NO. We are not expected to give you a Hong Bao during YOUR wedding.



Graphic taken from article: Price of wedding tables hits new high (ST, 13 March 2016)

  • Customs 

When we visit someone’s house, it is usually expected of us to buy a gift as formality.

When we attend a special event or it is someone’s special day e.g. birthday or birthday party, we are at times expected to bring a gift.

During Christmas, exchanging of gifts is a culture in certain extended families.

When we attend a Chinese wedding, or the celebration of a Chinese baby’s first month, giving a packet of Hong Bao of a certain sum is a must.

When we attend our yearly CNY House visits, we also have to give a packet of Hong Bao to anyone who is a young, and unmarried.

  • Weddings woes

Many Wedding nowadays seems more like an event for a couple to prove their reputation and financial capacity to their social and family networks, which loses the essence of what a marriage ceremony is suppose to embody – sharing with your loved ones the long-term commitment you want to have with your partner.

Who gains the most during the wedding? The satisfaction and esteem of the married couple, but also the wedding planning and related industry that gain profits from our current culture of grand-scale weddings.

Then, there are the silly issues of being angry when you’re not invited, because you feel the couple do not respect, or give your face, or do not like you, even though you guys are family members, friends or acquaintances. But when you’re invited, you secretly complain in your heart about being invited to weddings because it means you have to cut a hole in your pocket again or think about what sum to give without looking miserly.

  • Practicality over Reputability

Back to the topic – if you’re rich or you can afford it, It’s perfectly fine to hold a grand wedding and decorate as lavishly as you wish but, I feel if your financial capacity is not suitable to hold such a big-scale ceremony, or if you hold the wedding with a mindset that the Hong Bao’s received are for guests to cover the costs, it is not really worth it, and unfair to others also.

Everyone comes from diverse background – some are poorer, and imagine if their relatives and friends invite them not only during CNY, but also to weddings every single year, they will have to fork out a huge sum of money not because they want to, but because they do not want to lose face, or be judged for not being as rich.

The same also goes for people who carry out grand weddings even though they might not be able to afford it. They do not do a modest one because they do not want to be perceived by others as being short of money. If you want to hold a wedding, do one which you can afford.

It will be great if there would be a new culture where guests are informed that they do not have to pay a single cent.

Why? Weddings are after all your ideas, your planning, your decision, So why should you expect people to pay? Just because it is a traditional custom? Would it not be better to do a simple one and save up the money for a better honeymoon, buying a flat, future house bills, or children’s education.

Weddings are held to share your joy with people, not to make you broke by the expensive costs, or expect others to cover your wedding costs. The same for birthdays. You feel pressured to give a gift to show your appreciation to the friendship, or because your friend did the same as your past birthday.

  • Superficial “value” in, and obligations of formalities

When you buy a gift, you worry if it’s too cheap or if your friend will find out the price when she visits the shop because you fear you might look cheapskate, or your friend might perceive the price of the gift, to the value and worth of your friendship.

But NO, friendships are not about gifts (or social media postings). And friendships should not be evaluated by the cost of a gift. All these are just superficial actions or formalities. It is about the friendship itself. If we really want an item, we can save up and buy it ourselves.

Chinese New Year. The custom of giving Hong Bao’s to every child you visit in the house. Though it is a mutual exchange where your kids also receive Hong Bao packets (only if you have kids of your own), which means you might get back some amount you gave, and you can also give less if you are not that rich, I still nonetheless think it is unfair for individuals from poor background.

I would rather save up the money for financial stability then to spend it on someone’s wedding if I came from a poor background. But NO, I can’t, because it as an expected custom. And I will lose face. And I will look poor.

Christmas is a season of mutual exchange of gifts for some extended families. I give your children. You give my children. I give you. You give me. But can you really guess what the person or child wants? What if they end up receiving duplicate gifts? Or do not like the gift they receive? Wouldn’t it be a waste of money then?

  • Frowned upon when one does not stick to social norms

Even recently when I was invited to a wedding, an acquaintance of mine (not the couple) seemed “very” bothered when I said I was not going to give any Hong Bao when I attend the wedding. To her, I’m most probably this selfish scrooge that only wants to eat the free food with no social norms and no respect for others.

But, I’m actually still going to give because I realised if I did not want to fork out a sum, I should have politely declined the wedding invitation. But I said yes, so I felt I should “cover the cost” as they had already prepared my share of the food.

So yes, because of all these indoctrinated customs, you get judged when you don’t follow them. People think you’re very stingy, greedy, or rude when in fact, you are not, and others have NO right to view you in that manner.

  • Unfair expectations

None of us are expected to give Hong Bao packets or gifts to others, neither should we expect others to do the same during special occasions.

None of us are expected to hold a costly and grand scale wedding if we cannot afford it, neither should we expect out guests to pay a single cent.

I’m not sure when society will start to see the bigger picture of these customs, maybe it will take decades.

If you really think about it.. who is really the selfish one? Your friend that does not want to give a Hong Bao, or the many couples that hold a grand-scale wedding? Or maybe, it might be the custom that brings about this issue.

Let’s put down blind formality. Let’s put down our pride. Let’s put down our judgments. And to end off – NO, you’re not expected to treat others to a meal, nor should you expect others to treat you to a meal.

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Written by: Cass


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Featured images credits:  Paris Chia Photography (website), @Instagram@Facebook























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