My Take

Opulent nuptials wedded to image

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 November, 2012, 4:16pm

The late Henry Fok's grandson tied the knot with Olympic diving champion Guo Jingjing in a wedding that reportedly cost HK$15 million. The price tag is eye-popping for most people, but judging by the most grotesque standards of conspicuous nuptial celebration, it's rather small beer.

Last year Taiwanese singer Coco Lee and Li & Fung chief executive Bruce Rockowitz splashed out US$10 million to US$20 million, depending on which newspaper you read, on their wedding in Hong Kong. So what, you say, it's their money. Well, Li & Fung's long-suffering shareholders might wonder if they are paying Rockowitz too much, considering how much their stock has trailed the broader Hang Seng index since the onset of the Western financial crisis.

But lest you think it's just Chinese bad taste, well, Chelsea Clinton's 2010 wedding with hedge fund supremo Marc Mezvinsky reportedly cost several million US dollars, including US$250,000 worth of new jewellery for the former first daughter to wear. And Rockowitz is Canadian.

While the rich elite can certainly afford it, most mortals seem to think they, too, need to commit their own conspicuous consumption on their wedding day, during which money is suddenly no object.

After Prince/Princess Charming, the myth of the wedding day being a life-transformative rite for not only its couple but their guests must be among the most widespread romantic illusions of our time. The thing is, there is a big con job going on around the world, and it's called the wedding industrial complex. The mega weddings of the rich serve as the best free advertisement for the industry.

Economists even have a term for this phenomenon: expenditure cascade. This happens when grandiose spending comes to be perceived as normal, which in turn encourages more and more people to open their wallets to keep up with the Joneses or the Wongs.

The wedding day should not be a couple's most special day, or they are going to have a sad marriage. It's the beginning of a joint lifetime endeavour. A low-key first day spent with closest friends, relatives and maybe essential business associates may be preferable. It's a day for the spirit, not about what money can buy.