Wedding dinners in Singapore can sometimes be a mercenary affair. Even if you never spend more than $5 on meals and always make a beeline for the cai png stall, you're expected to shell out a 3-figure sum in your wedding ang bao whenever someone you know gets married.
Don't be fooled into thinking that ang baos are purely a gift from the heart. In Singapore, your ang bao symbolises your well-wishes as well as covers the cost of your seat at the banquet table.
Though the couple might not admit it, usually they will be praying that you do not make them "lose money" by giving less than it cost them to invite you.
HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU PUT IN A WEDDING ANG BAO?
The first thing you need to do is to calculate the cost of your seat. This varies depending on how swanky the wedding venue is - there's usually a published rate per table for wedding banquets.
Since each table seats 10 guests, divide the price by 10 to figure out how much the happy couple is paying for your presence.
If you're not close to the couple, e.g. your secondary school friend you haven't met up with in 10 years, a distant cousin you never see outside of CNY gatherings, a colleague who only invited you because he felt obliged to invite the entire team… it is considered socially acceptable for your ang bao to just cover the cost of your seat.
But if you're close to the couple, you are generally expected to cover the cost of your seat, and then some. How much more you give depends on your relationship with the couple. Sworn blood brothers deserve a higher ang-bao mark-up than that friend-of-a-friend who shows up occasionally at group gatherings.
Too lazy to calculate? It's OK, we've done the work. Use our handy guide below to determine the cost per guest. The ang bao rates are determined by prices for Saturdays, usually the most expensive day.
If you get an invitation for a wedding lunch rather than a wedding dinner at a hotel, rejoice! Ang pao rates are anywhere between $30 to $50 cheaper for lunches. However, there is little price difference between lunch and dinner for Chinese restaurants.
Can't find the venue on the list? Then give the hotel/restaurant a call and ask them how much a banquet table would cost.
Bear in mind that lunch and dinner prices are often different, while banquets on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays will be higher than those on Mondays to Thursdays.
HOW MUCH TO GIVE AT MALAY WEDDINGS?
While an appropriate contribution will vary according to the cost of the venue and how "atas" your friends are, traditional Malay weddings tend to be a bit more relaxed. The meal is usually served in the form of a buffet with free seating, so you do not need to worry about having to cover the cost of your "seat". Although, this might be changing for some modern families as well.
Generally, a contribution of $30 to $50 is the minimum. On the other end of the scale, the sky is the limit if you are close to the couple.
HOW MUCH TO GIVE AT INDIAN WEDDINGS?
The answer is, it depends on the venue and where the reception is being held. The standard format is for the actual wedding to take place at a temple, and a reception to be held later on, typically at a hotel, function hall or restaurant.
You should generally budget for a contribution of at least $50 to $80 for receptions at temples and function halls.
If they're held at high end hotels, you'll have to give similar amounts to the rates quoted for wedding banquets above.
You should also add a $1 coin to your contribution, as offering a sum that ends in 1 is seen as auspicious.
HOW MUCH TO GIVE AT CHURCH WEDDINGS?
Regardless of race, if the wedding is held at a church, there may or may not a follow-up lunch or dinner banquet at a hotel or restaurant. If there is no banquet, there will usually be some kind of reception on the church premises.
If the entire wedding takes place at the church, you can get away with contributing about $40 to $50.
If there is also a banquet, refer to the ang bao rates in the table above.
ALSO READ: Singapore wedding banquet price list (2019)
This article was first published in MoneySmart.