Every year a handful of wedding expos are held at the Wanchai Convention Centre in Hong Kong, a huge indoor stadium the size of a standard football court. The expo is gridded with stalls for wedding venue suppliers, photographers, bridal wear, make-up artists, decoration, law firms ‘loaning out’ celebrants, wedding planners, palm readers/auspicious wedding date choosers, and jewellers. There’s the occasional coffee bean promoter, musician and caricature artist for hire, but the former list is the real bread and butter.
I went to the August expo this year because I’m getting married. Prior to this visit, when I heard about any wedding expo events, friends and family would say:
- It’s a scam! Don’t even go! You’ll get destroyed!
- Completely useless endeavour. Don’t waste your time.
- I only go to get the cake coupons. They’re usually 30-40% off.
Despite the discouragement, I was curious and went. Thrice in fact. First with my mom, then twice again with my fiancé. The Asian in me couldn’t resist a good bargain and there seemed to be many. There was a discount or coupon for everything.
It was chill because stalls were just starting to get into the groove and it was a weekday so there were fewer people. The fact that mom and I were two women going also warded off a few of the promoters. Go as a loving couple and get bombarded! We strolled around, asked for a few venue packages (which usually includes a 4-5 hour use of a ballroom/restaurant in a hotel, a set course meal for the guests, and beverages alongside other perks like free centrepieces and a wedding cake), and got a feel of the price range. Note that all this is merely for research purposes because I’ve already settled on a venue, though because I haven’t paid for it entirely yet there’s still a slight chance I can switch over if I find a much cheaper yet better venue. It was a strange day, because we were only expecting to stay there an hour. We ended up there for 4. Talking to promoters and hotel staff took much longer than expected.
Going with my fiancé was a bit more daunting because when people see you as a couple they’re all the more aggressive when it comes to attracting you to their stall. We were dumped brochures into our arms, some even going as far as physically tugging you towards their stalls. Particularly the photographers. We were trying to be environmentally friendly but still ended up with a bunch of catalogues we wouldn’t use. The only thing we purchased, without planning to, were our wedding bands. There was a famous Tokyo jeweller setting up shop at the expo, and I got a v-shaped loose diamond wedding band. From a local jeweller I got my fiancé a thick platinum band. Way over our budgets! A close friend of mine said you could get silver bands in Mexico for 50 pesos each!
The goal of the third visit was to finalise any major items / lock down main suppliers. This included things like
- Wedding day photographers
- Celebrant / Officiant
- Invitations and cake coupons
- Engagement/pre-wedding photographer
- Bridal wear
- Red lucky packets
- Transportation for guests
Venue was set after some deliberation. It wasn’t our first choice, but was available on an auspicious date, was large enough to host the amount of people we wanted to invite, and had an outdoor setting, unlike traditional hotel-held Hong Kong wedding banquets. Good enough. It was above our budget, but we’ll live with that!
Still haven’t been able to lock down a photographer we liked. Even though there was an array of prices for photography at the expo, nothing fit the bill of what we were looking for. We might have to go with the slightly more expensive ones but have a more professional style.
We also booked an officiant. We’ve never met him before so hopefully he speaks in a tone and style that fits our personalities too! We also hired a printing press to do our invitations, and bought a stack of cake coupons for inserting into our invitations.
The other coloured items above we haven’t figured out yet. Everyone is saying how little time have (wedding is scheduled to be in early 2015), and how I should have had everything booked by now. Seriously? But I feel we already have so much done. Plus the legal process (e.g. discussed in myhongkonghusband) is relatively easy compared to other countries. I just want to enjoy the wedding planning process and not stress too much about it.
Hong Kong is crazy about pre-wedding photos. If you browse facebook pages of engaged Hong Kong couples, you’re bound to find an album or two of them dressed to the nine in a wedding gown and tux, with magazine worth make-up and hairstyling, either posing in the streets of Hong Kong or in an exotic location like Okinawa or Paris. In recent years this trend has shifted towards more natural shots, of people wearing everyday wear but posing lovingly in front of the camera. I didn’t realise this wasn’t done in other countries until a conversation with a German friend. In his culture, wedding photos are taken on the big day. Not pre-, not engagement wedding photos.
My goal is to try and not go wild and spend way too much on the wedding. Friends who are married warned me of falling into ‘the zone’ – a mind set where every expensive purchase feels justified, because this is an event of a lifetime. No – the wedding is but a day. The marriage is for a lifetime. I should budget wisely on things like pre-marital counselling instead.
How did you plan your wedding? What did you spend most on, apart from the venue and banquet?
Cover photo credit 99wed.com