How we hosted a wedding for under $25,000

My husband and I got married more than two years ago. At that time, we were privileged to be able to host a relatively upmarket hotel banquet without emptying our pockets, but we were not keen to spend a bomb on a one-day event.

But if you’re Singaporean Chinese and middle-income, there will almost always be parental expectations to keep up to. So our compromise was this – a low-budget lunch banquet.

I’d think that our planning journey wasn’t a smooth one. I often found myself facing questions and/or comments to the tune of:

“Can’t you afford something better?”

“What will other people think of you?”

“You shouldn’t save on such expenses.”

“It looks so ‘Xia suay’.”

But no one else was paying for our wedding. We did receive some help in non-monetary terms – my in laws’ church friends all chipped in to decorate our solemnisation venue out of goodwill. My mum purchased some of the Guo Da Li items (though I would have preferred to skip this formality entirely).

That said, I’d prefer to not have any parent or relative sponsoring our wedding. There’s less pressure to conform to what they say since they will not have a stake in it.

We did these four things to keep costs low.

Choosing an out-of-town banquet venue

We held a lunch banquet for 160 people at a hotel in Changi.

We had signed up for a package at a roadshow and so we had some freebies tossed in as well, such as an extra night’s stay in the bridal suite and free-flow wine for guests. The rate at the time was $788++ per table of 10, which was much lower as compared to city-area hotels.

Were there snide remarks passed about our choice of venue? Definitely. At least one person said that he will not hold his wedding at the same place as it was not “high class” enough. There were complaints here and there that the food and/or service was bad. There was also at least one complaint about how remote the venue was.

Not gonna lie, it’s hard to be as sassy as Taylor Swift and just “shake it off, shake it off”. But we had to stay rational – naysayers are not going to remember our wedding anyway. And more importantly, they would only be there for the wedding, which is a one-day event. They would not be journeying with us in our marriage, which is a lifetime event.

Total damage: Close to $16,000

No pre-wedding photo shoot

Photo by Marc A. Sporys on Unsplash

This whole concept of pre-wedding photography seems to be the “in” thing right now. It is common to see couples who even make the effort to head abroad to have their photoshoots done. But for me, I wasn’t so keen on it.

Firstly, it’s too mainstream. I Googled a lot for photoshoots and photographers. I even stalked friends’ and acquaintances’ social media pages to see what they did for their pre-wedding photoshoots. The more I searched, the more similar they started to seem. Heck, I even saw friends from different social circles posing in the same studio and the same outdoor locations! It made me realise I didn’t want to be just another human who had “been there and done that”.

Secondly, the cost was off-putting. I did not want to pay a few thousand for a photo album which we may probably look at only once a year, or even less. Speaking of which, a photo book which I printed for US$10 to display at our wedding reception has been collecting dust in a drawer at home.

There were some doubts that surfaced in us when we told our incredulous bridal studio coordinator that we didn’t want to do a photoshoot. Especially when she asked, “Oh, but what will you show your guests at your reception?”

It’s been more than two years since our wedding. I don’t feel any regret for giving the photoshoot a miss. Our relationship has been and is still in a good place – with or without that big, glossy photo album.

No photo booth or dessert table

Our cocktail reception was a short one – less than an hour – as lunch was just after the solemnisation.

Since the reception was so short, we did not get any Instagram-worthy dessert table, saving us at least a thousand dollars (based on what I’d researched).

I find the dessert table wasteful. I mean, it’s nice to look at and it’s great for the ‘gram, but that’s all. How many people would actually eat the things on it, especially when lunch is coming right up? I’d feel extremely guilty if we had to throw away the leftovers after. Didn’t your parents tell you not to waste food because “kids in Africa are starving”?

What we did get though, was some light refreshments – comprising bite-sized cakes, tarts and muffins – from Prima Deli. They were served to guests during the solemnisation. We also brought tea bags and coffee purchased from the supermarket so that our guests could have some hot drinks.

We also didn’t have a photo booth, which is also a very popular feature at weddings now. A lot of our guests were older folks – friends and relatives of our parents. We figured that they may not appreciate the photo booth anyway.

Total damage: About $70

Non-customised wedding bands

We couldn’t agree on any set of wedding bands we saw, and so we ended up buying them separately. Mine’s not marketed as a wedding ring anyway, and it was on sale at the jewellery store.

Our rings were also not engraved because mine’s the slim and dainty kind. It can’t have any kind of visible text engraved on it.

I was told that my ring looked too “cheap” and “invisible”, and that I should buy a new one. Not gonna lie, it made me sibeh angry. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But I still stood my ground because ultimately, I’m the one wearing it. Plus, I had a nice engagement ring from my husband already.

Total damage: $840

How much it cost

A very rough breakdown of our expenses:

Banquet and hotel services: $16,000
Bridal studio services + photographer: $4,400
Church solemnisation: $1,150
Wedding bands: $840
Car rental: $660
Cocktail reception decor: $120
Thank-you hongbaos: $800
Tailored suit + accessories = $500
Guo da li (for groom): $300 

Total: $24,770

Some have called us out for being cheapo for the way we planned our wedding. But I disagree.

Maybe some of us would like to go big or go home because we don’t host weddings every day, but for me, I’d prefer to spend that money on a nice meal, a good holiday, or good quality furniture in our home.

The bottomline is, please don’t ever feel pressured to spend a bomb on a one-day event. It’s more important to spend what you can and you’re willing to pay.

1 Comment

  1. My husband and I’s wedding in 2015 was $500 total. That’s it- and I don’t care who thought what abotu it, because it was never abotu them in the first place. It was abotu my Husband and I.
    Paying $25k for a one day event seems so absurd to me- and the fact that’s considered “a cheap wedding” utterly blows my mind.

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