My Dispute towards The Strait's Times's Article "Price of wedding tables hits new high."

It's horrific seeing the latest pricing of hotel wedding banquets. It triggers me because we also paid more when we opt to get married in October 2015 (due to the price hike after September of every year). It's worse when you read a bias article titled "Price of Wedding Tables Hits New High"written by our very own local newspapers. Do read the article first before reading mine! Link HERE

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In this article, you will see responses by only wedding vendors who are out to earn money from weddings, consumers who chose to ignore the large spending after incurring losses of more than  $20,000 and insensitive commentor who can say things like "Do it in Johor". It gives readers the wrong impression that holding wedding banquets means getting into debts or needing to spend excessive amount of money and that it is a norm for that to happen.

I need to highlight this in bold : THIS IS NOT A NORM

I am a member of Budget Brides, a facebook community of more than 3100 members now. In this group, there are many brides-to-be who are planning for their wedding within their limited budgets. It's almost an everyday norm to see fellow members posting enquiries of affordable venues. These people should be the target interviewees for the increment of prices. They are the real consumers. Not the vendors. One last and valid point, which couple will openly blame their guests for the losses they incurred for the wedding?

For this post, I will be highlighting my thoughts about some of the statements made in this article.

Statement 1: As quoted from Ms Tan Weiwei, founder of Chere Weddings & Parties "Newlyweds have higher spending power. They are getting married at a later age and have higher expectations from hotels in terms of quality and service."

Firstly, That's such an assuming statement made by a wedding vendor who is trying to squeeze money out from potential clients. There are 3 points to talk about in this one statement.

(1) Newlyweds have higher spending power.
Although it is a fact that couples nowadays earn more income than the past, it is also a fact that the cost of living has increased for couples. The hawker centre opposite my flat used to sell fishball noodles at $2.50. It now cost $4 for the exact same bowl. Can I afford that same bowl? Yes I can. Does that mean I have higher spending power? I don't feel that way because prices are also increasing. The fact is not all couples can afford to put aside such a lump sum of money just for this celebration. We only look at their increased income, but did anyone take into account the increased commitment and spendings which young adults will have to bear nowadays?

(2) Getting Married At A Later Age
Getting married and registering the marriage is cheap. But holding a wedding banquet requires money. Everyone knows that. Therefore for any couple who wished to get married, they will naturally need to plan their finances ahead. Unless you are a rich kiddo, you will most probably be saving hard just to get that $25,000 - $40,000 to have that wedding banquet (and all other additional costs). And that takes TIME. So it's just a viscous cycle because now we need more time before we can "afford" to hold a banquet.

(3) Higher expectations from hotels in terms of quality and service
I am guilty of that myself. But who doesn't? If a hotel wants to market themselves as a top notch 4/5 stars hotel and speaks confidently of their great hospitality, then our expectations as a consumer will be raised. This is just...natural.

Statement No. 2: "Inflation, escalating food costs and a tightening labour market have been steadily pushing prices up by about 5 to 10 percent annually, with industry watchers saying there has yet to be a dip in recent years. The average hotel table price went past $1000 in 2008, before taxes." 

(1) Inflation
Right.... Everyone struggles with inflation. And we cannot expect guests to give us more just because of inflation. Although the recommended amount is $150 to $200. I can safely say that the average amount you will receive from MOST guests for hotel banquet is $120-$150. That's a fact.

(2) Escalating food costs
Well, food prices did went up. But the quality and type of ingredients are not in line with the increase in prices?! In the past (when I was a child), if we go to a banquet that costs anything more than $1200 a table, we can expect luxury food items such as Soon Hock for the fish dish, whole abalone per pax, a decent soup dish etc. 
Now, I hear friends topping up $80++ per table just to get a better type of fish or we are served dishes as simple as double boiled chicken soup or mango pomelo sago as desserts. So I find it even more ironic that the prices are raised because of such food expenses. Isn't it supposed to be cheaper?

(3) Tightening labour market
Indeed, it's not easy to find staff in the service industry nowadays. How much is each staff paid? If we look at recruitment websites, the average salary of a banquet part time crew is about $8-$10 per hour, excluding public holidays or overtime.
So hotels charge us more to cover these costs... Right... fair enough. But is that happening for all hotels? I have a bad experience with a certain high end hotel which hired staff who are not well-trained and ended up spilling wine on my friend. I also experienced how some hotels are understaffed although they promised 1-1 ratio for waiter to table. From a consumer perspective, why are we paying high prices for such services then?

(4) Pushing prices up by about 5 to 10 percent annually
Let me bring in this table of gross monthly income from work for Singaporeans and PRs.
Click to enlarge
Table is a screenshot from MOM website
I calculated the percentage increase in monthly salary per pax from year 2000.
2010 to 2011: 8.3%
2011 to 2012: 7.1%
2012 to 2013: 6.5%
2013 to 2014: 1.8%
2014 to 2015: 4.7%

So now, who can say that this increase in banquet prices is justifiable when the percentage increase in banquet pricing is way above our percentage increase in our monthly salary? 

If we look into the finer details, our salary increment in dollars and cents could be as little as $65 (2013-2014) or as high as $249 (2010-2011) per month. Hotels increment PER YEAR is an average of $60 to $100 PER TABLE (and some hotels insist on minimum tables in order for the banquet to start). So how do we start counting from here? I lost count in the thousands.

Statement No. 3: Median monthly salary for full-time work rose from around $2,450 in 2006 to nearly $4,000 last year - and more are willing to splurge on luxury.
If you ask me, I really wonder what is the percentage of people who will be willing to splurge on luxury? Is that percentage high enough to justify for that statement. Instead the average costing (or some say the "market price") of wedding banquets and wedding services are increasing to the extent consumers have no choice but to accept the fact or do away with it. So if we accept it unwillingly, does that count us as the ones who are "willing to splurge on luxury"?

The most epic statement will go to CIMB economist Song Seng Wun. I will quote you fully.
Statement No.4: Healthcare, funeral packages... and in between, weddings. My advice to couples getting married today? Do it in Johor"
I shall leave this to my readers to comment. To keep it short, this infuriates me.

Let's just say, out of the entire article, I only agree with the statement made by Ms Michelle Tay, editor of online wedding resource Singapore brides. That is "Budget with a potential loss. Anything more will be a bonus". This is something which I highly advocate for!

In my next post, I will be sharing affordable alternatives and venues for couples who are intending to get married soon or in future. Well, it will be helpful if you are a like-minded and budget bride, just like me.

Drop me a like or comment if you have anything to shout out. But all that is stated above are my personal comments.

Follow on to the next post on: Alternative and Super Affordable Ways To Say "I Do" !



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