Some lovers are just meant to be together.

One look at Singaporean of the Year 2018 Siti Noor Mastura, 29, and London-born IT professional-turned-photographer/educator Hannan Mian, 39, standing together in a light embrace, his hand intimately placed on her waist as she – dressed in a delicate lace gown – beams up at him, and you can’t help but think: This is what true love looks like.

Gown, Silhouette The Atelier.Suit, shirt, and tie, groom’s own.

For Noor and Hannan, their long-distance love affair sprung from a chance meeting in a coffeehouse in Munich, Germany.

Noor, then a flight stewardess with Singapore Airlines, was in Munich awaiting her next flight leg, and having coffee with a friend of Hannan’s. Fresh off a long flight, Hannan was initially reluctant to make his way down to the cafe, but after some cajoling, he decided to meet his friend (and Noor) there. The rest, as they say, is history.

“We know this sounds so incredibly cheesy, but we knew the second we laid eyes on one another,” share Noor and Hannan on the first time they met.

The Courtship

What Noor didn’t know then was that Hannan was meant to leave Munich the next day.

Instead, he delayed his trip and invited Noor to join him to explore the Alte Pinakothek (Munich’s Old Picture Gallery), where according to her “he impressed [me] with his knowledge of art history”.

Their first proper date set the art/travel/explorative tone for the rest of their courtship. “Our second date was in London, where he took me to the British Museum and again, impressed me with his art history! Such a show-off, but it worked,” laughs Noor.

Speaking to both separately, it’s hard not to detect the passionate bond that they share.

“She is the most genuine person that I’ve ever met. Her sincerity and authenticity really make me treasure our relationship.

She loves me for who I am, and that requires a huge amount of attention, kindness and patience,” says Hannan quietly, his voice beaming with pride as he looks at his future wife posing in a lace dress.

Gown, Silhouette The Atelier. 

Similarly, Noor speaks glowingly of her fiance.

“He is just raw energy. There is no pretence and fakery. That forces me to face my emotions directly, even when I don’t want to. Over time, I’ve realised how much that has helped us understand one another better, and he loves me more than I can ever love myself. And I am not exactly an easy person to love.”

While their dates over the three years have seen them travelling to cities like Milan and Amsterdam, or meeting in London and in Singapore, their precious moments have a charming homebody slant.

“We really love ordering pizzas from Domino’s, and sitting on the couch to watch every single Jurassic Park film ever made. We can do that a million times and not get tired,” says Noor.

“We also spend hours talking about everything under the sun, from philosophy to culture, to spirituality to photography to nutrition to soccer to dogs – just every single thing you can possibly think of. It’s always a new adventure when we are both together.”

Navigating The Distance

Family and faith have also been the cornerstones of their love.

“Our faith is really sacred to both of us. And because we both share that at the same level, it translates to immense respect and value for one another, and has set the foundation of our relationship,” say the couple.

Gown, Love Story Wedding Boutique.  Suit, shirt and tie, groom’s own.

This mutual faith and support of each other’s goals and passions have buoyed them through their three-year romance – much of it long distance – with him shuttling between London and Kuala Lumpur, and her working as a flight stewardess.

This will finally culminate in a solemnisation at Faber Peak Singapore and a destination wedding at Hotel Majapahit Surabaya this August.

While the going hasn’t always easy, Noor admits that they were fortunate enough to still meet once every two months, and attributes Hannan as the driving force of their relationship.

“He makes it a point to call me (at least) twice every day. Overcoming the distance was challenging at times, but the key was really talking about it together. This is something Hannan really insisted on, and I’ve come to realise that it’s such a powerful tool for a relationship.

No matter what happens, no matter how ugly or how tough, we have to talk about it to each other.”

The Ties That Bind

While a long-distance relationship is challenging enough for any couple, both have also carved careers out of their respective passions.

For Noor, the 2018 recipient of the Singaporean of the Year award, much of her time is taken up as a co-founder of Interfaith Youth Circle, which helps to build friendships across faith communities.

She’s also the founder of Back2Basics, which runs monthly charity drives to provide basic needs to underprivileged families.

Gown, Love Story Wedding Boutique.  Suit, shirt and tie, groom’s own.

Hannan, too, is no stranger to devoting time to community causes and is highly involved in interfaith activities. He’s established a soccer club in the UK within his community that’s “centred around all faiths”.

His work as an educator within the British school system (and previously as a mentor for prisoners on behalf of the UK Home Office) has also seen him exposed to interfaith and intrafaith work, and its challenging nature – all this while juggling a career as a photographer.

As we speak, they are preparing for a trip to London to visit friends and family before heading to Granada, Spain where Hannan – who flew to Singapore specially for this shoot – has been engaged to teach a photography course.

“I think a lot of people (thanks to Hollywood, Disney and Bollywood) think that happiness lies in finding the one. Or getting married. Or being in a relationship. Or that they can only be a complete whole when they find their other half. That’s not true,” says Noor on the biggest misconception surrounding modern-day love and relationships. 

“You are a whole person. And you should be able to define your own happiness without needing someone else to exist.

How do you expect the other person to be happy with you when you can’t even be happy with yourself in the first place?

Two broken halves coming together expecting to find happiness in the other is a recipe for disaster. You are only going to suck the life out of the other person.

But two whole people, who are contented and happy with themselves, coming together – now that’s a whole new level of experience in your relationship.”

Gown, Silhouette The Atelier. Suit, Love Story Wedding Boutique. Shirt and shoes, groom’s own.

And while “working on yourself first” has seen them compromise time together, the sacrifice has been worth it.

“I know what Hannan’s passion means to him. I absolutely respect and value his investment and expertise in his work because it means a lot to him, and he means a lot to me,” shares Noor.

“I don’t see it as something that is a possible hindrance, but rather as another avenue in which he can share something he really enjoys with me. Plus, it makes me happy to see him doing what he loves and loving what he does. I know it works the same for him when it comes to me as well.

“I pursue my passions relentlessly as it makes me who I am, but I know what it will all mean if our priorities are not in order, and ‘we’ are my priority at all times,” confides Hannan.

“I think it is vital to have a genuine interest in and support for each other’s passions, so you’re pushed to keep going and feel secure that your relationship is better for it.”

So what’s the secret to navigating modern-day marriage and relationship?

Both list a sense of humour, interdependence, imagination, God, and being non-judgemental as five core fundamentals, plus maintaining healthy boundaries.

“Your relationship is between the two of you. You are both each other’s first circle. Everyone else comes after,” says Noor.

Gown, Silhouette The Atelier. Suit and shirt, groom’s own.

“Marriage is a journey and a commitment to push yourself and your partner to be the best person you can be in every aspect of your life – physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally.

You will face all sorts of tests and trials, and every one of them should elevate you to the next level of bettering yourself and your partner. It is hard and tough work, and something that needs to be constantly worked on.

You need a partner who can keep reminding you and hold space for you when you need it, which is why it is so important to make sure that you’ve got the right person for the journey.

I want someone who can laugh with me when sh*t goes down and do it all over again with me, not because he has to, but because he wants to as well!”

The Wedding

Where Hotel Majapahit Surabaya

Why “I went to Surabaya for an interfaith conference, and Hannan came along. We chanced upon a hotel that happened to be the sister hotel of Raffles Hotel in Singapore. We love our history and this particular hotel had an incredible backstory.

Hannan loves photography too and this place had everything – the light, architecture and history. We actually suggested the idea to each other at the same time. That’s when we knew, this was it,” says Noor.

The Plan “We will be in Surabaya a week before our wedding, and we are planning to travel to East Java via train!”

The Festivities “A lot of what is planned revolves around both our families bonding. Aside from my mother and youngest sister who have met his family, this is the first time that the rest of our families are meeting.

And we have no idea when the next meeting will be after the wedding as one family lives in London, and the other in Singapore.

This will also be also Hannan’s family’s first time in Singapore, and both our families will be in Surabaya for the first time. So it’s all about bonding over great food, fun and games, as well as sightseeing and travelling together.”

This story was first published in Her World Brides June – September 2019. Grab your copy at all newsstands today.