Thanking those who help couples say 'I do'

Wedding solemnisers at the appreciation event yesterday included (standing, from left) Dr William Wan Kok Tang, 69, Reverend Patrick Lau Kim Thiam, 67, and Reverend Alfred Ang Cheng Kiat, 71, and (seated) Mr Murugayah Suppiah and his wife Govindan Ir
Wedding solemnisers at the appreciation event yesterday included (standing, from left) Dr William Wan Kok Tang, 69, Reverend Patrick Lau Kim Thiam, 67, and Reverend Alfred Ang Cheng Kiat, 71, and (seated) Mr Murugayah Suppiah and his wife Govindan Ira, both 72.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Tan Chuan-Jin encourages wedding solemnisers to share advice with couples to help them start off on the right foot

Mr Murugayah Suppiah and his wife Govindan Ira were supposed to solemnise a marriage one evening two years ago.

But before they could do so, Mr Suppiah received a telephone call informing him that the bride-to-be had given birth that very morning.

That was how they found themselves officiating a marriage ceremony in a hospital.

While Mr Suppiah was concerned if the new mother was up to it, the couple wanted to be married on the same day that their child was born.

"It was a simple ceremony attended by the family, but we were very happy to have done something for the couple and their baby," he said.

Mr Suppiah, who runs his own insurance company, and Madam Govindan, a retired teacher, are both 72 and have been wedding solemnisers for 11 years.

Yesterday, the spotlight was turned on wedding solemnisers like Mr Suppiah and Madam Govindan at an event to thank them at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel. Speaking at the event attended by more than 400 licensed solemnisers, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin encouraged the solemnisers to share advice with couples to reassure and encourage them.

"You are not just there to officiate a marriage. It is an opportunity for you to play a key role in ensuring the couples start off on the right foot," he said.

A special tribute was also paid to pioneer solemnisers who have been volunteering their services since the 1970s, as well as Justices of the Peace in service for 27 years.

The event coincided with the 55th anniversary of the first civil marriages registered in Singapore, which refer to those administered by the Registry of Marriages (ROM) and exclude those under the Registry of Muslim Marriages.

Couples who had registered their civil marriage at ROM in September 1961 can get a commemorative marriage certificate from the registry.

Couples, or their family members and friends, can contact ROM to register for the certificate, which will be issued from the end of next month.

There are currently 1,104 licensed solemnisers, close to double that in 2002. Together, they conduct around two-thirds of all civil marriages in Singapore every year, or 20,000 marriages. The rest are officiated by ROM staff.

Solemnisers, who are volunteers, are drawn from religious leaders, grassroots leaders and Justices of the Peace, for instance.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2016, with the headline 'Thanking those who help couples say 'I do''. Print Edition | Subscribe