Wedding Hongbao Rates

What’s the right amount to put in that little red packet?


The giving of hongbao is a traditional part of Chinese wedding banquets that has lasted until today’s weddings and has been observed even in non-Chinese weddings. In former times, the amount of money put in the hongbao depended on the advice of older relatives and friends. However, of late, it has become rather important to have a set rate so that guests could properly show their appreciation and give back the appropriate amount the couple has spent to dine and entertain them.

But what is the right amount?

Perfect Weddings did a survey of the top 52 wedding reception venues in Singapore to come up with a wedding hongbao market rates for year 2013, which we hope will help would-be wedding attendants and newlyweds alike.

Our survey shows that the cost per person (inclusive of GST and service charges) ranges from $80-$250, averaging at $110-$150. The price of a lunch banquet is cheaper by about $10 than that of a dinner banquet, but the price may again be higher if the event falls on a Friday or during weekends. Also, more upmarket venues in Singapore (St, Regis, for example) expectedly have a higher cost per guest.

But our survey notwithstanding, wedding guests should not feel compelled to stick to our prescribed hongbao rates. For guests who do not have a lot of give – students, for example – there’s no need to fork in so much money. (The couple should be understanding of your condition and may even feel bad for asking anything from you.)

Similarly, guests should also not limit the amount they’ll put on their hongbao just because that’s what is expected from them. For those who are especially close to the couple, and who have money to spare, it’s completely alright to give more. Remember, the hongbao is not just meant to cover the cost of the banquet – it serves as the guests’ way to bless the newlywed couple on their new life ahead.

There is also the question of what if a guest is unable to attend. In this case, opinions differ. Others feel that giving hongbao is only necessary for attending guests. However, some believe that absent guests, especially if seats have been reserved for them, should still give their hongbao, even if it has a lesser amount than expected.

Because of inflation and rising costs, wedding banquets are getting more expensive to hold, and what people used to give before may now be lacking for most weddings. So while our guide is firstly for the guests, it is also meant to help newlyweds who often experience financial strains after holding their wedding and its celebration banquet.

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