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The Sad State of Chinese Wedding Banquets in Singapore

The Sad State of Chinese Wedding Banquets in Singapore

What kind of society are we advocating when we have Ang Pow Guides like this for wedding banquets?

When did Chinese wedding banquets become so commercialised?

When did Chinese wedding banquets become so commercialised?

For non-Singaporean readers, “ang pow” refers to “red packet” – a small red envelop with money in it that Chinese gives away during festive occasions to share the joy.

There are news report of wedding couples who circulate the Ang Pow Guide to their guests before their wedding as well as one bride who made the news recently for tweeting her friend to demand an answer for her “missing” ang pow. 

Sad isn’t it?

When have wedding banquets degenerated into P&L commercial events?

Isn’t it painfully obvious that the hotels are the one setting the prices for the ang pow “market rate” and have the most to gain from it?

Stop buying into this trap.

Just compare the quality and quantity of food you get for a $1000 or even $2000 per table hotel menu vs the kind of food you can get for $1000 to $2000 at a fine dining restaurant on normal occasions. The disparity is too great, even if we factor in venue rental and all.

I believe “luxury” items like shark’s fin and abalone are used to bump up the banquet prices; especially shark’s fin. It is probably for this reason that you find many hotels are reluctant to offer non shark’s fin menus.

The prices in the ang pow guide are probably highly inflated by the hotels who profiteer from people’s willingness to give during the special occasion. At the end of the day, they are the one who stand to gain the most, not the couple who may even incur a hefty lost.

Having said that, I never understand why guests should be made to pay for a couple’s lavish wedding if they choose to hold their banquet at a venue which they jolly well know they can ill-afford. Imagine a guest arriving via public transport so as to save cost to give a big fat ang pow to cover a couple’s wedding at say, St Regis, while the couple waltzed in in style with chauffeur driven Rolls Royce, a hotel suite stay and all, expecting these to be fully covered by their guests. Fair?

When Rachel and I planned for our wedding dinner, we avoided a hotel and went for a restaurant instead because we do not want our guests to feel pressurised to give fat, “market rate” ang pows. Some would deem this as being “cheapskate”; but the key for us is to share the joy – all else is secondary. The extra money from the ang pow is a bonus.

We did not expect to “earn” from the ang pows as we do not think it is appropriate to profiteer from our wedding or to treat it as a commercial event. I made sure I had enough to pay the bill for the whole wedding dinner in full, from my own pocket, without having to rely on the post banquet ang pows.

It is sad to think many couples deem it a necessity to spend beyond their means and expect their guests to pay for it.

There is a Chinese saying to describe this sad state of Chinese wedding banquets in Singapore – 打肿脸充胖子.

If you cannot afford it, suck it up and go for something you can afford.

Yes, it’s “once in a lifetime”, but spend within your means.

Everything that is most expensive will always be the best, but there are always alternatives.

When did Chinese wedding banquets started becoming so cold, calculative and commercialised? No wonder so many of my friends around me are thinking of skipping it altogether!

Having rambled so much, for the bride who went to demand for an ang pow from her friend – why bother? Isn’t it worthwhile to “lose” a couple hundred dollars to see a person’s true character? 🙂

About The Author


Alvin is a marketer by day and blogger by night. He is a 100% geek who spends too much time surfing the web.

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