I tried to look for things to help me with the financial planning part of a wedding. Most of the advice out there is aimed at Caucasian weddings and were really of no use to me. The first thing I noticed was that they'd ask you what your budget is. "How much do you want to spend in total? This number will dictate what kind of wedding you will have."
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. All bloody wrong.
I've organized Career Fairs and Conferences, but I've never been involved in organizing a wedding. Let alone MY wedding, using MY own money. I had no farging clue how much I want to spend in total.
A Chinese wedding is NOT about how much I want to spend and then fitting everything within that figure. A Chinese wedding is about what you have to do and THEN figuring out how you're going to do it. Especially if he's the eldest son of the family. And DOUBLY especially if he is his Grandfather's eldest Grandson.
My wedding is also a show of my worth in my husband's family. I still do feel that the big production wedding commands respect. In Chinese culture, to marry into a family quietly without a banquet, without people knowing, means there's something to hide — like the woman is a concubine (second, third, etc. wife). I am a First Wife proper; I am a Bride of the First House. I can't and won't have a "lesser" wedding.
It may be very "dynastic Chinese" and backward of me. But I am Chinese and so is my future in-law family. There are some things that I haven't lost to my Western upbringing.
Caucasian weddings seem to be a lot smaller scale than a the typical Chinese wedding. People were telling me that 100 guests was a "huge" wedding. Chinese weddings average 300 easily.
Typically, when you think of a wedding, you think of the one day. Everything happens on The Wedding Day. Like a firecracker or an explosion, you think of it as "happening in one burst".
For your audience, yes, that's true. But for me, it's more like a bell curve. In my 20/20 retrospect, if I had planned my wedding properly, it would have lasted me three years. One year to squirrel away as much as I could; one year to do the preparations (The Big Spending Spree); and one year to recouperate from destitution.
Expect the worst, but hope for the best and life will turn out somewhere in between.
I have a typical Chinese wedding. 300 Guests. The huge Chinese restaurant banquet at $50/head totalling about $15,000.00. $900 church. $3000 engagement photography session. $3000 event photography on The Day. $3000 videography work. 6 bouquets and 60 corsages and boutennieres.
I'm spending about $30K or so in total. We're paying for all of it ourselves. That sounds scary, but I'm spending that over the course of about a year, so it really isn't too bad. As long as you have between $5-10K at the starting blocks and spend as you go along, you'll be fine. You'll be putting down deposits at first, so $5-10K will cover most of that.
$30K is purely what you would spend. This is not counting on any gifts or red envelope gift money that Chinese usually give - when you're doing the budgeting, you cannot count on people to give you gifts, cash or otherwise, no matter WHAT anyone tells you. People were telling me that they could count on red envelopes back. Statistically, you may recouperate half of your expenses through gift red envelope money, but the exact figure could be anything, including nothing. So I'm not setting myself up to be disappointed.
A recent custom in my hometown, Shun-de, China, is to hand the host an empty red envelope upon entrance to the banquet. The host tears off a corner and gives it back as a sign of receipt.
I've included a 3-4 week trip in that $30K. We went to Japan/Taiwan/Hong Kong for 3.5 weeks over Christmas holidays.
I had to make decisions like:
- stopping my RRSP contributions altogether for a while
- cancelling my gym membership
- stop eating out as much
- stop clubbing/partying as much
- switching my cell phone plan to a lower rate plan
I didn't want to stop my RRSP payments because I know that the Big Spending Sprees don't end with a Wedding. We'll have children; we'll be buying a house... and on and on.
I was also considering not renewing my car insurance and just sharing the Acura, but then Fiance Guy pointed out that I'll probably need my car the most as the wedding date draws nearer. He also pointed out that the freedom and ability to physically "get away" was important to my sanity.
*sigh* That's why I love him.