Singaporean couples complain incessantly about how expensive it is to hold a wedding banquet here, but they conveniently leave out the fact that many are secretly hoping their wedding guests will subsidise the cost of the celebration with generous cash donations.
There is something a bit mercenary about the bridesmaids stationed at the reception area writing down the names of all the guests so the amounts each one gives can be tracked. Some couples even manage to make a tidy profit from their weddings.
Where does this leave the hapless wedding guests? Broke, of course. As a guest, financially speaking the wedding is a losing proposition. But what happens if you sincerely want to celebrate a friend’s nuptials but simply can’t afford to? Here are three tips that can keep your wallet intact.
Don’t be too embarrassed to pay less than the “market rate”
The last time I checked, people attended weddings as guests and not as paying customers. You give a cash gift because you want to, and not because you feel obliged to help the couple recoup the cost of the table. If a couple wants to hold a million dollar wedding that’s their business, and guests who sincerely can’t afford the cost shouldn’t feel obliged to fork out $200 just because that’s how much their seat costs.
If you are hell bent on attending a wedding, pay an amount that you can afford and that you are sincerely willing to give to the bride and groom, even if it is below market rate. If they are really your friends and understand your financial situation they will understand. If you don’t want to offend the couple by giving too little, you always have the option of not going for the wedding. That way, they can give up your seat to someone who will pay more.
Offer to help out at the wedding
If you’ve been invited to the wedding of someone close to you and really want to give generously but just can’t afford to, volunteer to help out at the wedding. Not only will a helping hand ease the burden of the already overstretched couple, it will also more often than not net you a cash gift in ang bao or other form. You get to show your support of the couple and give them practical help, while still reducing the financial burden to yourself.
If you’ve been invited to be one of the bridesmaids or groomsmen, the parents of the bride and groom are almost definitely going to prepare a cash gift to thank you. While this is unlikely to cover the cost of a generous ang bao, it does help a lot.
A caveat: this only applies if the bride and groom’s parents are Singaporean. If they’re not, well, let’s just say it’s less likely you’ll be expected to pay $100+ for an ang bao anyway—in some of the bigger European economies for example 50 euro (75 SGD) is seen as an acceptable wedding contribution.
Plan your outfit in advance and borrow if needed
The only occasions Singaporean men put on a suit are job interviews and wedding dinners. If you’re not a habitual wedding dinner attendee and haven’t changed your job in years, you might be at a loss as to what to wear to a wedding dinner at some five star hotel.
The situation gets more perplexing if you’re one of the bridesmaids or groomsmen to an ethnic Chinese couple who insist on having a gatecrashing session. You could be made to dress up in certain colours or even to wear ridiculous costumes.
All of the above can result in expensive clothing purchases unless you plan ahead. Start scouting for bargains to wear to the wedding once you RSVP, and not two days before the actual event. Avoid paying retail prices for anything if you can avoid it.
Need a pink bridesmaid’s dress but are the sort of person who wouldn’t be caught dead in the colour otherwise? Make arrangements to borrow from a friend or colleague so you can return the offending pink item right after the event, instead of buying something that will make you cringe for as long as it hangs in your closet. Otherwise, sniff out sales both online and off and consider buying cheaply on eBay or Carousell.
How do you budget whenever you attend a wedding? Tell us in the comments!