SINGAPORE - All this couple wanted to do was to indulge their desire for a dream wedding.
After all, you get married only once in this lifetime, said Mr Cayden Lee.
But that indulgence proved to be costly for them. The 32-year-old insurance agent is still mired in the debt he incurred in October 2012.
He told The New Paper on Sunday: "This is the real regret. We struggle from month to month just to make ends meet."
The couple borrowed $45,000 from a financial institution with a repayment period of two years. They also borrowed $4,000 from a licensed moneylender and $11,000 from a relative. On top of that, they pumped in their entire savings of $20,000.
They also charged to their individual credit cards, said his wife, who wants to be known only as Mrs Lee. She estimates the charges were another $30,000.
The total sum? $110,000.
Said the housewife: "When we first did our calculations, we were confident that we could afford it.
"We gave ourselves a year or two, at the maximum, to work things out."
But what Mrs Lee, 28, did not count on was losing sleep over hounding debt collectors.
She slipped into depression about six months after her wedding, and finally quit her job as an insurance agent.
Her whims, she said, included having a bridal arch made with 999 fresh tulips from Holland, completed with a tulip-shaped balloon, for their wedding march-in. The arch cost nearly $12,000.
The wedding banquet was held at a six-star hotel in the Marina Bay area, with each of the 45 tables costing $1,688++.
Other costs included their bridal photography, make-up, hair-styling and videography.
They spent so much that Mrs Lee's other dream - a honeymoon in Europe - had to be put off. She said: "We ended up going to Genting Highlands for five days instead.
Mr Lee felt that they neglected to consider one important factor - that his relatives were not "high-class or rich folk".
"Our relatives are mostly ordinary people, not highly educated, and I think that is also why the hongbao collected eventually did not cover some of the table costs," he said.
To break even, the couple had to collect $200 from each guest, added Mrs Lee.
Trying to clear the debts has put a strain on the marriage and their relationship, Mr Lee said. "I think we have had more fights since we got married than in the six years that we were dating.
"Most times, it was over money...and we'd end up blaming each other for the situation."
The couple have made lifestyle changes to ease the strain on the pocket. He said: "We spend most of our time watching television at home, or going to the nearby park for our regular jogs."
But the lesson is one that both have committed to memory, so much so that they took the trouble to sit a mutual friend's daughter down for a talk.
Mrs Lee said: "She was planning a lavish wedding in Sentosa, and wanted to include fireworks, among other things. And the couple were intending to get a few loans from their family and friends.
"I told them: 'Look at me, I went down the path like a fool and I am still paying for the expensive lesson. Why walk down the same road as us?'"
This article by The New Paper on Sunday was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.
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