At what point in the recent past did weddings in Singapore became a transaction? Sabina Fernandez has turned into a wedding dodger to avoid the commercialisation of the “I do.”
It was an average wedding. Five-star hotel in Orchard. Thursday night. Around $150 would cover the cost of my seat, I determined, all factors considered. The bride and groom were not close friends, but it was kind of them to invite me. I arrived and dropped the double happiness ang pao in the box.
During dinner another long-term acquaintance I hadn’t seen in years cornered me: “So…. Sabina…. Married? Single?” I felt my face get hot and red. This guy clearly lacked social graces. “What happened to your boyfriend, the one you brought to the last wedding?” Smug Married probed, skin thicker than my fillet of cod. He didn’t know about the breakup. Which is exactly why he shouldn’t have asked.
Attending weddings stag was hard enough without having to bear the interrogation of a smug married. “It didn’t work out,” I managed. And swallowed hard.
An hour later, it was all over. The meal was average at best. There was no dancing as everyone took off immediately after dessert. I caught up with one or two old friends. The speeches were neither emphatic nor moving.
It was a below average wedding. And I found myself walking out of a hotel dolled up to the nines, feeling very unsatisfied at 11pm.
There was something very wrong with this picture. In the taxi home a thought entered my mind: that $150 I put in the ang pao could have been spent on a dinner at a great restaurant with friends I wanted to talk to. Friends who had manners.
That was a sad thought. I am not calculative person, but after feeling pressured to slot the “market rate” into the wedding ang pao, I found myself viewing it in terms of value. And a below-average wedding replete with rude smug marrieds was not good value.
At what point in the recent past, did weddings in Singapore became a transaction? I don’t know how, but it certainly began with market rate per-head-payment, covering your seat, and replacing traditional wedding gifts for cash. For close family members I’ve always preferred sincere gifts. An elegant bit of homeware from Jim Thompson; his and hers matching silk bathrobes; a hand-painted portrait of the couple; or (and this one is getting more common) the cost of the flight and hotels at their exotic destination do.
With a gift you’re not doing so much counting. You decide how much you want to spend. There’s no pressure. It’s more a “thank you for having me” than a “I don’t want to embarass myself by giving too little” affair. There is no market rate for gifts. And that’s the beef – the expectation kills the sincerity. Especially if they’re work colleagues inviting me out of obligation.
The reality is that many of the invites I received aren’t even genuine. Those, “well if we invite Paul and Shelly then we have to invite Sabina” things. And I understand, I really do, it’s sweet of you to want me to feel included. But don’t then have your special day at the friggin St Regis so I have to fork out $250 – and if you must at least make sure the food’s good and the DJ is rocking.
One time I arrived at a wedding only to discover to my horror, that it was vegetarian and alcohol-free. This detail was not made clear in the invite. Can you imagine?
I don’t want to be that person who fumes in the cab ride home regretting the amount I slid in the red packet and sending bad vibes at the happy couple! That’s just not cool. So, to avoid the negativity, I’ve become a wedding dodger. This is the opposite of a wedding crasher. If you’re not a very close friend, I say thank you, congratulations and RSVP “No” so I can wish you the very best sans ang pao remorse. Much better to let my seat at the table be given to someone truly excited to be there. And someone who will enjoy that arcane, neanderthal throwing the bouquet ritual. Do not get me started on that one.
Then again perhaps, I’m just a wedding grouch. All the more reason to stay home lest I pronounce some depressing divorce statistic after one to many yam sengs, Now that would be real wedding remorse.
Sabina Fernandez is a Singaporean editor and yoga teacher. She has crafted content for Audi, Singtel, Conde Nast Traveller and Time Out and her most popular online article received 12,000+ views in two days.
Most recently she was an editor at Her World, Singapore's largest women's magazine. When not writing, she teaches regular outdoor yoga classes in the botanic gardens and by the beach.
For info about her writing visit www.sabinafernandez.branded.me or go to www.sabinafernandez.com for more about her yoga classes.