The shutter sound of a Polaroid camera followed by a flash captured my soon-to-be wife and I. As the picture was developing, we finalized the last details of our purchase with the salesman.
Two minutes was all it took for us to finally be visible in the photo. It was a surreal moment – that realization that God answered my prayer to have someone enter my life.
The appointment at the photo studio was the start of our wedding preparations. There were other things to consider like the venue, Tok Kadi (solemnizer), catering and more. It was a bit overwhelming for us as there were multiple vendors that we had to research and meet up personally to find out more.
What were we looking for our wedding?
My soon-to-be-wife wanted the usual Malay wedding. I on the other hand, wanted a super simple wedding with a shorter guest list. We discussed, negotiated and eventually met each other in the middle so that our families can be happy.
Above everything else, we agreed to pay a bit more for the essential services such as photography so that we won’t end up with nasty surprises.
In addition, we tried to keep costs as low as possible. Bearing that in mind, I’ve compiled the costs of my wedding and provided budget-friendly alternatives where possible.
A few things to note:
- Our wedding was in 2019. It will be much expensive to get married today as the world is still going through the COVID-19 pandemic and the global economy undergoing some major changes.
- Some of the prices listed are our best estimates as we were not disciplined enough to update by the cent.
Let’s get started…
- Engagement Ring & Bouquet of Flowers
- Merisik Fee
- Wedding Bands
- Duit Hantaran (Cash Gift)
- Dulang Hantaran (Non-cash Gift)
- Venue (with caterer)
- Bridal (with Mak Andam)
- Pak Andam
- Flower Bouquet
- Wedding Cake
- Invitation Cards
- Tok Kadi (Solemnizer)
- Marriage Preparation Course
- Berkat (Door Gifts)
Engagement Ring & Bouquet of Flowers
We were not engaged yet when we wanted to get married. Hence, we decided on a simple engagement ring. In addition, I ordered a bouquet of flowers to grace the occasion.
COST: $150 + $130 = $280
I’m actually not sure how to translate this – is it proposal fee *shrugs*? Basically, it’s a small token of appreciation for the person who will open discussions with the girl’s family and ask for her hand in marriage (on your behalf).
I was contented with a simple ring for myself. But agreed to spend more on hers as it was a special occasion and milestone in our relationship.
Consider getting each other a budget ring first and upgrade to a more expensive ring with each important milestone (3rd or 5th year anniversary, birthday and etc).
Duit Hantaran (Cash Gift)
The stuff of nightmares for grooms due to the high expectations from the bride’s parents. Facing a 5-digit cash gift request is not new; many other grooms experienced this before. But alhamdulillah thankfully, successful negotiations kept the figure to a modest amount.
FYI, this is the cheque/money that is nicely placed in a photo frame and gifted to the bride’s side during the solemnization. More on duit hantaran can be found here.
Dulang Hantaran (Non-Cash Gift)
I remember many many years ago wedding gifts had food items such as chocolate snacks and glutinous rice with intricate designs.
Today, the gifts are more sophisticated with gadgets, home appliances and fitness apparel/equipment. For us, we agreed to get each other small gifts that remind us of God, as well as some of the activities that we want to do together as a married couple.
While planning our wedding, I came across an article about a couple with awful wedding shots. Some pictures had blue filter and the couple/bridesmaids/groomsmen poses were awkward – either they were staring into thin air or had their mouths wide open.
Of course, I had a good laugh but quickly realized it could happen to us on our wedding.
Needless to say, this was a non-negotiable. We agreed pay top dollar for proper and memorable wedding pictures.
In addition, we paid more for a photobook which allowed us to choose the material of the photobook, the box, fonts and layout for our wedding pictures.
Cost: $1988 + $400 = $2388
Venue (with caterer)
We chose a venue that had its own in-house catering services. I had doubts about the quality, but those concerns were allayed when we were invited to a taste testing session. We could choose what to serve and give feedback on those dishes (less spicy, too sweet and etc).
Ultimately, it depends on the package that you like and for how many guests you will be inviting.
On top of the catering, we engaged in a yoghurt live station which added on to our costs.
Cost: $4420 + $2500 = $6920
- The void decks used to be where our parents, uncles and aunties would tie the knot. Even though it is a bit traditional and perhaps passe, the cost difference is massive. The obvious tradeoff here is the absence of aircon. But if that is something everyone is fine with, then you’ll be saving thousands in your wedding.
- You may want to check out spaces in industrial buildings for rent.
- Better still, do it at home, provided your guest list is short.
We had a theme in mind and shortlisted 3 vendors who could do it best (based on their past social media posts). Ultimately, it was down to 1 vendor who provided great customer service and addressed our concerns promptly throughout.
Bridal (with Mak Andam)
This is where we choose the outfits for both bride and groom.
Like décor, we shortlisted a few bridal vendors. But ultimately, our budgets were determined by the vendors who carried our sizes (if you’re plus sized, the pool of bridal vendors that carry your size is smaller).
In addition, we also had to pay “duit kipas”. This amount is for the Mak Andam (bride’s make up artist) to keep the bride’s make up on point (including fanning her) while waiting for the groom’s arrival.
I know right – I was in disbelief the first time I heard this. But here’s a better explanation from someone in the bridal industry.
Cost: $2950 + $150 = $3100
So far at this point, the costs for listed for Venue + Décor + Bridal are exorbitantly high. A suggestion I have is to consider wedding companies who can do all three such as Landmark or Orange Ballroom (both not sponsored). The final cost depends on the number of guests invited.
One of the best parts because the process from booking to the wedding day itself was straightforward – nothing much was expected of me. Plus, I got a complimentary haircut at a gentlemen’s barber shop before the big day. Money well spent!
A tradition that no bride should forgo.
If you have friends who are good with henna art, you may want to engage them for a small fee.
Another tradition that no bride should forgo.
We had a customized 2-tiered red velvet wedding cake with some cupcakes by the side.
We had the usual kompang troupe which I felt wasn’t necessary. Personally, I don’t mind veering away from tradition and having the DJ play a recorded kompang music. But our families didn’t approve of the idea as they felt the wedding will feel less traditional/authentic.
Looking back, this wasn’t something that left a deep impression on us and we were happy to settle with a recorded kompang music.
I wasn’t sure how people would react to receiving an e-invite to our wedding, but I did it anyway for some of the guests on my side. Of course, I needed to have some certainty that they won’t be offended.
As for the rest, we printed physical cards which included envelopes.
- Consider printing in JB where it is much cheaper.
- If everyone is open to non-paper invitation cards, e-invites is the way to go. Zero cost on this one (can even use PowerPoint or Canva).
The fees cover the administrative work done by ROMM and the generation of wedding certificates.
Tok Kadi (Solemnizer)
Solemnizers perform their duties voluntarily. Some of the tasks include reaching out to the respective couples for face-to-face sessions and ensuring that all the paperwork is done before making their way to the venue. Hence, it is only appropriate to give them a token of appreciation.
Marriage Preparation Course
The course is not mandatory but couples are strongly encouraged to attend.
Berkat (Door Gifts)
Initially, I wanted to give away bar soaps as door gifts. But after calculating the costs and seeing how they melted after a few days in room temperature, I decided on small bottles of jam instead.
Other small items for berkat (door gifts) include mini prayer mats, perfumes or even Ferrero Rocher chocolates.
Both of us agreed not to have overstimulating music and emcee-ing on our wedding. We wanted the occasion to be a blessed event as it marks the start of our marriage. Anything that tarnishes it is a strict no-no.
Hence, we went with a talented DJ who is aligned with our religious beliefs.
The wedding songkok is typically slightly taller than the normal songkok. Not knowing where to find one, I made a trip to the Geylang bazaar only to find the normal Malay songkok.
After scouring online, I found a shop in Tanjong Katong Complex which makes custom-size songkok for grooms. I’m sure you know which shop I’m referring to and who the maker is.
Looking back, I’m actually happy with the investment as I can wear it every year for Hari Raya.
Grand Total: $30,835
To wrap things up
What I’ve shared are the parts that made up my wedding. Different couples have different budgets. But generally here are a few tips for you to start planning:
- Discuss your budget together
If both of you have saved enough money (more than the grand total) to get married, then you can start planning. Otherwise, I would strongly discourage anyone from borrowing. Instead, keep on working hard to reach the target amount.
- Discuss what you want and what are the non-negotiables
Try to find out which parts of the wedding are important and which ones are not. As for everything else in between, you need to keep calm, find middle ground and compromise (a not so secret recipe to a happy marriage).
- Book vendors at least 1 year in advance
The early bird gets the worm. In this case, early couples get the best wedding vendors. Couples typcially plan their weddings 1-1.5 years in advanced especially when their wedding falls on a special date. So, if you want to beat other couples to your selected vendors, plan and book them early.
I’ve also created a wedding expenses planner on Google Sheet based on how we planned for ours – you can download here and use it to plan for your wedding. It contains some sample data to help you understand how to use it. Generally, it should be easy and straightforward.
That’s it. I hope you found this useful in helping you better understand the different parts of a traditional Malay wedding and the expenses.
I admit, a wedding can be very costly. But it’s not about the numbers. A super simple wedding gets the job done and is much better than an extravagant one. Regardless, I pray that Allah makes it easier for you and bless your marriage with sakinah, mawaddah and rahmah.