I'm poor. How much can I expect to spend on a cheap wedding?

I’m engaged, but as a recent MA graduate, I have very, very little money saved up. I’m getting pressure from my parents to have a wedding in spring next year (the best time for them to visit TW), but I think I really just don’t have the money for it. Basically my GF and I want to do something very simple, very small, very cheap since we both have extremely limited funds… I would want to do something well under NT$200,000, but it would have to be enough for probably 50 guests and make my parents feel like it was worth trekking across the Pacific for.

(They have never been to a country that doesn’t speak English, so this is a major adventure for them. Think Bilbo Baggins unwilling to leave his front door. Or Arthur Dent. Incidentally, they are played by the same person. :ponder: )

Aside from paying for people’s meals, invitations, 婚紗照, and the cost of renting nice wedding clothes, am I missing anything? If I do it cheap, is there any chance I can break even from hongbaos, or will people be offended that I don’t have a nine-million-course lobster dinner?

I know this is sort of a rambling mess, but I’m stressed. Please be kind. :pray:

Additional info: The GF’s family is very small, probably only 7 or 8 family members would be there; my family is the same size. I can’t ask either side of the family to finance the wedding for various reasons (all financial), so we’re really on our own.

ooh, awkward. The problem you’ve got here is that the main point of a wedding in Taiwan (and elsewhere, for that matter) is to show off how awfully rich you are and what excellent taste you have. At least your gf agrees with your stance, and that’s golden. She’s probably the only girl on the island who wouldn’t throw an apocalyptic tantrum at the idea of a ‘cheap wedding’.

The people who matter to you just want to hang out with you and the wife-to-be, so I wouldn’t worry too much about impressing the people flying over. Some other people will be offended if you don’t serve bowl after bowl of gloop made with endangered species. Just don’t invite those people. There’s a cost saving right there. Keep your guest list minimal. 50 people is too many if 25 of them are people you rarely even speak to.

Hong Baos don’t help you break even. They’re a liability: every hong bao that comes in represents another wedding that you’ll be invited to, and that you have to produce cash for. OK, that’s sometime in the future, but its something you can do without. In fact, as a weird foreigner, you might be able to insist on “no hong baos”, especially if your friends are also poor, as I suspect they might be if you’re an ex-student.

Accomodation for travelling guests?

The photo thing is probably obligatory - that’s 30K straight off, assuming you keep it brief and don’t opt for loads of prints. Invitations and clothes should be a fairly small sum (<20K), although bear in mind that the clothes offered by the one-stop-shops are a bit dodgy. You might be better off spending the money on a nice tailored suit, perhaps in HK (and take the gf, of course). Wedding cookies are a waste of money. Avoid them if at all possible.

Banquet places typically charge by the table - usually, upwards of 20K per table of 10 for the standard array of gloop. These turn out stupid expensive because people insist on inviting all their high school chums (including the ones they bullied), a few local politicians/mafia types, and their building janitor. But if you’ve only got 20 people, you’ll be fine, whatever food you choose. One option would be to make it informal. Again, as a foreigner, you have some leeway here, and guests might be relieved to attend something different. Maybe take them to a good buffet or 火鍋 restaurant (which I guarantee your family will enjoy). Then, because they’re your friends and they won’t want to just make a quick exit with their box of cookies, take them to a rustic tea shop up in the hills, or somewhere you can just hang out, watch the city lights, and have a good chat. When everyone’s tired, send them off to a five-star hotel. Hint: do all this somewhere other than Taipei, where five-star treatment costs 50% less; you should be able to do all that (or something similar) for NT$6000/guest. For 20 people, plus your photos, clothes etc., that’s well under 200K total.

Caveat: the gf’s family might have strong opinions on how Things Should Be Done, for reasons of Face and/or superstition. And I do hope the family home won’t be knocked down to make room for a bypass while they’re away.

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I thought Hoks girl was not Taiwanese.

Btw, is it really NT20,000 per table now? It was only $5000 or so when I was married 16 years ago and that included the endangered species :slight_smile: . Mind you that was in Taoyuan.

We tried to keep the costs of our wedding down, and it came out okay. Try to budget about 15,000 per table for food (though we went to a fairly nice place in Taipei, it could be cheaper outside of Taipei). That typically includes a bottle of red wine per table. Our experience was, for the venue, you pay for one table up-front and the rest will be paid after the wedding. This should be partly covered by the hong baos. My wife’s family isn’t rolling in money, but we both have generous friends so we almost made out even there (almost…).

We made the invitations ourselves. Did something nice up and printed it out on gold paper. Friends helped out on decorating the place before the wedding.

For dresses, you can find places that will do very basic wedding photos for $20,000 to $30,000 which will include a couple of dresses for loan (you may need to pay an extra 10k for deposit; you’ll get it back). If you don’t want the photos, they’ll sometimes just do the dress loans for a cheaper price. I bought a new tailored suit from the night market for $9,000ish.

Hair and makeup artist was $8k. This is easy to forget about, but you need someone to do your fiance’s make up and hair before the wedding, and they need to stick around to keep everything in check during the wedding. It made all the difference. She also helps the bride get dressed.

We also bought a cake, which isn’t common in Taiwan weddings but my wife wanted it. I think that was $15k.

The venue had a screen and projector, so I edited a movie together for showing to the guests. I think they can usually just show a slideshow of photos but I wanted to do something a little nicer.

We also bought scotch for each table, budget whatever you want for that. It’s not a necessity, but some people like it.

We ended up being out of pocket about $40,000 or so at the end. I’m sure there are cheaper ways to do it, but we wanted a nice wedding still. If you forget about the cake and scotch for each table, it was probably less than $30,000.

I’d say you could break even, but you’d have to find a decently priced venue. Sometimes the cheaper places need a lot of sprucing up to make them elegant, but it’s not impossible. I’ve been to cheaper looking weddings than mine and didn’t really think anything of it. Nobody gets judgey unless you really screw it up.

tl;dr - the only thing you really forgot was the hair/makeup person. It’s easy to think they can do it themselves, but a professional makes all the difference.

We had a lovely, inexpensive wedding. We weren’t aiming to be cheap, just to not fall into the trap of “you must do it xxx way for xxx cost and be like everybody else”. Here are some things we did:

Refused to have the 秘書 (Wedding planner) that comes with the restaurant, and did all the DVD presentation, table arrangements etc ourselves (no balloons, yay!)
Had simple wedding cards done, also tasteful but not expensive. I remember paying about NTD3,000 for them (we had 20 tables). I’ve been to a few weddings recently where people just print their own, too.
Bought candles on sale at Hola and then got free rose petals from the florist where we got our simple bouquets for bride etc from, and made our own table settings with those.
Bought wedding dress from Yahoo auction for TWD800 and then got it restyled, and had bridesmaid outfits made (something they could wear again). My friend is very creative, and we used things like the end of a feather pen as a hair piece. We also had a friend do the makeup. She was great, but we didn’t want “caked-on face”.
Didn’t have wedding pictures taken, but asked a relative to do an oil painting of us as a wedding present (we paid for the materials).
Didn’t have any of that expensive seafood stuff that people don’t always eat or appreciate, esp as we had quite a few guests from overseas, but had a couple of dishes like lamb chops instead, which went down very well. We paid 10,500 a table and people still talk about the food. (Don’t be afraid to negotiate and change the menu, try for a cut or waivering of the corkage. Buy wine at Costco.)
Made our own simple candy packs, with the kids in the family helping.
Had a friend MC, gave parents a chance to make speeches, had family sing.

It was actually fun looking at ideas online, and now with sites like Pinterest, there are tons of resources to find simple but lovely things for weddings. It was also very nice to involve family, rather than people we didn’t know.

I really think this is changing. I’ve been to several weddings since ours, and most have been creative, fun, and not wasteful/showing off. I went to a fantastic wedding at Living One inside NTU. I’m not sure of the cost, but the buffet was nice and the space allows you to do what you want to make a special wedding. http://www.livingone.com.tw/index.php/menu-category/weekdays-lunch-special

Be aware – some people assume that there’s no need to give the “normal” amount of money when there’s a foreigner involved. If one partner is Taiwanese, that might not be as bad – but if you do a double-foreigner wedding, it is POSSIBLE that you won’t get as much money as one would normally expect, so plan accordingly. My (double-foreigner) wedding in Taiwan ended up costing us money, not earning money.

Thanks for the super helpful responses guys. Another question: What rules govern taking 婚嫁 off from work? I’d end up needing to take probably a week off to look after my visiting family… and I don’t have any paid vacation days at all. Is there any likelihood I’d be able to get time off for a honeymoon on top of that?

The hongbao given by the guests should fully defray the costs of the wedding.

That kind of makes sense. The hong bao, after all, is more a loan than a gift. You are, at some point, expected to pay that money back. Going to a double-foreigner wedding would greatly reduce the chances of ever seeing a return on your investment. My wife’s older sister, a known penny-pincher amongst the worst penny-pinchers, dropped by before her wedding to remind us what she gave us when we were married 10 years earlier.

200,000 NT is super cheap?
Holy smokes!
That is just far too much, in my opinion, for an arrangement of any order.

What are the nationalities of the “double-foreigners?”
How much will the marriage document fees cost?

Have you thought about getting married somewhere else besides Taiwan?
Might be more convenient and cheaper to say get married in Hong Kong where you can do all the legal paperwork.

Err, we’re not double foreigners. I’m foreign, my future bride is as Taiwanese as it gets, although she no longer calls it “Skyp-ee.”

200,000 (US$6,000) is a very small budget for a wedding, man, at least if you’re trying to do things with a semblance of traditional order. Her parents are super cool individuals who have put absolutely no pressure at all on us to do anything other than choose an auspicious date (挑日子), so we are pretty unrestrained in our decisions.

I paid something like 100,000 NTD for cookies for my wedding, then again I had 550 guests!

Only in the sense that if some of the attendees at your wedding get married at a later date, you are expected to attend their weddings and give hongbao.

Alternatively, you can just get married without any party. After when you got some cash, you can do the party thing.

Whats the going rate for hongpaos these days? 1200nt per person? I have heard its now 2000nt/person in polite company?

MOst weddings make a small profit . IF you take 1200nt by ten thats 12,000 per table you should NOT exceed in spendings. Food and drink.

Some will give more then 1200, some will give less.

This way you should come out a bit ahead after the dinner.

Pictures taken at the wedding studio are much less then ones taken outside . Maybe 15,000nt or 12,000nt can take care of that?

Do it right and you should not have to come out of pocket for the wedding.

One Taiwanese ex-girlfriend of mine married to another foreigner about a year ago, and just went to the court to get the documentation. They invited me to their one year anniversary party, set a few weeks from now.

The ex was a wedding coordinator and hostess, by the way, so she probably saw through most of the costs.

Only in the sense that if some of the attendees at your wedding get married at a later date, you are expected to attend their weddings and give hongbao.[/quote]

Them or their kids. And not necessarily only weddings as far as I understand it. Babies, funerals, house warming parties as well.

I got married in Taiwan and i think my parents in law made money. We got married at a reasonable hotel. I spent money on the engagement ring, photos etc. but after that the wedding paid for itself and then some. Don’t worry. The Taiwanese are very generous people when it comes to weddings. Just go with the flow and choose a hotel that is reasonable. They are already geared for it pretty much.

I have to say asiababy had a very similar approach to me and my wife.

We got married 2.5 years ago and the costs were probably about NT300,000 or so for 200+ guests, and we HONESTLY had the best wedding I’ve ever been to (and I’m not just saying that because it was mine).

We literally organised EVERYTHING ourselves, and gave our parents zero say in the matter (we simply didn’t ask their opinions, just told them how it was going to be - we had a lot if leeway because we could say “This is how foreigners do it”).

Top tips:

  1. Plan as far ahead in advance as you can, so you aren’t rushing and you will find the best deals. For us this was a solid 6 months.
  2. Secure the date and venue as first priority, because you have international guests, this gives them as much time as they can to book cheaper flights.
  3. Your fiancée will need to do a lot of online research for buying various things.
  4. Don’t use ANY of the traditional wedding industry suppliers. They are all crooks overcharging because they know how much locals are willing to pay. We purposefully avoided all these to make a point that it could be done.
  5. Wherever possible, seek foreigner suppliers or service providers (ideally friends or friends of friends). You’ll personally have less communication headaches, they’ll probably charge less, and it will simply be a more memorable event for local family and friends who may never experience a foreign wedding abroad (my wife’s family still fondly recall our wedding, where other local banquets style weddings are all identical in format, cold and dull).
  6. Don’t expect to make your money back from red envelops. This is your special party. Possibly create a western-style wedding list for people to buy you specific household items as gifts, or have an optional non-registered red envelop table (but do have people you trust on it).

OK now for some specifics on how we saved money:

We opted for Taipei Country Club on Elephant Mountain, where they hold pool parties every year (we had a pool party wedding). That venue I think is no longer easily available for rent and is also too big for your needs. I would suggest you maybe consider a foreigner run restaurant, ideally one near a good location like Fulong Beach with outdoor seating. Find out their maximum capacity. That kind of limitation helps you control the guest list. Taiwanese weddings are typically open invitation, with no concrete idea of people turning up, as well as lots of people you don’t care about or know. Our 200 person capacity meant that after or direct friends and family, my wife’s parents had about 20 seats they could allocate to their most important friends and family. We have heard of some bitching after the fact from some of their friends who were snubbed, but I don’t care, there simply wasn’t enough room :wink:

Don’t go for Chinese banquet style or dishes. I personally only like half the dishes traditionally served, and think they are usually more about presentation than flavour. We went for eat as much as you want buffet style. Of course your options will be limited to the venue’s food style, but go for something fun, solid and western like barbecue, pasta, salad - things people universally like and make it buffet style so people can get their fill. Having people get up themselves for buffet saves you on man-costs for serving, while also increases interaction of people talking in line or while choosing foods.

My father-in-law’s contribution to the wedding was to buy the drinks. There are local suppliers who will sell you trays of beers and allow you to return any that haven’t been drunk. We actually ran out of soft drinks quite early on, which meant people drank more, but this created a great atmosphere as everyone was a lot more relaxed.

Find a DJ if you don’t already know one and have dancing (something lacking from most local weddings). If you can’t afford one or know one willing to do it for free, make sure you spend a long time making a long MP3 playlist of party classics, with consideration across decades and genres so that everyone gets a chance to dance. It may be cheesy, but Prince, Queen, Spice Girls, Michael Jackson and other really pop stuff get the party started along with Jump Around, Ice Ice Baby and other songs like that. If you have other musician or singer friends, ask them to perform, which provides variety and keeps people interested. Tell them they don’t need to give you a red envelop for helping you out.

You do not need pre-wedding photos! It is a complete scam. So many people spend a solid hundred thousand on that alone. Photos you have taken from real moments in your relationship are so much more touching (or funny). We did invest in professional videographers for our wedding and it was absolutely worth it. It cost NT50,000 I think and that got us 2 guys with DSLRs shooting us preparing, and even they had little cranes, dollys and underwater casing. They then made us a nice little music video which we still show everyone as well as a DVD full of footage. It truly was worth the money. For photographers, we asked several friends who are good at photography to be responsible for that (again in exchange they didn’t need to give us any red envelops). You can also hand out cheap disposable cameras to all the tables or ask everyone at the wedding to take photos with their phones and then email or Facebook them to you.

Most Asian cakes are crap. Find a foreign baker who will make you a proper western cheese or chocolate cake (or plan to make it yourself). Or simply buy Costco giant cheesecakes or tiramisu or something like that. My chef friend made us both a 3 tier cheesecake and 3 tier chocolate cake. He made them plain, while I ordered some nice cheap cake decorations from Etsy.com, and put my sister I charge of cake decorations on the day.

Renting is thoroughly not worth it. Buying can be cheaper and less
gross. As with asianbaby, we bought our wedding dress online for around NT1,000 and made some adjustments. For our bridesmaids we bought simple sleek black numbers and tied a red ribbon round their waists. Total cost for those maybe like NT250 per dress. For me and the groomsmen, it was standard charcoal suit trousers and white shirts (while I got a nicer subtle sand shirt from G2000. On top of that we ordered cheap matching polyester ties online for about NT50 each and I found some nice smart waistcoats in Wufenpu market for about NT200 each. So we all looked slick and matching (groom, bride, 5 bridesmaids, 5 groomsmen) for around NT5,000.

We found a cheaper flower supplier online, and bought balloons and a few other things from the wholesale area behind Taipei Main Station.

We did actually go for a traditional supplier, and found the cheapest to be in a small office opposite SOGO at Zhongxiao Fuxing. We went for the least cheesy letterpress design, so it looked classy.

I think that’s it. Happy to answer any questions (specific contact details for any of the vendors) or ask me if I missed an aspect.

The point is, have time on your side, do your homework, shop around, stay in control of your budget and you can creatively find a way to achieve your goal.

Good luck!