32 couples become first in Singapore to tie knot via video link

Ms Lim Ding Yi and Mr Jeremy Gan participating in their solemnisation in their new home in West Coast, while their solemniser Joanna Portilla was based in Thomson. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT
Ms Lim Ding Yi and Mr Jeremy Gan participating in their solemnisation in their new home in West Coast, while their solemniser Joanna Portilla was based in Thomson. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT

They benefit from new law allowing for marriages to be solemnised virtually

Mr Jeremy Gan, 28, and Ms Lim Ding Yi, 26, had planned for a wedding on May 8 - an auspicious date in the lunar calendar - since the middle of last year. But the Covid-19 outbreak scuppered all their nuptial plans.

The couple, who have been dating for the past six years, did not even know when they could solemnise their marriage, given the circuit breaker measures that started on April 7 and all the uncertainties surrounding this period.

Early last month, it was reported that solemnisations that were scheduled during the circuit breaker had to be postponed, with appeals heard on a case-by-case basis.

When the laws were changed to allow for solemnisations via video links - beginning yesterday - the couple decided to take up the option. They were one of 32 couples to do so, becoming part of the first group to ever get married via video link in Singapore. The 32 couples included both civil and Muslim marriages, said a Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) spokesman.

This compares with an average of 50 to 60 civil marriages solemnised daily last year.

The Gans said they decided to take up the video link option instead of postponing their wedding further because they did not know when everyone would be allowed to gather again.

They had two laptops set up in their new home in West Coast. One of them was connected to their solemniser Joanna Portilla who was at the MSF building in Thomson, and to close friends and family through the Cisco WebEx videoconferencing tool. Both the couple's parents and Ms Lim's five bridesmaids witnessed their vows from their respective homes.

They had a second laptop where about 60 of their friends, connected through videoconferencing tool Zoom, "joined" the couple in celebrating their big day virtually.

Ms Lim, a programme executive, said: "I was quite happy with this arrangement as we could 'see' everyone. In a way, our friends and family celebrated it with us. It was quite cosy." Mr Gan, an analyst, said the ceremony went well except for a glitch at the start when his wife's parents had problems connecting.

They plan to hold a small celebration with their immediate family to celebrate their nuptials when gatherings are allowed.

In the light of the outbreak, the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures for Solemnisation and Registration of Marriages) Bill was passed on May 5, allowing couples to solemnise their marriage via a video link.

 
 
 
 

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said 2,723 couples were scheduled to have their marriages solemnised between April 7 and June 1, but had to postpone their plans owing to the circuit breaker measures.

He said: "While some couples may prefer to wait until it's safer to celebrate their big day in person with family and friends, others may not wish to wait any longer, or may face extenuating circumstances that make postponement challenging. We want to support them."

Ms Portilla, an educator who solemnised the Gans' union, said the ceremony was a first for everyone involved. Although she missed the physical presence where hugs can be exchanged, she said the video link option is still memorable.

She added: "There are some couples who prefer not to wait to register their marriages, like they want to hold it on an auspicious date or a date that is special to them.

"I also have some couples (where the woman is) pregnant or a family member is seriously ill and (the couple) want their loved one to be around to witness their wedding."

Under the new law allowing for solemnisations via video link, the parties may not be in the same physical location but they must all be physically in Singapore. Couples' marriages can be solemnised after completing the verification of documents online and making statutory declarations virtually.

On Tuesday, it was announced that from June 2, marriage solemnisations will be allowed to take place in person again, with up to 10 people present and limited to the immediate families of the couples as well as witnesses.

Solemnisations via video link for couples will continue as an option for couples during the Covid-19 pandemic, the MSF spokesman told The Straits Times.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2020, with the headline '32 couples become first in Singapore to tie knot via video link'. Print Edition | Subscribe