For most of us, the first quarter of the year is usually filled with positive ambition. As we kick off the new year with freshly set resolutions and renewed vigour, it’s the perfect time to switch to “planning mode” and start working on the goals we have set out to accomplish. Unfortunately, the year has somewhat put a damper on our spirits by opening on a much more gloomy note.
The world has been afflicted with a new, crippling virus whose elusive nature is still baffling scientists today. The Covid-19 outbreak had since rapidly evolved into a widespread pandemic, endangering global economies and causing tremendous impact to multiple industries. On a relatively smaller scale, the lingering effects of Covid-19 on the lives of people are not any less apparent. Careers and jobs are in jeopardy, daily lives have been inconvenienced and sadly, some of us have to deal with something else unimaginable just a few months ago: such as uninviting guests to one of the your most important life events – your wedding.
Wedding planning: Our first steps
My husband and I got blissfully engaged early last year and officiated our marriage a month later, after four years of dating. The fact that we moved on from engagement status so soon may have surprised many, but our circumstances were very much unlike the typical Singaporean couple. We had planned to temporarily relocate to the United States by the end of last year in order to accommodate for his new job, which was due to commence around that time. As I would be travelling with him as a dependent spouse, it was only necessary that we take our vows at the earliest time.
Though legally married in advance, we were unanimous about holding a wedding celebration to formally announce our union. It was tricky having to plan a wedding while ensuring that it works around our big move, but we had it all sorted out. We gave ourselves approximately a year of preparation time, and decided that May 2020 would best fit our timeline for the big day. After finalising on the wedding date, we dived into our first steps of wedding planning.
We aimed to cover the key parts of the planning while still in Singapore, then work on the specifics and other minutiae once we have settled down in the US. So, while in Singapore, we secured a reputable hotel venue for our wedding dinner, chose our desired bridal studio and booked our professional photographers for the special day.
We even managed to complete an overseas pre-wedding photoshoot right before we flew to the States, where the pictures turned out so good they exceeded our expectations. It was a bit of a mad rush getting everything done while juggling relocation paperwork and our respective day jobs. But at the same time, there was a sense of gratification as we watched our ideas for the wedding gradually come to fruition.
Covid-19 outbreak: The mounting uncertainty
When news of the spread of Covid-19 in Singapore first emerged in early February, it did not set alarm bells ringing for us immediately. Whether it was our inability to fully comprehend the potential severity of this new health situation unfolding in Asia, or being in a different geographical location at the time – or the assured mindset that the wedding was still a good three months away, we were relatively unperturbed.
Besides, we were still actively receiving emails from our hotel vendor: a request to finalise our guest count; the ordering of our wedding invitations; which date to set our food tasting session, etc. We believed that the hotel would most definitely raise the issue with us if there was a chance that our wedding may be affected. The normality of their actions further reinforced our assumption that things were well under control.
When the rate of new cases in Singapore showed no signs of slowing in end February, and worse still, Covid-19 cases began in the United States where we were at, unease started creeping in and we contemplated the possibility of having to delay our nuptials.
To be on the side of precaution, I reached out to our hotel wedding coordinator to enquire if there were any contingency plans in place for us, in case the health situation takes a dip for the worse. I was told that they were caught off-guard by the rapidity of the epidemic’s progress, and were currently in talks about alternative plans for their existing clients. But until further notice from the hotel management, they were only offering couples getting married in the month of March the option to postpone their wedding without penalty. As our wedding date was in May, we were instead advised to observe the situation for the time being.
The news from the hotel was nothing particularly negative, but it was enough to dull the months of heightened anticipation I had been having. We had originally planned for me to return to Singapore two months ahead of the wedding to oversee the final details of our wedding preparations and be with my family. My husband, after settling work commitments, would join me back in Singapore three weeks prior to our big day.
However, the indefiniteness of our wedding date now placed us on the horns of a dilemma. Do we purchase our flight tickets home at this point? If we went ahead but ultimately had to change our wedding date, we would be left with either wasted flight tickets or the hassle of having to fly back to the States, all without knowing how the Covid-19 situation would be by then.
On the flipside if we waited it out, we might end up having to work against the clock to finish the last of our wedding preparations, or even risk being unable to get a flight back home if the health situation continues to worsen. Realising that the rest of our plans would be stagnating as long as our wedding date remained unconfirmed, we had no choice but to resign ourselves to fate and take on the more rational decision of waiting.
The big decision: Postponement of our wedding
By mid March, the COVID-19 situation had escalated into a global pandemic and millions around the world were falling ill at an alarming rate.
With no updates yet from our hotel vendor, it was my husband who proposed that we voluntarily push back our wedding date. In light of the burgeoning health crisis, he was thoroughly concerned that many of our guests may not turn up for the wedding amidst deepening health fears. Furthermore, the Ministry of Health had previously issued an advisory that recommends event organisers to cancel or defer non-essential large scale events, which may further deter people from attending weddings.
According to the advisory then, if we chose to proceed with the wedding, it would be our responsibility to ensure that the stated necessary precautionary measures were taken. That means in addition to managing our wedding routines on the actual day, we would also need to carry out temperature screening, deny entry to guests who are unwell, increase the cleaning frequency of commonly used areas within the venue, just to name a few.
It was already frazzling enough to deal with the thousands of aspects of a normal wedding. Having all these extra Covid-19 related considerations made it even more stressful.
For me, I was initially against postponing our wedding due to worries about compensation. Like any other wedding contract, ours too contained a clause stating that there would be penalties for any cancellation or postponement. As our hotel vendor had not confirmed that we would be eligible for a change of wedding date without penalty, I felt that our wedding still needed to go on. Suggesting we change the date seemed like it would unquestionably mean incurring penalty charges too. On hindsight, perhaps my objections were due to my deep-seated wish for our big day to go just as planned.
My husband wanted to postpone the wedding date right after hearing the afore-mentioned MOH advisory. He said that there was always room for negotiation with the hotel, as well as our wedding vendors. He was against continuing with our wedding as planned amidst a pandemic and was concerned about guest turnout as well.
As much as I wish that our big day could go as planned, deep down I knew that the points brought up by my husband were justifiable. Moreover, the last thing that we wanted was to place the health of people we love in unnecessary jeopardy. I finally caved in and we both agreed to postpone our big day.
My parents-in-law even volunteered to do us a huge favour by meeting up with our hotel wedding coordinator on our behalf to convey our decision. To our pleasant surprise, the hotel readily acceded to our request and agreed to waive the relevant penalty charges out of goodwill. We were allowed to push back our nuptials to the end of the year, unless the crisis period extends. Thankfully, the bridal studio and photographers whom we engaged were likewise greatly understanding, and were fortunately available on our new wedding date. After weeks of built-up tension and uncertainty, this good news felt like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.
New government measures to aid affected couples
We were cognizant that we were one of the few lucky couples who managed to successfully postpone our wedding with little or no issues. However, we have heard stories of many others who were forced into making the painful decision between holding the celebration of the most important day of their lives in the midst of an ongoing pandemic or forfeiting their deposits totally, as not all hotel vendors offer flexibility to make amendments to the otherwise legally binding wedding contract. Fortunately, the wedding woes of these couples could now be eased following new measures proposed by the Singapore government. 
1. COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020
The COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020 , a new law introduced in early April, aims to provide temporary relief for businesses and individuals in financial distress, or who could not fulfil contractual duties as a result of COVID-19. Amongst stated contracts, the latter also includes event contracts bound to conferences, tours and weddings. The temporary measures under this Act will prohibit legal actions to be taken against a party who is unable to perform such contracts due to the pandemic for a prescribed period of six months, extendable to twelve. These measures will be applicable to any scheduled contract entered before 25 March 2020, with contractual duties to be fulfilled on or after 1 February 2020.
This allowed affected couples to delay their wedding dates with hotel vendors without the fear of forfeiting their deposits and where applicable, to restore previously forfeited deposits. While this may not be the ultimate solution to every single issue faced by weds-to-be during this time, it is still beneficial for couples as it eases the cashflow burden in terms of wedding expenses.
2. COVID-19 (Temporary Measures for Solemnization and Registry of Marriages ) Bill
A more recently proposed law also allows couples to have their marriages solemnised virtually was passed today, at the time of writing. Under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures for Solemnization and Registry of Marriages) Bill, couples will now be able to say I do online via live video links in the virtual presence of their witnesses, eliminating the need to postpone the wedding certification ceremony.
The newly enacted law also entitles these couples to an increased period of up to twelve months to get married after filing a notice of marriage, instead of the original three months. This way, should they decide to push back their wedding dates due to extenuating circumstances, couples no longer have to wait out the mandatory 21 days before re-filing a notice of marriage, saving both time and convenience.
Family and friends: My pillars of support
I remember having to deal with the challenges of planning a wedding while abroad and whining about the inconveniences of it. At that time, I would never have imagined facing the setbacks that Covid-19 brought about that eventually led to the hiatus of our wedding plans.
Looking back, I am beyond grateful to have a wonderful support group of family and friends who were always ready to lend a hand whenever needed, and were there to offer me tons of encouragement when I was feeling disheartened from the abrupt slew of changes to my wedding plans.
Over the past few months, our parents had been a tremendous help to us by taking up the vital roles of communicating with our respective wedding vendors while we were away overseas. My sister, with her undoubted proficiency in Excel, readily sacrificed her precious weekends to draft up our wedding guest list and the table seating plan together with me. Several close friends, both married and unmarried, generously shared their opinions and were ready to help as long as I requested it. Knowing that extra assistance or advice was just a call or text away made me feel less jittery about the thought of running into unanticipated issues along the way.
Wedding plans on hold: What should I do next?
These are indeed trying times for everyone. For brides-to-be, wedding planning can become a nerve-wracking experience if your carefully organised plans happen to get tangled up in a global health crisis. If you are a fellow bride-to-be finding yourself trapped in this troubling situation, here are a few points to ponder over before taking your next step:
1. To postpone or not to postpone?
With the circuit breaker currently in place, it leaves little room for choice when it comes down to weddings. Previously possible work-arounds for couples who had wished to keep their original wedding dates, such as scaling down the wedding and introducing precautionary measures, are no longer feasible given the strict social distancing measures today.
If your wedding is in a few months, waiting to see if the current state of affairs picks up after the lift of the circuit breaker is probably the first thing on your mind. However, there is no promise on how long more the pandemic will persist. A day without the announcement of an official vaccine leaves us with another day of perpetual uncertainty. In the worst-case scenario, we have to prepare ourselves for the probability of having social distancing measures extended till the end of the year, or even beyond.
At this point of time, postponing the wedding remains the safest and most socially responsible option. In the event where you need to produce a marriage certificate before collecting keys to your BTO flat, a good solution is to hold a virtual wedding solemnisation first, and then the grander wedding reception at a later time.
2. Communicate with your wedding vendors and guests
Communicate your thoughts to your wedding vendors so they can work on the relative adjustments for your new expectations. If you choose to postpone your nuptials, promptly check with them to secure your new wedding date. Most vendors are quite empathetic and will do their best to accommodate your needs during such a challenging time.
Don’t forget to keep your guests updated about the status of your wedding. Find out about any existing concerns they may have with regards to attending, and provide them with gentle reassurance if necessary. It will put them at ease knowing that you had their best interests in mind when planning for your big day.
3. Stay positive, it’s not as bad as you think!
You may find yourself descending into a cloud of gloom and frustration when the odds seem to be working against your favour, especially when you have spent a long time envisioning your perfect wedding day, and dedicated even more time into materialising it. But in this period where we are already dealing with copious amounts of negativity from an international health crisis, let’s all the more remain sanguine, and take the bad with the good.
Our original wedding plans may have fallen through, and future wedding plans remain uncertain. But at least we are giving ourselves the opportunity to make our special day perfect at the right time. Timing is everything and a wedding is supposed to be of wonderful, tender moments to be slowly revelled with our significant other. The risk of the whole thing going terribly wrong is real if you choose to rush it and stress over how you can salvage your wedding plans at the first possible moment.
We can’t predict anything at this point of time and doing so would be futile. Let nature take its course and trust that your wedding day will happen. Other than it being a once in a lifetime event, a wedding also signifies a beautiful start of a marriage journey. Take all the time you need to make it perfect with your significant other, and fondly remember it with years to come.
- Human Resources Online ( 21 April 2020 ): Your 10-minute guide to Singapore’s COVID-19 ( Temporary Measures ) Act https://www.humanresourcesonline.net/your-10-minute-guide-to-singapores-covid-19-temporary-measures-act
- Singapore Tourism Board: COVID-19 ( Temporary Measures ) Act – FAQs https://www.stb.gov.sg/content/stb/en/home-pages/covid-19-temporary-measures-act.html
- Straits Times ( 5 May 2020 ): Parliament: Bill passed to allow marriage solemnisations to go virtual https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/parliament-bill-passed-to-allow-marriage-solemnisations-to-go-virtual