In Hong Kong, breaking even is not just a business word, but also on the mind of newly weds when it comes to that hotel wedding banquet.
With the standard cash gift from each banquet guest at HK$800 (US$103) in a Chinese restaurant and HK$1,000 in a hotel, young couples often need to subsidize the event as higher food prices and rentals have pushed up the cost of wedding banquets each year.
The latest statistics by OiKa, a wedding website which provides banquet reference price for 500 different venues in Hong Kong, showed that couples have to subsidize as much as HK$1,000 per guest if it is at a top end hotel.
For example, Peninsula Hotel charged an average of HK$1,967 per guest. Both Ritz Carlton Hotel and Sky 100 at Hong Kong’s highest venue atop International Commerce Centre charged at least HK$1,700. Same story at the luxurious Island Shangri-la and Four Seasons Hotel.
The wedding platform tracked banquet prices quarterly, just like government published economic data, because the wedding banquet is possibly the single largest expense when young couples plan their budget.
Of course, budgets vary widely from the modest 20 tables in a Chinese restaurant to richer couples taking over 100 tables in a five-star hotel.
An average Chinese restaurant in Kowloon and New Territories area costs between HK$500 and HK$600 per head – which means, as Oika rightly points out, the couple could make money from their banquet.
And in mainland China, weddings are an even more serious business. Although many mainland couples arrange the banquet some time after getting married (probably because of saving up for a down payment in the surging home market, just like Hong Kong) relatives and friends tend to be very generous when it comes to cash gifts, measured by the actual “weight” of the envelope they received.
As 100 yuan is the largest paper note, some mainlanders might give out 100 in an envelope, which is heavier than an iphone, to show off their wealth.
Wedding is a big business in Hong Kong, with about 50,000 marriages every year since 2006.
Hosting a Chinese banquet is still the traditional way of celebration. Assuming half of the people went for 20 tables at about HK$6,000 per table in Chinese restaurants, it could be a whopping HK$3 billion market.
In March 2015, a bride-to-be posted on social media a friendly-reminder that the banquet cash gift should be at least HK$600, instead of the standard HK$500. She was heavily criticized by netizens and was forced to remove the post.
Still, from the guest perspective, many of them would take the market reference price and make the couple happy.