Share A Secret: I pretended I was unmarried… to save on ang baos during CNY
The Weekly’s readers share their most well-kept and intimate secrets
February 9, 2019
My husband Wee Kiat* and I have been a happily married couple for close to seven years now. Our favourite public holiday is Lunar New Year – we love this festive period for the family get-togethers, the delicious food, and the fact that we get lots of ang baos, but don’t have to give away any of our own… because no one knows we are married!
Wee Kiat and I first met when we were interning at an arts organisation, and our immediate attraction developed into a whirlwind romance. Within nine months into our relationship, we held a basic marriage solemnisation at the Registry of Marriages. Yes, we were that crazy in love!
Both of our families weren’t well-off, and since we were just university undergraduates with little savings, we decided not to hold a wedding. Our parents wanted a lavish Chinese banquet, but we convinced them not to tell anyone that we were married by appealing to their traditional pride to “save face”. We promised them that we would do so once we were working and our finances were stable – plus, I really wanted my ideal wedding despite having rushed into this marriage.
For the sake of pretending we were unmarried, we stayed apart at our respective family homes instead of cohabiting to avoid dealing with gossip. We lied whenever people got a whiff of our actual statuses – we told people who spotted our wedding bands that they were just couple rings.
We did attract talk: Our friends mistook Wee Kiat and me as having an open relationship because we kept saying that we liked being “single, but together”. Our colleagues kept advising us to get hitched, but we gave the excuse that we were “career-minded”.
As for our extended family, we loved meeting them… during Lunar New Year. While we had to bat away the usual irritating questions of marriage, we happily accepted their ang baos and teased them to stuff more money in the packets so we could afford a wedding!
Our parents were uncomfortable about lying, but Wee Kiat and I were more concerned with the money we could save because there was no need for us to give out ang baos to the unmarried relatives and kids in our families. Over the past years of not giving ang baos, I’ve calculated that we saved more than $10 k – and all that could go into our wedding!
Unfortunately, the path to our wedding was troubled… by our mutual love of travel. The money that we got during Lunar New Year did not go into our savings, but holidays. We got “seduced” by cheap flights, and went on getaways on the excuse that they were “honeymoon rehearsals”. Each year, we promised to save; each year, we took an unplanned trip while the wedding went on an “indefinite hiatus”.
A few months ago, after one particularly “romantic” trip, I found out I was pregnant! Wee Kiat and I did not want to look like we had a child out-of-wedlock (technically, we hadn’t) and while we were fine with outsiders thinking that it would be a shotgun wedding, we did not have the resources to hold a proper wedding ceremony.
I was happy that I was expecting, but disheartened that I would not have the wedding of my dreams.
One evening, we gathered both our parents to tell them about my pregnancy, and that we could not hold the Chinese wedding dinner that they had wanted. Instead of giving us an earful, our parents told us not to worry – they already had saved enough on their own for us to have a wedding!
Wee Kiat’s father explained that they had got tired of waiting for us year after year, so the four of them had been pooling together their work savings for the past few years for when the occasion arose. “Now, we have a wedding and a grandchild to look forward to!” added my mother who was beaming.
This year, on the day of our copper anniversary, Wee Kiat and I will finally be holding our wedding. And even though I will look like a balloon (I will be in my third trimester after all!), I know that the wedding will be a dream one – not just for me, but for Wee Kiat and our parents. Plus, we have decided that all invited guests are not required to present ang baos to attend!
*Name changed to protect privacy.
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