I have a confession. This may sound harsh but I know many others who feel this way. I secretly cringe at the sight of a [Chinese] wedding invitation. It’s sort of a #thanksnothanks moment. I’m thankful you count me as a friend. But I’m not that fond of dressing up, wearing uncomfortable shoes, enduring a very lengthy dinner that’s devoid of vegetables, spending just two minutes congratulating you, but the rest of the time, mingling with others that I (or you) barely know. All this, while also helping to fund your special occasion. And for that, no thanks.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, weddings in the States tend to be more chill. My best friend’s wedding was a potluck, and it was awesome. Everyone brought their best dishes. My friend didn’t even need to buy a cake because there were eight of them, all made from the heart.
Though recently, I attended an “unconventional” wedding in Singapore which I really, really enjoyed. (And in case you’re wondering, the couple is Chinese, and has traditional Chinese parents.)
The Details of the Wedding
The wedding invitation was digital (via Whatsapp), and on it said the three words that were music to my ears; “dress code: casual.” Later, a fourth word was added. “Dress code: VERY casual.”
So I didn’t have to change out of the jeans and shirt I was wearing that day.
I wasn’t sure if there was going to be an ang bao box (there wasn’t), but I still gave them an ang bao anyway. Because honestly, I’d gladly pay $$$ to not have to dress up and endure all the pomp and circumstance. Maybe I’ve been to one too many formals/D&Ds/proms and it’s no longer fun. Maybe I’m just too old.
The venue was The Three Peacocks, a restaurant in Labrador Park. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the MRT, which (thanks to the casual dress code) is doable with comfortable shoes.
Here are some photos from the wedding.
What Made the Wedding Memorable
1. It was not a traditional lavish Chinese wedding. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have your wedding stand out and be unique.
2. There was no Master of Ceremonies. In a sense, emcees can either make or break a wedding. Most of the time, a couple will hire a professional emcee who doesn’t really know the couple. This makes the wedding a bit too ceremonial. It’s all a staged performance; there’s no levity, no familiarity, no jokes. And as a guest, there’s no participation. You just sit there and listen. You can’t even talk to the stranger next to you because someone is giving a toast, someone is singing, or the emcee is making an announcement.
3. Everyone mingled. Because there was no emcee strictly following a programme, and no assigned seating, people were free to move around and chat with one another. And they did.
4. It was cozy. All hotels, even 5-star hotels, don’t feel all that cozy. For one thing, the carpets in hotels are some of the ugliest carpets ever. And many hotels have a sterile feel to them. That’s why some people prefer airbnb; it just feels more homey. The function room at The Three Peacocks was a much more cozy atmosphere.
5. The couple was noticeably stress-free. They were actually able to talk to all the guests. And they even spent time with each other, and were not just rushing from one part of a programme to another.
6. The decorations were all homemade. So they gave you a sense of who the bride and groom were, as a couple.
7. It was a buffet style meal. You didn’t have to wait three hours for the fried rice or ee-fu noodles.
8. You could come and go as you pleased. Because there was no set format, if you were done eating, you could enjoy the scenery. The restaurant was at the tip of the park, there was a view of Sentosa, and you could take a romantic stroll by the coast.
Nearly all the traditional Singaporean [Chinese] wedding customs are relatively recent inventions. From the pre-wedding photos to gatecrashing and the wedding fashion show (multiple outfit changes), these customs were mostly practices by the wealthy elite. They were not commonplace just a few decades ago. In fact, mass weddings were the norm in Singapore until the 1980s.
I’m glad my friend recognised this. And decided to create his own customs, that didn’t overburden his marriage from the get-go. Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone can and should have a wedding exactly like my friend. But, I am suggesting that wedding customs should be re-examined and we should consider the benefits of deviating from “tradition”.
On their card I wrote “Happy Married Life” but what I really wanted to write was “Thank you for not requiring me to dress up.” This was my favourite wedding in Singapore. What might have made it a bit better (though it’s already close to perfect) was if the buffet had more vegetables.