Heed time-honoured customs or economise? In Malaysia, bridal couples feel the pain of wedding sticker shock

·4-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 — The price of wedding-related goods and services has soared in the aftermath of two years of Covid-19 lockdowns, said prospective bridal couples who now find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.

Newlyweds told Malay Mail that prices are “the same everywhere”, leaving them with little choice but to accept the increased costs as many felt they must honour traditional customs along with familial expectations — whatever their personal idea of a dream wedding might entail.

A 28-year-old administrative worker, who gave his name as Aiman, said that the price he was quoted for a wedding reception package was RM12,500 — which covered decorations and food for 500 attendees.

According to Aiman, it is not the Islamic traditions but Malay traditions that are difficult.
According to Aiman, it is not the Islamic traditions but Malay traditions that are difficult.

According to Aiman, it is not the Islamic traditions but Malay traditions that are difficult.

“In 2019, my friend paid RM15,000, and this included food for 1,300 people, decorations, clothing rentals for the bride and groom and a cake,” he said, adding that the package was from the same vendor and that prices from other vendors were also similar.

Aiman, who had his reception on June 26, said that he felt frustrated by the prices and the restriction of traditions, although he also felt good that he was now happily married.

“It is not the Islamic traditions that are difficult. It is the Malay traditions,” he clarified, giving an example of needing three different rings, all made of precious metals, for a fully traditional Malay marriage.

The three rings are used for three separate occasions, namely merisik (a meeting between families seeking a woman’s hand in marriage), tunang (engagement) and bernikah (solemnisation).

He also said that if it were up to him, he would not have had a traditional feast — or kenduri — where hundreds of people are invited, and instead would have liked to keep the occasion between a small number of close friends and family.

Aiman said that he had wanted to honeymoon in Maldives, but having spent close to RM40,000 on his wedding and associated events, this was an impossibility — and he and his wife took a trip to Johor instead.

Leong Jye Yin cited another example, saying that she experienced a steep price hike when ordering traditional Chinese biscuits — that are delivered to relatives to inform them of her marriage.

The 29-year-old chemist said that when she surveyed prices in December last year, a set of biscuits from her preferred vendor cost RM18.90.

“But when I booked in March, the price was RM20.90 per set. Thus, we experienced an increase of RM60 to RM70 for biscuits alone,” she said.

With costs running up incrementally, Leong said that she decided to forego a decorated backdrop — which would have cost her around RM2,000 — during her March wedding in Melaka.

As for 30-year-old Thinesh Prathaban, who got married on June 30 in Penang, he said that he dodged the price hike because he booked most of his services before the pandemic hit, in 2019.

However, he said he noticed the new rates as his cousin — whom he did not name — is currently planning a wedding.

“When I booked my videographer in 2019, the price for a normal package was RM4,500, while the price for the platinum package was RM6,000,” he said, adding that his cousin was quoted between RM500 and RM1,000 more in July.

When asked if authorities could step in to control prices from spiralling out of control, Consumer Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa) president Datuk Dr Jacob George, said it was highly unlikely, as consumers in this case have options.

“But often they don’t (opt for lower-priced goods and services), as they think it is their wedding and a once-in-a-lifetime event... This is basically a ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ situation,” he said.

Jacob said that if consumers chose to be more discerning, and refused to buy overpriced goods and services, this would automatically force businesses to bring down their prices or risk going out of business.

He also said that consumers nowadays can take to social media to air grievances and spread awareness regarding goods and services that they felt were unfairly priced.

Some service owners, however, said that prices had not gone up exponentially, and that the hike was due to inflation.

“The cost of some flowers has gone up by 100 per cent, some by 200 per cent. That is why the cost of decorations has gone up generally,” said Leticia Hsu, co-founder of wedding planner Elysium Weddings Sdn Bhd.

“Unfortunately, some cost will have to be shared with clients as micro small-medium enterprises (SMEs) are struggling to survive and recover from the pandemic,” she added.

Meanwhile, photographer Thirukumaran Murugaya, who has run Thiru’s Photography for over a decade, said that he has maintained his prices at the pre-pandemic rate, which is between RM3,000 and RM4,500 — depending on which package customers choose.

He also acknowledged that the cost of photo albums, printing paper and other such supplies had gone up by about RM50 to RM60 per client.

“But I don’t think I can justify increasing my prices by RM1,000 because my cost is only up by around RM50. Although that is what some people are doing, I don’t think it is right,” he said.