white at ease june 2014.jpgChiffon gown (without sash), from BRIDAL PLACE. Suit and shirt, from MY DREAM WEDDING. PHOTO: Her World Brides June – August 2014.

Sikh Temple and then French Cafe…
Ling, a designer, on her give-and-take wedding to Paul Singh, a journalist: “Paul considers himself a modern Sikh, he’s clean-shaven, has short hair and doesn’t wear a turban. So I was rather surprised when his family insisted that we have our wedding ceremony at a temple.

Being pretty laidback, the both of us had planned on a simple Registry wedding, followed by dinner at our favourite restaurant for family and friends. But Paul and I soon came to realise that there would be no getting out of a temple wedding. His uncle, the family patriarch, was adamant that we ‘do the right thing’.

So, temple it was and I didn’t fight it. Sometimes it is no use resisting family and I certainly didn’t want to upset the family I was going to marry into. As freethinkers, my parents did not plan any religious ceremony, but they encouraged me to go with what Paul’s family wanted.

To please his family and ourselves, we decided to do both – a traditional Sikh ceremony and, later in the evening, a Western buffet at our favourite French cafe.

We were told that the wedding would be really short, but it went on for something like two hours. During the ceremony, we had to walk around the holy book several times, with me trailing behind Paul. I wasn’t too happy with that. I’m not sure if you’re supposed to show open affection for each other but we held hands during the ceremony.

I like to think that everyone in the family got what they wanted from our wedding day. We tried our best to please everybody, including ourselves, and I think we managed to do that.”

Shinto and karaoke
Glenn, A Chinese Singaporean teacher, on marrying Japan-born Yuko: “I never had any preconceived ideas of what kind of wedding I wanted. Yuko though, planned hers for years. We had met when she came over from Tokyo to study English here.

We set a date for a civil marriage at the Registry of Marriages here in Singapore and made plans to go back to Japan to my in-laws for the first time. While we were there, Yuko had said, we could have a Shinto ceremony and get married ‘properly’.

I have a few Japanese friends so I knew what that involved. They weren’t very big affairs – usually fewer than 100 guests and held in a hotel, like in Singapore. Except that it was way more elaborate.

There had to be a matchmaker, whether we were match-made or not. We would have to pay for one, and he would double as an emcee at the dinner, introducing us to the guests. He would say how wonderful we were – what school we went to, what things excelled in and what wonderful jobs we were in. The rest of the evening would be taken up with more speeches, then end in a karaoke session.

There was no way I was going to do all that. Luckily, neither was Yuko. Her brother had already had elaborate wedding receptions, so her parents didn’t really mind us not having one.

We flew out to Osaka a day after our civil ceremony here. In Japan, the groom’s side is supposed to visit the bride’s family and present a monetary gift of about one million yen (about S$11,000). Yuko’s family didn’t want anything like that. So I brought cognac for my father-in-law, dried mango for Yuko’s brother and some perfume for her mother.

We wore traditional dress for the ceremony. I wore a samurai’s outfit and carried a fan. Yuko had to wear a special wedding kimono. It  took hours for her to get ready because she had to be wrapped up and her face made up. I couldn’t recognise her when she came out! She looked so different, just like a geisha.

It was freezing cold and we sat on tatami mats during the ceremony. It was a very solemn occasion but unfortunately, I couldn’t understand what the priest was saying. It took all of 20 minutes and then it was time to take photographs. It was all terribly serious and I wasn’t allowed to smile but had to stand in a ‘manly’ pose. My friends had a good laugh when they saw the photographs!

Our reception was a simple, home-cooked meal to introduce me to the immediate family, and we had a lovely dinner the next night at a restaurant with about 15 people. We were given beautifully wrapped envelopes that contained money. The sake flowed and we sang karaoke afterwards.

Back in Singapore, we flew out my parents-in-law and we had a family meal at a Chinese restaurant – just one table. We wanted to show them what a traditional Chinese banquet was like, so I ordered eight courses and rounded off the evening doing a couple of rounds of yam seng. Looking back, I would say our special day was fun, intimate and as much as fuss as I could handle.”

When size mattered
Pei, a local copywriter on her marriage to Neal, an Australian design consultant: ” My family is Christian and I spent many years studying overseas so i thought our wedding was going to be a simple Western one. You know – church then a reception and everyone would be happy. I remember my Dad joked years ago that he would, when the time came, like to have a casual reception. Maybe a barbecue by a hotel poolside or at home. It would be simple, tasty and memorable.

Well, Neal proposed and I reminded Dad about his plan – he did not want to have anything to do with it. “Too casual,” he pronounced. He wanted to “send me off” in style with a Chinese banquet in a hotel. Neal was pretty taken aback by the idea. If we had married in Australia, it would have been a relatively simple affair.

Instead, he got a guest list of 300 people, most of whom he had never met before, and an elaborate dinner followed by the yam seng tradition. He didn’t mind the latter one bit – he’d gone through it at other weddings and loved all that shouting.

The Chinese banquet was all right too. But the mass of strangers threw him. He kept asking why it was necessary to invite all of my parents’ friends and classmates from decades back. He had a hard time understanding that it was a matter of “face”; that if we had a very small wedding my parents’ friends would think my parents could afford the reception or they were ashamed of my marriage to this foreigner, or both!

We eventually reached a compromise of sorts. My parents cut down on the wedding list and Neal accepted the day for what it was. At the wedding, his relatives struggled with chopsticks and looked suspiciously at the more “exotic” items on the menu, like sharksfins.

We had to explain to our Aussie guests that it was all right (and actually preferred) to give money instead of a gift. Neal was shocked that we would be spending over $20,000 on the day, which would be paid for in part by hongbaos.

Strangely enough, for all the tradition, we didn’t have a tea ceremony – not because Neal didn’t want to, but because Mum didn’t see why her daughter should be subservient to ‘the other side’.

Neither did we ask for a ‘bride price’ like a roast pig or gold. But really, what we eventually ended up with on the day was tradition enough for both of us.

This story was originally published in Her World Brides June – August 1999.