Getting married in Hong Kong can be quite an experience in terms of planning, booking the banquet hall, getting the best deal and preparing a guest list. Newlyweds Michael Wong and Cathy Chan set the ball rolling at least a year ahead of the big event. The hotel for their wedding dinner was booked much earlier than the rest of the nitty-gritty was organised. They also split the workload as both are professionals and have limited free time. 'As it is time-consuming, it is important that we split the work. I did most of the comparison shopping as my work schedule is more flexible,' said Mr Wong. At a wedding expo last year, they paid a 50 per cent deposit for a wedding photo package, and that was at least six months before the actual day. In hindsight, they felt that decision was made hastily and cautioned others about making an impulsive decision at such exhibitions. 'It was pressurising at the exhibition, as they do a hard sell on you, with so many vendors pushing their products. Try not to get coaxed into committing the deposit, which is non-refundable,' said Ms Chan, who took the responsibility for managing the finances. Making the wedding preparations was double the effort for the couple as they decided to have a church wedding as well as a traditional Chinese wedding. That also meant more money. However, they felt the cost was justified. 'Getting married is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it is worth spending the time and money to make it the most memorable time of your life,' said the couple. It is important to work out a budget beforehand and to stay within its limits. There are many costs but most of the money is spent on the banquet. The couple spent about HK$7,000 on the dinner package per table, which is higher than the average price. 'Food is important in a wedding banquet, especially for the elderly. Sometimes we go to an expensive hotel banquet but most of the price is paid for the atmosphere. People will appreciate and remember the food rather than the atmosphere,' said Ms Chan. Most of the banquet costs were covered by the laisee packets the couple received from guests. 'At the end of the day, with the cash we received, we only had to contribute less than 30 per cent of the cost from our own pockets,' said Ms Chan. Wedding costs also involve expenses incurred by elderly parents. The Chinese custom of giving money to the bride's family still exists and the money is paid by the bridegroom's parents. 'The daughter [should discuss] with her parents issues such as how much dowry they want to ask from the bridegroom's family. She will be more aware of the other party's financial capacity. It is a joyous occasion, and everyone should be happy at the end of the day,' chipped in Mr Wong.