicity and indubitable fairness.  It also allows both sides to participate equally in the wedding planning process and may foster an opportunity for family bonding (also, and unfortunately, vice-versa) in the process. Coming from not such traditional circles, when I got married, we cut all the expenses right down the middle, without ever really exploring any other options. I would be delighted to hear your take on these methods of dealing with wedding costs or on other ways to approach the subject.

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