Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong surrounded by some of the 90 married couples who renewed their vows to each other at a Teck Ghee Community Club event on May 26, 2019.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
SINGAPORE - Retired deliveryman Goh Kong Beng, 72, first met his wife at an open-air cinema along Kim Chuan Road in the 1960s.
"All we did back then was exchange glances," he said in Mandarin with a laugh, recounting how it was a Hokkien movie on the Chinese legend Hua Mulan.
They bumped into each other a few more times at the movies before Mr Goh plucked up the courage to ask Mrs Goh out on a date.
The couple tied the knot when they were both 21 and have been married for 51 years.
They were one of 18 couples whose love stories were shared at the Singapore Bicentennial celebratory event held at Teck Ghee Community Club on Sunday (May 26).
Organised by Ang Mo Kio GRC and Sengkang West SMC, the event highlighted how weddings across the different ethnic groups in Singapore have evolved over the years.
More than a dozen booths and exhibits showcased traditional wedding costumes, snacks and customs - some of which are still fixtures of modern weddings.
These included the tea ceremony set for Chinese weddings as well as dates and rock sugar cubes that are handed out at Indian weddings.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who attended the event, said the traditions and customs that the country's forefathers brought with them have enriched Singapore's culture as a whole.
"Of those customs, the wedding ceremony is one of the most important for each one of us in our lives," he said."Each ethnic group has its own set of wedding customs. The wedding ceremony represents the traditions of our forefathers that are worth remembering and passing onto the future generations."
He cited examples across different dialect groups within the Chinese community - such as having a roasted pig for Cantonese weddings and receiving the bride before dawn for Teochew weddings - to illustrate the "colourful traditions" that had "deepened Singaporeans' sense of identity and culture".
He also congratulated the 90 couples who renewed their wedding vows at the event. The newest married couple tied the knot two months ago, while one couple has been married for 65 years.
Mr Danni Jay Luke Danis, 30, and his wife, Ms Allison Rebecca Khoo Kim Guat, 32, were the latest to get married.
Ms Khoo, who is Eurasian-Chinese, said that her parents initially had "a few objections" to their relationship due to concerns about their racial backgrounds, when she started dating her Ceylonese-Eurasian husband.
"My father had hoped that I would marry a Chinese. He was worried about the differences in our cultures. And if I were to marry Danni, how our children would grow up, and how they would see themselves, their identity.
"But I told my dad, 'Look at me! I'm a product of both of you'," said Ms Khoo, whose father is Chinese and mother is Irish-Eurasian.
She added that it was inspiring to see the many married couples. "Here we are, two months, and some of these couples have been married for like 51 years. It's amazing."
This article was originally published in The Straits Times.