Sugar, Butter, Flour

If you recognise this title, you must have seen Waitress, the new addition to London’s West End musicals since the beginning of February. It’s a perfect way to spend a weekday evening – it’s light, sweet, crunchy, just like a beautiful pie that Jenna baked!

Seeing Waitress nicely coincided with starting watching Great British Bake Off. I was never a fan of reality shows as they’re usually too fake and dramatic, but few weeks back I came across a BBC article that GBBO is now so popular in the US, mainly because its simplicity amidst their political turmoil. It convinced me right away to go straight to Netflix – I never knew that watching 10 tarts baking in the oven could be so exciting!

Anyway, somehow I found a red thread between Waitress, GBBO, and my life and I’m reflecting on it as I write.

“I’ll bake me a door to help me get through.”

What baking can do, Waitress, Sara Bareilles

Jenna, the main character of Waitress, is obv a waitress but she’s also a baker in a pie shop. She baked so beautifully that her obgyn doctor who’s given up sugar ended up eating a whole pie and fell in love with her. It would’ve been a simple love story if she weren’t married and pregnant with an abusive husband – who didn’t know how to love rather than treating her like a maid and a cash cow.

She heard about this baking competition in another city and she started saving money so she could join, hopefully win the cash prize, and use that money to leave her husband and start a new life.

Image result for waitress musical
Image: Post Crescent

On the first season, very first episode of GBBO, there was one contestant that caught my attention: Mark, a bus driver from Wales, probably in his 50s. He’s not a fancy baker – he didn’t experiment with dragon fruits or lavender or ginger. He made a simple tea loaf and as excited as he was, he opened the oven too often, causing the temperature to drop and at the end his cake sunk in the middle. In the “showstopper” challenge when bakers were supposed to impress the judges with their decorations, he used simple decors bought from a local store or probably gifted by friends and families. I imagined that he’s quite popular among his friends and collagues and his cakes must have brought joy in multiple occassions. But he’s not a GBBO material – he was eliminated on the very first episode. I felt like crying with him when it was announced.

Image result for gbbo season 1
Mark was the 2nd from the left. Image: Cosmopolitan.

I watched that episode only few weeks ago but it was actually aired the first time in 2010. I thought perhaps now, 9 years later, Mark would have a transformed life. He quit his job as a bus driver because a local bakery saw him on TV and offered him a job. He would have pursued his passion. I Googled him… and read that he’s passed away after suffering from cancer.

A piece of my heart broke.

Who would’ve given a bus driver a second glance? Living in London, I treat buses/tubes as utilities to get me from point A to point B. As the clock is always ticking fast, the only thing I care about is that my ride comes on time. Why would I care if the bus driver is having a cramp, or they just had a near miss yesterday so they are driving more slowly today? Just get me to point B, as soon as possible, please.

Baking – and joining GBBO – was probably Mark’s way to leave his own stamp, to be noticed, to matter. As Augustus Waters said in The Fault in Our Stars – he feared oblivion. He didn’t want to die without being a legend, without being remembered.

“It’s addictive the minute you let yourself think the things that I say just might matter to someone.”

You matter to me, Waitress, Sara Bareilles

I don’t know whether Mark was content with his life when he died. I like to think that he was. I like to think that his short adventure inspired him and many others around him.

Baking was an escape for Jenna and Mark – an escape from mundane daily routines and disastrous relationship. I, too, tried baking to escape from a job that doesn’t bring me any challenge nor satisfaction. When I said “tried”, it literally meant my first trial in actual baking where I measured all the ingredients and followed a recipe dilligently instead of just winging it and hoping it’d turn up edible.

There’s something satisfying about producing something tangible after merely two hours of working, isn’t it?

I’m actually not sure what’s the moral of my story. I wanted to write about following your passion, or finding meanings outside your 9-5 job, or baking as a therapeutic catharsis. Or maybe I just wanted to show off my cheesecake as I’m quite chuffed with it. One thing I know for sure, I now always smile and say hi to my 29 bus drivers, as everyone deserves to be noticed and to matter.

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The Little Prince and FOMO

Mr B and I went to Lyon for the weekend, our first getaway since our honeymoon in October. Lyon’s airport name is Saint Exupery, which was vaguely familar to me. It became clear when I walked past souvenir shops: The Little Prince merchandises were everywhere.

It’s been 15 years since I last read The Little Prince – I remember when I first read it, I was too young to understand the symbolism. The Little Prince is an innocent kid who traveled the galaxy and landed in different planets and met weird adults doing their weird adulty things. Recently there’s a sequel movie on Netflix where the innocent Little Prince has grown up into a “Mr Prince”, a janitor with typical dull adult life.

On the plane back to London, I was reflecting on my vague recollection of The Little Prince story and it is surprisingly relevant to my situation (the TL;DR of my situation is: my job has always been my source of energy and joy, I don’t have a life outside work, now my job is… less satisfying, let’s put it that way, and my life is miserable because of that).

The Little Prince and His Dear Rose

The Little Prince has a rose that he loved dearly. It’s an ordinary rose. The rose told him that the reason she’s special for him is because the meaning he attached to her. He could’ve treated her as any other roses. But he chose to give this rose a special place in his heart, he chose to invest his time to take care of the rose and it made him happy.

Isn’t it the same with me and my job? I chose to give it an important place in my life. I gave it the power to make my life miserable. And as it’s my choice in the first place, isn’t it also my choice now to not let it happen? To lift the label on the rose and treat it as any other roses. As John Green said in The Fault in Our Stars: “You don’t get to choose whether you get hurt in this world, but you have a say in who hurts you.”

The Busy Businessman Without Actual Purpose

The businessman was so busy that he didn’t even lift his head when The Little Prince came. He was busy counting the stars that he supposedly own.


TLP (The Little Prince): “And what do you do with these stars?”

BM (Businessman): “What do I do with them?”

TLP: “Yes.”

BM: “Nothing. I own them.”

TLP: “You own the stars?”

BM: “Yes.”

TLP: “And what good does it do you to own the stars?”

BM: “It does me the good of making me rich.”

TLP: “And what good does it do you to be rich?”

BM: “It makes it possible for me to buy more stars, if any are discovered.”

When I was a teenager reading this chapter I always thought the businessman is silly. Never did occur to me that I’d be one.

FOMO

My anxious, spiralling thoughts about my performance review and promotion is all about FOMO – fear of missing out. I’m worried to be lagged behind. I’m worried to lose in a competition I created in my head to be the the leader, to be recognised in my field, to be on Forbes’ 30 under 30. And then what?

Back to the Businessman who owns all the stars, nonetheless can’t do anything with them apart from owning them as a status symbol.

“And what do you do with them?”

“I administer them,” replied the businessman. “I count them and recount them. It is difficult. But I am a man who is naturally interested in matters of consequence.”

The little prince was still not satisfied.

“If I owned a silk scarf,” he said, “I could put it around my neck and take it away with me. If I owned a flower, I could pluck that flower and take it away with me. But you cannot pluck the stars from heaven . . .”

“No. But I can put them in the bank.”

“Whatever does that mean?”

“That means that I write the number of my stars on a little paper. And then I put this paper in a drawer and lock it with a key.”

“And that is all?”

“That is enough,” said the businessman.

I know the quote “The journey is the reward“, but often times, I forget to embrace it. No point to rush to the top – the view there will be just meh if you don’t enjoy the journey. Maybe not everyone needs to go to the top to enjoy the view.

Mr B and I went to Patagonia, Chile for our honeymoon. We stayed near Las Torres. This was the view that we could’ve seen if we hiked to the top:

Image result for patagonia las torres tower
Image: Trip Advisor

We tried to hike – but I didn’t enjoy it. There were too many people as it was a famous hiking route. Physical activity was not my forte so I needed to rest every few minutes, and I got embarassed by people who walked past us while I was resting. I didn’t enjoy the journey and I knew I wouldn’t be happier by reaching the top, so I decided to stop (and Mr B grumpily agreed).

The next day, we went for a walk in a completely different route. It was mostly flat and serene, as most people went for the most popular hike to Las Torres. It wasn’t boring either – there were hills, lakes, and small rivers that we crossed while singing The Sound of Music.

I enjoyed our walk a million times more than the mainstream hike. Is this what “the route less traveled” all about?

So now I’m thinking, what’s the point of stressing myself over FOMO and rushing to get to the top when happiness can also be found here, walking my mostly flat route with beautiful lakes and chirping birds?

Millennial Burnout: Staying Sane Amidst The “Never Enough” Society

Two days ago there was an article about “Millenial burnout” on BBC. It was on the front page, while the content of the article was quite simple, making me wonder why it was considered a big news. Probably because there were already so many articles bashing Millenials: they are entitled, they only eat avocados, they don’t know how to save money, the only thing they care about is their Instagram feed… so perhaps it’s time to defending Millenials by revealing this layer.

There’s an image in that article that I like:

A hamster wheel
Image: BBC

That’s the same hamster wheel that I’ve been in for seven years, but instead of name of days, it’s one achievement after another. I shared a little bit here that I’m a dreamer. I’ve always been a high-achiever. After I achieved goal A, I’d quickly chased after goal B. Then goal C. And so on, until it left me breathless.

Literally yesterday I just had my bi-annual performance review at work. My rating was something that’s bugging my mind since August last year, pretty much since the half started. My previous three ratings were always either “Greatly Exceeds Expectations” or “Redefines Expectations”. In August, I moved to a new role, and I was so scared to get only a “Meets All Expectations”. It became a spiralling thought in my head – “If I only get a Meets All this half, next half I’m probably not eligible for promotion, which means my promotion will be delayed until H2 2019, which will only be effective per March 2020. I will be almost 31 then and I’m not yet where I want to be…”

It was so torturing to have these thoughts coming every now and then. My heartbeat automatically became faster. I became snappy towards my clueless husband. That’s when I started meditating.

It really helped. I didn’t do it as much as I should have, but at least I learned how to visualise that I’m wrapping all of these toxic thoughts in a thin paper, almost like a paper that you use to wrap flowers in, and let it go in the wind. It’s gentle and flowy. I didn’t stomp over them and throw them away like a baseball. As my mentor phrased it: “Don’t be angry towards your inner critic – it will only create another conflict. Thank your inner critic for getting you here, then ask it politely to step aside and invite compassion to take charge now.”

Letting go gently. Image: Pixabay

She also recommended a book to me: The Compassionate Mind. The book stated that being able to imagine things is the key ability of Homo sapiens that made them strives (e.g. imagining how to transport things easier, voila, they invented wheel). However, this capability comes with a tradeoff: We can also imagine stuff that make us unhappy, such as comparing ourselves with other people or worrying about the future. Animals can show sad emotion when they lose their partners, but no animals will be sad over thinking that they’ll probably lose their partners someday.

The book also said that our society is now obsessed with lean thinking (guilty as charge, I used to work at Toyota, the pioneer of lean manufacturing, and The Lean Startup was one of my bibles). Lean obsessed with removing waste, improving productivity, being more efficient.

Image result for waste in lean manufacturing
Image: Go Lean Six Sigma

Every activity, even relaxing by doing your hobby, is considered as a way that will enable you to work more effectively. The company I work for provides tons of benefits with one goal: to enable you to focus on work. Don’t worry about what to eat, cutting your hair, or even booking a nice restaurant for your anniversary dinner. Everything is taken care of. The motto of the Benefit department is “Let us take care of you while you take care of the world.”

I came across a Harvard Business Review article titled: Why You Should Work Less and Spend More Time on Hobbies. Guess ‘why’? Yap, so you can be more creative at work.

This obsession with lean thinking comes with a price: quality of life. People are constantly chasing after something – and after they achieve it, they only ended up wanting more. There’s a word for it: affluenza.

Realising that you have a problem is the first step of solving it. So I refuse to suffer from affluenza anymore. When I do relaxing activities like hot chocolate meditation or cooking or gardening on the weekends, it won’t be so I’m ready to work more on Monday. It’s for me.

It’s not as easy, given that my brain has been wired a certain way for years. But I’m trying. And learning.

Few hours before my performance review conversation yesterday, I was anxious. I did some breathing exercise and pivoted my mind towards other things. As I learned from Happiness by Design book: When you pay too much attention to one aspect of your life that you’re not satisfied with, you’ll continue to be unhappy. To be happier, you simply need to allocate your attention to something else.

So what was the rating I got yesterday? I’m not bothered to tell you, because it doesn’t matter. I’m no less or more valuable as a human being because of my rating. Now let’s bake some cookies.

Hot Chocolate Meditation and Terrarium-Making Class

What do hot chocolate meditation and a terrarium-making class have in common? Both of them are random things I tried in January to fill out my new life mission: finding a hobby.

Since I started working seven years ago, I’ve never had any hobby. My job have always been my life and my passion. I’m an over-achiever too, so why would I want a hobby to distract myself from achieving more?

And then I moved to a new job in London. The job is… ergh. I have two values in my life: constant learning/challenge and bringing positive impact to other people’s lives. This job doesn’t satisfy any of those. I went home every night feeling empty – and resorted to Netflix.

I didn’t like this situation so I decided to go out and find a hobby. I came across Obby.co.uk – a website containing tons of classes and workshops, exactly what I needed as I actually didn’t know yet what I wanted to learn.

Isn’t the studio pretty?

My first class was hot chocolate meditation. I’ve dipped my toes on meditation by subscribing on Headspace but I don’t do it regularly. The hot chocolate bit intrigued me and it was only £19 with a £10 discount for my first class so I just went ahead and booked. The class was held in a lovely studio near Angel, Islington.

Meredith, the meditation “coach” was also a chocolate lover – so she made the hot chocolate herself (coacholatte perhaps in this case? Sorry.) She explained that the one hour would be structured in 3 sections: 20 mins meditation/breathing, 20 mins drinking hot chocolate, 20 mins closing meditation/body scanning. I honestly couldn’t wait for the hot chocolate, but as the whole point of meditating is to train your mind and body to just be and not desiring anything, I guess that served me right.

Fast forward 20 mins and it’s finally time to drink the hot chocolate. She poured us a tiny cup of hot chocolate. Really tiny.

Yep, the smallest one – the one we use for espresso.

How am I going to drink it in 20 mins? I thought. I eat my lunch in 10 mins.

Meredith explained that cocoa, especially when it’s in the form of hot chocolate, has intense flavours that will fill your whole mouth. You should be able to taste all different flavours in a good cup of hot chocolate: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, even umami.

Sour? I thought.

She didn’t let us taste it yet. First, we were just holding it. It was a winter morning so holding the warmth of the cup felt nice. And then we looked at it. Really looking at it, staring at the cup, at the chocolate marks on the edge of the cup, looking at the colour, the texture. Then we lifted the cup to our nose and smelled it. This whole process was guided, a bit similar as wine-tasting, but in a much gentle, less rushed way. I don’t even usually look at the food I’m eating (hubby barely even chews, he just swallows) so this experience was fascinating for me.

Then, after a good 5-10 mins of utilising all of your senses other than gustation, we were finally allowed to take a sip.

It felt divine.

Really.

You thought you know how hot chocolate taste? Well, probably you don’t. The sensation of taking a tiny sip of something that you’ve waited for 30 mins for was unbelievable. The liquid filled my mouth with deliciousness, spoiled my gustation with sweetness, bitterness, saltiness, and yes, a bit of sourness. (Not sure how exactly umami tastes like!)

Picture from Pixabay. Obviously I couldn’t meditate and take pics at the same time.

After that first sip, we were allowed to take more small sips. I swirled it in my mouth before swallowing – then felt the warmth in my throat and chest as this deliciousness went down to my stomach.

I work in a company whose motto is to “move fast”. Food is served for free in office’s canteen: breakfast, lunch, dinner. Food is abundant and tasty, too. But I never really paid attention to what I ate – I ate breakfast while reading the news and checking Whatsapp. Ate lunch with colleagues while talking about work. Skipped dinner to rush home. I’ve never enjoyed food as much as I did in that meditation class.

I quickly bought a package of hot chocolate from Meredith’s Food At Heart but I sadly can’t replicate the same experience when I’m alone.

This post is already longer than I thought it would be, so I’ll just leave the terrarium class for next time! If you’re struggling with your busy mind and schedule in the city, I’d thoroughly recommend to try this class. If you book using my link you’ll get £10 off your first class and I will get same too!

PS: This blog is not monetised in any way, I paid for the class, and I’m sharing my Obby link just so I can get more credits to book more awesome classes like this 🙂

Three people I met recently that made me rethinking my life

When they said London has all kind of people, they’re right. Go inside a tube and you’ll see people of all skin and hair colours. You might even see people without pants. But most of the time, you stare at them (only a bit, of course, as staring is considered impolite here) – and move on with your life. You don’t know their story, you fail to learn what makes them who they are.

I happened to meet these three people in three different events and I got the chance to have deep conversations with them.

The first one is a girl from Syria. She moved to the UK with a scholarship to study her master, and was given a permit to stay here because her home was a conflict area. My first thought was, Oh, lucky you, you don’t have to go through the tough Tier 2 visa application process. But what do I know?

Her brother is in the US. She can’t visit him because of Trump’s travel ban. Her parents is in Syria. She can’t go home because she might not be able to go back. The only way she can see her parents is by agreeing to meet in Libya, which she already did once. The problem is, their meeting in Libya was arranged by the assistance from an organisation that’s considered a terror organisation in Europe. Obviously she can’t risk being associated with this organisation and that’s why she only did it once since she moved to UK 3.5 years ago.

I told her, “You made my problem looks so small.”

She asked, not unkindly, “What’s your problem?”

“Uh, nothing, really. My family is in Indonesia, my parents are getting older, every time I wake up in the morning I’ll open WhatsApp frantically, fearing a bad news about them.”

She smiled, “You have 7-8 hours time difference with them, mine is only 4 hours, at least I can talk to my parents more often.”

She’s still able to find a positive side about her situation.

Not her. Picture from Pixabay.

The second one is an old British lady. Probably she’s about 80. We met in a life-writing event, where you write down your life prompted by a question. The question for us was “In 2018, I said goodbye to…”

After few minutes of writing we were asked to share to each other. I said goodbye to a job I love, I said goodbye to my friends in Dublin… You know, my usual whine.

This old British lady said goodbye to her friends who passed away. Every now and then now, she said, it’s expected to hear news that one of your friends has died. She’s embracing hers too.

I lost my words.

Also not her. Picture from Pixabay.

The third one was a man in his 60s. I met him in a speed-friending Meetup. You’d expect to see people in their 20s or 30s, most likely from outside London, joining the event to make new friends.

He has a kind smile and genuinity. He asked my what I did for a living. I said, I’d rather not talk about it as I drew little satisfaction from my job at the moment. He pivoted his questions towards hobby, gardening, and life meaning.

He advised me to go traveling if I feel stuck at my current situation. Traveling to India and Thailand have been eye-opening for him, he said. No, you don’t understand, I said. I’m from Indonesia. Moving to UK is already my big adventure. Yet I’m still not happy.

He’s also not happy at his job. He’s a teacher.

I learned that I could still be unhappy when I’m 60. It scares me.

I told him I’m not happy at my job but I can’t move because my visa is tied to the company. I told him I’ve never had a gap in my life, because I’ve always had mortgage to pay.

He asked me what would I do if money and visa is not an issue.

I want to be a teacher, I said.

He laughed.

Obviously not him but looked a bit like him. Picture from Pixabay.

Scoring a job at Facebook London

Finding a job abroad could be a disheartening experience. If you’re well-educated, smart, and ambitious, probably you’ve never experienced any difficulty finding a job in Indonesia. Its rapidly growing ecosystem and competing salary offers from startups burning investor’s dollars making it doable to find a managerial position with salary 10x of minimum wage with merely 3-5 years of working experience.

But if you’re like me, you are still not satisfied. You want to fulfill your dream to live abroad. You’ve even considered to apply for Working Holiday Visa in Australia – you don’t mind working as a waiter or barista, as long as you can experience living abroad. You tentatively search for jobs in Singapore and find some menial positions such as customer service. You try – and get rejected.

Or you’re in your last months of your study abroad and you’re desperate to find a job. Any job would do, you said, even a door-to-door sales. But visa regulation makes it harder and harder to get a working permit.

I’ve been there.

I’m familiar with the exasperation of getting 100 doors shut to your face. I’m familiar with the urge to cry and just give up.

But somehow, the 101st door was opened to me, and it was Facebook’s. I’ve been here for 2.5 years now – some days are stones, most days are diamonds. Sometimes in the morning when I walk into my office and greeted with smiles by the security officers, I still can’t believe that I’ve made it.

I’d love to see more Indonesians going global so I’m sharing here some tips that landed me a job at Facebook London – hopefully it can help you landing your dream job, too.

Getting a work visa

This is usually the first question that came to mind. As you know, the company has to sponsor your work visa, so the key here is finding companies that are registered as foreign workers sponsor. The good news is multinational companies like Facebook, Google, or Apple are considered as top employers even in the most difficult countries visa-wise like UK & US. In the UK, to be able to sponsor a foreign worker, the companies have to prove that they have opened the position for 30 days or so and they can’t find a suitable local talent.

During interview process, the interviewers (i.e. hiring managers, future colleagues etc) wouldn’t know and wouldn’t care about your nationality. They’ll make hiring decisions based on your skillset. As long as you can show that you’re the best person for the job, they’ll put an approval stamp to your CV – and the rest is just immigration paperwork.

But how do I show that I’m the best person for the job?

Excellent question, and I’d say this is the trickiest bit. When you apply for jobs abroad, you’re competing against international talents. When you apply to top employers like Facebook and Google, you’re competing against the best of the best international talents. Here are some tips:

Don’t apply for graduate or entry-level roles if you’re not a fresh grad and if your bachelor’s degree is not from abroad.

Reasons: a) Graduate or entry-level roles are harder to sponsor. Remember that the company has to prove that they can’t find a local talent to fill this role, while fresh grads are everywhere. b) Companies usually look for younger people with fresh minds for these roles – your years of experience can actually go against you.

Don’t apply for market-specific roles if you don’t have experience in the market.

Examples of market-specific roles: sales, customer success manager, policy. The reason is obvious – how can you prove that you’re the best for the role if you don’t have knowledge and relationships in the market?

Don’t apply for generalist roles – such as general finance, accounting, recruitment, etc.

Take this tip with a grain of salt as I know there are also specialist roles in finance, for example. (My husband is specialised in quantitative risk methodology, whatever that means.) My point is the more generic the role is, the more generic the skillsets are, and the harder it is to justify the expensive decision to hiring and sponsoring you.

Do apply for specialist roles where you have the edge.

It could be industry knowledge, market knowledge, specific methodology, certification, etc. Example of a specialist role: Threat Analyst with certain market expertise. Even if you are not 100% passionate about it, the role can be your entry point to your next move. Internal transfer within the company is not as challenging as knocking the door as an external candidate.

Preparing for the interviews

Interview is a skill that requires practice. If the last time you interviewed for a job was more than a year ago, I’d recommend to practice, practice, practice. I iterated it three times but actually three rehearsals are still too few. Rehearse your answer for “tell me about yourself” until you memorise it. Make it succinct and engaging – imagine elevator pitch with a CEO. If you don’t speak English on a daily basis, practice explaining your experience and achievements in English.

Another grain of salt – interview or communication skill will help when you already have the edge. Confident words won’t magically overturn your dingy profile.

 

Sounds like a lot of work, is it worth it?

Depends. I mentioned that some of my days here were stones too. I found living in Europe boring and overly comfortable. I miss the excitement of an emerging market in Indonesia. I miss the constant challenge and struggle. And of course, living so far away from my family and friends is not easy.

Facebook is one of the best employers in the world so they can afford to hire whoever they want. A lot of people here are overqualified for the role, which means their skills are underutilised in their daily jobs.

But the good bit? Apart from the amazing perks (breakfast, lunch, dinner, massage, gym, traveling around the world, you name it), you get to work with the most brilliant people and you know that your work is making real-world impact.

Organizing A Sensible Wedding in London

“Sensible wedding” is not a likeable phrase, especially for people who work in wedding industry. They would try to convince you, “Spare no expense or you’ll regret it later!” – “This is the best day of your life!”

Nope.

Spending a sensible amount of money is the only sensible thing to do, unless you’re Meghan Markle and your wedding is paid by the Royal Family.

Budgeting is not romantic. After getting engaged, it’s easy to throw yourself into beautiful photos of flowers and dresses. But unless you have unlimited income & saving, budgeting has to be the FIRST step of wedding planning.

Start wedding budgeting simply by discussing with your partner: “How much are we willing to spend on this wedding?” Take note that it’s not “How much can we afford” or “How much was <<insert friend’s name here>>’s wedding”. Just because you can afford a £50,000 wedding doesn’t mean that you have to. And obviously, just because your highschool friends spent loads on their wedding, doesn’t mean that you have to compete with them.

Discussing “how much are we willing to spend” also opens the room for other priorities in your lives. Check how much savings you both have, and if you might want/need to do these things in the near future: Buy a house/apartment, pursue further education, quit your job and have to live on savings for a while, etc.

In my case, we both agreed that £10,000 was the sensible amount we were willing to spend. We could afford to go fivefold, but what’s the point of spending your life saving on a night? Put the wedding into perspective. It’s not THE most important day of your life. It’s ONLY A DAY to celebrate your love and commitment to each other – technically you can even do it without spending a penny.

After you decide on the overall budget, it’s time to break it down – how much would you spend on venue, catering, dress, decor, etc. The formula for this is: at least 50% of your budget will be spent on venue & catering.

What about the rest? The answer varies on what you both value. I, for example, don’t bother much about decoration so I spent only around £500. Documentations i.e. photos & videos are important to me, so I splurged my budget there.

This was my wedding budget initial breakdown:

  • £6,000 venue & catering
  • £1,000 photographer
  • £1,000 dress (head to toe) + make-up (I ended up spending much less, yay!)
  • £500 flowers & decor
  • £500 entertainment
  • £200 wedding cake
  • £300 groom’s suit
  • £500 miscellaneous

When to stick to your budget, and when to be flexible?

Obviously you have to consciously try to stick to your budget. For example: if your budget for wedding cake is only £200, do not tempt yourself by checking the top baker in the city with dreamy cake photos in their site.

If you have something that you REALLY REALLY want but you didn’t budget it initially, discuss it sensibly with your partner. In our case, we added another thousand to our budget because we decided that we wanted to have a wedding video.

Bottomline tip:

Focus on the things that actually matter for your guests, not for your Instagram feed. Adding better quality food or hiring a better DJ might be worth it. Spending hundreds to hire better-looking chairs, probably not.