The blog title should sound very familiar to Malaysians especially the Chinese. Yeah, it would be a near miracle if Chinese wedding dinners are starting on time as stipulated on the wedding invitation card.

Why Chinese wedding dinners always start late in Malaysia?

If you are invited to a Chinese wedding dinner in Malaysia and assuming the dinner time as stated in the wedding invitation card is 7.00 pm, chances are the dinner will actually start at least one to one half hours later, i.e. 8.00 pm or 8.30 pm. Once a dinner got started only about 9.00 pm which was a solid two hours behind scheduled time. My stomach was grinding and grinding and I could even hear the grrr grrr sounds.

Why? Why? Why?

Traditionally and according to customs those who come early or on time are those who are hard up for the food.

Another reason is “the later I come the more important I am” attitude. this boils down to the issue of “face”. “Face” here means your reputation and your VIPness. Those who are in “higher” position in society might think that they should be the ones to come late so that other people can wait for them.

The third reason is normally the invited in-laws (and their families) would enter the dining hall last. They would never be the first ones to come or earlier than the rest. This is another “face” issue.

Lastly it has been in practice by our forefathers for many many years. It has already “sinked in” as a culture and is very very difficult to change.

I was once very early, about 10 minutes before the stipulated time as stated in wedding card. To my embarrassment, there is not a single soul at the entrance! The bride and groom and their parents are not there. Even the restaurant manager is nowhere to be seen.

From my years of experience, I conclude that never come earlier than the stipulated time. If you are late by half an hour or one hour, it is still OK as the dinner will start late anyway.

How to spend the waiting time?

Actually there are a number of ways you could kill time while waiting for the dinner to start (remember you have about one to two hours depending on your arrival time):

  1. Treat this as your happy hours, perhaps chit chatting away with your friends and relatives. With a few glasses of beer, wine, liquor or Chinese tea etc. Drinks are free flow anyway and you have already given your “ang pau”.
  2. Take this opportunity to do your business and social networking to build your network; you would see this happening as ardent networkers would dish out their business cards here and there.
  3. Enjoy the karaoke singing presented by invited (paid) artistes or guests although sometimes some amateur singing might not suit your ears. Some hosts also take the extra mile by engaging live band for the night. So enjoy.
  4. Spend some time looking around to look for the latest fashion in town as this is the place where men and women would usually put up their best and latest costumes “on display”.
  5. Or you may just sit there quietly by yourself dreaming and keep cool! Haha!

Productivity loss

Do you know that how much time is wasted (in waiting time) in a typical Chinese wedding dinner? For example, there are 1000 guests (100 tables) and the dinner starts one and half hour later. Assuming on average the per hour rate of one person is RM20, here is the answer.

1,000 pax x 1.5 hours x RM20 = RM30,000!

OK, let’s say put in a safety factor of 0.5, it becomes RM30,000 x 0.5 = RM15,000.

The productivity loss in terms of money is tremendous when taking into account of the total number of weddings going on per year.

Not all people like to kill their time as per the above five methods but because they have to attend the wedding dinner, they are the ones who will suffer most.

Therefore, punctuality in Chinese wedding dinners in Malaysia is a big time waster as called by some and some even boycott of going to such dinners.

My two cents

Personally I enjoy going to Chinese wedding dinners  because of the food and sometimes I get to see some performances by invited artistes or karaoke singing. This would be better if you sit with your friends and people you know. The not so ideal scenario is when you are seated with total strangers! Unless you are natural networker, you would probably not enjoy the dinner. That’s when you start to “blame” why the dinner start so late.

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