The Idea of Wedding Ang Baos to Recoup Frivolous Wedding Costs Needs to Die
Modern weddings are an antiquated idea.
It feels like these days, a couple’s “big day” has turned into a commercialised, look-at-us-we-are-happy affair.
Modern weddings in Singapore have an even more unique problem with wedding ang baos, which has become a hot topic over the years.
Why are we trying to afford extravagant weddings that could cost anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000, and expecting guests to help recoup costs with wedding ang baos?
The Problem With Modern Singaporean Weddings
The price of a modern wedding in Singapore has become increasingly expensive over the years. We’re talking an average of $30,000 to $50,000 for your typical Singaporean wedding banquet held in hotels.
With wedding ang baos being a customary thing here, it soon became a hot debate about how much one should give to the couple, to the point that local websites such as Singapore Brides and Seedly, started creating wedding ang pao rate guides just to cater to such demands.
However, therein lies a problem, an expectation that guests should give at least cover the costs of their seat at the banquet table.
After all, if you gave less than the cost price, it wouldn’t look very nice on you, especially if your community subscribes to Chinese culture where “showing face” and money have a heavy emphasis.
It doesn’t help either that weddings are expected to become even more expensive, up to 20% more or up to $400 per person.
Coupled with the onslaught of social media and the kiasu (Hokkien: scared to lose) attitude to have a more luxurious wedding than your friends on Instagram, we end up with needlessly expensive weddings north of $100,000 where some couples actually expect guests to pay and fully recoup the costs.
That’s not all, things get worse with some celebrities talking about the “right people” to invite to make a profit from their weddings.
Shouldn’t giving a wedding ang bao just be a sign of goodwill?
Why are we looking at modern weddings as if we were running a business?!
Wedding Ang Baos: Transaction or a Gift?
The notion that the monetary value of an Ang Bao should cover the cost of a seat at the table turns what was meant as a gift into a transaction.
While I am not against the idea of ang baos as giving money is very practical, there should not be any emphasis at all on how much one chooses to put inside the wedding ang bao. Only then, will wedding ang baos be a true gift.
Modern Weddings: A Superficial Business Event or a Celebration of Commitment to Your Life Partner?
The second problem with modern Singaporean weddings is that it has lost its way, inundated by capitalism, marketing and peer pressure.
So, let’s take a step back and look at what a wedding truly means.
“Wed”, the root for “wedding” is Old English for “to pledge oneself”.
In other words, a wedding is simply an exchange of vows between the bride and the groom. Then again, just exchanging vows is pretty boring, which is why many cultures also have wedding ceremonies to celebrate the occasion.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with spending on an expensive wedding, but it also puts pressure on your guests thanks to the wedding ang bao expectations that Singaporean culture has created.
Moreover, the wedding industry has managed to brainwash many of us into thinking that weddings should be frivolous events with a gathering of many witnesses on this “joyous” occasion.
The reality is that many couples are stressed out by wedding planning, rising costs of wedding banquets and whether to invite someone who may not be able to fork out the “market rate” for hong baos.
A Return To The True Meaning Of Weddings
On the bright side, we are starting to see new couples defying the “modern Singaporean wedding” of a fancy wedding banquet at a hotel. Just a few days ago, there was news of a couple who celebrated their wedding at a Ya Kun Kaya Toast outlet.
Not too long before that, we also had another couple holding the wedding at a hawker centre in Bukit Merah.
Such wedding banquets not only help to lessen the pressure on guests when it comes to giving wedding ang baos, but also serve as a unique and memorable wedding for everyone.
Perhaps it is time we deconstruct our perceived notions of what modern Singaporean weddings should be, and just go with what they were meant to be in the first place,
A celebration of the unity between lovers!