Tips: Marriage and Money Management

TextALLEN LEUNG

WedTips_Tips_MarriageWith times getting harder, as we have been warned, bracing ourselves for a tough year ahead does seem sensible. But if you are planning to be a 2009 bride or groom, should you be your own butcher and try to cut off as much as possible from your wedding budget? Will the economic downturn affect your once-in-a-lifetime event adversely or will it actually work in your favour? W&T finds out how two couples cope and speaks to industry experts on market prices to show if the truth hurts or soothes.

Banking executives Eva Yong, 25, and Arthur Lee, 28, who have a combined monthly income of $10,000, plan to spend no more than $10,000 – the equivalent of their one-month salary – for their big day this December in view of the economic uncertainties ahead.

Eva who met her husband-to-be at her work place only about a year ago, said she would spend up to $3,000 for a bridal package which comes with wedding and evening gowns for herself, suits for Arthur and photo shoots.

They are only planning for a small wedding dinner, spending not more than $2,000 in a restaurant for about 20 people, mostly family members and close friends, instead of hosting a banquet in a five-star hotel’s ballroom which can cost them ten times more.

The rest of the money they have budgeted will be spent on their honeymoon.

And their matrimonial home will be in Arthur’s parents’ house, at least for the time being, till the economy gets better perhaps.

Eva said: “The economy is bad, but we think it is still a good time to get married because of the bargains available. Prices have come down and the services are better now than before.

“I do more online shopping nowadays because of the greater varieties of goods and services related to weddings available. For example, I have more choices for personalised wedding favours on the Net than from the shops.”

Graphic artist Annie Lim, 30, and media executive William Tan, 32, have set their wedding day on October 25 this year, celebrating their marriage with a banquet for about 300 people at the Pan Pacific Hotel’s ballroom.

The couple, who have a combined monthly income of just over $5,000, dated for four years before they decided to get married. They have booked a new five-room Housing Board flat in Tampines which they hope can be ready for them to move in before their wedding in October.

They were pleasantly surprised though when the hotel called recently to take $200 off on each of the 28 tables they have booked for their banquet, bringing them a total savings of $5,600!

“We are happy to get the discount for the wedding banquet from the hotel because we expect the ang pao money we will collect to be less this time as the year ahead is a bad one for the economy,” said Annie.

Annie is still looking for a good bargain for a bridal package and found that prices have fallen.

She said after checking out prices at the bridal fair organised by W&T magazine recently, prices have gone as low as below $1,400, which includes wedding and evening gowns for herself, as well as suits for the groom and the groom’s father.

Bridal packages, which usually come with wedding gowns for the bride and tuxedos or suits for the groom and photo shoots, are a must for every wedding couple.

Before the global economic crisis broke out from the third quarter of last year, it was common for couples to spend over $10,000 or more on these packages alone, which provide them with designer-gowns and photo shoots overseas to destinations as far as Africa and Greece.

The well-heeled will still continue to splurge on their “once-in-a-lifetime” affair, but the budget-conscious are all looking out for bargains at bridal boutiques and wedding fairs.

A check with several bridal boutiques here showed that published rates of packages are as low as $1,688 which includes two used gowns and two suits, simple bridal make-up and basic wedding photography.

The high-end packages start from $8,888, which includes designer gowns and suits, special photo shoot albums, video recordings and top-rate makeup artists and stylists. At French Studio and Bridal, owner He Seng Hin, 48, is optimistic that most couples getting married are still willing to spend on their wedding.

He said prices at most local bridal boutiques are already very reasonable but as an incentive to couples getting married this year, he would be willing to include more perks and gifts, such as extra photos.

His advice to those who are thinking of drastic budget cuts for their wedding is this: “Don’t cut down on the essentials such as your gowns because at least a few hundred people will be looking at you on your wedding day and you want to look your best. You can take off the lavish items though and you will probably find you can save more than you think.”

At Golden Horse Awards Bridal, packages are priced between over $2,000 and $5,000 each.

The boutique’s boss, Mr Phua Gim Hock, 49, said: “We are not so worried in these bad times because our prices are in the middle range, not the lowest or the highest. This price range is what most couples will go for in good or bad times.”

“But in bad times like what we are going through now, we will be very flexible in offering our packages, always bearing in mind the budget constraints of the wedding couples so that they can get value for their money.”

A banquet or reception is also essential for every wedding. Some couples pay just a couple of hundred dollars for a table in a simple Chinese restaurant for their wedding dinner, while others can spend more than $1,500 per table at a six-star hotel’s ballroom.

At Qian Xi’s group of four Chinese restaurants, prices now start from $498 nett per table for a 9-course dinner which comes with a shark’s fin soup dish and up to $798 nett per table which includes lobster salad and suckling pig.

The owner of the group of restaurants, Mr Tony Foo, said he had priced the prices low so as not to burden young people getting married with high costs for their weddings.

He added: “Those who want to save on the wedding banquets should consider hosting them in restaurants which are half the price charged at five-star hotels.”

A check with other Chinese restaurants including Tung Lok group of restaurants and Roland Restaurant show prices start from $438 per table, excluding GST and the service charges.

Other restaurants, such as Peach Garden Chinese Restaurant, charge higher, from $638 per table, also excluding GST and the other service fees.

Prices at six-star hotels, including the popular Ritz Carlton, start from $1,118 per table, excluding GST and service charges.

Those who want to opt for somewhere special to hold their wedding banquet can consider the Asian Civilisation Museum, at Empress Place, or the Peranakan Museum at Armenian Street.

These unique venues come with a price, of course. At The Asian Civilisation Museum, for example, rental of a function room there starts from $1,800, depending on the room size and when the banquet is held. The price excludes GST and service charges. The couple must also pay separately for the cost of the reception.

For those who want to choose prices between those at restaurants and those at a five or six-star hotel’s ballroom, they can choose to hold their wedding banquets in country clubs such as the Orchid Country Club, the Legends at Fort Canning Park, The Pines and the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club.

For example, at the Orchid County Club, prices are between $538 and $658, depending on where they are held, in a function or ballroom at the club, and whether they are held on a weekday or weekend.

In addition, the club takes in bookings with a minimum of 10 tables and a maximum of 120 tables.

To many, floral decorations at weddings are considered the lavish or extras. So this is one area where they will cut back in during bad times.

But to Boenga Flowers and Design, a high end wedding florist, whose prices are from $20,000 onwards, it is business as usual.

The company’s boss, Mr Harijanto Setiawan, said: “A wedding is the most memorable event in one’s life. I haven’t seen any indication that couples coming to us are trying to cut their budget. If it happens, I would like to suggest they reduce the quantity, but not the quality.”

“Quality can’t be compromised, but quantity can be reduced. The most important thing is to educate couples to be specific in what they need so as to supply the accurate quantity to prevent wastage and help them save.”

But wedding planner Anna Lim of Spellbound Wedding, which provides floral decorations and other services, is less optimistic and she believed couples getting married this year would be more careful in their spending, especially in areas like flowers and the accessories.

Some couples, for example, she pointed out, might just make-do with standard wedding invitation cards instead of the personalised ones which they have to pay more.

With the economy crisis looming, Ms Lim said she had to hold back price increases though costs of flowers and rentals of wedding venues have not gone down yet.

Her advice to couples getting married this year: “I have always told my clients not to spend beyond their means, whether in good times or bad times. If they do, they will be so stressed up in the days leading to the wedding day, worrying if they can afford the wedding and if the ang pao they collect from friends and relatives can cover all their expenses.”