The truth is we can very well afford a decent sized w, but instead of spending $2k to look good just for a single night, I would really much prefer to use that money to fly off to Hokkaido instead. Sadly we are stuck here playing charades, and our plans to go to Japan in May have been shelved until further notice. Our only solace is watching Japan Hour on cable, and then fantasizing about visiting fish departments and eating karaage.
Here’s a breakdown of my budget for the entire w:
- Banquet for 150 persons: $18,000 (60.0%)
- Cakes, Favours, Invitation Cards: $2,000 (6.7%)
- Clothes, Hair and Make Up: $2,500 (8.3%)
- Chinese Things like Betrothal and Dowry: $1,000 (3.3%)
- Flowers, Car Rental, Photography, Hotel Room: $3,700 (12.3%)
- Miscellaneous (Ang Baos, Decorations, etc): $2,700 (9.0%)
That comes up to a staggering $30,000! If that number is not disturbing, I don’t know what is. In all honesty we could have shaved some costs off frivolous items like invitation cards and flowers, but it is easy to get caught up in wanting things to look nice and pretty. Ah the hypocrisy!
So let’s do the math for a $30,000 w. Say a relatively young couple, both graduates and have just started work, drawing a combined salary of $7,000. Their take home is $5,600 after CPF, and let’s assume they save ~20% under a special W Fund. For simplicity’s sake, let’s put it at $1,200. It will take 25 months just to save enough for a cheapskate w like ours! And that excludes rings, photoshoots and honeymoon! No wonder they say it takes at least 1 year to plan a w!
Of course I have not considered the banquet profiting while doing my calculations; I suppose it is not impossible to expect some cost offset from the ang baos collected, and indeed many people seem to leverage heavily on angbao money to pay off the banquet. They seem to forget that a red packet from a friend or a relative is merely a token of goodwill and that a guest should never be expected to pay for his own share.
The moral of the story is, as always: save more, spend less, study hard and find a good and honest job. Don’t fall into a cycle of debt. Don’t be stupid.