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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Why Money Is an Acceptable Reward at Asian Weddings


Once I acquired a marriage invitation from my pals Jiyeon Kim and Olof Norlander this 12 months, I knew precisely the place I’d choose up their wedding ceremony current: the financial institution.

The 2 had already married in Uppsala, Sweden, the place they dwell, however Ms. Kim’s father needed the newlyweds to have a second ceremony in Changwon, South Korea, the place he had spent years attending the weddings of his pals’ and colleagues’ youngsters.

As is custom, he gave the marrying {couples} envelopes of money recognized in Korean as chug-ui-geum, or congratulatory cash. Having a marriage in South Korea would enable him not solely to share the joyous event together with his household and pals, but in addition to offset the prices of the occasion with reciprocated money presents from attendees.

“We are able to’t deny that the excess in cash was one of many good outcomes of the marriage,” mentioned Ms. Kim, 32, who held her second ceremony in Might.

Weddings are peaking right now of 12 months, and in Asia, it has lengthy been customized to congratulate marrying {couples} with money as an alternative of presents from a registry. In South Korea, friends current their envelopes of money to an appointed pal or member of the family of the newlywed couple upon arriving on the reception. In return, they’re introduced with a meal ticket that permits them entrance to the marriage banquet, and the quantity given is discreetly written in a register. Visitors who can’t attend are given the choice to wire cash to the newlyweds’ checking account quantity written on the invitation.

Whereas it has change into more and more widespread for {couples} in the USA to ask for money when getting married, it’s nonetheless uncommon for American {couples} to have a registry that’s money solely, mentioned Emily Forrest, director of communications for Zola, a marriage registry web site.

Nobu Nakaguchi, a co-founder at Zola, mentioned he seen cultural variations in gift-giving when he obtained married in 2005. He had a Roman Catholic wedding ceremony in the USA and a Buddhist wedding ceremony in Japan. It was an enchanting expertise to obtain money at his Japanese wedding ceremony, he mentioned, since many Individuals imagine that giving money is gauche.

“When you go to an Asian nation like Japan or Korea, the expectation is to obtain a money reward,” Mr. Nakaguchi, 48, mentioned. “I don’t suppose we’re absolutely there within the U.S.”

Regardless of long-held customs round giving money, discussing expectations about cash was thought-about a cultural taboo in Asian international locations, mentioned Lee Eun-hee, a shopper science professor at Inha College in South Korea.

“Whereas cash presents are anticipated and desired, our tradition forbids us to explicitly spell out what we wish,” she mentioned, declaring that this is the reason etiquette dictates cash be introduced in envelopes.

This dichotomy has resulted in a wealthy dialog across the etiquette of giving money at weddings in Asia. Ought to a present mirror the price of your banquet meal? How do you set a numerical worth on a friendship? Listed below are some unwritten guidelines on how giving cash works at Asian weddings.

Mengqi Wang, an assistant professor of anthropology at Duke Kunshan College who had two weddings in China, described each of her experiences as massive affairs that didn’t attempt to mirror her and her husband’s relationship. She felt an obligation to have the ceremonies, largely as a result of she knew they had been vital rituals for her dad and mom.

“We don’t have that cash,” she mentioned of the money presents, which in the end went to her dad and mom. “I don’t even understand how a lot cash my dad and mom obtained.”

Whereas weddings in Asia are more and more changing into much less conventional, dad and mom play an important function in arranging the occasion and making monetary choices as a result of they’re typically paying for it. It’s widespread for fogeys to find out how a lot of the congratulatory cash the newlyweds preserve.

That is why a mother or father at a Korean wedding ceremony is known as the hon-ju, or proprietor of the marriage. Many Korean {couples} work out a system with their dad and mom by which they preserve a particular portion of the cash. Nevertheless, when cash could also be some extent of rivalry, some brides will appoint a gabang-sooni, or particular person in control of your bag, to gather the cash in non-public reasonably than on the reception.

Reward cash isn’t meant to be bodily seen. To work round this, many Asian cultures have particular envelopes for the event. In South Korea, solely crisp, new payments are to be introduced — stacked front-first — in a white envelope with the giver’s title written vertically on it.

In Japan, the shugi-bukuro, or envelope for congratulatory cash, was historically made by hand in pink and white, however can now be purchased in a wide range of colours. In lots of Chinese language cultures, the envelope most related to the Lunar New Yr, hong-bao, is famously pink. Since cash is given for various events, together with funerals, Asian wedding ceremony attendees ought to be certain the right envelope is given.

Just lately, sending cash by way of a financial institution switch or electronically by way of digital envelopes on messaging apps like WeChat and KakaoTalk has additionally change into acceptable.

Ms. Kim, who has attended weddings in Europe and Asia, mentioned it was a lot more durable for her to determine how a lot to contribute to a marriage in Sweden, because the customs are totally different.

Whereas a present wherever is a consideration of your relationship and the social scenario, there may be typically a socially accepted formulation to gift-giving in Asia that takes into consideration a wide range of elements, together with beliefs about auspicious numbers and energy in relationships.

In Japan, the place the typical goshugi, or envelope of money given at an auspicious event, is someplace from 30,000 yen ($211) to 50,000 yen ($350), it’s usually understood {that a} youthful grownup or faculty pupil ought to contribute ¥10,000 ($70), whereas office superiors and older family ought to intention for the upper finish of that vary or extra.

Common recommendation from Korean blogs and society reporting recommends asking your self these questions to know what constitutes a detailed relationship: Is the particular person inviting you a piece colleague? Did you obtain a cell invitation solely? Does your mom know this particular person’s title? Would your mom’s response to listening to the particular person’s title be “Oh, proper, that particular person’s daughter”? Any reply pointing to closeness would add to the suitable quantity — usually leading to a fee from 50,000 received ($39) to 100,000 received ($77), based on a survey of South Korean singles in 2022.

Ms. Wang, the anthropology professor, mentioned the cash given at weddings was additionally used to determine a stronger bond, or guanxi.

“The marriage is a type of events the place you get to provide a present to somebody,” she mentioned. “With out a special day, it could look out of context. To present a present — a very good one — can be a solution to cement relationships.”

It’s not only a financial alternate however an alternate of credit score and debt, she added.

As such, the marriage reward giving system has been abused by individuals in energy, and governments in Asia have even tried to control presents to forestall bribery and corruption. In South Korea, an anti-graft legislation, the Kim Younger-ran Act, was put into place limiting how a lot public servants could possibly be given on varied events — capping money presents at 100,000 received at weddings. However the act has been troublesome to implement as a result of a separate entity must audit every reward introduced on the ceremonies.

Along with social place and proximity, typical knowledge in Asia says the price of the banquet meal ought to be factored in. This concept is so widespread in Singapore that dozens of web sites lay out how a lot a desk prices at most main inns within the nation.

Michelle Tay, an editor at Singapore Brides, says that whereas she encourages readers to pay as a lot ang bao (Hokkien for pink envelope) as they’ll, many individuals prefer to have a tough estimate of how a lot others are paying by first wanting on the costs listed on the venue.

“Each half a 12 months or so, venues will regulate their banquet costs based on rising prices,” Ms. Tay mentioned. “This not directly causes individuals to really feel pressured to pay extra after they test the ang bao guides which can be up to date with the brand new charges.”

Ms. Lee, the patron science professor, is commonly contacted by Korean media organizations for recommendation on how a lot to pay at a marriage. She mentioned her rule of thumb was all the time: “Search for the venue the place the couple is getting married. See how a lot a meal there prices. And if you’ll not cowl the value of your plate, it’s higher to not go and ship them an digital switch of fifty,000 received as an alternative.”

Since many Asian cultures have superstitions round cash, it could be smart to search for which numbers are thought-about fortunate on the wedding ceremony in query. In South Korea, the quantity 4 is taken into account unfortunate due to its resemblance to the character for demise. In Japan, be cautious of any sum that’s divisible by two, as a result of it’s simply separated. In China, values ending in eight are most popular for his or her affiliation with wealth and prosperity.

Ms. Wang mentioned her mom’s precept was all the time: “You need to bear in mind how a lot the particular person gave you, and also you reciprocate, however by no means the equal quantity of worth. It shouldn’t really feel like a market transaction. Reciprocate by including a bit extra to point you need to proceed to have a relationship with that particular person.”

Her mom’s recommendation additionally got here with a warning: “When you pay an excessive amount of extra, it could come throughout as vanity.”

In China, when she is uncertain of how a lot to pay, Ms. Wang calls her pals to match notes.

“If we lived in a wonderfully closed neighborhood, all people would know their positions and they’d understand how a lot to provide, however the actuality is that we’re all the time cell,” she mentioned. That is true whether or not an individual is making an attempt to place a determine on a marriage reward, sending condolences to a funeral (additionally a money reward in lots of Asian international locations) or making an attempt to pick a present for a child bathe.

In some methods, “it’s no totally different than what occurs in America,” Mr. Nakaguchi mentioned. Individuals bear in mind what friends spent at their wedding ceremony and attempt to reciprocate equal or larger values.


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