When Jerome Tam Chung-lam was planning his wedding celebrations in Britain and Hong Kong, he was surprised by the discrepancy between the two places in terms of online platforms to organise nuptials.
In Britain, there are a number of websites to which to refer. That made it easy for him and his British fiancée Jenni to plan their big day there – in July 2017 – from Hong Kong. When it came to putting together a banquet in his hometown the following April, however, there was a dearth of online information to help them find venues, wedding outfits and even information about Chinese traditions.
That is what prompted the 31-year-old and two other like-minded people to launch the start-up Our Big Day, an online platform pointing couples in the direction of a variety of vendors, from printers for wedding invitations to wedding dress shops and banqueting venues. It will be officially launched on February 14 – Valentine’s Day.
Tam says Our Big Day is aimed at the Hong Kong market, which hosts 50,000 weddings per year.
“The amount of money generated from giving lai see to the bride and groom is HK$19 billion [US$2.4 billion] a year,” says Tam; the average reception has 250 guests, and the going rate for lai see is about HK$1,000 per person.
This is an example of the kind of information the app provides, but there is also plenty of advice on other Chinese wedding traditions and customs.
“I was born in Hong Kong but went to school in the UK, so when it came to the games the groomsmen have to play before they can get the bride, I would find the games that you had to do, but [didn’t know] the meanings behind them,” he says.
For example, one tradition is the tea ceremony, where the bride and groom kneel in front of their elders and serve them cups of tea as a sign of respect, stability and fertility. Some couples hire a hostess to guide the wedding party through the event. Some rope in a female relative to act as a host, but she may not know she is supposed to recite happy poems on marital themes.
The same could be said about hair combing. The mother of the bride combs her daughter’s hair the night before the wedding, or the morning of her big day, while auspicious sayings are recited. This signifies the daughter’s transition into adulthood.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about ceremonies, and the information online is scattered and not well organised,” Tam observes.
The platform will have all tips and information about these traditions in traditional Chinese and English, and explain their meanings.
When couples sign up at Our Big Day, they can input their wedding date and budget, and then create their own personalised website, where they can draw up a virtual to-do list to get themselves organised.
“On day one [when they sign up], they should decide on videographers, photographers, and make-up artists,” says Tam. “We help them pick the vendors by giving recommendations based on their budgets.”
The website will be particularly useful for collecting lai see from guests and relatives safely and securely through PayPal. Tam aims eventually to include other financial transaction apps such as Alipay and WeChat.
Tam is keen on promoting wedding photographers, videographers, DJs and hair and make-up artists, many of whom are freelancers; each vendor will be scrutinised carefully for the quality of their work before being listed on Our Big Day.
When the online platform launches, it will be free to use; Tam and his co-founders hope thereby to glean helpful user feedback.
When couples sign up with one of its vendors, Our Big Day will get a percentage of the sale, while those who sign up for premium services will pay an extra fee.