Taiwan Weddings: How much cash should I put in the hongbao?

I just got invited to attend my colleague’s wedding and was told that I need to take a red envelope to the occasion. Does anyone know HOW MUCH to give? I’ve been hearing different amounts from different people and could really use some direction (I think some figures are even BAD depending on what they are…)

I’ve attended 7 weddings here in Taipei City in almost a span of 2 years of living here. This is the going rate for wedding banquets.

A) If the wedding banquet is here in Taipei City:

  1. If you’re a very close friend of the groom/bride: NT$3000.00 or higher

  2. If you’re just mere acquaintances or colleagues -
    If you’re attending the banquet : NT$1600.00
    If you’re not attending the banquet: NT$1,200.00

B) If the wedding banquet is in Taipei Hsien or in other parts of Taiwan:

  1. If you’re a very close friend of the groom/bride: NT$3000.00 or higher

  2. If you’re just mere acquaintances or colleagues -
    If you’re attending: NT$1200.00
    If you’re not attending: NT$800.00

Don’t be suprised to get a receipt for the gift you gave. There’s a registration desk which will collect the money (red envelope) before you get inside the reception hall. They will count the money right before you.

Being a foreigner is NOT an excuse NOT to follow this tradition. Remember, wedding banquets here in Taiwan are some kind of “cooperative” business. Meaning, once you get married here as well (and better make sure of that!), you can “recoup” all your “investments” by inviting the very same people who invited you to their wedding!
Yeah. Weddings here in Taiwan can indeed be very expensive.

Wow Harvey, thanks! That was fast! Just to make sure, one of my local friends told me that the money that is collected at these weddings usually goes straight to the couple’s parents and not to the newlyweds. So if I wanted the couple (my colleague/friend) to receive the money I give, that I should give it to them in private at a different time. Is this true???

Based on what I learned from the previous weddings I have attended, the money (or “hungbao” as they call it), which you give as a present to the couple DOES NOT really go straight into the pockets of the parents of the bride and groom.

The money which you give is actually used to pay for the meal you’re going to have during the wedding banquet. It’s something like a “cover charge” for your meal . For your enlightenment, a typical wedding banquet serves a lauriat consisting of 13 different kinds of food (so if you’re going to attend one, make sure you go there on an empty stomach ). That’s the reason why there is someone tasked to “collect” the hungabao (and you’re supposed to hand it in a red envelope ), before you get inside the banquet hall.

The excess amount of money, which is not really that big enough (after the wedding reception has been paid for), are usually spent by the newlyweds for their honeymoon. Taiwanese couples usually go to other countries for their honeymoon.

You don’t need to give another separate gift to the newly-weds, unless you feel like being extra-generous . Believe me, one gift is enough. I know for a fact that even the bride and groom’s best friends don’t give that much. Instead, they usually help or assist the newlyweds during the banquet (e.g. collecting the gifts or handing out wedding souvenirs).

Postscript:
I had another foreign roommate before who gave an appliance (a flat iron) as a gift. He told the couple that culturally, they don’t give money to newlyweds. He had to justify his gift when he handed it over to the couple (which I find embarassing!) . As they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Harvey, thanks for the information. I think my real delimma is that I work in a rather LARGE office, and I don’t know all of my colleagues THAT well, yet I do get invited to weddings, and also I often receive sticky rice/chicken boxes every time someone has a newborn child (which also seems to happen a lot). While I am certainly happy for everyone’s good fortune, at one point I was paying out more than I could really afford, and to colleagues that quite frankly, I really didn’t know that well. Sometimes I felt that THEY felt awkward inviting me as well but were compelled out of politeness so as not to offend me as a colleague. I guess what I was hoping you or someone would say is, it’s OKAY not to give red envelopes, or to give less than others, but then that puts me in a really awkward position. I don’t know. It gets rather frustrating, at least for me. And… I don’t plan on getting married OR having kids any time too soon, or soon enough to have my ‘gift-giving’ contributions reciprocated!

Well, we’re exactly on the same boat Emily. I also work for an EXTREMELY LARGE company, so it’s like everyone’s a part of the “family.”

How did we resolve this dilemma?

Well, I personally opened up to one of my closest colleagues in the office and told her that I think I can’t give to people whom I hardly know, or whom I haven’t even talked or worse, never seen at all (even though they’re just around the office). One time, my colleague and I agreed that we won’t give money to a colleague who just newly gave birth (because she’s a top-ranking manager,and doesn’t need money .Besides we don’t personally know her and have not even met her).

Unfortunately, when they passed the hat, I felt embarassed to “lose face” so I gave my share. But my Chinese colleague stuck on to her word and our agreement. Hurriedly, I approached the girl who took charge of “collecting” the money and told her that I want my money back because, as I said, I only know the girl who gave birth by name.

And it was not only me who thought this way but other people too, who were “shy” to voice out their opionions since they don’t want to “lose face.” Word just got around (of course, without me being attributed for this discussion ). Until finally we got the consensus of most people (though not all).

So what we do now in the office is determine whether people are interested to join in the wedding or not. Now, people are consciously consulting other people whether to send out invitations to everyone or just be selective. Both the invitee and inviter have become careful about this since everybody has opened their eyes to the fact that, it’s not really nice to make “business” out of your own special moments in your life. We only invite people, who are close to us in the workplace (just imagine yourself giving only to your immediate relatives) .

I just had this conversation with my boss and to simplify things…the accepted amount is 1200 NT for co-workers.

I’ve been invited to a Taiwanese wedding for someone who works for me and I’m not sure how similar this would be to a US wedding. How much should I give as a gift? I should probably note that I’m his boss’ boss so will be the most senior person there from work. What do guests wear? Are guys in suits and women in fancy, cocktail dresses? Any faux pas - either in attire or anything else - to avoid? For what it’s worth, it’s on a Saturday in Taipei in a nice hotel. Also, someone mentioned to me that senior people make speeches… do I have to prepare something or is someone pulling my leg??? Also, it starts at noon. How long do these events last?

Are engagement parties the same? I just got invited to one of those as well. Also on a Saturday in Taipei in a nice hotel.

[quote=“Mr Pina”]I’ve been invited to a Taiwanese wedding for someone who works for me and I’m not sure how similar this would be to a US wedding. How much should I give as a gift? I should probably note that I’m his boss’ boss so will be the most senior person there from work. What do guests wear? Are guys in suits and women in fancy, cocktail dresses? Any faux pas - either in attire or anything else - to avoid? For what it’s worth, it’s on a Saturday in Taipei in a nice hotel. Also, someone mentioned to me that senior people make speeches… do I have to prepare something or is someone pulling my leg??? Also, it starts at noon. How long do these events last?

Are engagement parties the same? I just got invited to one of those as well. Also on a Saturday in Taipei in a nice hotel.[/quote]

I’d guess between NT6,000 to 10,000 depending on how well you know the guy and how much money he thinks you’re making.

For the dress code, a suit with tie will do. You’ll probably see some people in t-shirts and flip flops, but in general if it’s in a fancy hotel in Taipei City, most people will dress quite formally. I always wear a suit, unless it’s a open-air street wedding. (the kind with strippers)

Weddings often include senior managers, lawmakers and other high profile people to make the wedding couple seem important. These bigwigs often step up to make speeches to make their appearance even more obvious, and although it’s common that they forget the names of the couple being married, their speeches are always filled with compliments about how hardworking and awesome the newlyweds are. I’d almost like to attend this wedding to see how you’d handle the speech. You could probably get away from it being a foreigner, but I’m sure they’d appreciate a speech if you had it prepared.

These things usually lasts around 2 to 3 hours. When the last dish is served you’ll see people starting to pack up, and when the wedding couple is standing at the door with a big basket of candies to give to departing guests, the party is over. Get your candy, photo with the couple and get outta there.

My impression of engagement parties is that they’re smaller affairs for people not considered close enough to invite to a wedding, or for people who aren’t able to attend the wedding. Have only attended one of those, and it was just like a dinner.

[quote=“elburro”]I’d guess between NT6,000 to 10,000 depending on how well you know the guy and how much money he thinks you’re making.

For the dress code, a suit with tie will do. You’ll probably see some people in t-shirts and flip flops, but in general if it’s in a fancy hotel in Taipei City, most people will dress quite formally

My impression of engagement parties is that they’re smaller affairs for people not considered close enough to invite to a wedding, or for people who aren’t able to attend the wedding. Have only attended one of those, and it was just like a dinner.[/quote]10,000 is probably too much, even if you’re the boss’s boss. I’d say between 3,600 to 6,000 should be alright.

Even in Taipei City, a tie is optional. Doesn’t hurt though, especially for the speech bit.

An engagement party is for the bride’s family and friends. They can be quite elaborate affairs, very similar to a wedding, with red envelopes, etc. Not everyone has a separate engagement party though. Many people roll the engagement and wedding into one. But even so, it’s only the bride’s side who get the wedding cookies. The groom’s family and friends don’t.

no odd numbers, no fours, and no nines. so, 4499 is right out.

4500 is also right out, as the number 5 is odd, and the number 4 reminds people of death (a near homophone)

2,000 is OK. 3600 is OK. 20,000 is even better (but might be best reserved for close family unless you really want to buy a lot of guanxi).

Was at one at the weekend, private students son. I’m quite friendly with the family.

Big deal in a big hotel, expensive looking 12 -course meal and strolling babe violinists. A Brigade-of-Guards stylee procession under an arch of sabres at one point. :eh: Might be a Taiwan tradition but I think they just creatively co-opt any kitch they fancy from around the world.

I was told no odd numbers (this is probably well known but no one’s mentioned it so I thought I should. [Edit: Sorry, posted B4 I saw the above post] and no 4’s (= The Grim Reaper). I went for 2k, which I hope is OK. At the last minute realised I didn’t have a red envelope, and had to use a Mitsukoshi gift token one, which got a laugh from the rather over-hyped groom.
(I didn’t think of 7-11 :doh: and got quite damp running around looking for red-envelope emporia in my suit.)

Awful lot of good French wine wasted by bottles being opened just for token-toast amounts. I captured a couple at the end, which (along with “doggy bags”) is apparently perfectly acceptable behaviour here, even at a big swanky formal event.

They tend to cut you quite a lot of slack, faux-pas wise. I wouldn’t sweat it too much.

give 'em something with an ‘8’… like 1888, 2188, 2888, etc. if you spare the coins, 1800, 2800, should work well.

Not sure if this was mentioned before, but if you’re taking another person to the banquet who is not an invitee herself or himself (usually your spouse or girlfriend/boyfirend), it is expected that you put a few hundred more NT in the envelope to cover some of the expenses for that person.

For exampe, if you would consider 2,000 or 2,200 the appropriate amount for the occasion if you attended on your own, then you would increase the amount to 2,600 or 2,800 if you bring your spouse. Of course this does not apply exactly if your spouse has been formally invited too (eg he or she is a colleague of the bride or groom too). In such case, I would go with 4,000 to be safe.

:astonished: BAD number! :no-no:

No 4 no 9, plz.
:lmfao:

I think the “no number 4” is not a strict rule when it comes to the red envelopes. At least, I’ve seen plenty of red envelopes given out by Taiwanese people that contained 4,000 or 4,800, etc. Of course what you will never see is 4,444 NT. But the number 4 as such is not necessarily evil when it comes to money in an envelope, especially in combination with “good” numbers such as 8.

Wow: an August 2000 post followed by an October 2010 post! Is this a record?

does that mean 2K TWD in 2000 should now be adjusted for inflation?

no, weddings are getting cheaper (and wages haven’t moved an inch in that time either).