In my younger days, I hardly ever got to go for any wedding luncheon or dinner unless it was somebody in the family who was getting married.

I do remember, however, how there would usually be two men seated at a table by the entrance or near it with a mini-suitcase by the side. In later years, that was replaced by the so-called “James Bond bag”. One of the men would collect the ang paos from the guests arriving and he would take out the money and count and then he would say the name of the guest out loud and the amount given. The man seated beside him would write it all down in  a thin exercise book and the money would be thrown into the suitcase, all of which would be handed over to the host at the end of the day.

That reminded me of the scribe and the tax collector in those Biblical days and I would not say that was a very good system, not that anyone gave two hoots and was in any way bothered about it, since it was the accepted practice at the time. However, there was one time when somebody gave RM100 in RM50 denomination and as he was walking away, he thought he heard RM50 only. So he went back and checked and true enough, only RM50 had been recorded in the exercise book. He demanded for the ang pao packet and the man took it out of his shirt pocket – the other RM50 note was inside. No one could tell whether it was accidental or intentional but obviously, this seemingly foolproof way of collecting ang paos may be abused by unscrupulous individuals if they were thus inclined.

I also remember one thing – the exercise book would have to be kept and when one was invited by one of those guests in the list, one would have to attend and give that same amount – you cannot give more nor less. Good grief! Way back then, people would usually give RM10.00 only per head. Imagine if I were to go to a wedding reception today and give, according to the past record, just RM10.00. That was quite a lot then but it is certainly too little by today’s standards.

People often lament when they get a string of those red “summonses”…

Wedding invitations

…as that would mean they would have to keep forking out the money for the ang paos.

However, things may be, at times, a little different here. I don’t know who started this trend but very often, one would get to see this…

No gifts

…in the invitation cards. Some would be more specific and state that gifts in cash or kind are respectfully declined…and some would also include congratulatory messages (in the newspapers).

Yes, at any wedding in town, there would be those people from the local Chinese dailies hovering around like hawks, waiting to swoop down on you the moment you’re seated. It wouldn’t be so bad if there is just one or two but more often than not, there are a number of them and it can get somewhat irritating when they come round to ask you again and again and at times, the same one even – they certainly are quite persistent. I think it costs RM20.00 per head to add your name to a list of others in a congratulatory message in the paper the next day or so. Actually, I would rather give an ang pao even if it means I would need to give more for I do feel that in cases such as these, the only people laughing all the way to the bank would be those newspaper companies.

I guess if you’re one of those rich tycoons in town, you can easily afford to throw a grand and impressive party anytime but rich or poor, I am pretty sure that any parent and the newly-weds would have saved up more than enough for the special and happy occasion. Still. I do feel it is better to let people give an ang pao

Wedding ang pao

…as a token, more in appreciation of the invitation than anything else. Tradition has it that when people give you something, you have to give something in return and the same applies here. They have invited you so an ang pao would be in order and the best gesture to show that you appreciate it very much, much better than buying a gift. I was told once that in the past, in western societies where giving ang paos is not the norm, the intending bride and groom would pass a list of things that they would need or want for their relatives or friends to choose what to buy for them – that certainly was a good idea and one would not end up with a dozen tea sets and half a dozen toasters and rice cookers. I’m not sure if they still do that these days or not.

If I’m not wrong, this practice of not accepting gifts, cash or kind, is quite unheard of outside of Sibu…and I am glad that people have done away with the “scribe and tax collector” system of collecting ang paos these days. It seems that they would just prepare a box and you can just drop your ang pao inside…like depositing cheques at the bank. Whatever it is,  I don’t mind really as I love going for weddings, meeting friends and mingling with the other guests, basking in the joy all around and enjoying the food…


Yum! Yummmm!!!! What about you?