Hong Bao for Honkies

This is a serious question about what to do about those red envelopes of cash for my wedding.

I’m having a pretty traditional Chinese style wedding with 100-something guests who are mostly my fiances mothers rellies, and fo course they’ll all be bringing hongbaos.

Now I’ve also got about 12 friends and family from home coming over specially for my wedding and I’m really unsure abotu how to handle the hongbao issue. It just seems weird to tell them “thanks for spending all that money coming here, now you should give me more money”. Anyone hit this prob and hwo did you deal with it? I think honkies who are already here have no probs paying hongbao, but whatabout those who live right outside Chinese culture. Here’s my pros and cons for them giving me hongbao:


  1. When in Rome… Take part fully in the cultural experience of a Chinese wedding
  2. Everybody else at the wedding will be giving so maybe it would be unfair if they didn’t
  3. It might be embarrassing and a bit weird for them coming in and sort of bypassing the ‘give hongbao’ table.
  4. I’m broke and need the hongbao money to pay for the wedding


  1. They’re honkies and shouldn’t have to follow Chinese customs
  2. They can’t expect to get hongbao back from me whent hey or their children marry in the same way that Taiwanese can
  3. They’re paying so much money and being so nice to me coming so far that I should hardly ask for cash on top of that
  4. They’re broke and can’t afford it
  5. I really don’t know how to ask them

So maybe these are my options

  1. Tell them they should give me a hongbao and tell them the usual ranges
  2. Tell them they should give me a hongbao and give a fixed number same for everyone
  3. Tell them to give me as much or little as they like
  4. Tell them they can give me a hongbao (suggest amount) or not, really no difference.
  5. Tell them not to give me a hongbao.

Someone must have had this problem before, and I’m sure others of you who know the hongbao system would have some ideas. I’m really interested in public opinion on this one and how it might go down if I ask them.


Bri, I wouldn’t even ask them for anything. I’d oviously tell them that it’s the Chinese culture so they know what’s going on on wedding day. But that’s it. Furthermore, when discussing my Australian wedding plans with my girlfriends mother, she asked me “can’t all my Aussue friends and family just give you the hongbao’s?” Yeah right. I’d be branded a tightarse for life. And that’s what your mates’ll be thinking if you ask them for money. It’s a culture thing for sure, but you’ve been embedded in it for quite a while. Try to think back to when you gave your first hongbao and remember what it felt like. Or the first time you got a wedding invite from somebody back home, and they had that little card inside saying “we’ll we don’t have a tv, fridge, microwave, bed, so when you buy our gift…”

Holy shit. I can’t believe how stupid some of you whitie are. Your home countries should tear up your passports right now and hand you a worthless local green one. And if you are an American… for shame. Grow a pair of ball why don’t you? What are you? A fucking ***** ? Stand up and act like a man since you obviously aren’t one.

Originally posted by Thomas Jefferson: Holy shit. I can't believe how stupid some of you whitie are. Your home countries should tear up your passports right now and hand you a worthless local green one. And if you are an American... for shame. Grow a pair of ball why don't you? What are you? A fucking ***** ? Stand up and act like a man since you obviously aren't one.



My guess is that your Taiwanese in-laws will appreciate that as foreign guests, who have travelled around the world to attend your wedding, your friends and family are outside the hong-bao loop. As you point out - the hong bao system is based on the sense that what you pay out as a wedding guest will someday come back to you as a wedding host.

Of course the awkward moment is when your guests arrive at the wedding. I agree that you can’t ask them to pay out a hong-bao, they’ve already done enough just getting there.

Perhaps what you could do is prepare some hong-bao’s for them. Put whatever your girlfriend thinks is a reasonable amount in the hong-baos, give them to your foreign guests, let them present them at the hong-bao table - to satisfy the custom. What you have done is help everyone keep face, and in effect circulated your own money right back to you.

I disagree that they should pay nothing. Only a real tight arse would go to a wedding without giving a present. NT2000 used to be the norm for western friends - I paid it at weddings in Taipei when I was there. For people coming from afar, why not just make the amount a token gesture - NT800, or even NT8 ? I can appreciate some of these people may have impoverished themselves buying plane tickets, but if you were getting married in your home country wouldn’t they buy you a wedding present ? Are they really so tight that they wouldn’t put

Hey, ABC, I’m DEF, cute name though. Thought that one was funny about you really liking the English language. Probably have a name such as Paul ABC or is it ABC Chun. Anyways, little ABitchC, I’m not a troll, but your mom is. You see, what we are going to start is a little game of, “I know you are but what am I…”. You would not know this game as you are only a wannabe tryhard in NorthAmerican, not a real citizen.

Regarding the guy gettign married. You will have nothing but trouble the rest of your life if you follow the wishes of your inlaws. Take a page from my book and lay down the ground rules now. They may not like it at first, but you are a man, and you should start acting like one. Demand respect, don’t try to earn it.

ABCGuy, I’d suggest you ignore him. WAY too obviously a troll, and if you give in and respond, he’ll just be getting what he wants.

Bu Lai En ,

Most people bring something to a wedding whether it is in the form of a gift or money. So heres my advice. Give your family and friends a run down of what will happen during the wedding and the banquet. When you start talking about the Hong Bao issue let them know this is a local custom and they can choose to follow or not it’s their choice.


If the money to pay for the wedding banquet is an issue in terms of these people “covering their share”, you might have a problem. But beware Chinese people not covering their share too – we had this situation at our Taipei wedding a couple of years back – my husband’s co-workers turned out to be super cheap and we just barely broke even thanks to a few generous (“normal”) hongbao which were from – amazingly – foreigners!! The only explanation I can come up with is that they thought we (being foreigners) would not “mind”, or something…??

So go figure! The ironic part was that we were more or less ‘forced’ to hold a Chinese wedding to satisfy the company’s desire, not because we ourselves particularly wanted one.

I mean, a whole bunch of Chinese people coming to a wedding and putting in like NT$600 apiece? Come on! I never did say anything to them but boy was it tempting.


Thanks for most of the repleis here.

To clarify a point, this has nothing to do with my inlaws. I can make the decision here. We’ve already agreed that I pay for everything and collect all the hongbao.

Actually I’ve only ever been to one wedding here in Taiwan and one back home so I have very little experience.

personalyl I have nothing against hongbaos and don’t mind having to pay them. 2 or 3000 once in a while is nothing, but when it comes all at once it’s a lot fo money. I also liek that it means you can invite loads of people and have a real big bash. My wedding guests will really be gettign something for their money.

Finally, I’m by no means profiteeering. I’m going to lose money on this, and if anyones as tight as Ironladies guests and gives out a pathetic 600NT I’m in the real poo.

Still keen on hearing more opinions.


Hey Bri, did you decide on which restaurant. I can’t find the link, so I thought I’d ask you here.


Are you and your husband both non-Chinese? If so, I’d guess that the reason that you got “stiffed” by your Husband’s co-workers is that you guys aren’t in the hong-bao loop. My ex-gf’s father seemed to be going to wedding parties every other weekend, while we were dating. He is an old “wai-sheng bei bei”, and all his mates had kids getting married. You can be sure that he kept track of how much he gave, and which wedding banquets he attended. Later, when my ex got married to a local guy [he RFEFUSED to allow us to get married… long story], he “red bombed” everyone he knew, and everyone whose children’s wedding banquets he had attended.

This sense of “It will come back to you”, is the key to the whole custom. It’s almost like a byao-hui - you pay in regualrly to a big pot, and when your turn comes you get a nice lump some of money.

Generally speaking, guests without a deep guan-xhi connection to the bride or groom’s family will also make a judgement based on where the wedding is being held, as to how much to put in the envelope. If it’s in a PVC/bamboo tent errected in an Alley in Sanchung you aren’t expected to pay as much as if you attend a banquet at a 5 star hotel. Just about everyone knows the going rate for both kind of venues.

As for Bri’s dilemma, where are you planning to hold the event? Maybe you can find a tactful way to economize. Also, why don’t you red-bomb all your mates from Oriented who are in-country. I’m sure they would be glad to come and drink your booze and help defray costs. Remember, by rights, if you get red-bombed by a person you have a significant relationship with, you are still supposed to send a red envelope, even if you don’t attend the ceremony.

Yes, we are both foreigners, but still, (especially in the company he used to work for) everyone knows down to the penny how much things cost, and IMHO their behavior was very, very tacky. Mind you, they did not show any restraint on drinks or the like to try to “accomodate” their lack of contribution to the whole affair. If we, like many Chinese couples, were hoping to set up a household out of the proceeds, we’d still be sitting on the floor without a TV.

The thing that really annoyed me about the whole thing was that the Chinese wedding was practically a command performance FOR THOSE PEOPLE. We would never have had one on our own.

Oh well.



I hope you didn’t get the impression that I DON’T think that those guys stiffing you was anything but tacky. I agree 100% - I was just venturing a guess as to why they violated the custom so badly.

Sorry that you guys had such a bad experience…

I think your guess is probably pretty accurate. Anyway, we didn’t regard it as anything other than tacky. At least they didn’t shower us with their idea of appropriate “Western wedding gifts”!!


I don’t know if it is the custom in the US - but most people getting married in “English” english counties have a “wish list” at a store somewhere. You make a call to the brides mother to find out where.

So it is not such a big deal - just tell your friends that the custom here is to give money in a red envelope, and if they are not comfortable with that they can give you a toaster or whatever.

Speaking of appropriate gifts, has anyone else ever gotten a nose hair trimmer as a gift?

Amos, I decided on a vegetarian restaurant, so it might not quite be up your alley. It’s called ‘Spring’ and is apparently the best vegetarian restaurant in Taipei. We’re going for their top-priced banquet too, so we may be broke, but we’re not cheap. If our guests were as stingy as Ironlady’s, giving us 600 each, we’d eb losing a lot of money on each guest.

A tip for you mate. Considering how dull wedding’s are here, I suggest you have an after party. You probably know there’s a custom (sometimes followed) of good friends and close family following the couple into ‘bridal bed’ (usually at a hotel) and basically partying. Well this is a great chance for a good drunken after party that your foreign mates will really appreciate. We got a great venue to. Royal Hotel (a 5-star) next to the Formosa Regent on Zhongshan N Rd has their ‘Royal Suite’ (basically their Presidential) for 37000NT. We got a discount down to 9000, which is a pretty good deal for a luxurious 36 ping suite we thought. I give you this tip ont he condition that you don’t have a party there before ours in July (you might ruin it for us) and with the proviso that they might not let foreigners have wedding partie there again after ours

Rian, I was wondering that in western countries you usually give gifts so it’s not much different anyway. Do people usually spend much moneyon this, or is it all toasters?

I’m thinking, that I’ll go the route of saying “custom here is for red envelopes not gifts, so we’d like that better and here’s the usual amount, but if you really don’t like giving cash give us a gift, and if you can’t afford it don’t worry about it, it’s good enough that you came”.


I like the idea of explaining the situation to your guests, telling them ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’, and then giving them hong bao in advance. Your foreign guests can then ‘fit in’ without feeling like they are being hit up for money. If they want to they can top up the hong bao with extra money and thus make a real contribution to the wedding. If they want to give gifts, then they can also do that, and at least the hong bao is already taken care of.

You are going to be sending them formal invitations anyway, right? Just include the hong bao with the invitations. The hong bao will look appropriately ‘Chinese’, making your invitations look kind of cool. And your guests won’t have to worry about not fitting in with the custom.

Anyway, with your guests only comming out here for the wedding, how on earth are they even going to find the silly bloody red envelopes if you don’t supply them yourself?

Makes sense to me.