Monday, August 18, 2008

The high price of saying 'I do' (Straits Times)

Do you really need a big wedding when you've already found true love?
By Fiona Chan

'LOVE don't cost a thing,' Jennifer Lopez once famously sang - but she neglected to mention that weddings are quite another matter.

Over the past few years, I have marvelled at how my peers managed everything from custom-made animated videos to sunset yacht parties for their unions, while still qualifying only for an HDB flat on a combined income of $8,000 a month.

My own wedding next year will be fuss-free: just the traditional hotel dinner and a simple solemnisation on one day. Even so, it will probably cost my entire year's salary.

That cost is, in fact, delaying some of my friends' walk down that aisle; they say they have not saved enough for their big day.

It is a practical consideration given today's inflation. Even a small wedding can be costly, and every time a bride-to-be hears wedding bells, there is also the background ka-ching sound from the bridal industry's cash registers.

According to my extensive - but unscientific - research, the average cost of a weekend hotel banquet will go up 5 per cent to 10 per cent between this year and next, crossing the $1,000 per table mark just in time for my dinner.

That does not include wine, now a wedding staple, which will set you back another $1,000 or so. Another $3,000 will go to photographers and videographers to document the special day.

Then there is the dress.

Even at one-stop heartland shops, bridal gown packages now cost upwards of $2,500. I have not even dared to ask about the designer creations I drool over in magazines.

Wedding rings - just those little bands - do not come under $1,200 a pair. My fiance and I have taken to walking into jewellery shops and demanding to see their cheapest choices.

And we didn't get very good service, let me tell you.

So I tell myself not to get carried away - who says you have to have it all?

Although 'mandatory' banquets may be blamed on parents, it is the couples themselves who order personalised videos, devise themes and plan three entrances with accompanying dramatic outfits.

Problem is, most of their friends are also new to the workforce, which means their well-meant dinner hongbao probably cover just the appetisers.

Couples swallow the exorbitant mark-ups on purchases for their wedding, telling themselves it is a once-in- a-lifetime event worth every cent to celebrate their love.

One friend even toyed with the idea of having her bridal photos shot overseas for an extra-special touch. The cost: $15,000.

My question is: If you have true love, do you really need the big wedding?

After all, you could get married for as little as $26 - the fee that the Registry of Marriages charges for a marriage licence.

That does not seem enough for young starry-eyed couples just starting their careers, who seem to want the splashiest weddings.

But I know of a couple in their late 30s who did away with the pomp and had a simple church service and dinner, happy enough to have found love when they least expected it.

Lopez's wedding, to singer Marc Anthony in 2004, was a low-key affair which cost US$50,000 (about S$70,400 in today's rates). The couple, both acquainted with failed marriages, spent a relatively modest amount on their celebrity wedding, compared to say, Liza Minelli, whose 2002 nuptials topped's most expensive wedding list at an estimated US$3.5million.

Me, I am lucky enough to have a partner who constantly reminds me that it is the marriage, not just the wedding, which really matters.

Lopez is still married. Minelli is not. With the right person, love won't cost you much at all.

do you think this is oh-so-true? I ever dreamed of i doing away the dinner and taking a super long holiday round the world. Will that be possible?

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