Weighing the Costs Of A Wedding In Singapore

monsoonwedding

On July 2nd my boyfriend and I received an email which consisted of a close up shot of two grinning friends washed out in the sun and the news that a proposal had been made and accepted. The newly betrothed announced that less than six-months to the day of the email they would be joining the bride’s sister in a joint wedding ceremony in Singapore.

The couple conceived of the event as sort of a Shakespearean comedy: two brides, two grooms, an Indian wedding in a country that is really just a single sprawling metropolis in which chewing gum was once strictly forbidden. For me, though, the unexpected wedding was a tragicomedy of not immodest emotional and financial proportions.   

The pros were many. There were promises of choreographed group dances, and repeated assurances of the close proximity of every Southeast Asian country, perfect for visiting before or after the wedding. Not to mention my own Bollywood inspired visions, which included the groom, all thumbs and left feet, riding in on an elephant, horse, or festooned car — sights I would pay all the Singaporean dollars to see.  

Then of course there was the fact that the groom is one of my boyfriend’s closest childhood friends. The betrothed couple is an integral component of a four couple unit that has spent every Labor, Memorial and coldest winter weekend day of the past two years eating feasts and playing board games in cozy/creaky upstate houses.

But the cons also had their voices. Do you know how long it takes to get to Singapore? Most of the flights in the little Kayak window we kept revisiting promised travel times of between 23 and 40 hours. 40 hours. Forty! That’s 20 viewings of Monsoon Wedding.  

Then there were the wedding dates themselves: the 31st of December to the 2nd of January. Given that skipping family Christmas would, most certainly, lead to filicide, that left maybe three days for travel before the wedding. Not quite enough for a full backpacking adventure. Traveling afterwards, and not making use of the official days-off given by my company between Christmas and the New Year, also seemed like lunacy.    

Slowly but surely, my tortured mulling awoke some sort of long-slumbering etiquette beast, a kind of lungfish that lives deep within the mudflats of my brain and mostly stays buried. After days of deliberation, it lifted its head and said, “This can’t be right … there must be some rule. Six months to the wedding? This wedding on the other side of the world?”

Indeed, according to Miss Manners, that perennial paragon of decorum, save-the-date cards are “designed to allow [guests] to take advantage of airplane bargains that require advance purchase.” The Knot helpfully provides exact parameters, stating that six months of warning is sufficient for most wedding, but that eight months is preferable for “faraway destinations.” “Like forty hours far,” muttered the lungfish.   

Still, vindication in the etiquette department only got me so far. By mid-September, we’d decided that a 20+ year friendship sort of demanded wedding attendance. And so my boyfriend will go.  

Me? I’m still living through the acts of a Shakespearean comedy. Waffling between a sort of “hands-in-the-air, come-what-may I will enjoy my 20s; and weddings; and never say no to backpacking adventures in Asia” mentality, and the cold, hard truth: which is that, given some very adult decisions I made this year, I have almost no money in savings, and a trip to Asia over the holidays runs no cheaper than $2,000.

I’ve always been fairly responsible, committed to saving money. Because of that and a lot of luck, not to mention consumer tastes that shade on the modest side, I’ve managed to avoid ever having to miss out on anything seriously fun because I couldn’t afford it. I may have had to save and plan and take cheaper transportation, but I could go. So this wedding, which wasn’t on my annual large-spending forecast, has somehow become a test of my financial character.

This is the first time I may have to give up something I really want — a wedding with close friends, spending the New Year with my boyfriend — for financial reasons. It’s not the most exciting of milestones, but it certainly feels like a signpost on the way to adulthood.      

 

Y.N. Aleksandrovna is a writer living in New York. 

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