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The unspoken rules of wedding dinner red packets.

Hi ladies and gentlemen!

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Today, we will be talking about the unspoken rules of red packets, or ang paos. As guests of our friend’s/relative’s wedding, we sometimes get confused over how much to give for the red packets. After all, it is a matter of “face”—give too little and the host would think you are stingy, give too much and people would think you are “showing off” (although they won’t really complain, unlike the former).

In Singapore, there are indeed unspoken rules of giving red packets at Chinese weddings. Traditionally, red packets are regarded as auspicious, and the act of giving angpaos at weddings is close to mandatory. Somehow, in Singapore the traditional of gifting isn’t quite as well accepted as in the United States. Bridal Shower concepts are also not as common. While the idea of shower usually means that before the wedding, her friends and family showers her with gifts and presents that she will need. Perhaps being Asian, money is more practical.

Annually, there would be lists of red packet rates released by some websites. These are usually loosely based on the costs of a per person cost of the banquet, for instance,

In layman’s term, this amount is known as the average amount you should be giving, or are expected to give. In statistical terms, it is known as the “mean”, and how much more or less you can give is known as the standard deviation. 😛

Anyway, back to the laymen’s terms. In the event that you are on excellent terms with the bride or groom, you can add $50 or $100 to this average amount. Most guests however, would opt to be safe and just give the average amount because it is only polite. In the event that you are a student, unemployed or are not particularly close with the bride or groom, you can give slightly less. If you are a colleague, feel free to give the average amount, but if you are the boss you are expected to give more. The problem nowadays in Singapore is that inflation is rampant and therefore costs of venue and reception are rising everywhere. Therefore, be sure to always check this “list” of wedding reception venues for red packet rates! J

Wedding floral centrepieces

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There is a myth that restaurants and buffet options are cheaper than usual dinner banquets. Many a time though buffet rates are not listed, they often cost the same as dinner banquets! Even if the couple doesn’t select a hotel venue in a grand ballroom, dinners in an intimate restaurant, even with a lower number of courses, like a 4 or 5 course meal, can cost as much as one held in a hotel. This is also true when the couple needs to spend more on the decoration of the location, as most non-hotel venues do not include floral decorations as part of the package.

The next question would be—just exactly how much are you supposed to give? Well, it would be an auspicious thing to give a monetary figure that ends with the digit 8, since it symbolizes fortune and act as a good blessing to the newlyweds. Do avoid the digit “4”, since it is regarded as a dark omen for death! Generally, give in multiples of twenties than tens. E.g. $160, $180, $200, rather than $130, $150.

In the event that you are unable to attend a wedding dinner last minute, you are expected to give a red packet as well, since the couple still needs to pay for your seat regardless of whether you turn up or not. In that case, it would be acceptable to give slightly less than the average rate. This applies too even if you are unable to attend a wedding dinner last minute and informed the couple within a short notice, for instance, three days beforehand. It would be a good practice to give the red packet—it shows sincerity to the couple that your blessings are with them despite not being able to attend, regretfully!

Another recent phenomenon we have observed is that couples are beginning to hold their weddings at unconventional places, such as at a café, restaurants and other unconventional locations. In such cases, how much should you give? In such cases, discuss with your group of friends beforehand, and agree on a common rate. A good idea would be to call up the establishment to find out how much is the “breakeven cost” for the venue, so that at least the bride and groom would not be making a loss!

What if the couple has a church ceremony on another day or has a ROM ceremony another day? Generally if you are joining in the couple’s banquet, some people do not give much, some even not give during the ROM, but give it together in the banquet. However, if you are only joining the ROM, be nice to contribute a token sum.

Weddings are incredibly fun events, so remember to give the appropriate amounts in red packets. If in doubt, it is always good to err on the side of generosity. You’ll never know, some people to keep spreadsheets and when it is your turn, they will return the favour! 😉

Leave your comments below and share what your think!

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