Musings from wedding preparations
Getting engaged is a joyous occasion — but for most couples, the wedding planning comes with a great deal of stress. Wedding venues and big-name suppliers are booked years in advance. Cost is one of the biggest stressors; weddings are estimated to cost P200,000 to more than a million pesos, with costs of individual services rising each year.
Couples need to choose where to splurge and save. Services once considered nonessential account for a big part of wedding expenses. Same-day edit (SDE) wedding videos are now considered vital, and the beauty and quality of the video reflect the beauty of the ceremony and reception. Other, more curious additions are cake mappers, gimmicky photo booths, highly intricate cake toppers, increasingly lavish gifts for entourages, animated monogram makers, and sites that offer wedding hashtags — for a price.
For myself, a wedding preparation is also a peek into how the party and events industry is evolving, and how families have become more amenable to splurging on wedding costs in the social media age. This could be because we’re able to see, in Instagram worthy detail, lush weddings not just of wealthy celebrities and royalty, but of influencers and total strangers, feeding into the mentality that we should be meeting the same standard, or risk disappointing our guests. Couples also look forward to posting their photos and “SDEs” on social media, and so the services of a good photographer and videographer team are placed at an absolute premium.
This translates to some wedding costs that have become, frankly, exorbitant. Some places require P200,000 and above for use of the venue alone for a few hours, exclusive of catering, chairs, tables, and other accoutrements. A band which rose to popularity recently is said to ask P400,000 for a set of songs. Some videographers offer their services for a similar amount. No one is forcing couples to spend this much, but the demand does exist, and many are quite prepared to shell out.
Physician and surgeon colleagues joke, with equal parts levity and bitterness, that we should have ventured into similar trades — still part of the service industry, but with a creative aspect. As a bride-to-be, I also admit to finding it daunting that many couples are ready to spend more than P100,000 on a wedding dress, but balk at spending a similar amount on what could be a life-saving surgery. This isn’t to devalue the artistry and sheer hard work of wedding suppliers, but it does shine a light on how much the health profession, in comparison, is being devalued in some sectors, as there has been increasing demand in recent years that professional fees of physicians be standardized, controlled, or lowered.
I remember a viral Facebook post where a friend complained to a doctor that an outpatient consult, lasting less than an hour, cost P500. In a system that requires education and medical training for more than a decade for specialization, and where health professionals worry about uncompensated hours, cyberbullying, profit-oriented medicine, hostile and hierarchical work environments, and lawsuits, the pursuit of health is rapidly turning into something many consider to be unrewarding.
This isn’t to say, of course, that Filipino doctors ought to be able to demand hundreds of thousands of pesos from anyone in any context. The difference, of course, is that couples are able to delay weddings, choose suppliers, and save over time. Sickness and catastrophic medical expenses are not usually predictable, and can be devastating. Lavish weddings continue to be a privilege, and health continues to be a right; the fact that out of pocket expenses account for so much of health care is an unjust fault of our system. Doctors still need to continue to consider their patients’ modest means and to price their services reasonably. Still, it’s discouraging to see how we, as a society, are becoming more and more willing to spend on nonessentials as status symbols, but may not value as highly the training and expertise of essential health workers.
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