No Money No Honey – Starting Married Life in Debt

Til Debt Do Us Part ? – article from Malay Mail.

Okay, so it’s not a new story: it was written in 2013, but I saw it reposted on a friend’s account and it got me thinking.

If you read the article, it talks about how about how some young couples spend thousands of ringgit, just to have what they think is the ‘perfect wedding’. I don’t know how it works in the West (do you guys just register, go to a church and get married or something?) but here in Malaysia, a wedding is not just an affair between two people. It involves all our families, our relatives to the ninth degree, friends and friends of friends, the entire neighbourhood…. well, you get my drift. It has something to do with our Asian culture: everything should be loud, boisterous, flashy and gets the whole community together. Many things also have to do with ‘face’.



What is face? you ask. Face is a facet of ‘pride’. If you humiliate someone in public, you make them ‘lose face’. The same applies if something is not ‘good enough’. If you are highly successful and influential people, for example, and you have a small private wedding with just a few friends and family, some might say you are losing ‘face’ because as successful and rich peeps, you should have a lavish wedding to show your wealth and prosperity. This is particularly prevalent in Chinese communities (of which I belong to lol) and the older generation.

Since it’s best if I talk about something I’m familiar with, I will explain how a typical Malaysian Chinese wedding is like.

“You are not considered a married woman or a married man if you do not have a wedding dinner.” – actual quote from some Chinese auntie I was talking to 

Prior to the wedding dinner, we have a tea ceremony. Groom and bride will offer tea to all the elders according to rank (rank is important in our culture) and receive blessings in the form of red packets (angpaus). Then the groom will fetch the bride back home. They prepare for the wedding dinner.

Sorry, only wedding dinner photo I had and we all looked kinda fugly after alcohol.

The dinner will usually be at a Chinese restaurant, or a hotel where they serve nine courses of ridiculously lavish sht like birds nest, sharks fin, suckling pig and what not.

Each table seats 10pax, and will cost the bride and groom upwards of RM1,888++ (about 300USD) per table. Why all the eights? Because eight sounds like ‘prosperity’ and we are suckers for symbolism. The wedding, at a minimum, will usually have 10 tables or more. Some big dinners have upwards of 30 – 40 ie 300-400 pax. You do the math of how much it will cost. And that’s excluding makeup, bridal gown, photoshoot or whatever else.

Guests who come are expected to give a red packet. It really depends on where the dinner is held. If it’s a nice place, they can give RM100 (pretty standard in the KL where I stay)….but it’s really up to the person coming. Nobody will point a knife at you and say you have to pay the minimum, it’s just courtesy. Some families of four will come and pay only RM100 for all four people lol. So even though the red packets help a bit, it is usually not enough to cover the cost.

At the end of the day, couples spend at least RM30,000 and above for their wedding dinner. That’s not counting costs for makeup, bridal gown, photoshoot and various miscellaneous stuff.  Heck, I can tour Europe for a month with that kind of money – I’d rather blow it on that than a dinner that only lasts ONE NIGHT. 

Some of you might argue, “Hey! It’s a wedding ceremony! It’s a once in a lifetime thing so it’s okay to be lavish.”

I beg to differ.

In Cantonese, we have a saying: “ngoi cheng yum sui bao”, or ‘If you’re in love, even drinking water will make you full’. With all due respect to ancient Chinese scholars or fishwives or whoever came up with this, the reality of life is not a bed of roses. Starting a life with your significant other is.. well, life changing. Sure, you now have two combined incomes to share –  but with that comes other ‘married life things’ you have to think about. Like getting a house together, a family car, possible children, etc.

However, many traditional Chinese parents strongly encourage (which is a politer way of saying demand) their children to have wedding dinners. Back to the ‘face’ thing, because they want their relatives, friends etc to see that their children are doing well and are able to afford a lavish ceremony….Which is really just putting their kids in debt. Some even have to borrow from their parents in order to pay for the expenses.

Imagine starting married life with no savings, because you blew it all on some wedding dinner for ‘face’. lel 

I’m lucky that my parents aren’t too traditional. They told me I can do as I like, as long as it makes me happy. 🙂

What’s your take on lavish weddings? Splurge coz it’s a once in a lifetime thing and memories can’t be bought, or.. save for stormy weather ?

Let me know in the comments below!

3 thoughts on “No Money No Honey – Starting Married Life in Debt

  1. Hate them! Weddings are all about ‘face’ even here in Kenya. But what makes it worse is when the bride and groom expect the friends to pay for their lavish plans. You will get an email from them informing you that you have been selected to be in their wedding committee. Sometimes you don’t even know the couple that well…it’s like they just pick people on their phone books who may have a bit more money. First committee meeting they tell you their wedding budget is say 2million Kshs. But they only have kshs 500,000. So the committee members have to top it up.
    I think it’s shamefull and stupid. A wedding should be a special day for you and your spouse. I want to come and help you celebrate your special day,not put enough money in it like it’s my own wedding. And the amount of loans? I say if you want a really lavish wedding for whatever reason,you should settle for a really long engagement and save away! Why one would want to spend all that on a day is beyond me. I will probably spend more on the honeymoon.
    Wow…this was long.:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, didn’t know that was how it worked in Kenya!
    I agree that a wedding should be a private affair between two people, and I’m glad that I have friends and family who are supportive of that instead of forcing me to do a wedding dinner that will incur lots of debts and make my husband and I miserable even before starting our life together. People should spend within their means.. a private gathering at home doesn’t mean that we don’t make treasured memories. I mean, I’m getting married, not them!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, appreciate it 🙂


  3. Wedding is just a one-day affair or in some cultures, two or three day affair whereas marriage is a lifetime. I agree with you that it’s so ridiculous to spend an exorbitant amount on a wedding but end up in debt. I know of couples in KL who had lavish weddings but separated six months later and eventually divorced a year later. All that tens of thousands ringgit spent on the wedding and not to mention, legal fees on divorce – what a waste of money! The money would have been useful for a down payment for a house or…a trip around the world which would have created long-lasting memories! 🙂


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