When I first started work, its wasn’t really that difficult for me to save more than 70% of our income. After all, I was staying with my parents. There wasn’t utility bills, groceries or mortgages to contend with.
In this aspect, I am not the odd one out in this country. Unlike our Western counterparts, most Singaporeans stay with their parents after they start work. Due to our society’s emphasis on filial piety, we are seen as filial children instead of parasites who live off Daddy and Mummy. Therefore, many of my friends are able to save a significant portion of their income just like us. Most couples view these savings as absolutely important and necessary for their future.
But before you congratulate and praise me for being such a positive influence on my friends, I would like to point out that these savings are not earmarked for retirement or to create a 15 Hour Work Week. Far from it. It’s actually preparation for one of the so-called money bombs in life: The Wedding
Here’s How We Did It
That’s supposed to be the biggest day in a girl’s life but also likely to be the guy’s first major financial obstacle. Not the greatest jumper (Broad jump is my weakest IPPT station), I tried to lower this hurdle to a more manageable level. Naively, I tried to convince both the fiancee and her parents of the merits of a simple wedding and started preaching “The Wedding happens for only a single day but marriage is for a lifetime and there’s no need to burn a pile of cash to prove that I have the means to provide for my wife blablabla.”
As I say, I tried. In other words, I ended up the one who was convinced. 😕
In the end, we held a dinner banquet at a 5-star hotel and engaged instant print services and videographers on the actual day. Unfortunately for me and my bunch of best men, there was also a protracted gate-crashing at the in-laws’ place. More than a year before the Big Day, we also signed up for a wedding photo shoot package from a bridal studio and also acceded to the persuasion (more like threats) to add plenty of photos (at about $60-$70 each!) for the wedding album.
In other words, we had almost everything a couple wanted to have for their wedding. It was a grand wedding and many of the guests were very impressed with it (much to the delight of the Mrs). Most importantly, we were really happy and also achieved all these without burning a hole in our pockets. We only coughed out a mid 4-digit sum, which was really ok.
And no, our parents did not sponsor/subsidise a single cent and they were also not some big-time businessman who could “extort” large ang baos as part of business patronage. Our best friends were also not bridal shop owners or children of hotel tycoons.
Instead, we planned early and did our research, like what we always do for big item purchases (including the flat). So if you’re thinking of popping the question soon, here’s some useful tips to manage your future wedding expenses.
1. Limit the number of guests for the banquet
When we were at the stage of asking our parents to invite their long-lost kampong neighbours to fulfil the minimum table requirements for a grander ballroom, we decided to be more rational and changed the ballroom instead. We limited our guests to about 220 instead of the previously estimated 300. Besides preventing the situation of empty tables on the Big Day, we also eliminated the need to send out more invites a week before our wedding to some relatives whom we haven’t seen for years or some Facebook friends we added a month ago.
By restricting the banquet to your closest friends and relatives (who will also not want to miss it and are likely to be more generous and sincere with wedding gifts/ang baos), it’s also going to be a happier, cosier and much more memorable event.
2. Settle for the tier just below the very best
We held a dinner banquet at Hilton, which was much more affordable compared to top-of-the-range hotels like Capella, Shangri-La or St Regis. And instead of splashing larger sums of money at brand-name videographers and instant print services, we engaged less well-known services of similar quality at more reasonable prices. This was made easier as the fiancee joined this 2012 BTB Facebook group where bride-to-bes shared to-die-for deals with each other.
We realised that we were able to extract more discounts from merchants who wanted to forge/rebuild their reputation. It made sense to take a chance on them because the established and famous easily commanded an additional 30-50% in premiums.
3. Plan earlier
Most couples plan a year in advance but we managed to book the date and venue of the banquet more than 1.5 years in advance. Ditto for the bridal package. As a result, we managed to lock-in the prices at a lower rate, resulting in savings of at least 5%. In addition, instead of paying for the banquet on the actual day (after tallying up the ang bao receipts), we started instalments with the Stanchart Manhattan Card, which rewarded us with amazing 5% cashbacks. An additional $1k of savings from this simple step.
To summarise, we negotiated the first money bomb pretty successfully, without decimating our savings. Of course, the wedding could even be as simple as appearing in T-shirts and jeans at the Registrar of Marriages, but that’s really taking marriage a bit too lightly, at least to the both of us.
All in, even after including the proposal ring and wedding bands, the overall cost still amounted to less than $10,000. But if you think about it, that $10,000 is really a small price since I only plan to have one wedding in my entire life (this should put both a smile to my dear wife). Amortising this $10,000 over 50 years, it’s just $200 a year. Isn’t that cheap for what I see as a form of marriage insurance? 🙂