It is common practice to give newlyweds a red envelope containing cash to express one’s best wishes, but the issue of a “red-envelope culture” came under scrutiny after a professor filed a suit against a tabloid on Friday.
The Chinese-language Apple Daily reported on Thursday that Kuo Ming-cheng (郭明政), dean of the College of Law at National Chengchi University, made requests for specific amounts of red-envelope cash for his son’s wedding banquet.
In an e-mail invitation to his colleagues, Kuo requested NT$2,800 per couple and NT$2,000 per individual, it reported.
On Friday, Kuo filed a NT$100 million (US$3.3 million) lawsuit against the Apple Daily for defamation and forgery, saying the figures in the e-mail had been quoted “out of context.”
Kuo said the Apple Daily did not accurately quote his e-mail to his colleagues and had altered the text.
He said that in the e-mail, he told the invitees “if you’re unable to attend the banquet, please don’t send anything, including presents,” but the Apple Daily had omitted that from the quote.
The paper did not publish the part of the invitation that reads “NT$2,800 for groups of three or more people,” which constituted a form of forgery, Kuo said.
He said he and his colleagues are very close and he only wanted them to share his happiness. It was not his intention to force them to attend the wedding, he said.
The “red-envelope culture” is one of bribery, Kuo said, adding that he had taken a creative approach to try to redress it.
That was the intention of the suggestion to split the contribution among people in groups, he said.
He said that 90 percent of the people had praised him for that approach, and only 10 percent had other views.
However, the newspaper report that he was forcing people to give red envelopes “was an act of defamation and a complete deviation from the truth,” he said.
Meanwhile, the public’s reaction to the question of setting a wedding banquet fee was mixed, with some saying that it is “considerate” and others opposing it on grounds that “it would turn the focus of a wedding to money.”
Cheng Hsiao-hui (程筱蕙), an office worker, said it was difficult to decide how much should be given and it is good if there was a preset standard payment.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Huang Yi-chiao (黃義交), who attends all kinds of celebratory events, said he usually “sends flowers, but not money.”
He said while it was more considerate to set a standard payment, he would continue to send flowers.
Chiu Jui-chung (邱瑞忠), an associate professor at Tunghai University, said that in contrast with the general practice, Kuo’s approach seems “too considerate” or even “outlandish” because of his status as a university dean.
Lin Mao-hsien (林茂賢), a folk expert and associate professor at National Taichung University of Education, said there was no set amount for red envelopes.
“As long as you feel comfortable with the amount, it’s the right amount,” Lin said.
However, there is an unwritten understanding that the amount should be an “even number,” he said.
Lee Feng-ying, a manager at the five-star Han-Hsien International Hotel in Greater Kaohsiung, said that in deciding the amount, one should take into consideration the number of invited guests and the venue so as not to be seen as “lacking social ethics.”
“The cost of attending a wedding at a five-star hotel should start at NT$2,000 per person,” Lee suggested.