The couple and their bridesmaids. All photos in this story courtesy of Jessica Tan.

Hi Jessica, thanks for speaking with us! So who was in charge of planning and preparations?
I did most of the planning and research, but all decisions were made together with my other half as a team. For example, I’ll shortlist certain decor ideas, save the photos and text him for his input before I start looking for items needed online. Even for my wedding dress and his suit, we would do our own research and look for something we want according to a theme we set on for the solemnization and we’ll ask one another before we make the final purchases.

How have you been juggling your full-time job with wedding prep?
We made time on weekends, and stayed in just to make decisions together, discuss and design our items together.

Have you had any arguments about the wedding? Were there different priorities? How did you resolve them?
Not that we can remember any! This isn’t the first time that we have planned things together and we do work well as a team (that’s why I said ‘yes’ to marrying him).

As we are both based in Hong Kong, I just had to draw up a detailed rundown with photos, and e-mail our wedding party (both from Hong Kong & Singapore) to coordinate what help is needed from them for the set-up on the day itself.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Tan.

How and why did you decide upon ordering all your decorations and outfits from Taobao for your wedding?
I’ve always been shopping on Taobao since living in Hong Kong as the delivery time and shipping rates are quick and affordable. Almost everything that you find in shops nowadays is made in China, and you can get them from Taobao for a fraction of the price as compared to the malls! It also saves me the trouble of going from place to place to get different items. Everything is a mere click away, and I did most of my Taobao shopping late at night after work.

Initially, I wanted to head down to Guangzhou to make my wedding gowns as it’s pretty nearby. But when I wanted to go in November 2015, my partner was swamped with work that he couldn’t afford the time to head down with me. So I started looking on Taobao for possible wedding gowns and I found plenty of options, especially made-to-measure gowns!

What’s the hardest thing about shopping from the site?
The only tedious thing was that you have to look for a seller, which has a lot of positive feedback with real photos to prove it to ensure certain amount of quality. I also spent some time chatting with the sellers asking for real examples in their shops. Also, from my experience of wearing wedding gowns for shows and photo shoots, I knew what kind of gowns suited my body type and gowns with a corset tie backs are the safest to buy.

What about decorations?
I already had a certain look in mind but didn’t know where to get them in Hong Kong. And through research, I found so many stores on Taobao that I was quite spoilt for choice. We even ended up designing customised buttons to give away to our guests. And the most amazing thing was that particular seller didn’t require a minimum amount of buttons made in one design – we could have 50 buttons in 50 different designs so as long as we provided him the picture files in a format and resolution required. (See other easy projects to DIY here.)

How much did you save on Taobao, as compared to ordering them from traditional vendors? 
I got the decorations, wedding favors of white-laced fans, tailor-made wedding gown, customised buttons, hair accessories, flower girl dresses, bridesmaids’ dresses (See also affordable bridesmaids dresses from sites like Taobao, and more.), pre-wedding photo shoot props and outfits from Taobao. I can safely say we saved at least S$2,000?

The wedding arch. Photo courtesy of Jessica Tan. See other beautiful wedding arches here. See also creative arches here.

How easy or difficult was it, getting everything in for the wedding?
With the generosity of check-in weight allowance from airlines nowadays, it wasn’t too difficult.

How did you ensure the items or vendors you chose, offered quality items?
As mentioned above, you have to spend some time reading buyers’ reviews look through the photos posted. Those are usually the best gauge as to whether or not they are up to your standards. 

Usually sellers with mainly positive buyer ratings are more reliable. Another way to judge is when you message them directly on QQ messenger and how quick and polite their response is a good indicator. Usually good sellers with quality products are very open to discussion and would be very patient and helpful in all your queries. I had one case whereby the birdcage we ordered came dented and out of shape due to the rough handling of the delivery people, and he immediately apologized for it and offered a full refund, no questions asked. Taobao sellers are extremely competitive and their customer service is pretty impressive.

How long in advance, did you have to order everything, to make it in time for the wedding?
It depends. Things that have to be custom made like my wedding gown and our LED alphabets will take a longer time. The gown took about six to eight weeks before it got couriered out. Other items like ready-made decorations ordered from the factories were delivered to us in less than a week. I started ordering most of the items in November 2015 immediately after the venue was firmed up.

What was the inspiration behind your dress and decorations?
The red oriental mermaid gown that I wore for the solemnisation was inspired by the pre-wedding photoshoot that we did in Hong Kong in December with Brian Ho. (See other lovely evening gowns to consider here).

For the solemnisation, we decided to have an all-white theme for the decorations and outfits for our bridesmaids and groomsmen. It is simple yet elegant and matches my red gown and his grey suit.

White weddings are so beautiful and the colours complemented the Marina Bay Sands hotel, which was in the background (we had our wedding at the Fullerton Bay Hotel). I got a lot of inspiration from Pinterest and one of my bridesmaids Rina – from the white paper pom poms to the rose petals and the table settings. The homemade paper cones holding the rose petals was also an idea stolen from Pinterest! (I made them myself the night before).

Photo courtesy of Jessica Tan.

Most brides wouldn’t take a gamble in ordering their dress online – how did you ensure you had one that was of a good quality, and one that fit?
Chat a lot with the seller, ask all the questions and ask them to send you photos of the real dress they’ve made for others before. From there, you can tell the quality of the clothes. And I do trust these gown makers from China as a lot of wedding gowns now are made in China, so they definitely have years of experience making gowns. 

For the fit, my back-up plan was to send it for alterations in Hong Kong if the fit wasn’t right. Even for made to measure gowns in Hong Kong or Singapore, the fit is never perfect and alterations are usually made after 1 or 2 fittings. Luckily for me, the gown fit me well and I didn’t need to alter it. (I gave myself about 1.5 weeks buffer for any alterations needed)

What’s your wedding reception in December 2016 going to be like, and how would you envision it?
We will be having a whimsical Alice in Wonderland inspired reception (see 30 lovely decor ideas here, as well as another real wedding inspired by the fantasy story, here). My wedding gown has pale blues and cream details and looks very fairytale like. We would love for it to be a very fun night with fairy lights and a candy bar with colourful cakes and candies like the Mad Hatter’s tea party to match the theme. I have yet to find a second outfit to match that theme to wear for that night (hopefully a cute short bubble-skirt gown that’s easy to walk and mingle in) and a wedding cake.

Thanks Jessica! Look out for Jessica’s real wedding feature in Her World Brides September 2016.