Weddings are a reflection of (1) the quality of your relationships with friends, family, colleagues and even work contacts (2) what you’ve put into these relationships. Yusuf (John) and I have been very fortunate to have had the help we had to put our event together in less than two months!
1. If all the commercial venues are booked up, hold your party in someone’s house
It was the middle of April. I was in Sabah, Malaysia on a press junket when Arts House emailed to say that they would release the Living Room which we had tentatively booked for the 22nd of June, to another interested party, if I did not give them an answer by the next day. This was impossible to do as the Registry of Muslim Marriages (ROMM) had yet to respond with a time for Yusuf and I to marry. The Arts House also said that with immediate effect, they will not be leasing the venue out for weddings, so they could not provide us with any alternative dates later than the 22nd. Of course, as Sod’s Law goes, as soon as I returned (the day after the Arts House had released the venue to someone else), I received a letter from the ROMM saying that we had up to August to marry or we would have to register all over again, which was not an option considering my complicated family background. July was out of the question because of the fasting month of Ramadan and so we were only left with May and June. And August was going to be a busy period for Yusuf and I, work-wise.
Cutting our cake on the lawn of the black and white house, photo by Jeri Soh
Yusuf and I wanted a venue that could accommodate my family for lunch, and our friends for dinner, all in time for our flight to Bali for our first trip as a married couple. We would much prefer a small venue that did not have its own catering – I had in mind an old colonial building, paying homage to Yusuf’s military background – and apart from Arts House, there were few other feasible options. June is a very popular month for weddings and most of the usual venues were already fully booked and the smaller restaurants housed in colonial buildings that we liked did not provide halal catering. Desperate for a venue, I calculated the odds of having our wedding in a private black and white bungalow and I was soon counting my lucky stars; a friend acquainted us with an Australian couple, Tristan and Melanie who happened to be moving out with their four children from a beautiful black and white bungalow on Chancery Lane to Mount Pleasant, around the time we were planning to hold the party. The kind couple took pity on us and after a meeting or two, they decided to allow us to hold it there on the 31st of May; any later they would have to extend their tenancy, which they would rather not do. The plus point of having the party in a venue that is already beautiful and striking on its own, is that you don’t need to spend a bomb on flowers and decoration.
2. If you need reliable help, pay them!
Preparing for the wedding party there was fun although it could have easily been a logistical nightmare (we have had to move furniture about to accommodate our guests, etc), if it was not for past and present staff and their friends who came to help out! I don’t know about other couples, but I have always made it a point to pay the help for all events, personal or professional – even if it’s just a stipend plus food and drink – to ensure that they commit and give of their time and effort willingly! I’ve never been one to ask friends for favours for events as important as weddings unless we are really, really close and have done favours for each other from time to time; things can get ugly when something goes wrong (something usually will) and the last thing you want to do is burn bridges because of a soggy cake or a mis-timed speech.
3. Fall back on your contacts in marketing
SBT Trio are consummate professional musicians with decades of experience between them; they played a standard jazz set with songs by Sting that we love and P Ramlee evergreens for the family.
While we were scrambling to ensure that everyone we had booked – such as photographer, caterers, florist and musicians – were available on the new date, the ROMM informed us and said that none of their kadi were available on the 31st and we have had to move our solemnisation earlier by a week to the 24th.
This was when I pulled out all the stops. The first place that I thought of was Royal Plaza on Scotts for no other reason than their award-winning halal dinner buffet at Carousel for feeding our guests. Their Executive Suite was large enough to hold 10 to 12 people at any one time, equipped with a coffee machine, a fully-stocked mini bar and wifi which we fully took advantage of. As soon as Director of Marketing Communications, Tan Ningxi realised that a suite and dinner for eight were all that I needed and not a banquet for 100, she was quick to ensure that my requests were seen to, such as the bridal bouquet and the extra floral arrangements, which were reasonably priced.
Upon arrival, I found that housekeeping ran a bath with flower petals scattered on it. While it was a nice touch, I did not get to enjoy it because my makeup artiste and hair stylist were already there on the dot and fussing over me to ensure that I was dolled up on time. My parents joined me soon after; they reminded me that Royal Plaza on Scotts – formerly Royal Holiday Inn before its major facelift – was where I had my first high tea as a teenager, back when halal-certified buffets of that calibre were rare in Singapore. We had our wedding party at Chancery Lane on the 31st as originally planned.
Royal Plaza on Scotts was very good with the little touches.
4. Engage people you know, ask for a recommendation or a trial if in doubt
Bernie from Cosmoprof Academy – still a student – did my makeup. I stumbled upon this gem of a makeup artiste when I had to reschedule a beauty editorial at the very last minute and she was recommended by her supervisor for our shoot. She has always been very precise with her application; the pictures speak for themselves! Chris Ruth, the hairstylist, on the other hand, is a seasoned hand I’d engage again in a heartbeat; it was such a relief that she took me on at the last minute after a recommendation by a regular photographer of my wedding magazine covers, Soon Tong from Calibre Pictures & Ideas. These photos were taken by a fashion photographer for Audi Fashion Festival and friend, Jeri Soh. For my wedding outfits, I had the good folks at Stylemart to do my tailoring and they were superb (planning on another gown for an awards event in November)! If you’re trying out a new tailor, ask them to try out something small, like a sheath dress, before committing them to do your wedding gown. My dessert table was done up by home baker Julia Idris (see photos in gallery below) and every morsel was as yummy as it looked! And we’re considering hiring her for dessert tables at our clients’ offices for Christmas! The wedding stationery – placards and invitations, etc – was done by a crafting friend, Michele Londoh.
5. Go with the flow, and don’t fuss over the small things
The solemnisation started right on time; our kadi was Ustaz Pasuni Maulan, who had married my stepfather twice. My stepfather was grinning from ear to ear the whole time probably thinking it was a good omen! I would have much preferred to hide in the room until the solemnisation was over, but I was asked to sit in the ensuite area with the witnesses and my stepparents. Yusuf was a nervous wreck, but Ustaz Pasuni was the consummate professional who easily put him and the rest of us at ease. After the second lafaz, we were married.
What a relief! Yusuf told me that he would much rather set out to kill the guests in the next room (that’s his British Special Forces training talking) than have to go through that again. A few minor things went wrong at the Chancery Lane party (wedding cake was soggy, so we got a refund, etc) but if like me, you’ve got extra reliable hands you shouldn’t be worrying about ANYTHING. It’s most uncool for the bride to look flustered or worse still to be stamping her feet and making demands on her wedding day.
At Royal Plaza on Scotts we were plied with cake and sweets from the time we checked in till we checked out!
Back at the Royal Plaza on Scotts, we booked a table for eight at Carousel and everyone – my friends who became our witnesses, my parents and even the photographer – tucked in after what seemed to be a long wait for the buffet to open. I have never seen my stepfather eat oysters before and it was a surprise that he had his plate piled up high with the shellfish. Their high food standards had not changed; I overheard that their Ramadan iftar reservations were filling up fast and it was only a month before Ramadan! Yusuf and I were good, we ate a little of everything but not so much as to feel stuffed. My dress was long and I was tripping over myself so often that eventually like a good husband, Yusuf helped me put food on my plate. The hotel ensured that we were plied with sweets and cake from the moment we checked in, before dinner, after dinner and even when we checked out; the hotel was gracious to let us have a late checkout, too, so we had a nice long lay-in!
Click here for the story of how Yusuf and I got together