food. places. people. things. ramblings

New business venture – Chinese wedding dinners?

There has been a comment which had been making its rounds on Facebook lately. Apparently, it was from a couple who had just gotten married. The new wife was said to have sent a message to one of their guests after the dinner, and said that they could not find the red packet (or “love offering” as they so nicely chose to call it) from the guest. The message also blatantly asked the guest whether he did write his name on the red packet, or did he give it at all. It said something like “in the event you are unable to give an offering due to unforeseen circumstances, it is only basic courtesy to let us know…”


My only reaction – S.P.E.E.C.H.L.E.S.S.


I am not sure who should be asking for the basic courtesy in this case.

But I do have my take on Chinese wedding dinners in recent years.

First. It is a business transaction. Sad. But yes.


So this is what happens at such dinners. Guests would attend and give a red packet (with money) as “love offering”.

At the end of the dinner after everyone has gone back, the couple will count the money and pay the restaurant or the hotel. If they are lucky, they receive more than what they pay. So they make a “profit”. Should the reverse happen, of course it is a “loss”.


What do people do to make sure their “business” is “profitable” then?

Logically, you should maximise “revenue” and minimise “costs”.


1) Maximise revenue –

Invite people who will give big red packets. Even if you do not know them or can’t stand their face, it is not important. So, that means inviting your boss, your boss’s boss, and your boss’s boss’s boss. They might not come, but their red packet will come, which is even better. Why? Because they say even if you are unable to attend, you should give a red packet once the invitation card is sent to you. Who is they? Who started this thing?? No idea. This leads to the second point.


[And yes, I only knew of this in my mid-20s, when I was given an invitation to a wedding dinner I did not attend eventually. I thought since I was not attending, I did not give any red packet. I did not know of this rule back then. Perhaps the person would have thought me a cheapskate. But she did not seem any more unfriendly to me after that. Not that I care, actually. ]



2) Still on revenue maximisation, since couples choose their guests, well, they then come up with A-list and B-lists. Yes, I read about all these in a local wedding magazine. Again I was appalled to know that people actually do this (which hole had I been living in??)!


A-lists are the people you invite, on higher priority, first choice. Obligation plays a big part in local Chinese culture I guess. So, the A-listers, other than the compulsory family members and relatives, are the colleagues in your department, your friends, those you “have” to invite.


B-listers are the back-ups, second choice. Bluntly, they are the you-can-choose-not-to-come-but-I-just-want-to-fill-the-seat-so-I-do-not-make-a-loss guests.


I have been a B-lister so many times. Colleagues who sms you out of the blue after 8-10 years, even when you were not even close with them. Friends you do not even remember. Not close like really not close i.e. hi-s and bye-s are the only words in your conversations. When I am B-lister, I reject. If a couple has a C-lister, it will go on and on, until the seat gets filled hopefully.


Can you imagine, in the event someone gives an invitation to his boss, who says he will not be able to make it, that same seat can make even more money! Because the seat eventually gets filled by a B-lister or C-lister, who will also give a red packet because of The Rule.


3) Minimise costs – Market rate

Unfortunately, this is a little tricky.


Again, I do not know when or how, there comes this “market rate” for red packets. If the dinner is held in a restaurant, it is $xx, if in a hotel, $xxx onwards, depending on how upmarket the hotel. So, it is quite difficult for a couple to hold a dinner at a cheap restaurant and hope to receive many big red packets. If they do, good for them. It means their guests more likely are those who genuinely feel happy to attend the occasion for the real sake of attending it.


As a result, I have heard of many couples actually not thinking much about the finances when they book their “dream wedding”, since they think they can “make enough to cover” the expenses at least. But in times when they come into shock and realise they are making a “loss”, I guess that is when they send out messages like the one circulating on the Internet, no matter how rude or how lowly they are making themselves out to be.


As the guest, I should give how much I want to give. It is my gift. If I am close to you, I may give more, but it should not be obligatory. Also, as a guest, I did not ask for you to hold your wedding in a 6-star hotel, so who are you to expect me to pay you “market rate” of $200 for a dinner I do not really enjoy? I did not ask to sit at a table for 3 hours (sometimes with people I do not know), watch cheesy videos, have my dinner served late (usually resulting in my gastric problem acting up), and then still have to queue up to shake your hands when I leave?



If you think about the whole thing, it is really very sad.

It is no longer a thing of I am inviting you because I want you to be there to grace my wedding. Of course, there are some who are still human, but by and large, I am totally sick of such wedding dinners.


The wedding dinner invitations I accepted in recent years, are the ones I really want to go to because I feel happy for the couple that they are getting married. If I do not feel any way close or especially happy for the couple (in the cases of being a B-lister or C-lister), I do not bother going. Should you expect me to give a red packet just because you send me an invitation card, I think you can dream on too. I do not give a damn about such an illogical “rule” set by some dunno-who.


Perhaps the couple who sent out the message should instead feel thankful that their guests grace the occasion with their presence. What if most of the guests did not turn up because they couldn’t stand the face of the couple? Tell me who will be “losing face” then, standing on the stage, shouting yum seng to a half-empty ballroom.


If only people know how to spend within their means, I guess this whole thing of “making profits” from wedding dinners would not come about. And I also say, as guests, we should not need to feel obligated in any way. If we do, then perhaps we should think twice about attending.


Come to think of it, the most enjoyable weddings I have attended were not necessarily held in upmarket hotels. I think many of my older relatives can vouch for this too. After all, it is the company that matters. It is the marriage that is important, not the wedding. Having a lavish wedding and a marriage that lasts only 3 months does not say very much, does it?



NOTE: My old posts still remain at My Baking Blog and my collection of recipes is still available at My Baking Recipes.
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