SINGAPORE: Ms Lim Ding Yi had a professional make-up artist and a beautiful bridal gown arranged for her wedding, which was to be held at a hotel in May with about 300 guests.
Instead, on Wednesday (May 20), Ms Lim put on her own simple make up, wore an outfit she considered “dressy” enough, and got married to her boyfriend of six years Jeremy Gan - in front of a virtual castle.
Ms Lim, a 26-year-old programme executive and Mr Gan, a 28-year-old analyst, were among the first group of 32 couples to tie the knot virtually in Singapore.
New legislation was passed in Parliament earlier this month, allowing virtual marriage solemnisations during the COVID-19 pandemic when strict "circuit breaker" measures are in place.
For Ms Lim and Mr Gan, they moved into their marital home the night before, and stood side by side as a solemniser from the Registry of Marriages (ROM) conducted the ceremony virtually.
“It went pretty smoothly, except for some logging in issues in the beginning,” Ms Lim said.
Joining them on the ROM live stream were 10 of their closest family and friends. About 60 more people also shared their joy through a separate stream they set up of on video conferencing platform Zoom.
Mr Gan said he was surprised at the number of people who tuned in to show their support, given that guests had only been given about 10 hours’ notice for the solemnisation that was scheduled for 10am.
With things moving quickly in a short span of time, there was little time to do what was needed, the couple said.
“I only got my haircut yesterday,” Mr Gan said laughing.
On why they opted for a virtual marriage, Mr Gan said: “We never know how things could change, so we thought we’d get it done while we can. We don’t want to keep postponing."
Ms Lim said that the couple received an email in early May in which they could indicate their interest in a virtual wedding, and May 20 was the earliest possible option.
The couple plans to hold a tea ceremony at a later date. “We have no regrets, we are happy we got it done,” Mr Gan said.
MORE THAN 150 APPLICATIONS FOR VIRTUAL SOLEMNISATION
As of May 18, ROM received more than 150 requests for solemnisations via video link, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) in response to CNA's queries.
ROM will courier marriage certificates to the brides after the solemnisation is completed, a spokesperson added.
The couple getting married can move in with each other before or after the solemnisation, as long as they update their identity cards to reflect their new place of residence within 28 days of living together, MSF said.
However, if the couple are not from the same household, they can only appear separately via video link during the circuit breaker period.
“In line with the safe distancing measures, people from different households should not gather for the solemnisation. These processes by video link enable marriage solemnisations to take place in a safe manner,” said MSF.
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Ms Cindy Cintiani and her fiance will also be getting married virtually on May 22.
The couple, both Singapore permanent residents originally from Indonesia, have been living in rental rooms separately, although they recently signed papers online to rent a home together.
“It will be a new experience, but because of the situation, we have to adapt. As long as it is legal, that is the most important,” Ms Cintiani said.
But had she known that in-person solemnisations would resume on Jun 2, she would have opted for that instead, she said. With the circuit breaker period ending as planned on Jun 1, authorities announced on Tuesday that they will soon allow such ceremonies with up to 10 people present.
Ms Cintiani said she would have liked to see her fiance and elder sister, her witness, in person. Still, she said she was glad to be finally getting married to her partner of two years, after postponing the wedding from Apr 12 to May 10.
READ: Commentary: Virtual solemnisation - weddings could return to basics, with opportunities and challenges
KEEPING THE DATE SPECIAL
Dentist Richard Zeng will also be going ahead with a virtual wedding on May 29 despite the option of having an in-person solemnisation from Jun 2, because of the significance of the date.
May 29 is when they started dating two years ago. A year ago, they were engaged on the same day. The couple is determined to keep the date special.
“We decided that the date is still very important, and if we go for the 10-person ceremony, we won’t be able to invite everyone who is important to us anyway. The significance of the date overshadows everything,” he said.
Their families agreed with their decision, he added.
His fiancee will wear a wedding gown, and he will get all scrubbed up for the occasion.
“But maybe I wouldn’t need to wear pants,” he joked.
The experience will be a bittersweet one. Mr Zeng gets reminders on his phone about the wedding traditions they had planned to follow, such as exchanging gifts. The solemnisation was supposed to be held in church.
“Of course, I’d have been happier if things had gone normally, but just being able to have this avenue open to us, we are thankful,” he said.
A NEW WAY OF MARRIAGE
The solemnisation process via video link is expected to last between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on the solemniser and the couple. Some solemnisers may have advice and words of encouragement for the couple. In civil ceremonies, some couples may wish to make their vows to each other, MSF said.
Ms Joanna Portilla, who solemnised two marriages on Wednesday, said that things went well.
“I tried to make it as if it was happening on site. I tried to engage them, and invite the parents and close friends to say well wishes,” she said.
While their families may not be physically with them, the most important thing is that the couple can be with each other, she added.
Ms Portilla usually meets up with couples to prepare them for the ceremony, but this time, she prepared them virtually, to ask to them to think about their vows, choose a nice spot in the home, and possibly put up simple decorations.
Although the method of marriage is novel, she said the couples’ excitement was the same as any others.
“They chose this, they went in with eyes wide open, and they were so spontaneous, happy and prepared,” she said.