More saying 'I do' to cosy restaurants, green settings

Mr Roy Chan and Ms Joy Chua will hold their wedding dinner at a restaurant in a colonial bungalow, instead of a hotel ballroom, even if it means not being able to invite several of her friends.
Mr Roy Chan and Ms Joy Chua will hold their wedding dinner at a restaurant in a colonial bungalow, instead of a hotel ballroom, even if it means not being able to invite several of her friends.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

No hotels and no frills. Bank officer Joy Chua was adamant about these two conditions when planning her wedding.

"Many of my friends got married recently and their wedding photos in hotel ballrooms all look identical," said the 28-year-old.

She picked Min Jiang at One-North, a restaurant in a colonial bungalow in Rochester Park. The event, for 150 guests, cost about $20,000.

More couples are leaving the beaten path of the hotel banquet, some due to rising costs and others in search of a more unique celebration. Arrangements include cosy restaurant gatherings, green spaces such as the Botanic Gardens or Gardens by the Bay and weddings in regional destinations such as Bali or Phuket.

Ms Michelle Tay, editor of online wedding resource Singapore Brides, estimates that 20 to 30 per cent of newlyweds here are choosing alternative venues, up from 10 per cent five years ago.

Wedrock Weddings director Jessica Claire Chew said: "They like that these are cosier, more interesting environments that offer their own individual styles."

At The White Rabbit, a restaurant in a former chapel in Dempsey, wedding bookings have gone up 10 per cent from last year.

Civil servant Timothy Seow, 27, and teacher Priscilla Samuel, 25, spent $13,000 on a small wedding dinner two weeks ago at Da Paolo Bistro Bar in Rochester Park.

Mr Seow said: "Hotel weddings just end up costing your friends unnecessarily."

But wedding planners say restaurants may not necessarily be a cheaper option. Rosette Designs & Co creative director Hellen Lie said: "For some restaurants, the minimum spending is up to $25,000 for 120 people." This works out to just over $2,000 for a table, which is comparable with packages at five-star hotels here.

There may also be other logistical issues.

For Ms Chua, who will take her vows with PhD student Roy Chan, 28, this evening, Min Jiang was a little too cosy. She said: "I could not invite half my friends."

Economics researcher Raisah Rasid, 26, picked HortPark for her January wedding to French engineer Geoffrey Lacave, 25. But it meant juggling several vendors, including those for a photo booth, a musical band and a dessert bar.

Parking was also limited.

It was "overwhelming", but she added: "At the end of the day, we know our celebration was completely our own."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 13, 2016, with the headline 'More saying 'I do' to cosy restaurants, green settings'. Print Edition | Subscribe