Keep purse strings tight

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 March, 2012, 12:00am


For most Hong Kong couples weddings are lavish, large-scale events, but for those with a fixed budget, unexpected charges can put a kink in the path to marital bliss.

Amy Wan and Effie Mak provide some tips on how to uncover unforeseen costs.

'Sometimes couples underestimate how much a wedding costs,' says Wan, a wedding planner at The Plan (

Part of the problem comes from an abundance of vendors, photographers, decoration companies and bridal boutiques that persuade couples to order items that are outside the couple's budget or don't match the theme.

'I've seen how some sales staff encourage couples to put down a deposit without them looking around first. The couple realise [their purchase] isn't the best fit for their wedding, so it becomes a careless cost because they lose the deposit.'

To prevent unexpected costs, Wan recommends setting the budget and theme before shopping around.

'If you know your theme and are organised, it's easier to stick to your budget,' she says.

Decorations are another underestimated item since companies usually show the couple their best work. 'You'll be looking at the most beautiful custom-made designs and they are expensive,' Wan adds.

Overtime can be another hidden cost. For photographers and make-up artists, the big day usually starts at 8am and ends at 11pm. However, Wan says any work before or after these hours usually incurs an overtime charge.

Giving lai see or red packets of 'lucky' money can be another big expense. For Chinese weddings, lai see is given to bridesmaids, groomsmen, vendors and anyone associated with assisting the wedding, from the shuttle bus drivers and photography team to the musicians in the live band.

'Just for the banquet, if you have 30 tables, that means you have 40-50 staff who should get lai see,' Wan says. Each envelope contains HK$20, HK$50 or HK$100, depending on the couple.

Wedding planner Mak, at Plus One (, says most couples exceed their budget.

She says couples see samples of wedding gowns that cost far more than they expected.

The number of tables at the banquet can also be a source of a larger-than-expected bill.

'Sometimes parents invite more friends than the target number, and it's too late to say 'no'. So the couple ends up over-spending,' she says.

Mak also recommends carefully checking the beverage package and how many hours are included.

Otherwise, there could be a big surprise when it comes to signing the bill.