12 December 2005

On Marriage

"Honey, we're still underaged."

The Straits Times has a number of articles today where young people write about why they would rather not get married. Interesting, interesting. Let's take a look, first, at the article by one Goh Wen Zhong:
If my immediate future is not secure, the thought of marriage, or even emotional attachment, does not cross my mind. It is not born out of a selfish desire of self-advancement, but for practical reasons.
The funny thing about practical problems is that if you look hard enough, you can usually find practical solutions. And Mr Wang is such a practical guy. So let's take a look at Wen Zhong's practical problems.
I want to be able to afford a wedding ceremony befitting the significance of the occasion.
This is dumb. A wedding ceremony is a one-day event. A marriage is a lifetime project. Now if you and your partner really want to undertake a lifetime project, you should never let a one-day event stand in the way. It would be as absurd as saying, "I really want to go to university, but it's just too difficult to get the application form and fill up so many blanks."

Dear Wen Zhong, if the wedding ceremony is really such a big problem for you, I suggest you just skip it. Seriously. If you have a limited budget, spend on a nice honeymoon in an exotic place, rather than on a 75-table wedding dinner where half the guests are there only because they feel socially obliged to be there. I can't even remember half the things that happened on my wedding ceremony day. But the honeymoon, heheheh, I remember. Next problem, please:
I want my wife to have the freedom to choose whether to work or be a homemaker.
Mr Wang says: that's not an immediate problem. When you've just gotten married, you don't have kids (hopefully). When you don't have kids, your wife will be bored stiff staying at home playing homemaker. So she should go to work. What do you want her to do - stay at home and mop the floor all day? As for kids, you can defer them until you and your wife feel willing or able.
I want my marriage to be a genuine joy to my parents, and not a burden.
Frankly I think it's none of their business, but if you ask me, most parents are happy to see their kids get married, and most parents are even happier to become grandparents. And why should your marriage be a burden to your parents?
I want to be the best husband and father I can be.
That's nice. That's also impossible as long as you stay single. The first step to becoming the best husband and father around is, of course, to become a husband and father. Funny, this Wen Zhong fella. His aspiration sabotages itself.
The peripheral thoughts are mind-boggling: Financial stability is a must.
Good point. So save your money. Set some financial goals. Educate yourself on financial planning. Which you should do anyway, Wen Zhong, regardless of whether you get married or not. Contrary to what you seem to be thinking, Wen Zhong, singlehood doesn't make you rich. And actually, Wen Zhong, marrying a rich lady could be your fastest way to get rich (not that Mr Wang advocates marrying rich ladies for no other reason than their being rich).

The next writer is Chen Wei Li, a recent graduate from Ngee Ann Polytechnic. He wrote:
On a more pragmatic note, I simply want to spend more time doing things without the obligation of answering to a family.

I would love to go backpacking in Europe or run a business or throw all my money on a new car.
So the argument goes like this: "I don't want to get married because I want to do other things first like ... A, B, C." The questions are then (a) what are your ABCs; (b) do you really want to do them; (c) are you taking positive steps or making some definite plans for your ABCs, (d) are they just idle daydreams that will last even when you're 60 years old and still single; (e) does marriage really stand in the way of these ABCs; (f) if the right person comes along, will your ABCs still be overwhelmingly important.

I know many people who would say, "I don't want to get married now because I want to focus on my career and succeed in my job." Now I can respect this kind of argument very much - if the person is indeed passionate about his job; works very hard at excelling in it and so on.

Question these people further, and you find, more often than not, that they don't particularly love their job (they may even hate it), they aren't facing any particularly exciting work challenges, and they are approximately as lackadaisical as the average other employee (married or not) in their organisation.

If you look at Wei Li's ABCs, you may begin to see some likely false dilemmas. For example, if you want to go backpacking in Europe, just go. It's only one month, maybe two months of your life. How does it stop you from getting married? Heck, get married and go backpacking with your spouse in Europe.

Wei Li's second ABC - running a business. Curiously, if you stop to think about it, most of the SME-type of businessmen you know are probably married. Furthermore, their wives probably play a big role in helping to run the business.

Wei Li's 3rd ABC is ... a bit sad, in my view, but to each his own. If the romantic interest in your life is someone to whom you're willing to say, "I won't marry you because I prefer to own a car instead", well, chances are, she's not someone you genuinely love anyway.

More thoughts later ...


Unknown said...

I think in the case of financial matters, and Mr Chen Wei Li's ABCs, it's not only a matter of money. It could also be a case of resources such as time and energy.

Also, there's some misconception about the term "marriage". I think you are thinking of the act of registering the social commitment, telling your friends and family, etc with the right person already in mind, whereas these writers are thinking of have to spend money to get girls to go out with them, pay for their meals at restaurants, etc and all the things associated with the affairs leading up to the registration act.

After all, considering how unromantic they sound... they probably need the money to get women.

Heavenly Sword said...

Haha, this is cute. Very interesting. And great dissection too, Mr Wang :)

(1) I think that Goh Wen Zhong's thinking reflects the thinking of many young people nowadays. They want complete security before settling down, which seems fair enough. But practically speaking, I feel that if people want to get married, they should just go ahead (as long as they have stable jobs). Strike the iron while it's hot, while the love/passion is strong. If one waits for too long, maybe by the time one is financially 'ready', the passion has faded. At that time, one might be able to have the grandest wedding on Earth, but it's not half as romantic as a not-so-grand wedding that could have taken place earlier.

(2) I think WenZhong also overestimates the amount that a wedding ceremony/dinner would cost. People do give ang pows (red packets) during weddings. And usually, the ang pows will be sufficient to help one cover 80-90% of the expenses. As for the rest of the stuff (e.g. gown/suit etc), maybe one might need another few thousand dollars. Anyway, there is a new loan service provided by SingPost: SMS your NRIC number to 71177, and you will be able to get a loan of up to $10,000. Hurry and get married today!!

Merv said...

The more money you have, the more you tend to spend.

More so if it a wedding.

When you're poor, a simple dinner is all you can afford.

By the time when you're richer, you would have decided to pay for a high class dinner in Hilton.

in the end. It all evens out

Biased Observer said...

I am always irked when people lament how expensive it is to get married in Singapore. It is not. It costs but S$30 to register a marriage. All the other stuff - the swanky hotel dinner, the fancy photoshoots, buying a new flat and renovating it to the nices, are optional trimmings. If you want to spend obscene amounts of money - then don't complain about it.

Anthony said...

From experience, how much a wedding costs depends on how well you are able to resist societal pressure.

Also from experience, the more you earn, the less likely you're able to resist societal pressure. Conversely, the less you earn, the less likely you'll be forced to spend.

Mr Wang's logic therefore has some merit even from this angle.

pleinelune said...

Is Mr Wang taking bribes from the gahmen to persuade us to get married? ;)

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Ah, no. In fact, I still see marriage as very much a personal decision. The thing is - I think that many people are actually not very good at making personal decisions. If you examine, for example, the reasons given by this Wen Zhong and this Wei Li for not wanting to get married, you'll see that their reasons mostly fall apart under a little probing.

singaporean said...

I thought Goh Wen Zhong wrote a substandard article for someone who is reading law in LSE. Then again, maybe he has to resort to lame excuses because the truth is politically incorrect. He could really be

1) Commitment-phobic: While give up the forest for one tree?

2) His ring finger is a lot longer than his index finger, and Singaporean laws prevent his consumation in an Elton sort of way. This is not palmistry! Ask UC Berkeley! (Too much male hormones in the womb will make you competitive, aggressive and ...)

This applies to you too, Corporate Manwhore! Whatever made you think that Palm and siblings are really female?

Kelvin said...

I agree with Mugster, very insightful! On the financial part, the house is the only killer, the rest are optionals. Cos I believe no woman would want to stay under the same roof as her in-laws.

Zia said...

well......very insightful.....yes.
I have my mil living with me...won't have her out of the house, then my hubby will be sad. I don't want that. A wise woman once told me, if you want a good husband, find a man who loves his mother. Only those really knows how to love and respect a woman and they are usually romantic too. Very true.
As wedding is concern, I say let the couple choose what they want. I regret not having any say in my bouquet. The tradition here is the man choose the flowers......bad choice I say. My hubby leave it to the shop and I got something I really hate.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Chris Choo, oh you wrote one of the articles? I think I know which one. I was going to comment but my post here already looked too long. Anyway, I'll probably post again, this time about your article.

Norman said...

what happens if in-laws insist on wedding dinner, and the couple insist on not having one/cant afford one ?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

There are many ways to skin a cat, you know.

My brother-in-law flew off to the US, married someone without telling any of the relatives in Singapore, and then came back and announced, "Hi, meet my wife." She was a divorcee, and my bro-in-law felt that my mum-in-law might not approve, so he flew off and married her in the US. Till today, they have not had a wedding dinner and they don't intend to.

Other folks get officially married and register for a flat, and buy the flat, and move in, and defer the wedding dinner till later.

I know another couple who never did the traditional wedding dinner thing. They just booked a pub and invited about 30 of their closest relatives and friends.

If you've ever been to one of those weddings held in a restaurant rather than a hotel, you'll know that the food is very good, and the wedding dinner is quite cheap too.

You can always opt for a smaller wedding. Cheaper hotel; less classy food; hold the wedding on a Monday-Thursday night; fewer tables; no alcohol; forget the silly dowry thing; rent the wedding gown; drop the live band; skip the professional videoman; get friends to be your wedding photographer; and why do you need a BMW or Merc to be the wedding car?

I don't think wedding dinners cost that much. Guests tend to give angpows which cover the cost of their own individual dinners.