Congrats on your 6-star hotel wedding, but please don’t expect a 6-star angpow from me
Soft truths to keep Singapore from stalling.
After reaching a certain vintage, I find myself drifting further and further away from societal norms I once used to consider either sacred or sacrosanct.
One of these was the practice of making sure I stuff enough money into an angpow (Hokkien for “red packet”) for a wedding lunch or dinner at a fancy pants five- or six-star hotel.
First things first, I have nothing against the practice of giving angpows. It is after all, only polite and a gesture of goodwill. What I do have a problem with, however, is the senseless societal expectation known as covering cost.
That’s right, let me say upfront that I’m not going to give you an angpow the equivalent of half — if you bring a partner, but given the reality of things nowadays, a single seat should suffice — a foreign labourer’s monthly salary just because you just have to exchange your nuptial vows or hold your wedding celebration at a hotel that I (a plebeian) had absolutely no business in choosing.
Now, I know what you are thinking: here’s another miserly dude whining. But hear me out, especially if you’ve just got engaged and are deciding where to have your banquet (if you’re going to have one).
You shouldn’t be expecting your guests to help you balance your books
Hey, congrats on your big day, I hope your union lasts 5eva and that you enjoy the day. I really wish that for you, especially the latter.
Because shouldn’t you bask in each other’s glow and the collective joy showered on you by your guests? After all, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event (getting married to this person) and you don’t want your mind to start fretting about balancing the books.
So if you are sweating over numbers in that uncomfortable heels/tux of yours that you are probably going to only wear once while simultaneously wondering whether that long-lost secondary school classmate at table 39 you invited to make up the numbers will give you an angpow good enough to cover the extra 10 bottles of red you opened, I feel a wee bit sad because it seems you are divorcing yourself from reality.
Since we’re talking about realities — in getting married, you’re going to have to face that of new responsibilities, such as coming to a peaceful consensus on the final position of the toilet seat and the preferred direction toilet rolls should be unravelled.
It also follows, therefore, that if you choose an expensive hotel, you’d best make sure you can foot the bill on your own, and not work based on everyone being able (and willing, more importantly) to pay for their seat.
Sure, some couples face external pressure from parents — it really sucks to be them. And I dedicate my next point to all the aggrieved couples.
This whole banquet business is outta control
Let me point you to this Straits Times article from 2016:
It states that the average hotel table price went past S$1,000 (before taxes) in 2008.
And eight years later, it almost breached the S$2,000 mark with the St. Regis and Capella Hotel leading the pack for banquet dinner prices on Saturdays (the most popular day of the week to hold a wedding dinner because guests can lose all inhibitions and get piss drunk).
And now, ladies and gentlemen, we have hit peak ridiculousness.
A night of fashionably late dinner at The Fullerton Bay Hotel costs, before taxes, S$268 a head (that may as well be severed at this point).
Which means S$2,680 per table of 10, working out to S$3,135.60 after taxes.
With that kind of money, I expect the chefs to personally serenade that cod, give it a good belly rub before coaxing it into the night with “superior soy sauce”.
Why are people even encouraging this ridiculous market rate?
And here to legitimise the whole wedding market are various online sources, which have no qualms propagating and encouraging these ridiculous prices.
A quick Google search of “wedding angpow market rate” yields a plethora of sources for the latest rates of 2019:
In that same ST article, we are also being advised on how much we should put in the angpow “to at least cover your meal”.
Here’s an alternative header: How much do you need to have in the bank before blowing all that cash — the equivalent of at least 50 packets of chicken rice — on overrated hotel food?
Oh look, 12 pro-tips to recoup wedding costs!
Suggested alternative headline: Recoup your lost friendships after your six-star wedding with this ONE amazing tip: don’t do it at a six-star hotel.
How about: The end-all wedding banquet invite has landed in your mailbox.
Angpows should never have to be given grudgingly
My point is this: you should never expect your guests to part with large amounts of their money (most likely grudgingly) just for the sake of fitting into some stupid social norm.
That’s really not a cool thing to do.
So instead of going with the market rate, I prefer to benchmark the cash I dispense against the level of closeness of our friendship (sometimes also against the performance of my bank account), with HTHT friends at the apex and acquaintances at the bottom of the pyramid.
And hey, the amount I eventually choose to give can exceed the market rate — sometimes by a lot.
After all, a wedding could cost just S$42 (all taxes in)
If conventional wisdom dictates that procreation can be had in small spaces, then surely a union can be had at more affordable (and less pretentious) venues — especially if you can’t quite afford to pay for an overpriced meal at a swanky place.
Gotta think lateral, my drunk-in-love friends.
Having your dinner at a restaurant is usually wise: there’s legit good food and prices are far more relatable to the average proletariat (like me, and in most cases, you).
I’m pretty sure there are also more creative ways to carry out a wedding celebration without breaking the bank.
A bar wedding? Sounds great already. A barbecue wedding? Cool, as long as I don’t need to set up the fire. A karaoke wedding? Just don’t sing the wrong songs (a dear friend once marched in with Adele’s Someone Like You. I suspect they made the decision based on the innocuous song title, though I haven’t verified. Not sure how to broach the topic).
With all else fails, real love is always available at 7 Canning Rise.
Yes. Real love works.
And that’s both sacred and sacrosanct.
Other soft truths to keep S’pore from stalling:
Top photo by Joshua Lee