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Wedding Essentials

My big day in the little red dot

Foreigners are choosing Singapore for their wedding celebration or photo shoot, drawn to the central location and great scenery
The Straits Times - April 1, 2012
By: Kenneth Goh
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My big day in the little red dot

Dubai-based Ling Ling Huynh, 30, is no ordinary tourist to Singapore. She hand-carried her 7kg wedding gown by Los Angeles designer Monique lhuillier in a zipped bag on a flight from Dubai to get married here in February.

The French-born underwriter who is of Cambodian- Chinese parentage recalls: 'The dress was not heavy to put on, but carrying it was certainly heavy.' She tied the knot with Sri Lankan-born Jehan Dias, 33, complete with a marriage solemnisation ceremony here.

The couple are part of a small but steady group of foreigners choosing to get hitched in Singapore. Some are also opting for the little red dot just for the wedding reception or dinner, or for their pre-wedding shots.

Wedding planners and photographers say the Internet has made it easier for overseas clients to make such arrangements.

Singapore is a wedding hot spot because of its convenient location for guests flying in from different continents. And its shiny cityscape, quaint shophouses and tropical scenery make great wedding backdrops.

All this translates to increased takings for those in Singapore's booming wedding industry, such as wedding planners, venue operators and photographers.

Couples usually engage a local wedding planner, online or through word of mouth recommendation, who will take care of the nitty gritty, from the booking of banquet venues to the design of invitation cards.

Most wedding planners whom LifeStyle spoke to say they usually receive up to five such clients a year, with the number being stable for the past three years. While most of these clients hail from Asian markets such as Hong Kong, Indonesia and Japan, they also receive a fair share of clients from Europe and the United States.

A typical wedding event can range from a dinner party of 10 to a full-blown two-day wedding celebration consisting of a rehearsal dinner, pre-wedding party, the actual ceremony and even a post-wedding party, with 300 friends and family in attendance.

A spokesman for Capella Hotel in Sentosa says the hotel hosted six couples from overseas last year and three so far this year. Grand Copthrone Waterfront hotel in Havelock Road saw 15 such weddings last year.

These wedding banquets usually range from $15,000 to $90,000, with most couples opting for a solemnisation ceremony followed by a sit-down dinner or buffet-style banquet.

Ms Huynh and Mr Dias followed that pattern for their vintage-themed nuptials. They declined to reveal how much they spent. The couple, who work in the reinsurance industry, held a Catholic wedding ceremony at Church of St Teresa in Kampong Bahru Road, followed by a Chinese tea ceremony and a five-course, fusion-style wedding banquet at Capella Hotel.

More than 70 per cent of their 120 wedding guests flew in from countries including Switzerland, France and Sri Lanka to attend the one-day celebration.

It was not just Singapore's convenient location that appealed to the happy couple, it is where they first met three years ago as colleagues in a reinsurance firm, before they relocated to Dubai.

To organise their wedding celebrations, they hired Ms Kim Tay, 34, founder of wedding planning firm Wedding Concierge, which sees around four such clients a year.

Although most wedding materials, such as keepsakes for guests and the ceremonial tea set were already in Singapore, packing was a hectic process, Mr Dias recalls. 'We were quite anxious as we had to make sure we did not miss out any details.'

With couples and wedding planners separated by oceans, trust is important. The planning stage can last two months to a year, with most details discussed over e-mail messages and phone calls.

Ms Huynh and Mr Dias jetted here three times prior to their nuptials. Besides meeting Ms Tay, they also checked out their rented wedding car - a 1950 white Volkswagen Beetle - and attended food-tasting sessions to customise their hotel banquet menu.

Just like local couples, they needed to apply for a marriage licence from the Registry of Marriages and had to have the solemnisation ceremony presided over by a licensed solemniser, who can include grassroots leaders and Justices of Peace. According to the registry, either one of the marrying party needs to be physically present in Singapore for at least 15 continuous days to file a notice of marriage.

Mr Dias stayed at a friend's home on the east coast for more than two weeks last October without his fiancee to observe this ruling. The couple received their marriage licence at the registry during the week that they arrived here to get married.

However, some couples choose to settle the legal marriage paperwork in their home countries, as it is too much of a hassle in a foreign country.

Besides Singapore being a venue for weddings, some couples fly in just for their pre-wedding photo shoots. Unlike those who hold their weddings here, most of these couples do not fly in specially for these shoots. They usually tie in these sessions with short holiday trips, or for work purposes.

Tourist sites, such as the Marina Bay Sands and the Merlion, are popular backdrops.

Mr Seah Yu Hsin, 40, a partner at Tinydot Photography, says: 'They take up to three days out from their schedules here to take pre-wedding photographs, which can last up to five hours a day.' These shoots range from $1,000 to $5,000, which does not include services such as make-up and costume changes.

Some couples are drawn to heritage sites. Mr Sherwin Lee, 33, executive director of Dowed who coordinates such shoots, says: 'Some are interested in taking photos in front of old shophouses in Little India, as they can showcase Singapore's unique culture to their friends back home.'

One such couple are Filipinos Bryan and Marichu Sabroso, both 31, who took their pre-wedding photographs two years ago.

The couple took a whirlwind 10-day holiday trip to Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. In Singapore, Mr Sabroso, who is based in Bangkok and works with the United Nations, decided to spring a surprise. He hired photographer Melvin Lau from Multifolds Photography for a day.

The couple had their photos taken at the Padang and Merlion Park. Mrs Sabroso, a network engineer, says: 'My friends fell in love with the photographs and wanted to visit those places which were featured in the photographs.

'It made my first trip to Singapore even more memorable. We had so much fun jumping with the Merlion in the background. Some tourists even copied our moves.'

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