A wedding is a life changing milestone and also a heck lot of work. It would be a pity if the entire process was not documented and recorded. My wife Alyssa and I went through a year of planning and execution to have our wedding the way we wanted it to be. Here is a look behind the scenes.
- Guest orientated. While the wedding is about the newly weds, we wanted it to be a memorable experience for our guests. We wanted a unique venue, one that was high up with a fantastic view. Most unique venues have the issue of being inaccessible and we did not want our guests to have trouble locating the place. Hence, it was important for the venue to be centrally located and easy to access.
- Short and intimate. We felt that best experiences were kept short but filled with high quality interactions. We wanted a good level of interaction with each guest. Since they were here for us, it was only right that we could devote quality time with each of them. Hence, we kept the guest list really small. In total, including us and our families, we had just slightly over a hundred guests. We also knew how much of a time sink hole weddings were and did not want our guests to use up most of their weekend for us. Keeping the programme short meant that we had to ensure that every bit of the experience was great. This meant that the food and entertainment had to be top notch. High quality meant higher cost but a shorter duration kept the budget balanced.
We shortlisted Salt Grill & Sky Bar, Equinox, One Altitude and Clifford Pier. Clifford Pier was too large for a small intimate wedding and its ground level sea view of Marina Bay did not quite capture the views offered by Salt, Equinox and One Altitude. One Altitude was dropped because it was not very accessible for wheelchair users (my parents). Equinox was dropped because its sky views were limited and parts of its windows were algae ridden. You would realise that we did not consider hotel ballrooms and that was largely down to the lack of views.
Salt was the best match for us. It had a very high ceiling laid with glass from roof to floor which was well maintained. To top it off the food was excellent and the service commendable. Service was another key consideration as we wanted our guests to feel that they were well tended to.
Salt came with its limitations. First, it is small. It can only accommodate a maximum of up to 110 guests but this worked fine for us. Second, it was pillar ridden. There were a total of seven pillars which could obstruct the views of some guests. We had to plan the seating and the march in to ensure most guests could see us. Third, the chairs were too “restaurant-like” which did not flow well with the theme of the wedding. We had to rent our own chairs. Fourth, it was pricey. The cost per guest for lunch was higher than most hotels. Nonetheless, because we wanted the experience to be rich and fulfilling for each guest, we asked for a six course (three appetizers, two mains and one desert) lunch menu which was more than their usual four or five courses. Fifth, high food quality meant each dish was curated on the fly. This meant that keeping the experience short and keeping timing in check was tricky. Salt’s usual serving speed was not quick enough but we managed to work out with the manager to ensure that the six course lunch was served on time while maintaining quality curation.
Gown and Suit
We had to settle our gown and suit before we could move on to the pre-wedding shoot. We decided on Cang-Ai wedding due to recommendations from friends. The gowns were of good quality and the design options matched our concept. We decided to rent gowns only from Cang Ai as I felt that my suit could be tailored instead of rented. With that, we visited Bangkok to have my wedding suit made. It was very good value for money.
- New Zealand. Since we managed to get a venue which fitted our “in the sky” concept, we wanted our pre-wedding photoshoot to match. We wanted a photoshoot in the mountains and that quickly led us to New Zealand’s Wanaka. We put in plenty of effort trying to shortlist a good photographer and decided on Williams Photography. It turned out to be great pick. Williams Photography is a husband and wife company and Warren is an excellent photographer and host. In fact, he would have made a very good tour guide. He drove us from Queenstown where we resided to Wanaka and back and we enjoyed long conversations throughout. The helicopter ride to Roy’s Peak was fun and it was my first time riding in a tiny helicopter in strong winds. Roy’s Peak is an often used venue for photoshoots and it is easy to see why – the views are absolutely stunning especially with the lake and other mountains in the background. Visiting New Zealand is like walking through a scenic picture book and Wanaka offered one of the best views in the south island of New Zealand. The photoshoot took slightly over an hour and Warren took additional shots before and after the helicopter ride to give us a good variety of photos. Warren was extremely good at breaking the ice and warming us up so that we could look natural and carefree in the photos. He delivered 204 photos and we receive them three weeks after the shoot.
- Taiwan. We did not plan to have another overseas photoshoot but Cang Ai gave us a pretty good deal and we thought “why not?” Both of us had not visited Taiwan before and we took the photoshoot as an excuse for another holiday. The photoshoot in Taiwan was completely different from New Zealand. While New Zealand had a natural setting, Taiwan offered a massive outdoor studio where everything (well besides the trees) were man made solely for wedding photoshoots. There were at least five other couples present rotating different shooting spots. I was telling Alyssa that this felt like a wedding shoot photo booth. To top of it off, the photographer would actually give you a form asking you how you wanted the photos touched up. You could asked for your jaws to be photoshopped such that it was more angular or squarish, for your tummy to be slimmed down, the list goes on. This was the exact opposite of Warren where he wanted to keep the photos natural and adopted a light touch in editing. Our photographer in Taiwan (hired by the studio) was very experienced and went to detail on how we should stand, place our hands, twist our bodies, where we should look and the exact type of smile we should portray. You can probably understand how stark the differences were between the two places now. One was all natural and the other entirely staged to the nth degree. The photos in Taiwan turned out well and in some ways very polished given how it was staged. Unlike New Zealand, photography studios in Taiwan limit the number of photos given unless you are willing to pay over the top for all the photos. As we already had many shots from New Zealand, we went with just 30 photos from Taiwan – which was more than sufficient to provide a good range and balance to our New Zealand photos.
With the pre-wedding photography done, the next step was begin preparations for the actual day. Getting a solemniser was somewhat like dating, there were long lists of names to choose from but it was tough to find a solemniser who was free on the date and time of our wedding day. We wanted our solmenisation to be serious, solemn event and hence our solemniser had to be someone senior that looked and spoke respectfully. S/he also had to be able to keep to a short timeline so that our programme could flow punctually.
We found that in Mr Tan Peng Yam who was an absolute pleasure to have with us. He was deeply experienced and we practiced the solemnisation process both in our first meeting with him (at McDonalds!) and also on the wedding day as a refresher. Mr Tan was punctual and very clear. He kept things short and sweet exactly the way we wanted it to be.
Cards and Cakes
We gave our families and relatives a heads up on the wedding date a good six months so that they would keep the lunch slot free for us. (Close friends were informed later and closer to the date.) Formal invitations to families and relatives came around two months before the actual wedding day. We took this time not only the deliver the cakes and cards personally but also to ask them for their food restrictions and choice of main dishes, given that Salt would customise the menu personally for each guest. The cards were self-designed and utilised the photos from New Zealand to keep to the sky concept. It was printed via gogoprint which meant printing costs were really low. We also ordered wedding card sleeves which added to the presentation of the card.
Programme and Decoration
- Programme. As mentioned above, we wanted the wedding to be short and intimate affair. The programme was planned around this. We agreed to reduce the complexity of the gatecrash and also for our actual day photoshoot to be a very short one. The solemnisation, tea ceremony and lunch all took place at Salt to save time and to reduce travelling requirements for our guests. The solemnisation was kept to immediate families only unless relatives wanted to come early to witness it. The tea ceremony was scheduled before lunch and was used as the buffer period for guests to stream in. The march in was timed for 12pm sharp and the six course lunch was scheduled to be completed with three hours. As per the norm, buffer time was added throughout.
- Decor. This was where we did sort of wish we had a wedding planner to take care of the many disparate details of the decoration. We rented chairs, ordered flowers, signages, frames, bought ribbons, cable ties, pens, tea sets, the list goes on and on. As for the wedding favours, we ordered cookies from MINDS Bakers as we felt that it was a meaningful thing to do. We also ensured that each guest had a personalised menu (there were a total of seven menu variations due to guest preferences) and name tent. Throughout this period, we ran the programme over and over and over to ensure we had everything we needed and for every Plan A there was a Plan B.
- Entertainment. We wanted lunch entertainment to be top drawer, meaningful and classy. We decided on ShiLi & Adi who were very experienced singers, performers and emcees. They have performed in many high key events and we felt comfortable to having them run the entire show including the emcee bits. We did not have to write a script for them and simply provided them with the programme and a short write up of our relationship and they ran the show. They did so perfectly and engaged the guests by taking up song requests.
- Photographer. We went to Chris Ling for actual day photography and engaged Jackyz. Jackyz and us clicked well. He had an impressive portfolio that matched the style we were looking for. He was also very importantly good at crowd control and at conveying his instructions. He delivered 560 high quality photos over the span of eight hours.
- Henderson Waves. In line with the sky concept, we had a 30 minute photoshoot before leaving for Salt. Besides fitting our concept, Henderson Waves is also the location that Alyssa and I return to every year for Valentines’. It is a bridge that holds deep meaning for both of us. We kept the photoshoot at Henderson Waves short so that Alyssa and I plus the bridesmaids and groomsmen could have adequate time to rest and prepare at Salt.
- Final recce. To ensure that our guests had zero issues locating Salt, we re-recced the area thrice to ensure we could provide detailed instructions to our guests whether they were coming by car, private transport or public transport. These detailed instructions were packaged as an infographic folded into a reminder for the event. This was distributed electronically three days prior to the wedding.
- Setup. The execution of the event took place at 11pm on the night before the wedding. Alyssa and I had collected our ROM documents in the morning. We had delivered the items for the wedding to Salt in the afternoon. We also met our chauffeur and observed our wedding car (both procured via recommendations) getting decorated in the early evening at Cang Ai. Alyssa was made to return home to rest and not take part in the 11pm setup because she needed to be fresh and ready for her make up at 5am. We also did not want to overly tax the bridesmaids and groomsmen with a midnight setup as they had to be fresh to manage the guests. They were very important to the overall guest experience. Hence, it was left to one bridesmaid Min and one groomsmen Arnold and myself to manage the setup with Salt’s entire staff. The setup ended at 2am and everything looked perfect. In fact, it turned out better than I had envisioned. All that was left was for Min, Arnold and myself to catch three hours of sleep before the day’s events began at 6am.
- Coordination. We were very lucky to have Arnold who stepped up as a coordinator. His detail orientedness and foresight meant that our detailed programme and logistics could be executed as planned. While Arnold worked with fellow bridesmaids and groomsmen plus Salt’s staff, I was the coordinator for families and relatives. Both of us helped to keep the programme on the clock and were very well supported by Min, Wanxi, Jean, Xinni, Ben, Zhong Xian, Keng Meng and Chao-Hsiang. Salt’s person-in-charge for the event Maribeth was the third coordinator and she ensured that her staff was on point, keeping up with the serving schedule and making sure that guests were well tended to.
Everything went like clockwork. I was very surprised as this defied my experience with past events. We were blessed to have every piece in the jigsaw falling into place exactly the way we wanted it to. Keeping the programme short and the event simple helped to minimise possible issues while over preparing ensured that gaps were plugged before the actual day.
Besides having an excellent team supporting us, we also had very cooperative guests. There was close to zero attrition and everyone showed up on time. This was one of the benefits of keeping the guest list small. Hence, every item on the programme was executed on the dot. The only thing that we did not prepare for or expect was that guests wanted to stay even after the event was over. One of the good things about having a very scenic venue was that guests were automatically kept entertained taking photos of the city skyline, etc. The minor downside was that some did not want to leave and we had to hand over the venue to Salt by 4pm. Salt was understanding and we managed to clear out the place on the dot.
We also had a lot of time interacting with the guest. To be honest, I felt very drained at the 2:30pm mark having only had 2 hours of sleep for the past 30 hours but the event was flowing very positively and watching the guests enjoy themselves kept me going.
We left for my parents’ place for the last bit of photography and also to repack all the items removed from Salt. It was a very cathartic to handle the post event administrative work especially when everything went well. But the day was not done yet. We had, probably ill-advisedly, decided to run the Sundown half marathon on the same night. The clock was ticking for me and I badly needed my sleep. We checked into Marina Mandarin at 7pm, had dinner at Marina Square at 7:30pm before falling asleep at 8pm. I had three hours of sleep before finding myself at Sundown’s starting line with my wife at 11pm. I was dead tired and a walking zombie and we spent most of the half marathon chatting about our plans as husband and wife, reflecting on a memorable wedding day, and chatting about our trip to Japan and China which would begin the very next night.
Overall, we would like to highlight our thanks to:
- Parents: Alyssa and my parents were supportive throughout. They did not make any demands and allowed us to freely plan and execute the wedding. It was a breeze and as a bonus both sides got along well too.
- Min, Wanxi, Jean, Xinni, Arnold, Ben, Zhong Xian, Keng Meng, Chao-Hsiang: They did a heck lot of work and delivered on every count. Small issues were dealt with very quickly and much of the positive guest experience was down to their hard work.
- Maribeth: She made working with Salt an absolute pleasure. We were concerned that Salt was less experienced with weddings as compared to the usual hotels but Maribeth’s experience and eagerness to make our wedding a success was key.
- Jackyz, Warren and Cang Ai staff: The photos were well taken. Good wedding photographers are critical and they have ensured that warm memories from the event would never be forgotten. Cang Ai was very professional and warm when handling Alyssa’s gowns and our arrangements for the Taiwan leg.
Albums can be accessed below. (Note: Google has an album limit of 500 photos, hence not all 560 photos from the actual day could be uploaded.)