Weddings are supposed to be joyous occasions, but in Singapore, they are often a huge drain on the wallets of not only the couple tying the knot, but also their guests. Not only are many people prepared to spend ludicrous amounts of money on their weddings, they often expect their wedding guests to do so, as well.
Many people dream of that spectacular wedding with lily-white doves soaring overhead as wedding march-in music played by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra themselves reverberates in the air. Good for them, just don’t invite me to that one.
Victor (not his real name), a 33-year-old entrepreneur who tied the knot last year, admits he was hoping he’d be able to recoup the cost of his wedding banquet through the red packet donations of his guests. “I think anyone who claims they are not hoping to at least make back the money they spent is lying,” he says.
Contrary to what Victor says, we here at MoneySmart believe there are couples out there who actually want their friends to be able to attend their weddings without having to take out a bank loan. Here’s how to keep things affordable for both you and your guests.
Don’t pick a super expensive location for your banquet
Throwing a wedding banquet is a bit like running a business. The cost of your location is passed on to your guests, who feel obliged to at least cover the cost of their seat.
A quick glance at one of the lists of wedding ang pow rates online reveals that it’s pretty damned expensive to attend a wedding in Singapore these days, especially if the couple is holding theirs at a five star hotel. Just to break even, a couple would need to collect $174 per person at a Fullerton Hotel or Raffles Hotel weekend dinner banquet.
If you want to be considerate to your guests (and also have a better chance at recouping your losses), you should pick a more affordable location. Cafes, restaurants and buffets are your cheapest good bet, but if you have to have the whole wedding banquet shebang pick a Chinese restaurant like Peach Garden or a boutique hotel like M Hotel, which will shave at least $50 off the per-person sticker price.
A destination wedding isn’t always a bad idea for a couple wanting to keep costs down, as it’s usually cheaper than holding a banquet in Singapore. But you’ll need to think about whether your guests can spare the time and money to fly over. As a courtesy, it’s often a nice gesture to pay for the plane tickets of at least the bridesmaids and groomsmen, especially bearing in mind that plane tickets for 10 people to Phuket might cost even less than a single table at a wedding banquet.
Don’t be too demanding about the gatecrashing session
I’m not sure where the gatecrashing “tradition” came from, but I suspect it has its roots in Hong Kong dramas. In Singapore, it means the long-suffering bridesmaids and groomsmen need to get up at 4am and prepare to torture/be tortured.
While most couples don’t realise it, gatecrashing can take lots of time, planning and resources, especially on the part of the bridesmaids, who need to meet up multiple times for planning sessions, buy props and prepare the pranks ahead of time, as well as take a taxi to the bride’s home early in the morning on the day of the wedding.
To make matters worse, some people require the bridesmaids and groomsmen to wear coordinated outfits. These can range from colour-coordinated dresses and shirts to full-on Halloween-worthy get-ups.
In addition, if you live far away from some of your bridesmaids or groomsmen, it’s a nice gesture to offer to put them up at your place for the night, so they won’t have to take a taxi down to your place together with midnight surcharge. Otherwise, if possible, start a little later in the day so your helpers can take public transport or at least avoid midnight surcharge.
Your bridesmaids and groomsmen are going to be helping you from morning to night, so please be considerate and make sure they have something to eat and drink throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be expensive; a few takeaway cartons from a nearby hawker centre and bottles of mineral water will be much appreciated.
Bridesmaids’ and groomsmen’s outfits
Couples vary wildly as to how fussed they are about what their bridesmaids and groomsmen wear. There are some who insist on custom-made outfits for their entire entourage, while others are more bo chup.
I was once a bridesmaid for a bride who just shrugged and told everyone to come in pastels. While that might seem unthinkable to a full-fledged bridezilla, it was actually a relief to us bridesmaides, as most of us could just fish something out of our closets instead of buy a brand new outfit.
On the other hand, a friend of mine once helped out at the wedding of a bride who insisted all her bridesmaids wear the exact same dress, which wasn’t cheap and which they had to pay for themselves.
While you might dream of having a movie-worthy gatecrashing session and wedding, try to balance your desires with an awareness that someone is going to have to foot the bill for these costumes.
What other ways can couples keep their weddings affordable for their guests? Tell us in the comments!