Overseas Wedding. Should you give a present?

So, you have been invited to a friend’s wedding in Bali? The burning question is: should you buy a wedding present?  After all, you might have just forked out $1000 just to attend!

A while ago I asked this question on Facebook and it generated a great deal of debate. I was prompted to ask, because a young friend of mine, who was living in London at the time, had been invited to be Best Man at his mate’s wedding in Europe.  My friend and his wife spent more than $1000 on air tickets, accommodation, clothes etc – only to find that the groom was disappointed that he hadn’t brought gifts as well.

Although destination weddings have always been an option, they have become increasingly popular in the past decade.  This is partly because prices here have soared, with the average price of a wedding being about $40,000 in Australia.   My favourite investment writer, Scott Pape talks about ways to reduce this figure

However, going overseas means that couples can perhaps have the wedding of their dreams for up to half the cost, without having to follow Scott’s cost-cutting measures!  Also, with travel becoming cheaper, the Destination Wedding can seem like a fun and cost effective option.

But where the Bride and Groom might save money, for the guests, it can cause them to spend a great deal more than usual.  If attending a wedding in their home town, guests might buy some new clothes; they will fork out for a wedding gift and possibly add in a night’s accommodation or a taxi fare.  Costs would be completely within the guests’ control in this situation.

However, if invited to an overseas wedding, guests are often compelled to use up leave, travelling to a destination that they might not otherwise have chosen for their annual vacation.  They need to pay for flights and accommodation; with the Bride and Groom often expecting their guests (particularly Bridal Party) to stay in the same hotel/villa as themselves.

For the couple to then expect wedding presents from these same guests might be stretching the friendship, one would think? However, there are some horror stories.

Gordon, one commenter on my original Facebook post, stated:  “Overseas wedding = NO GIFTS!!! If I was asked to gift after paying exorbitant money to be there, I would buy them something really f#%*ing big and let them work out how to get it home. I would buy them a 1 tonne/6′ tall Balinese statue !”

A mother of one young lady, planning a wedding in Bali, wrote:  “Wow, are they really friends with these people … I would think the people haven’t given presents as they couldn’t afford it and had spent enough already … Who would sulk about not getting presents, when they have made the effort and spent the $$ to be there on their special day ..On the bridal party question, we are paying for all their outfits etc and have spoken to them about costs etc.. And everyone seems happy! Communication would seem to be the answer.”

Another said:  “I would think that if you choose to have your wedding overseas you should be able to pay for the bridal party and the guests pay for themselves, but I don’t think you should expect gifts as well… that’s a bit steep”.

Then of course, there is another issue – culture and age.  Older people still prefer to give gifts – and are gradually becoming more comfortable with the Wishing Well scenario!  Asian guests will always want to give a gift of some sort, as culturally it can be seen as rude to turn up empty handed.

A Vietnamese lady, Trinh, put it like this:If we don’t bring anything to the wedding, inside I will feel weird and strange while everyone in the wedding does. For me, I will bring something small such as an wedding album, a wedding frame, a couple of special even glass…by the way I believe my attendance in their wedding is the biggest expectation that they would like”.

So what should the protocol be, for this quite new, but increasingly popular, scenario?  Is it ok just to turn up empty handed?  Should the couple make it very clear on the invitation that they are grateful for your ‘presence’ only?

As traditions quickly change and cultures meld, it is hard to work out the correct way to deal with these scenarios.  In the old days, the rules were hard and fast – making it more unlikely that mistakes would be made.  However today misunderstandings occur as there are few guidelines; and as a couple get caught up in the excitement and frenetic planning, they can often not realise the faux pas that are being made.  Friendships can become very strained if thoughtlessness leads to the kind of upsetting scenario that my friend in Europe experienced.  (From being Best Man at the wedding, my friend and the Groom no longer speak to each other!)

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  Perhaps together we can come up with some guidelines?  Wouldn’t that be useful….

If you would like to contact me privately about this, or anything else to do with Weddings, either here or abroad, please click here.

Bali Weddings in The Rainy Season

Bali Weddings in The Rainy Season!

Bali is in the tropics, with frequent tropical rain showers, particularly from November to March.  Even if you choose the Dry Season, nothing is guaranteed!  Don’t worry – you can simply hire a Pawang Hujan (Rain Guide) for your Special Day?

Yes, it is possible to employ the services of a Rain Guide!  These Holy Men, who possess such magical powers, do not completely stop the rain from falling: they just ‘transfer’ it to somewhere else.

Katrina Simorangkir, the owner of Bali Weddings International, says “we certainly offer this service to our guests who are here for the wet season and so far (21 years is not a bad run) it has always worked”.  Katrina usually books a Rain Guide who lives near the wedding venue, but also relates this story, illustrating how seriously Indonesians view this service.

Says Katrina, “We were the organisers for a large wedding group from Java – and the bride had her own Pawang Hujan. He was apparently sitting on a hill in Java and controlling the rain in Bali.  This couple married in the Catholic Church in Tuban and their guests were transported by buses, first to the Church; then from the Church to the Reception venue in Seminyak.  I remember it poured with rain every time they were on the buses, but with the rain stopping every time they disembarked!

The hotel had been so worried about the rain for this very big garden event due to the rain they had experienced during the day BUT there was not a drop as the Bridal Party and guests walked from the buses to the garden of the resort.  The Hotel management was stunned to learn that the bride’s Pawang Hujan was taking care of it all from Java!”

Rohan, of the wedding planning company, Beyond Events Bali, says, “We definitely use rain men all the time and they work too – we escaped any wet weddings so far, thankfully…”

The services of a Pawang Hujan (who might spend 3-4 days working and fasting on behalf of the bride and groom) can cost between $100 – $300.

Apparently, when black clouds threatened John Paul II’s visit to Jakarta in October 1989, the talents of a Pawang Hujan were also on hand. (I wonder if the Pope knew?)

As you can see, Weddings in Bali can open up a whole new world…..

I conduct Weddings in Western Australia during our summer months, moving to Bali from June to August each year, to perform Marriage Ceremonies there.  During my time in Perth, I also perform ‘legals’ for couples planning exotic Destination Weddings.  This option is for those who would prefer to concentrate on the fun of organising their Wedding in Bali, without having to worry about the legalities and extra formalities of a full Indonesian Marriage.

If you are considering a Bali Wedding, do make sure to choose a Celebrant with experience.  Also, be clear about what is included in the cost – as many wedding quotes do not include the full Indonesian Legal component.

For more information about Rain Guides, or anything else to do with Getting Married in Bali –  I can be reached via my website at: