Wedding Planning During Covid-19: How Plans & Budgets Changed

“Wow, so lucky you do wedding planning during Covid-19. Can save cost!”

Generally speaking, that’s true. Not denying the cost-saving aspect of it. My wedding, scheduled in Nov 2020, will be significantly downsized.

Additionally, I have extra money to re-allocate towards the wedding as my tunang event, which was scheduled during MCO, got cancelled.

I don’t know how much everything will cost yet, but I doubt it will reach RM50-70k originally planned.

If I’m honest, I am… 80% happy and 20% sad about all this. Happy because, yeah the cost will be lower than projected. But I can’t ignore the 20%, which comes from OH I DON’T KNOW PEOPLE DYING AND BREADWINNERS LOSING JOBS AND INCOME AND STUFF. And also, seeing deals I can’t take advantage of.

So I thought I’d write a post about it, to both organise my thoughts and also find people in the same boat (in my experience, writing about it attracts people in the same predicament). I’d like to share how it was like to plan a wedding when you have Covid-19 rudely interrupting the process.

Note: This is written from the woman’s perspective. I’m not responsible for a few expenses, like rings and mas kahwin and stuff. You can check out BalkoniHijau’s wedding survey for the guys’ perspective.

Planning Stage

After my partner sweet-talked me into marrying him, we did the necessary: informing our parents, arranging for family introductions, negotiate on important things like dates and stuff. I am very, very grateful to have full blessings from my parents. In fact, they are very enthusiastic about this whole me getting married thing.

And let me tell you, boy do they have ideas of how they envision the wedding to look like, shaped by tradition and adat and social expectations. I very quickly learned that ‘something simple’ will not do at all.

I tried, but the tug-o-control didn’t last long. And so it was eventually, wordlessly decided: my parents will have their way, and I will fund it. My input is, of course, required throughout the process.

I’m okay with this. It’s quite nice to be able to make them happy (for once haha wait wut).

Before Covid-19:

Before the world changed to what it is today, I was mostly concerned about missing important tasks. So when I came across this wedding planning book – specific for planning a Malay wedding – I bought it immediately. It contains checklists, calendars, budgets (for different events and for both sides) and more.

 

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After Covid-19: All plans, of course, went to whack. Let’s break it down by categories-

Venue + Food

Venue + Food (plus overall event management) is usually the most expensive part of the typical wedding. Wedding organisers will usually calculate it by number of pax, and it is very common for Malay weddings to host between 500-2000 guests.

Price-wise, for a 1000 pax-package, I’ve seen anywhere from RM12 per pax at the low end all the way to RM100++ per pax at the high end (this is VIP, Bayswater KLCC level).

From my research, Venue + Food packages typically include one or more of these additional services as well:

  • outfits for bride+groom
  • hall and pelamin decorations
  • makeup and hair/hijab styling
  • photography and videography
  • invitation cards
  • and more

Like many other comprehensive packages, it’s extremely value for money if you wanted it anyway.

Before Covid-19:

We decided on 1500 pax, combined in one reception (instead of doing two receptions, or one per bride and groom side).

After surveying around, I was looking at venue + food packages that range between RM25-35++ per pax. There were plenty of wedding halls and event spaces that fit the bill, although hotels were out of the picture.

Venue-hunting with my mom and sisters was fun, one of the highlights of this whole experience 🙂

After Covid-19:

We waited until the MCO was over to start venue-hunting again, now prioritising wedding organisers that can adhere to the New Normal SOPs. The good news is we found one, and they are also willing to postpone the event *in case* we have another lockdown.

The organisers are also kind enough to let us book the venue without finalising the number of pax – we have to put that on hold, depending on the situation nearer to date. As of writing time, we are only inviting 100 pax, just family members. If the situation gets better, we may increase that to 200, 300, maybe even up to 500 pax.

I don’t know yet how much everything will cost, but I am allocating around RM10-15k all-in.

Bonus service: the wedding organiser included a photography session and a makeup artist as part of the package.

Bridal Attire

The expectation for a normal wedding is two outfits: one for the nikah, and one for the sanding (reception). The former is typically white in colour and the latter can be super modern, super traditional, anything in between… or even Power Rangers theme.

Before Covid-19:

Price-wise, I didn’t really set a budget. I knew I like value for money more than I like cheap. Although I may have set myself a hard cap at, say, RM1000 per dress.

After Covid-19:

I bought a kurung set from an IG shop. One, I thought hey good, I don’t have to go for fittings, less risky. But I bought it mostly for reason number two – fell in love with the design, and that’s that. Cost: RM349 + RM80 (heels)

Hantaran

This is the ‘gifts’ that the bride and groom give each other, to exchange during the ceremony. The tradition is (1) it has to be odd, not even numbers, and (2) the bride side give additional 2 extra trays aka dulangs. I didn’t make the rules, follow only.

Image credit: https://pengantinbaru.com.my/

Before Covid-19:

He was supposed to give me 5 dulangs, and I was supposed to give back 7. We plan to simply buy our own gifts, then exchange it before the ceremony, so we can make them look presentable like in the picture.

Budget: RM5000 in total per side.

After Covid-19:

We decided on 5 and 3 dulangs respectively instead. This way, in case the lockdown happens again, we don’t need so many people to carry said trays.

Budget: same, RM5000. I still don’t know what to get for myself. Worse come to worse I’ll spend a big chunk of that on a 10g gold bar or something, then at later date turn it to cash so we can use it for something practical like fund our home renovation or whatever.

Things that are still pending

As of now, I think we’ve got the bare minimum covered. Everything else is optional, to be booked at a later date, or not at all. This includes:

  • Entertainment – band/musician/singer
  • Emcee
  • Invitation cards
  • Doorgifts (if more than 100 pax)
  • Cake
  • Inai/Henna
  • Any other ‘nice to haves’

I think, my plan for the above is to look for vendors who accept a minimal booking fee (non-refundable is fine), but full payment on or after the event, in case it had to be cancelled or postponed. It would really suck to part with a lot of money due to factors outside my control. I’m aware that many people did, when their weddings got cancelled due to sudden MCO.

Other than that, I am going to use the same advice people give to travellers: Calculate how much you need, then double it because things you need to pay for will. suddenly. crop. up. out. of nowhere. Happily, this advice is doable because of reduced expenses.

Okay, I’m done. I think I pretty much covered all the new plans and budgets for wedding planning during Covid-19.

Thoughts about this piece? Are you planning your own wedding? What was the sudden expense for YOUR wedding? Do you have tips for future brides and grooms out there? Let me know in the comments section!

Quick Word to the ‘Big Weddings Are So Unnecessary!!!’ Crowd

For some reason, there are people out there who really want to make it known how much they hate big weddings. They’re all your parents’ friends, not yours, they say. What an unnecessary expense, they say.

Okay, you do you, but don’t rain on my parade.

One, I can afford it. No loans, all savings.

Two, I quite fancy ‘stimulating the economy’ by spending in the super-affected, women-centric wedding planning industry.

And three, after I realised how much my parents want this, his parents too, heck he wants the wedding ceremony as well – I embraced it, despite not really a fan of big weddings myself.

I shifted my perspective and looked at the whole wedding planning process as a group project: this is the time and opportunity for me (and them) to see how well we work together, how we negotiate, and even how we cope under stress.

Soft skills, baby. This is the time to use them.

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4 comments

  1. Love this! treating weddings like a project really works wonders, my wedding planning excel sheet was my life:)

    I see some people have gone into live streaming weddings for friends and family who want to be there but you know -borders closed or lockdown, maybe you want to consider that as well? could help you solidify the number of pax.

  2. Your note about big weddings, I feel you! Why you gotta rain on my parade when I’m not asking for your money to fund my wedding?! Ha! We got married almost a month ago – Covid-related expenses includes provision of hand sanitizers, thermal scanners, printing QR codes on banners, and also (nice-ish) masks for family and ourselves, and regular masks for guests just in case. (We did our reception at home, no event planner)

    Congratulations and good luck with the planning!

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