LAST_UPDATETue, 19 Jun 2018 4pm

Earning Less Than RM5,000, How Soon Can I Get Married?

Give a single man the marriage talk, it would secretly send shivers down his spine, because as a man, not only is the ‘M’ word the mark of the end of his mischievous days, it is a slap in the face reminding him of a huge responsibility and a lifetime commitment, one with a no turning back policy.

I am a 23-year-old Malay journalist, who is dating an older Malay girl, who is an investment banker. And being the eldest of three boys in the family, you know what I am bound to face – the marriage talk, from left, right and centre, especially during family gatherings, and not forgetting, getting the occasional hints from my girlfriend.

With all things subjected to 6% GST, the price of property increasing, and me in my first job, with a monthly salary only in a comfortable range for me to feed myself (less than RM5,000) this got me thinking, if I were to really settle down, how soon would I really be able to pull off having my own wedding?

If you ask me, what or how my dream wedding would be? Frankly speaking, men don’t really think about this stuff. But, I wouldn’t mind looking all dapper in a suit and tie, in an air-conditioned venue (very important!) with only a few friends as guests – definitely not a traditional Malay custom.

As you know, parents are all out for having the entire ‘kampung’ (village) join in the celebration, plus, I was told by people who just got married there will be little details involving a lot of costs which must be taken into account (there goes my other dream of owning a limited edition Seiko Prospex Marinemaster watch).

Watch aside, wedding as focus, here goes my investigation on the costs of marriage nowadays and what is the absolute least one can pay for the most budgeted Malay wedding ever. We have to tell you though, after reading this article, you might feel a bit depressed if you have only started to work or with no savings at the time of reading.

Costs Of A Typical Malay Wedding

I have been to a few decent weddings myself, but coming into this, I was absolutely clueless about the current costs to host a wedding, from preparation, to finding a planner, venue, outfit, decoration, catering, photographers, and favours, the list goes on.

So, Fathin Ali, the founder of ‘Kampung Pengantin’, and Sharifah Aesya, the event coordinator of Kampung Pengantin, a wedding terrace and garden where you can rent out a beautiful, multi-purpose hall specially made for weddings, both gave me some insights.

Kampung Pengantin offers package deals, providing the venue as well as caterers, a PA system and the bridal bed/stage (pelamin). Fathin continues to tell me, “When talking about Malay and modern Malay weddings, there are two options, to host a high or low cost wedding, depending on the family.

“Standard costs for a wedding these days would be around RM15,000 for a wedding reception at home. If you have your wedding in front of your house, the cost for food could range from RM10 to RM12 per head, excluding the tents and decorations.

“At our venue, we charge RM35 per head, which includes the hall, catering, pelamin, and other minor gifts such as decorations, wedding cards and invitation sets (which would total up to RM35,000 for 1000 guests). If you’re talking about hosting it at Marriott Hotel, it costs around over RM100 per head,” she said.

Forget RM100,000 or RM35,000, but RM15,000 as a standard cost? I was thankful to not get a panic attack at the mention of these numbers, because that’s the price of my girlfriend’s Omega Moon Watch, given to her by her previous boyfriend, mind you, which I can only match up to with my sincere and honest love, thankfully.

Fathin continues to educate me on the steps of getting married for a typical Malay wedding, which involves the ‘merisik’ (the seeking ceremony), ‘bertunang’ (the engagement), ‘akad nikah’ (the solemnisation), and ‘bersanding’ (the wedding reception). These are customary practises, which also vary according to different states.

During the solemnisation, the mas kahwin (dowry), is a gift of money, possessions or property made by the husband to his wife, as a result of the blissful contract of marriage between the two which becomes her exclusive property. Aside that, both bride and groom will present gifts, which will be put on trays, called ‘hantaran’.

Fathin goes on to explain, “The mas kahwin is only meant for the bride, but the hantaran, depends on her and her family’s demands. But as gratitude, the bride’s family will also give the groom gifts as a welcome present into the family. If you give 5, 7, or 9 trays to the bride, the bride has to give two more extra trays to the man.

“The mas kahwin is important, sometimes it is combined in the RM15,000 cost, or shared costs between the bride and groom. That’s up to the family, if they say the daughter ‘costs’ RM1,000 or RM300. The cheapest dowry is giving the Al-Quran and the most expensive is a Ferrari, as far as I know.

“The mas kahwin is always in money, and it can be a house or a car, but you have to declare the asset to the Tok Kadi (the religious official).

“The value of the hantaran does not need to be declared however. These days, we have people giving iPhones, iPad, jewellery, branded clothes, Playstations, toys, watches, even cars - it's up to the bride and groom really to give each other what they want.

“Different states charge different minimum dowries. For KL, it's around RM80. But if the family says their child is worth more, it can go higher than that - and if you really want that girl, you have to pay for the dowry.

“The dowry belongs to the woman, it's what us Malays called ‘belanja’, or expenses, for what the family wants to be paid for giving away the bride. This is the normal tradition.

“As for the hantaran, in this modern time, the man can pay what he wants, and the bride’s family can also pay for it, if her family is wealthy,” she exclaims.

In Islam however, looking into the tradition of the Prophet (PBUH), he gave each of his wives a payment ranging from token sums, or the granting of freedom from slavery when being made a wife, to the payment of 400-500 dirhams.

There was in fact no fixed upper limit and it is stated in the Qur’an that the required provision to depend upon the circumstances of the husband in the following verse:

'…the wealthy according to his means, and the straitened in circumstances according to his means. The gift of a reasonable amount is necessary from those who wish to act in the right way.' (2:236).

Getting The Ring

My friend, a stock broker whose husband is a hedge fund manager recently got engaged. Suffice to say that they are cash strapped, so he gave an engagement ring worth RM75,000 at The Datai, Langkawi. Tell me how can I not feel the pressure to get one dazzling rock for my girl?

But Fathin’s next remark is a sigh of relief, as she tells me I can get a wedding band for a much cheaper price. Otherwise, I was already thinking of checking at the Cash Converters store nearby my house.

“For rings, you can purchase an engagement ring for RM100 - RM200. This would be the ring you give to your girlfriend when you are proposing, so obviously you would want to win her heart (and her parents).

“You can also get a simple wedding band in silver or white gold for RM200, but most people nowadays pay around RM4,000 for a ring, be it at retailers like Habib or Poh Kong.

“A small diamond ring costs around RM800 to RM1,000. Whether a gold or diamond wedding band, it is up to the parents to demand, but in modern times, now, it's up to the bride to have a say which one she prefers.

“Also bear in mind, if your bride is a doctor, engineer, or businesswoman, it’s best to consider the appropriate ring to give her. Would she be happy with a RM500 or RM1,000 wedding band?,” she advises.

I do note these concerns about impressing the parents, family and of course making my girl happy. But at this point of time, the costs in my head have escalated to at least over RM20,000 (dowry, venue, gifts, ring), with the thought that this would be a more respectable wedding than the absolute minimum required.

What About Other Costs?

There’s no denying that I want to be a handsome-looking groom on my special day, hey, it is a once in a lifetime occasion. And if I already look good, I would want some photographs and videos taken to remember the day by.

I know there are lots of wedding designers, but if I can find a good ol’ tailor out of town to tailor-make my outfit, I’m confident that I would spend at least an estimate of RM300 for a decent suit.

Shoes? I’ll just shine my work shoes, black leather shoes never goes out of style and looks good with any colour anyway. Makeup? Yes, for my bride, but natural is the way to go for me.

As for photographs, being a part-time photographer myself, I admit I am concerned when it comes to quality. And being the geek that I am, I would love to have drones buzzing around my wedding reception.

In a separate interview with Scenesky Pictures, a bunch of cool people who fly drones and make photos and videos from up in the air, who happen to do wedding photography, they shared with me, “We charge per hour for wedding. The rate is usually around RM800 to RM1,000 an hour, and RM5,000 per day,” says the operator.

RM5,000 you say? That’s already way more than my monthly salary. Time to re-think my career, maybe?

What To Do If You Earn Less Than RM5,000?

Back to matters at hand, where I am a struggling journalist, with the thought of marriage at the back of my mind. So, what can I do to make this work?

“You can’t have a grand wedding if you earn less than RM5,000. It has to be economical,” Aesya then tells me.

“Unless your family has money, they might be able to pay 50% to 100% for your wedding costs.

“I suggest you should save your money around two years, and have a guest list of around 400 people, and you should proceed to have it at a community hall near you, if not at your home.

“For 400 guests, catering will probably cost around RM4,000, charged at RM10 per head. A simple pelamin would cost RM500 to RM1,000. And say that the dowry is the Al-Quran, and you get an affordable ring - the total is RM10,000, for the girl’s side, alone.

“As with our customs, there will be two receptions for each side of the family. You can have one reception, but your parents may feel embarrassed if they are unable to invite everyone to come. Some whose parents have passed away do have joined weddings,” she shared.

Fathin then gives some final advice, “It all comes down to the understanding between the bride and groom. If the bride really wants the groom and understands that he does not have much money, then she shouldn’t ask for the expensive items.

“There have been many cases where couples did not go ahead with their wedding because of the high demands from the bride-to-be and her family's’ side.

“If the man wants a woman, he’ll provide. But if your bride is asking too much of a price for her dowry and for the wedding costs, and she knows that you cannot afford it no matter how hard you try, then you know that she’s loving you for more than your love. You have to know your partner.

“But at the same time if you don’t have any money and want to get married, that’s not possible as you do need some. Think about it, you are asking someone’s daughter her hand in marriage, and promise that you will love and take care of her, at least lead a decent life as her life partner- how best will you be able to show it?

“You have to be financially ready. But if you have to get married, the cheapest wedding you can afford would be a simple akad nikah with a dowry of reading the Al-Fatihah from the Al-Quran, a mas kahwin of RM80 as required by the state, an affordable engagement ring for RM200, a wedding band for RM300, and no fancy hantaran.

“Invite only 100 people with a catering cost of RM10 per head – then you are able to have a wedding for RM5,000 (per side),” Fathin concludes.

RM5,000 for one wedding reception sounds modest and doable, but I needed to recalculate my finances to fit the needs of my girlfriend, since a good man would need to work hard for the woman of his dreams.

So, When Can I Get Married?

My rough calculation of a budget wedding, but decent enough to make my girl happy (for someone who earns less than RM5,000), would look like this:

1. Venue – Home with 600 guests at RM10 catering per head: RM6,000
2. Tents, pelamin, decoration and favours: RM3,000
3. Rings – Engagement and wedding band: RM3,000
4. Hantaran – 5 trays at RM300: RM1,500
5. Dowry: RM80
6. Outfit: RM300
7. Photography (with no drones): RM2,000

Total: RM15,880

Already with my current expenses, which include car loan (RM500), petrol (RM240), toll (RM150), phone bill (RM150), meals (RM10 per 3 meals), entertainment (RM200), I am able to save just under RM1,000.

After doing the math, to my surprise, it seems like I can pull this off even earlier than I expected, in less than two years, 1 year and 4 months, to be precise.

And given that I save up more on meals, avoid the toll, and of course, cut on little treats while out with my girlfriend, I am even able to get married under a year, in a simple, practical and decent wedding.

Little did you think that it would be possible to have a wedding in that budget these days, right? But everything is possible if you work hard for it, and sometimes, having a lavish and trendy wedding isn’t necessary, because after all, what matters is the person you are going to spend your lifetime with.

Let’s also be reminded, whether you opt for a grand wedding or not, it is a choice. And as a man, setting aside some savings is very important prior to starting a newly married life at the end of the day.

Also, don’t resort to taking up personal loans, even though it is a personal choice, after hearing stories of some friends, starting your marriage life in debt is certainly not the beginning you want.

Even the Prophet had stated that: The most blessed marriage is the one in which the marriage partners place the least burden on each other (4:255).

So, the bottom line is, for the rest of us who are young, have no savings, or thinking about marriage - it's time to start hustling. And if you ever hear that I will be getting married - please, all donations are welcome.

- Malaysian Digest