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Planning a wedding in Singapore: expat couples’ experiences

By: Deborah Goldman


As someone about to embark on the journey of – fingers crossed – marital bliss, I am aware of the enormous effort it requires to plan the big day. Until now, I’ve scoffed at women who become stressed about organising their wedding. After all, I thought, how hard is it to make a couple of phone calls and spend an afternoon finding a dress? If that were the reality, I wouldn’t have turned into my own worst bridezilla nightmare.

Destination weddings are particularly popular for couples living in Singapore. But what I’ve found, through painful experience, is that it can be difficult to plan your wedding when you’re unable to meet service providers and vendors regularly and face-to-face. A part of me wonders whether I’d have been better off holding the ceremony in Singapore rather than Cyprus.

I spoke to three brides and a groom who, for better or for worse, did just that. Whether you’re looking for the whole wedding caboodle with all the trimmings, or something more understated, Singapore has it all. These four stories might just provide the inspiration you need to plan the perfect tropical wedding in your home away from home.

The Bride: Sarah Purchase, South Africa
The Groom: Colin Purchase, South Africa
Venue: Botanical Gardens
Date: August 2008


Why the Botanical Gardens?

I grew up in Zululand on a rose farm, so flowers and botany have always been important in my family. Butch and I also wanted something simple and understated. We didn’t even book a venue, just turned up at the Orchid Garden on the day.

The wedding was small and fuss-free, with eight of our closest friends there to share it with us, including one who flew in from India, and another from Cape Town. I was also lucky to also have my sister Lara there, who also lives in Singapore. We did miss our extended family however, which is why we had another ceremony in South Africa at a later date.

Any wedding hiccups?

Besides the groom being a bit hung over and the guests sweating profusely, all went according to plan. The only challenge was finding a dress to fit over my pregnant bump. However, two nights before the wedding, I found the perfect dress at Cayen on Orchard Road.

Another slight hiccup, which actually turned out in our favour, was that – in typical Singapore style – the heavens opened just before we arrived at the Botanical Gardens. Because of the rain, though, we ended up having the whole place to ourselves.


Did you hire a caterer?

his was another hiccup! We had ordered simple Delifrance canapés, which were delivered to the wrong location an hour before the wedding. My brother-in-law rushed out during the panic and bought a few snacks. In the end, Delifrance got to the right place – thankfully, because the snacks he had brought back looked dodgy!

After the ceremony, we went to The Scarlett Hotel on Erskine Road in Chinatown, where we had dinner on the rooftop terrace, wonderful cocktails and fun with our friends.

What was the best part of the day? (Apart from saying “I do.”)

The fact that there were no frills and no drama made us feel like we had captured the true essence of our wedding.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

No, there wasn’t a single moment that didn’t exceed my expectations. By the end of the day, my face was burning from all the smiling, laughing and talking.

How long did it take you to organise the entire event?

It didn’t take much time to organise since we didn’t have to book the venue.

Was the day everything you expected it to be?

It certainly was. We wanted a relaxed and simple day with friends, and that is what we got. It turned out to be all we had imagined and more.

The Bride: Nora Kassam, US
The Groom: Oliver Kassam, UK
Venue: St. Regis Hotel
Date: October 2008


Why did you have the ceremony in Singapore?

With my family and friends in the US, my husband’s family and friends in the UK, and us in Singapore, planning a wedding that would make everyone happy proved difficult. We considered many options, ranging from multiple ceremonies around the world to a destination wedding in Bali, but it all just seemed so stressful. So, we took the easy way out and eloped in Singapore – just the two of us and witnesses. We celebrated with our families and friends in our home countries at a later date.

Why the St. Regis?

We planned on tying the knot at the Registry of Marriages building. I know, it’s not that romantic. Since we weren’t inviting guests, this seemed like the easiest option. But you have to book an ROM wedding at least three weeks in advance. With our move to Australia looming, we didn’t want to wait. So, we found a solemniser who would perform the ceremony at her home, which suited us fine.

Unfortunately, the solemniser flew to Mumbai a few days before our wedding. That’s when the terror attacks took place. I couldn’t reach her to find out if she would make it back in time, so three days prior to our wedding we had no solemniser or venue. Even the simplest of weddings get complicated!

Our wedding date and solemniser had been registered with the ROM, and fortunately they allowed us to change both at the last minute. I called about 10 solemnisers before I found one who was available and willing to do our ceremony at such short notice. We were in the midst of moving to Australia and had already left our apartment, so we had the new solemniser and our witnesses come to the hotel we were staying at – the St. Regis – on our wedding day for an impromptu ceremony.

Did you hire a caterer?

We booked a table at the main restaurant between breakfast and lunch, when there wouldn’t be many other people around. We all sat around a table for the ceremony and then ordered champagne and snacks afterwards. We didn’t really have a proper wedding at the St. Regis, but I would recommend it for anyone who was planning a big event. It’s a stunning venue with wonderful food, and the bedrooms are exquisite. The staff was very gracious, and I can only imagine how they would be at a “real” wedding.

What was the best part of the day? (Apart from saying “I do.”)

Knowing that I was marrying a wonderful man. In an effort to make our last-minute, thrown-together event more special, he ordered vast numbers of white roses to surround our table, and had a bouquet of white lilies made for me.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

I didn’t get my hair or makeup done for the day, and I wore a white shift dress that I’d picked up without much thought a few days prior. When our witnesses started taking pictures, I regretted not putting more effort into my appearance. No matter how small your event, it’s still your wedding day and you should treat yourself to a makeover and a fab outfit.

How long did it take you to organise the event?

Obviously, not long! Just remember that you have to file your notice of marriage at least three weeks before your wedding date. This means you can’t rush off and get married on impulse after a few too many drinks!

Did you have to register the marriage with your embassy?

Friends told us that that it is a good idea to notify your embassy when you get married. We haven’t done that yet and haven’t encountered any issues. My Singapore marriage certificate was fully recognised in the US when I went to change the name on my social security card and driver’s licence.

The Bride: Juliet Gordon, UK
The Groom: Marcus Gordon, UK
Venue: Raffles Hotel
Date: December 2006


Why did you have the ceremony in Singapore?

Because we love it here and it was a lot more cost-friendly than having it in UK. It was also easier to plan as we could meet with the caterers and venue managers face-to-face. We also saw it as an opportunity for our friends and family in the UK and elsewhere to come here on holiday.

Why Raffles?

We chose Raffles Hotel because it is such a historical icon of Singapore. We wanted an outdoor venue, and, despite it being in the rainy season, we were lucky that it did not rain. The day after the wedding, however, saw the third-heaviest rainfall in Singapore’s history!

Afterwards, we went to the Jewel Box on Mount Faber for a dinner and dance reception. This has a stunning view looking down onto Sentosa, and there was a beautiful sunset to top it off.

Were there any wedding hiccups?

Raffles messed up the canapés and served them only after the majority of guests had moved on to the next location. But I was too busy getting my photos taken to notice!

Did you hire a caterer?

Goodwood Park did the catering for the dinner and it was fantastic.

What was the best part of the day? (Apart from saying “I do.”)

My husband’s speech! It was very funny and incredibly romantic.

What was the worst part of the day?

When I cut my leg while shaving in the morning.

How many guests did you have, and how many from overseas?

We had 175 guests. Eighty of them had flown in.

Any amusing stories you want to share about the day?

One of my husband’s friends snogged my sister-in-law and then proceeded to get beaten up by her daughter, who was a bridesmaid. He left the wedding soon after that!

How long did it take you to organise the event?

About ten months.

Was the day everything you expected it to be?

I know it sounds like a cliché, but it was the best day of my life.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

I should have said “no jackets” for the ceremony. It was a hot day and the poor guests from UK were not used to the heat, and this was only made worse by their thick suits. They were sweltering!

The Groom: Mark Ambler, UK
The Bride: Maxi Ambler, Thailand
Venue: The Sentosa Resort and Spa
Date: May 2007


Why did you have the ceremony in Singapore?

It was easier to organise, and much cheaper than an equivalent wedding in England.

Why The Sentosa?

The hotel was recommended to us. We held the ceremony and reception in one of the private villas, which was the ideal size for our requirements, and a great place to spend our first night of married life.

Were there any hiccups?

One of the bedroom doors in the villa was self-locking. I managed to lock myself in the room for 15 minutes! Luckily, I was rescued in time to say my vows.

Did you hire a caterer?

The hotel laid out tables and a wonderful buffet spread in the villa garden. The standard was just as good as the food they serve at the hotel’s famous Sunday brunch.

Who were the organisers? Were they professional and did they ensure the day ran smoothly?

The hotel did nearly all of the organising, and they were excellent.

What was the best part of the day? (Apart from saying “I do.”)

It was really nice having my parents there. My dad had been ill for a couple of years and I wasn’t sure if they would be able to make it.

How many guests did you have, and how many from overseas?

Thirty guests in total, five of those from England and three from Thailand.

How long did it take you to organise the event?

Probably 25 hours overall.

Did you face any legal difficulties when arranging the wedding?

Maxi had to have a few documents translated from Thai into English, and we also had a small issue at the Registry of Marriages. When we arrived to sign the paperwork a few days before the wedding, we were told that Maxi needed to be able to read the document, which was written in English. Since the website states only that parties must be able to understand English, I had assumed that this meant verbal, not written. I then had to rush around finding a translator. I found one eventually and it worked out okay.