When Ms Grace Wong and Mr Nicholas Teo were planning their wedding nine months ago, getting good visuals was top priority and one of the first things they booked was a videography package with Highest Kite Weddings.

The couple, both in their 30s, had booked a five-star hotel in Orchard Road for their May wedding.

But at their in-person solemnisation last Saturday, held in the garden of their parents’ landed property in Seletar Hills, it fell to family members to capture images of their nuptials.

Highest Kite Weddings staff then spruced up the photos and videos, as part of an editing package that the company launched in April.

As Singapore emerges from a circuit breaker aimed at reducing Covid-19 infections, social distancing measures cap marriage solemnisation attendance to a maximum of 10 persons.

With ever-changing regulations and no indication when bigger scale events can resume, wedding vendors such as photographers, gown boutiques, caterers and stylists have had to think on their feet, launching new products and adapting alongside couples, whose wedding plans have gone awry.

Ms Wong, who does marketing and business development in the legal sector and her husband, a manager in the engineering industry, lament that this year has been one of “constant change”.

Manager Ashley Chua of Highest Kite Weddings says: “We realise a lot of people are angry, frustrated and upset about the current circumstances.”

While the studio cannot take the sting out of a postponed banquet, it realised it can help couples document the intimacy of a scaled down celebration. Ms Chua and her team came up with the editing package after helping a friend edit photos and video footage of her solemnisation, which was captured over videoconferencing app Zoom.

The package, which costs $700, includes a guide to capturing stills and footage. It also includes a home consultation, done via Zoom, where the photographer or videographer offers tips such as tucking away unsightly wires and cables, or where couples can position the ceremony for the best light.

“These are things we take note of as video creators, but consumers don’t see,” says Ms Chua. Her company normally charges $5,000 for wedding photography and videography packages.

Virtual photo shoots

Meanwhile Mr Melvin Lau, director of wedding studio Multifolds Productions, prefers to take the pictures “himself”. If he cannot be present, he has adapted the process to shoot solemnisations remotely via video-conferencing app FaceTime. Since April, he has done more than 90 virtual photo shoots.

One wedding guest, who is equipped with headphones, is designated the “photographer”, with Mr Lau directing him or her over a voice call, while the ceremony takes place.

Mr Lau also takes his own screenshots of the video call, then edits the photos to improve clarity and add bokeh, a blurred background effect that is usually achieved with a DSLR camera.

Mr Lau, who has been a wedding photographer for more than 10 years, was inspired by Ms Isabelle Lim, a deaf portrait photographer whom he met at a photography talk earlier this year.

“I told myself that if Issy (of Instagram handle @issyshoots) can communicate with her subjects via sign language and WhatsApp, I shouldn’t have a problem connecting with couples from afar,” he says.

He usually charges $3,080 for a six-hour live wedding shoot.

Since the outbreak, he has made up for lost income by offering virtual shoots at $200 for an hour-long solemnisation.

Say yes to the dress

With venue viewings and gown fittings put on hold, couples are finding it more difficult to plan ahead.

But Ms Kelly Kwa, who runs wedding boutique Kelly’s Bridals, wanted to give brides-to-be something to look forward to.

Last month, she launched a mystery gown box, which works like a clothing subscription service. Women submit their measurements and examples of items they like, which boutique staff use to gauge their personality and select three gowns for them to try.

The gown box, on loan for a day, costs $100 and comes with a discount if they take up the package eventually. Five women have taken up the service.

Ms Kwa says: “Some brides feel so hopeless because their wedding is in September, but they can’t even start shopping. This lets them have an idea of what styles will work for them.”

In April, the boutique also began holding virtual consultations for bespoke gowns, including draft fittings conducted via video call.

“We realised virtual consultations involve more follow-ups to understand the brides’ preferences, which builds a stronger relationship with them,” she adds.

Enter mini-monies

With big banquets off the table, vendors are teaming up to offer mini-monies, or small celebrations. These can be held at the couple’s home or at a restaurant, once restrictions ease.

Ms Belicia Tan, co-founder of wedding florist and stylist Flora Artisan, last month launched a customisable mini-mony package. For $1,298, couples get flowers and decor to style their home with, a wedding cake, and a buffet spread for 10 persons from parent company Manna Pot Catering.

They can add on services such as bridal make-up, more elaborate styling and in-person photography down the line, once these are allowed.

Meanwhile, bride-to-be Lim Hsi Wei, 28, plans to wed on July 4 in a 10-person ceremony at Peranakan restaurant The Blue Ginger.

Ms Lim, who runs a bespoke jewellery business with her fiance, 33, has postponed their destination wedding in Bali and a banquet at Botanico at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

“It did cross my mind to just go to the Registry of Marriages and sign the papers, but what happens if I can’t hold my banquet because the situation doesn’t improve? With a small ceremony, at least I’ll have a good memory of my wedding day,” she says.

Staying alive

The new offerings are a shot in the arm for the industry, but with few weddings since March and more cancellations looming, vendors continue to struggle.

Mini wedding packages, priced at a fraction of the usual, mean lean margins and small deposits.

Ms Kwa of Kelly’s Bridals, who employs four staff, adds: “In terms of cash flow, it is very hard. But virtual consultations help lift our mood and make us feel like things are not so bad for the company.”

Many wedding vendors are making plans to evolve along with the trend of pared-down weddings in the post-Covid-19 landscape.

In the past two years, Ms Tan of Flora Artisan has seen more couples opt for weddings with 50 to 100 guests and believes ceremonies may shrink even further.

She is prepared for her company to take on more small projects in the future, in a bid to try to make the same profit.

There is a drift towards small and intimate weddings, rather than big show-stoppers.

“We’re embracing this shift in mindset, that we don’t have to do a big wedding for it to be impressive,” she adds.

Text: Clara Lock / The Straits Times / June 2020
Featured image: Oleg Parylyak/123RF



<