Parents splurge on newborn celebrations
It's a celebration so grand, you'd mistake it for a wedding. But service providers tell CHAI HUNG YIN (firstname.lastname@example.org) that parents are spending big bucks to celebrate their babies
At first glance, the beautifully decorated dais looks like those seen in Malay weddings.
Look again and you will spot a baby snuggled in a specially-crafted cradle.
The set-up, including the catered food, cost about $4,500. It was to mark the cukur rambut (Malay for hair-shaving) ceremony for Nur Arifah Ilyana last month.
The ceremony, where the child's head is shorn of all hair, is a tradition to mark the start of the child's life and to encourage growth of new hair.
Arifah's father had no qualms spending the money - more than twice his monthly salary - for the lavish affair, witnessed by more than 300 relatives and friends gathered to celebrate his two-month-old baby girl.
Mr Abu Suffian Miswari, 31, a courier driver, says: "She's our first baby and the first granddaughter for both sides of the family.
"We want the best for her so that when she grows up, she can look at the pictures and know that we love her so much."
Madam Laila Juma'at, 35, a recruiter, and her husband, Mr Ben Lucking, 32, a crude oil broker, spent close to $3,000 on the hair-shaving ceremony for their son Ryan Hazeeq when he was two months old.
Madam Laila says: "He's our first child and the first is usually the most pampered. We spent a bit more to spend time with our family and friends."
She had initially wanted a small do but many family and friends - about 300 of them - were excited to see the baby, so she decided to move the event from her 5-room flat to the void deck.
On why she went for elaborate decorations, Madam Laila says: "The void deck is bare and not presentable. You need decorations to jazz it up."
Comparatively, a no-frills baby's hair-shaving ceremony can be done at a mosque with a small donation.
These couples who splurge are part of a growing trend, according to service providers The New Paper on Sunday spoke to.
Madam Suhaila Mohd Sarit, 29, who planned the event for Mr Suffian, says that she has seen an increase in demand since she started My Dream Cradle two years ago.
"Last year, we were booked for an average of four to six events a month. But starting this year, we get up to 12 events a month."
A party for relatives and friends to mark the newborn's hair-shaving ceremony is a popular trend in Malaysia, says Madam Suhaila.
She says: "Sometimes, they put the baby in a cot with simple decorations.
"I came up with the idea to have a special cradle and customised it with my own creativity.
"Parents want to celebrate their babies, and have relatives come and see their babies."
She adds that she has also received many enquiries for grand baby-naming ceremonies too, another service that she provides.
Mr Mohamed Yunos Mohd Nor, 32, who owns Little Rizq Culla and planned Madam Laila's event, sees more new parents holding baby showers, with the average spending of $2,000, which includes catered food. The set-up for a baby cradle starts from $550, depending on venue.
Chinese families are also spending big on full-month parties for their children.
It has become common to hold an event costing between $10,000 and $15,000, says party planner Edwin Goh, 35, owner and founder of Ministry Of Party.
He plans about three to four such grand celebrations a year, held in hotels or clubs, with about 100 to 150 guests.
Among the things parents splurge on are the venue, decorations, party favours, dessert buffet, photo booth and a sumptuous food spread.
Mr Goh says: "The food usually costs $50 to $60 per head, with some going up to $80 per head.
"Some engage entertainers for guests. They do it like a proper event, complete with a sound system and an emcee who plays games with the guests.
"It is like a wedding, except that it is for a baby."
Sweetest Moments, which produces gift boxes for baby full-month celebrations, observes that more parents are opting for premium products, seeing an increase of about 10 per cent in the past three years.
Ms Rachel Chong, its chief executive officer, says parents may spend a few thousand dollars just on such packages alone.
Parents who are willing to spend big bucks are those in their late 20s or 30s, explains Mr Goh. "They are professionals and usually live in landed properties or condominiums.
"They have fewer kids and the first child is the one they always splurge on."
Ms Chong agrees, saying: "Most couples nowadays have only one or two children, and it is a once-a-lifetime chance to celebrate their newborns' arrival.
"Celebrations are parents' display of their love and pride for their newborn.
"The newborn is definitely oblivious but when they are older, the photos and videos will tell them how much their arrival had meant to their parents."
Neo Garden, which caters food for baby full-month celebrations, has seen a 55 per cent increase in orders for the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period three years ago.
Its brand manager, Ms Jessie Ong, attributes it to the company giving a 50-per cent discount as part of SG50 Jubilee Baby promotion, which "makes it more attractive for parents to throw a party for their newborn".
The most expensive order it has received so far this year is around $2,600 for a full-month celebration held in a church for 100 people. The family lives in a condominium and it was the couple's first child, says Ms Ong.
But some parents say there isn't a need for fancy parties to mark the arrival of a newborn.
Human resource executive Wendy Law, 35, feels that the money can be put to better use, such as for rainy days and the children's medical expenses and education.
The mother of two boys, aged three months and two years, says: "I think it is a waste of money for an average family like mine but if the parents are rich, why not."
She spent about $500 on full-month gift packages for close family and friends for her second baby's full-month celebration.
As for Mr Suffian, he doesn't mind spending so much on his baby, even if it means having to save up for months and forgoing certain luxuries in life for himself and his wife.
He says: "You can always earn back the money. But the moment, once lost, will never return."
"She's our first baby. We want the best for her, so that when she grows up, she can look at the pictures and know that we love her so much."
- Mr Abu Suffian Miswari, 31, a courier driver
Other lavish bashes
A young mother from Shanxi province, China, threw an elaborate fashion show birthday party for her two-year-old daughter, spending about 1 million yuan (S$217,000).
Renowned international fashion brands like Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Giorgio Armani and Prada, among others, formed the ensemble in the show.
"We have no financial issues, so I just want my daughter to have a better life," claimed the mother in her 20s.
Mr Liu Baoli, a businessman from Tangshan city, sent 30 Rolls-Royce Phantoms to ferry guests to his son's 9,999 yuan (S$2,100) per table wedding banquet.
The banquet alone cost around one million yuan, with some bloggers calling the Rolls-Royce fleet - worth more than 200 million yuan - a parade of wealth.
Local comedian Mark Lee celebrated the first birthday of his little princess Calista in a ballroom at the Marina Mandarin Hotel.
About 260 guests turned up in pink or white, with the ballroom decorated with the same colours. Balloon sculpting thrilled many kids, while Hello Kitty balloons floated above every table.
He and his wife planned such a big birthday party because they have many friends and relatives who cared about Calista, he said.