SINGAPORE — It is an unspoken rule that is widely practised and accepted: Guests of a Chinese wedding reception in Singapore are expected to give the wedding couple a red packet, or hongbao, containing a monetary gift.
The amount in the red packet varies, typically depending on the wedding venue and the guest’s relationship with the couple.
With some newlyweds choosing to hold receptions at luxury hotels, the going rate for a wedding red packet can range from S$100 for a four-star hotel to more than S$400 for a five-star hotel, the Singapore Brides website suggested.
For some guests facing financial difficulties, the amount can prove to be quite daunting.
Someone who posted on online forum Reddit was in such a situation after the person attended a friend’s wedding at a five-star hotel and left without giving a red packet.
In a post that has since been deleted, the anonymous Reddit user said that they were in an “awkward spot” because the bride had contacted them a few days after the wedding when their red packet could not be found.
“The text was worded politely and seemed almost genuinely puzzled (that) they ‘couldn’t find my hongbao as they managed to find everyone else’s and wondered if it was an oversight on my end,” the Redditor wrote.
Despite facing financial difficulties and knowing that the hongbao “rate” for the venue would purportedly be at least S$250, the Redditor said that they had accepted their friend’s invitation to the wedding because she had been “a good older sister figure” over the years.
On the wedding day, however, the Redditor realised that they were “broke” and unable to “cough up” a red packet as they were “living pay cheque to pay cheque”. Still, the Redditor attended the event and left “without paying”.
After purportedly receiving the text from the bride, the Redditor turned to others on the forum for advice on how to navigate the situation.
The Reddit user explained that they had only S$50 to spare after paying for bills but did not wish to “ghost” the friend since they did not want to burn bridges either.
They added that the bride has supposedly “always been super money-minded”.
‘DINE AND DASH’
Although the original Reddit post that was posted last Friday (Dec 15) has been deleted, screenshots of it were shared on other social media platforms, sparking a discussion on the wedding red packet culture here among online users.
Many people did not seem to empathise with the Redditor’s predicament, accusing the person of “digging their own grave” and being “shameless” for attending a wedding banquet without offering any red packet in return.
Others said that the user should have declined the invitation instead if they knew they had no money for a red packet.
A fellow Redditor commented: “Well, knowing your own situation, why did you even take advantage of her and the free meal? It’s ugly. You basically did a dine and dash on your friend’s happiest day.”
Some people opined that the user should have been honest with their friend regarding their financial situation and contributed a smaller sum instead.
One Redditor pointed out: “If you were sincere and really wanted to go celebrate the happy occasion, you could have at least given a token hongbao and been upfront with her about your financial situation. How about a gift or a card? Even a card could work, how about that?”
On the other hand, several online users criticised the “cheapskate” bride for even asking about the red packet and complained about the “toxic” culture of expecting wedding guests to help “cover costs” for the banquet with the hongbao money.
A top comment on Instagram read: “If I invite you to my wedding I just want you to be there, I don’t expect money, to be honest, because you should never expect anyone to cover the cost. How much you spend on your wedding is your own problem, not others.”
Another Instagram user wrote: “I think the custom should be abolished. No one should have to give anything out of obligation and no one should expect something in return after inviting someone to join them in celebration.”
A handful of users, however, defended the bride, arguing that she might have valid reasons for asking about the missing red packet.
One Instagram user remarked: “The said friend could be genuinely worried that the hongbao got lost. Believe it or not, it is more common than you think as I’ve seen red packets laying on the floor along the corridor or in the lift or at the car park of hotels before.”
After the Reddit post went viral online, the original poster had updated it to admit that it was “100 per cent (their) fault” for not addressing the issue earlier with the bride. The user also said that they have since spoken to their friend and given her a “token sum”, promising to treat her to a nice meal in future.
Debates over the custom of giving red packets at weddings often resurface online from time to time.
In October, a Singaporean couple was berated by online users for asking a guest to identify their hongbao after a wedding.
The guest, who was the bride’s colleague, received a photo of red packets a day after the event and was asked to pick out the one they gave since they had not written their name on the envelope.