Brace yourself, brides and grooms-to-be: it ain’t cheap to get married. Unless you’re rolling in dough like Mandopop king Jay Chou, who reportedly dropped NT$23 million (S$1 million) on his wedding ceremony alone, chances are you’re going to need some financial advice for the big day. Read on for an estimate of the total costs involved, plus tips on how to plan your dream wedding on a budget.
So you’ve popped the question to your partner and the two of you are now preparing to walk down the aisle together. Congratulations! We wish you a happy and lasting marriage.
Before you dive headlong into wedding planning though, stop to take a look at your finances first. Be honest: how much combined savings do the two of you have? How much of it are you prepared to spend? Can you and your partner come to an agreement on what your “dream wedding” would look like? More importantly, will you have enough money left after your wedding to pay for your house and (future) children?
Ask these questions so that you can start your marriage on the right financial footing, and not end up saddled with debt by the time the party is over.
Here's our mistakes. Don't do the same.
We asked 14 Singapore finance bloggers to share what they would do if they could go back in time and invest their first $20,000. They can no longer rewind time, but you can learn from their experience and hopefully start with a better footing.
Wedding 101: How much does it cost?
We’ve drawn up a list of all the estimated costs to give you a better idea of how much a “typical” wedding is going to cost, and how much you’re likely to spend on your own.
Let’s take a look at the cost breakdown by category.
Bridal Package: $3,000 – $10,000
For many couples, wedding prep begins with the hunt for a suitable bridal package, be it by attending bridal fairs or enquiring directly with the desired bridal studio. In most cases, couples will opt for a bundled package to cut costs and save themselves the hassle of taking care of nitty-gritty details like evening gowns, tuxedos, hair stylist, makeup artist, bridal car and so on.
These bridal packages are convenient all-in-one solutions, so be prepared to pay anywhere between $3k to $6k. If you’re inclined towards designer labels such as Margaret Brides, Irene’s Creations, Amanda Lee Weddings and Silhouette the Atelier, be prepared to pay even more – prices can shoot up to well over $10k.
Photo Shoot: $1,000 – $10,000
Next up: the pre-wedding photo shoot. Depending on your choice of photographer and photo shoot location (local or overseas?), the cost can vary drastically. While some photographers charge by the hour (budget at least $200/h for a good freelancer), many professional companies prefer to charge a flat rate of between $1k to $4k for photo shoots based in Singapore. Needless to say, if you’re flying overseas for the shoot, get ready for a much higher bill, especially if you’re engaging a hot-in-demand photographer.
Dowry: $5,000 – $20,000
Applicable to traditional Chinese weddings, the dowry (given by the groom to the bride and her family) typically comprises jewellery, betrothal gifts like candles and pig trotters, wedding cakes, generous red packets, etc. Budget at least $5k for this, or more if you want to impress your prospective in-laws.
Solemnisation: $3,000 – $5,000
Known in the local vernacular as ROM (short for “Registry of Marriages”), your solemnisation ceremony is, in the eyes of the law, your “official” marriage. Set aside around $5k for this, to cover the costs of gown rentals, floral arrangements, a photographer and/or videographer, as well as a lunch or dinner reception for your guests after the ceremony. Also, although licensed solemnisers do not expect to be paid for their voluntary service, you should still give your solemniser a token of appreciation as a goodwill gesture.
Wedding Bands: $2,000 – $4,000
With this ring, I thee wed. No wedding would be complete without the symbolic exchange of rings between the couple. While it is possible these days to bag a pair of simple bands at a modest price tag of $500, not every couple is willing to settle for such a “cheap” option. As a general rule of thumb, be prepared to fork out at least $2k for a pair of “standard” wedding bands, and at least $10k for premium high-quality rings set with precious stones.
Church Wedding (optional): $1,500 – $10,000
Unless you belong to the Christian or Catholic faith, a church wedding is optional. However, church weddings have become increasingly popular amongst young couples in recent years. If you’re lucky, you might get away with a booking fee of $1,500. Otherwise, if you’re particular about getting married in style at a beautiful cathedral, the bill can go up to $10,000 or more.
Wedding Banquet: $30,000 – $50,000
Now to get the main show on the road: wedding banquet extravaganza! Like the pre-wedding photo shoot, the bill for your wedding banquet can vary quite a bit depending on your choice of location. Stand-alone Chinese restaurants, for example, tend to offer cheaper rates (sometimes as low as $800 per table), whereas posh hotels like St. Regis and Capella charge at least $1,500 to $2,000 each for minimum 25 tables for weekend bookings. Quite obviously, you’ll likely be blowing the bulk of your cash on this part of the wedding.
Photographer and Videographer: $2,000 – $10,000
Considering it’s your big day, you’ll definitely want at least one photographer and one videographer on hand to capture the event highlights and heart-warming moments. Although some bridal packages already include photography/videography services, many couples prefer to play it safe and hire additional manpower, just in case. (After all, you’ll want good visual mementos for you to reminisce over in future.) Note that some high-end companies can charge up to $10k for their photo- and video-editing packages.
Honeymoon: $4,000 – $10,000
Finally, after all that wining and dining and entertaining, it’s time to hit a dream destination for your well-deserved honeymoon. Where’s it to be? Depending on your remaining budget and travel savviness, you could choose to either head to nearby ASEAN countries for a budget-conscious honeymoon that’s sub-$5k, or splurge on popular, more exotic (and of course far more expensive) destinations like the Maldives or Europe.
The total cost is…
From dowry and photo shoots to bridal packages and honeymoon plans, it’s clear that all these wedding expenses add up quickly.
Ready to see the total bill? (Drumroll, please.)
A “typical” Singapore wedding costs a minimum of $50,000, and can easily go up to $130,000 or more if you’re not careful.
To put that in perspective: with the same $50,000, you can pay the 10% downpayment for a four-room HDB flat in a mature estate.
Bear in mind that this ballpark figure does not include other miscellaneous expenses, such as the engagement ring (which we assume you’d have bought prior to the proposal, using at least three months of your monthly salary – ouch!), angpows for your entire wedding entourage, event decorations, alcohol, wedding favours and so on.
For an average Singaporean with a gross monthly income of $3,770, it’s going to take around 3 years of saving before you can afford to get married. That’s assuming you diligently save 50% of your take-home salary every month.
We know, it’s almost enough to make a grown man weep. If you suddenly feel like eloping after reading this, we totally understand.
But I still want to get married. So how?
Still want to get married? Boy, you’re made of tougher mettle than most.
From here, you have two options.
1. Go for an unconventional wedding, tradition be damned.
Isn’t it ironic that the actual solemnisation costs practically nothing, whereas it’s the associated social conventions (like dowry and banquet) that cost a bomb? It really doesn’t make sense to us, but that’s tradition for you.
No wonder a close friend of ours recently joked that he and his bride-to-be are going to “just rent a few PS4s and Xbox Ones and invite everyone for a big wedding bash at home”. If you ask us, it sounds like a great idea – the wedding will be just as fun, but at a much more affordable price tag.
2. Plan your wedding responsibly.
With careful budgeting, it’s possible for you and your partner to achieve the “dream wedding” that both of you want without busting the bank account.
Here are some cost-saving tips you could try:
- Before you start wedding planning, have a candid chat with your spouse-to-be to set a comfortable budget for your wedding expenses. A possible guideline could be:
Bridal package: 15%
Wedding ceremony: 5%
Wedding banquet: 60%
Stick as closely to your planned budget as possible, and try to make sure you’re both on the same page about what you expect from the wedding. Open communication is key.
- Start planning early. Hotels sometimes offer early-bird promotions for wedding banquet packages, so take advantage of those. Similarly, if you know you’re headed for an expensive honeymoon destination, book your air tickets and hotel accommodation as early as possible to avoid any last-minute surcharges.
- Hone your negotiation skills. Assuming you’ve narrowed down on your banquet venue, try negotiating with your wedding planner for the best possible bargain. Hotels tend to be quite rigid when it comes to price negotiation, but there’s no harm in trying your luck and asking them to throw in some additional perks and freebies, like complimentary parking, corkage waiver, or even a free wedding anniversary staycation. Furthermore, don’t be too quick to commit to any particular bridal package; shop around and check out all your available options before signing the best offer.
- Lurk around online forums like SingaporeBrides and WeddingForum.sg. Apart from getting useful tips on planning your wedding, you might even score some good deals in the “marketplace” section. Many sellers are brides-to-be who’ve had to make amendments to their original plans due to unforeseen circumstances, so they’re usually willing to let go of their packages at much lower rates. Their loss, your gain.
- Keep the guest list small and meaningful. You might be tempted to invite long-lost friends or relatives to your wedding to help “recuperate” angpow costs, but think about it: the more guests you invite, the more you’ll have to fork out for the number of banquet tables. Not to mention, some guests just aren’t generous tippers. Narrow down who to invite and how many people to expect, so as to keep your wedding a small but intimate affair.
Remember, an expensive wedding doesn’t necessarily mean a better or more successful marriage. Make your wedding memorable for the right reason. It’s a promise to love, honour and cherish each other, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health – but not in debt.
How much did you spend on your wedding? Do you have any other tips on how to budget and cut down on wedding costs? Share your experiences with us in the comments box below!