by : Nadia Mahmood

How many outfits… will the bride’s mother wear? Will the wedding banquet served be grand enough?

While it starts with the typical comparison of children’s school grades (masked by parents as healthy competition), when the little ones progress to adulthood and there are no longer any academic reports to compare, weddings become that next convenient avenue for ‘peacocking’.

Some say this is the result of our Asian communities having been socially repressed from decades of colonisation. Or could it be just our innate Asian need for ‘saving face’? To prove to others (and ourselves) that our family has ‘made it’ in life.

Everything has to be as lavish as possible and perfectly planned. You’d be forgiven to think this is Bridezilla talking. But dare I say, in the majority of Asian weddings, you’re hearing this voice straight from the parents.

Grandeur flora arrangements that are almost certain to wither by dawn. Professional photography. Cinematographers. The list of things needed to impress guests at (and even after) the wedding is endless.
Speaking of guests, there’s that thrilling question of who will be the guests, anyway?

We can all agree a huge wedding ceremony is quite the toll on the bride and groom’s savings. Rubbing salt to the wound is when friends of the bride and groom make up only about 20% (at best) of the guest list.

If you’re from this continent of Asia, you’d know well enough a huge chunk of any wedding budget is going to be spent on inviting a long list of people you barely know. Your guest list will have to prioritise your parents’ guests. Distant family members, neighbours, the parents’ high school peers, college buddies, workmates and wait… even the sellers from the wet market where Mom gets her produce from!

And when we protest in frustration (politely of course), some of us are fed with the rebuttal that having elderly guests ultimately does not hurt the newlyweds financially. As the more endowed category of guests, the elderly are thought to likely give a higher amount of money gifts which will in turn foot some of the wedding expenses.

Which makes me wonder – wouldn’t it be easier to host a smaller scale celebration that doesn’t require worrying about those absurd expenses in the first place? Despite constantly complaining about how aggressively millennials spend money, baby boomers sure have a weird way of setting an example.

The costs of extravagant weddings could be anywhere USD7,000 upwards. A sum of no small feat, and that takes years to save up. See it from another angle and you’ll realise quickly enough the lavish wedding could have been that downpayment for your first home.

Some parents do offer financial help – to cover the very expenses they insist on incurring. Less fortunate couples whose parents have no means to help financially, resort to taking on loans just to fund their wedding (to pacify their families who refuse to settle for a simpler one).

Fazed with a huge amount of debt as they begin life together, it is no surprise when marital arguments brew as husband and wife blame each other’s family for their financial struggles. The start of a splitting headache for the married couple.

We’re all too familiar with the ‘need’ to step up in our social standing. When will this constant need to impress others end?

Weddings are supposed to be the celebration of new beginnings – two souls connected in love – surrounded by loved ones. No less, and definitely no more.

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