How to Save Money When You Attend a Wedding in Singapore


Joanne Poh



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!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.

  • Edith Esquivel

    Do they really do that in Singapore? It’s a horrible horrible custom. I am from Mexico and people usually ask their closest people to be “godfathers” for everything they need at the wedding: cake godfather, wine godfather, church godfather, etc. This way, the godfather chooses the price and quality of the item, and also chooses if he/she is going to be a godfather in the first place. If you are not a godfather, at the wedding you can also pinch a bill of any denomination into the groom’s clothes. I don’t like any of these customs. I’d rather not have a wedding than force others to pay for it. My husband and I had a small wedding, the invitation said “no gifts please”, for 40 people aprox. After the civil ceremony, we invited our guests to have lunch at a nice restaurant with a beautiful garden, a glass of wine and by 8 or 9 in the evening everyone was leaving home. Maybe it wasn’t the wedding of the year, but we paid for everything, except the wine, since my mother-in-law insisted on helping with that.