KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 24 ― Dr Farah’s wedding celebration last year comprised three receptions costing a whopping RM95,000 that forced her to take a RM15,000 loan even after getting financial help from her family.
The 30-year-old doctor, who asked to speak using a pseudonym, said that her father had sponsored RM15,000 for the reception at his home state in Kelantan, while her husband’s family spent RM15,000 for their wedding dinner in Putrajaya.
“My mum’s a doctor, my dad’s a doctor and three of us siblings are doctors. If we do a very simple wedding, people will wonder why we are doing a very simple wedding when we’re doctors,” Dr Farah told The Malay Mail Online in a recent interview.
“That was my mum’s thinking. My mum’s function was very grand. There were dancers, ‘silat’ (Malay martial arts) performers, an MC who was hired,” she said, adding that the third reception, which was for her mother’s side of the family in Selayang, cost RM30,000. There were separate receptions for her parents as they are divorced.
Dr Farah said that she and her 29-year-old husband spent another RM35,000 on items like dowry, a jazz band at one of the receptions, silat performers, accommodation for her in-laws who are from Johor, invitation cards, decorations, clothes, wedding rings and make-up.
Despite the exorbitant cost of the wedding, however, Dr Farah said that she and her husband managed to buy a condominium unit in Putrajaya.
Seasoned wedding planners say that the cost of an average wedding, across all races, has soared to above RM50,000, causing some couples to take out personal loans to pay for their nuptials if they are unable to get much financial support from their parents.
At Malay and Indian weddings, food domes, food stations and buffets are common, said Leticia Hsu, president and co-founder of the Association of Wedding Professionals (AWP)
According to wedding planners, the dowry given by the groom’s family to the bride’s side among the Chinese ranges from a few hundred to tens of thousands of ringgit.
For the Malay community, the dowry, or “wang hantaran” gifted by the groom to the bride’s family is between RM10,000 and RM18,000 for low to medium-range weddings, and RM50,000 for high-end weddings. Indian Malaysians, on the other hand, generally do not practise the dowry custom.
Another wedding planner, Nasrul Nasaruddin, said that the average Malay wedding costs between RM50,000 and RM80,000 if it is held at a convention centre or a tent. But the cost shoots up to RM300,000, or even a million ringgit if it is held at a five-star hotel.
“For five-star hotels, the standard rate is RM200 per pax, depending on the package,” Nasrul told The Malay Mail Online at a recent interview.
The founder of Nas Great Idea added that guests usually give RM200 “angpows” (envelopes containing cash gifts) at Malay weddings held at five-star hotels, breaking away from the tradition of giving gifts. If the wedding reception is held at a tent, both gifts and angpows are generally given.
Nasrul, who started his business 12 years ago, said that the Malay wedding reception is typically sponsored by the bride’s family. But if both partners live in different states, the groom’s family may also organise their own dinner. Inviting 1,000 guests to a Malay wedding reception is not unusual.
“For high-end weddings, they will have a ceremony at the bride’s, groom’s, for the media, VIPs. So, in total, three to five receptions. For politicians, they have receptions at their home state where they invite lots of people, up to 15,000,” he said.
Nasrul said that decoration is key for Malay weddings and described previous weddings he has organised, such as creating a glass floor with flowers underneath at the stage area where the “pelamin”, or the traditional wedding dais that represents the bridal couple as the king and queen sitting in state, is located.
“For high-end weddings, the decoration costs between RM100,000 and RM500,000,” he said.
“The trend now is for massive pelamin decoration that catches your eye. Five years ago, it was stiff pelamin decor ― flowers and pillars. Now, they transform the whole ballroom, like turning it into a garden of flowers, a Japanese garden with bonsai trees, Oriental with cherry blossoms, European with Roman pillars, or Minangkabau style, Javanese style, Acheh style, or Moroccan style with a dome and stained glass,” he added.
Nasrul, who mostly plans Malay weddings and some high-end Chinese or Indian ones, said recently that he is organising a “Chengdu style” wedding for a Chinese tycoon next year, with the ballroom lined with a structure resembling the Great Wall of China and transformed into a garden with pagodas.
The lavish wedding of celebrity couple Rozita Che Wan and Zain Saidin on December 11, dubbed the wedding of the year, was reported by Malay-language daily Harian Metro last month to have received a sponsorship of RM13 million.
The newspaper also reported that the actress would receive RM23,200 in “wang hantaran” and a wedding ring estimated to cost RM93,000.
“Wang hantaran” for the average Malay couple can be equally expensive, Dr Farah noted, saying that some of her friends had splurged on luxury watches and handbags that cost tens of thousands, despite not being able to afford them, as the “wang hantaran” is displayed prominently at the reception or ceremony.
“My friend bought a Maurice Lacroix watch, which cost RM20,000, even though he has only been working for two years,” said Dr Farah. “We live in a materialistic world.”
Excessive spending on weddings has also strained newlyweds’ relationships, with Dr Farah observing that some of her friends have even gotten divorced after splurging on their big day because of financial concerns over starting a family, or even buying a car.
Nasrul said that local weddings typically have a huge number of guests, unlike more intimate Western nuptials, because Malaysians fear offending others.
“Malaysians are very sensitive. If you hear that your friend is getting married, you will feel that there is something wrong if you’re not invited. That’s why they invite all,” he said.
He added that he charges clients between RM20,000 and RM30,000 on average to organise the decorations for their weddings, though his fees start at RM5,000.
According to Nasrul, honeymoons for Malaysian newlyweds, which are not included in the wedding expenditure, cost at least RM5,000 for local or South-east Asian spots, and above RM50,000 for trips to Europe, where the popular destinations are Paris and Rome.