This story first appeared in The Sunday Times on Dec 7, 2014.
A fresh-faced lass with a pretty voice, local singer Tay Kewei, 31, had her fair share of suitors when she started gaining attention in her music career. However, she had eyes for only one man - athletics coach and later, Project Superstar winner Alfred Sim, 33. News of their upcoming nuptials was released by her record label S2S on Monday and it was followed by a barrage of well-wishes from netizens and fans.
Her best pal and singer Lee Ein Ein told SundayLife!: "Kewei told me how even though she had other suitors who were more handsome and attractive, Alfred is the one who has been by her side even before she got her start as a singer.
"She said that Alfred has seen her at her 'ugliest', before her glamorous moments as a successful singer. She feels it's real love," adds Lee, who is in her 30s and part of a cappella group MICappella.
Tay, who has three albums under her belt, including Mandopop offering Turn Back & Smile released in September, says: "I take heart in loyalty. I'm thankful our relationship lasted so long, it's what I've always hoped for. I'm not someone who wants many boyfriends."
The unassuming Sim says with a laugh: "You mean she had other suitors? I didn't know. Even if she did, I'm quite confident, it boils down to trust."
The couple will be tying the knot on Jan 4. Although they have been dating for almost 10 years, their relationship came to light only when Sim took part and won the latest season of local reality TV singing contest Project Superstar in October.
They met in 2004 when they were guest singers at the solo EP launch of local singer Peter Huang, who is also part of MICappella. They bonded over their common interest in music and started dating in 2005.
Couple time was scarce for the jet-setting pair.
Barely six months into their relationship, Tay scored her first backing vocalist job with A-list Taiwanese crooner David Tao in 2005. She went on to be a back-up vocalist at concerts for Mandopop heavyweights like Wang Lee Hom, A*mei and JJ Lin.
Former national sprinter Sim was busy travelling for competitions. He also travelled when he was with the Singapore Athletic Association between 2006 and 2010, as the manager and coach of the national team.
Sim, who now owns fitness training company Reactiv, says: "Sometimes, when she came back from a concert tour, I would be off for a competition. A crucial part of our relationship was based on trust."
Tay adds: "When I was touring, I could do a show on the weekend and be away from Thursday to Sunday. That could happen every week.
"Before the days of 3G and Wi-Fi, I had to buy a SIM card or call from the hotel. We used to call each other every night. We became comfortable with each other and I could travel for one week without talking to him. Now that there's WhatsApp, there's a lot of texting."
One may not be able to tell that Sim is a sweet boyfriend from his buff appearance, but Tay says he is a thoughtful man.
"When I was doing regular gigs at a cafe bar, he would come by just to watch me and spend time with me, even if it were just a short 15-minute break between my sets," says Tay, the oldest daughter of a 57-year-old housewife and 61-year-old traditional Chinese musical instrument teacher. She has a sister, Tay Kexin, 25, who is also a singer.
The pair's relationship bore fruit when Sim proposed. He admits the timing was because her parents had hinted that the current Horse year in the Chinese zodiac was a good time to settle down.
"It was career first for us. She was busy with her albums and I was busy with my work. We never thought of settling down so soon," adds Sim, the oldest son of a 57-year-old housewife and 60-year-old civil servant. He has a 29-year-old businessman brother.
The down-to-earth guy showed that he, too, could be a romantic. He pulled out all the stops to orchestrate an elaborate proposal in May by having Tay take on an engagement to perform at a wedding.
Tay was caught by surprise and was moved to tears. She says: "When I turned up at the restaurant, there was no wedding couple. There were about 40 of our friends and family members. It was a good surprise."
He serenaded her with her love ballad, So In Love, and even learnt to play the guitar for the occasion.
He says: "She knows I can't play the guitar. I thought it would be nice for me to learn it. But due to time constraints, I learnt only to strum the chorus."
The surprise did not end there. The next morning, Tay was whisked away to Tokyo for a week-long trip for their pre-wedding photo shoot.
She says: "I've always dreamt of being surprised like that. He thought that it would be very anti-climactic if we went back to our normal lives after the proposal."
The couple will be commemorating their marriage in a fitting way - by writing an original song.
She says: "Alfred and I will be writing the lyrics. It's going to be our first original song, it will be ours, it will be very meaningful."
And the ambitious Tay has big plans for her love song. She says: "It's going to be a nice ballad about love, not just about us. I want to make it a must-sing song at karaoke."