SINGAPORE: Wedding planners, hotels and other venues are expecting a boost in business with the recent announcement that COVID-19 restrictions would be eased.
From Oct 3, up to 100 people – including the couple but excluding vendors and service providers – will be allowed to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, double the current limit of 50.
The 100 attendees must be separated into multiple zones of up to 50 people each, or split by staggered timings with up to 50 people in each slot.
READ: COVID-19 restrictions eased further on worship services, wedding receptions; up to 100 attendees allowed
Wedding planners CNA spoke to said they expect to get more enquiries over the next few weeks, since couples have “a greater level of certainty” to proceed with their weddings.
“Previously, many couples were in limbo on whether to proceed with their wedding planning as they are worried that new restrictions might be imposed against them,” said founder of Pei Weddings Chea Pui Yee.
“With the announcement, they seem to have a clearer direction on where the wedding scene is paving towards and they feel more relieved proceeding with their wedding plans.”
During the "circuit breaker" period, many couples held off proposal plans and are only proposing now, said Ms Michelle Lau, founder of wedding planner company Arches and Co.
Noting that the second half of the year is usually associated with higher engagement rates, Ms Lau added that more couples are likely to book staycations in the next few months for their proposals, then start planning for their wedding.
As the number of community COVID-19 cases in Singapore remains low, more couples are also hopeful that the restrictions will be further eased in time to come, said wedding planners.
While the number of enquiries has picked up since the circuit breaker period, it is still not as high as that of the same period last year, said Ms Lau.
“For new enquiries, couples are still pretty much looking at Q2 2021 onwards, in hopes that they can have a bigger party with more guests allowed,” she added.
HOTELS GETTING MORE ENQUIRIES
Hotels have also seen an uptick in enquiries from existing customers looking to increase the number of wedding guests, as well as couples who want to book a new package.
“Since the cap for weddings was increased to 100 pax, we have received numerous enquiries from couples who have already booked with us and want to increase the number of attendees and couples who had earlier postponed their wedding and now want to go ahead with it.
“We have also received new bookings as a result of this latest ruling,” said Mr Lee Richards, vice president of operations, South East Asia, Millennium Hotels and Resorts.
The group owns six hotels in Singapore: Copthorne King’s Hotel, Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Orchard Hotel, M Hotel, M Social and Studio M Hotel.
Adding that demand for wedding packages is “quite on par” with that of last year, Mr Richards said: “To cater to safe distancing and safe management measures, our hotels have come up with flexible and interesting packages that cater to the market.
“We have launched hybrid weddings whereby guests can attend weddings in the comfort of their home through a virtual service, which allows them to send well wishes to the couple and family.”
General manager of The Fullerton Hotels and Resorts Cavaliere Giovanni Viterale said the hotel has received strong interest in popular wedding dates such as Oct 10 and Dec 12, with a 30 per cent increase in the number of wedding enquiries compared to the same period in 2019.
The hotel has also received more than 40 enquiries from couples who want to increase the number of guests in their guest lists, he added.
“In view of the lightened restrictions, we are positive that demand for wedding events at our hotels will continue to grow,” said Mr Viterale.
“This is especially due to the pent-up demand during the past few months where couples have had to postpone or reschedule their weddings, as well as due to the fact that couples have become more receptive to the idea of holding smaller-scale wedding events in light of the current situation.”
At Grand Hyatt Singapore, there has been an increase in uptake from couples who have been in discussions with the hotel from the first half of the year, said director of events June Choong.
The hotel is expecting more bookings to come “in the next couple of weeks”, said Ms Choong, adding that it has received an “encouraging” number of enquiries since the announcement of the new restrictions.
The hotel’s four ballrooms can accommodate wedding celebrations for 100 guests, she said.
A Far East Hospitality spokesperson said demand for wedding packages has increased by about 15 to 20 per cent across its properties.
“However, the overall bookings are still significantly less - about 40 per cent - as compared to pre-COVID days,” the spokesperson added.
Far East Hospitality runs the Village, Quincy, Oasia and Rendezvous brands of hotels. While the hospitality group does not foresee an increase in the number of wedding receptions, it is expecting couples who postponed their weddings to later this year to invite more guests to their receptions, the spokesperson said.
SOME COUPLES PLAN TO KEEP NUMBERS LOW
While couples are generally happy about the relaxation of rules, not all plan to scale up their weddings.
For Ms Brenda Tan and her fiance Mr Matthew Chong, COVID-19 restrictions announced in July meant they had to whittle down their original guest list of about 180 friends and family members to about 50 people.
Even though they can now invite up to 100 people in two separate rooms or sessions, the couple decided to stick to around 50 guests because their venue is a restaurant that only has one main room.
“Also, when you want people to come and watch your solemnisation, you want everybody to come together. You can’t tell them ‘I’ve got my first round of solemnisation at 7pm and second round at 8pm’,” added Ms Tan.
The couple said it is unlikely that they will expand their guest list unless they can host everyone in the venue in one session for their wedding in December.
“I don’t want a case of I plan for 50, then it becomes 75 and then 100, then I have to keep changing and keep thinking of who to add and how to invite them,” said Ms Tan.
“As much as we’re trying to give a lead time to our vendors and the people whom we’re inviting, I think the many changes and the uncertainty also make it very hard to plan things. The less I have to change the better.”
READ: Marriage certificates sent by courier and no tea ceremonies: First group of couples get married virtually during circuit breaker
Commentary: Virtual solemnisation - weddings could return to basics, with opportunities and challenges
Instead of postponing the wedding after the pandemic hit, the couple brought it forward from May 2021 to December this year in a “spur of the moment” decision, partly because their home renovations were completed, Mr Chong told CNA.
A smaller wedding is also a “good chance” to keep costs low, Ms Tan noted.
“Everything is so uncertain. Even if the wedding goes back to next year, there’s no saying whether in May 2021 I can have 180 or 200 (guests) without restrictions.
"For example, if they said I’ll need safe distancing, then my venue has no way of accommodating 180 or even 150 with safe distancing,” she added.
“So even if I make a decision to have it then, there’s no guarantee that I can have the capacity that I want. I’m just putting a deposit down in advance to say that I hope everything goes well and that I can have it then. So honestly because of that, I felt like ‘why wait?’"
Arches and Co’s Ms Lau told CNA that about 90 per cent of the couples she is working with are happy that the restrictions are being eased.
“However, I do have some couples who are choosing to stick with the previous limit of 50 pax to have smaller, more intimate weddings,” she said.
“Some couples are secretly happy that they do not have to invite everyone on their parents' guest list (like) distant relatives, friends who are not close to the couple and so on.”
The requirements on zoning and staggered timings may also discourage couples from expanding their guest lists if their venue of choice cannot accommodate the numbers.
For example, couples who plan to hold their weddings at restaurants may face greater challenges in accommodating 100 guests in separate zones in a single session, said Pei Weddings’ Ms Chea.
“Time and effort will need to be invested by the planners/coordinators to consider the new requirements such as zoning plans and/or different batches of guests in view of the latest government regulations.”
Still, with some receptions set to grow in size, wedding planners said couples should work with their guests to ensure adherence to the new regulations, and to brief their guests in advance on what to expect.
“Because now honestly, a lot of challenges (are having to) deal with more crowds, the idea that you don't want to encourage too much mingling or interaction between guests,” said Ms Maxine Teo, wedding director at Heaven’s Gift.
Her team started incorporating acrylic shields into the wedding decor at dinner tables, after receiving requests from couples during the circuit breaker period for more ways to prevent the risk of COVID-19 spreading, especially among guests who may not be from the same household but are seated at the same table.
“Often, it's not that a couple doesn't like these regulations, sometimes it's the guests who don't quite understand why these have to be in place. And that's why engagement before the event helps. At least they know what to expect,” said Ms Teo, adding that most guests are not familiar with the restrictions as they are not involved with the wedding planning.
“And so then during the event, we have to remind them, then at least to them it doesn't come as a shock. It's more of a gentle reminder, that we understand that celebrations are meant to be celebrated together, and the wedding is a chance for everybody to catch up,” she said.
“But at the same time, because we have to be safe, we just ask for their cooperation to just reduce the amount of mingling and such very gently, and they tend to be quite understanding about it. If anything, actually COVID-19 has allowed all of us to be a bit more understanding.”