Sunday, January 17, 2021

My Experience Planning A Wedding During COVID-19

I breathe a sigh of relief that I could hold my wedding during the COVID-19 pandemic. So many things happened in the past 1 year which troubled and worried me so much. Firstly, our wedding had to be postponed from July 20 to Jan 21. It was the hardest decision I've ever made. We didn't even know when to postpone our wedding to as we're not fortune tellers and do not have a crystal ball to see what is going to happen for this pandemic. 

Making the decision to postpone the wedding was coupled with the mad rush to contact all the vendors to check on the availability of dates. I had the fear that many couples are also postponing so it will be hard to get any dates in 2021. We contacted about 5 vendors we had engaged and luckily all were able to accommodate our new date in 2021. 

With postponement, cost increase is also a factor and the fear of any of the wedding vendors going bust and thus losing our deposits. I have paid a few thousand dollars in deposits to several vendors already including the bridal shop where I had sign up a package for the gowns, suits, actual day photography. Thankfully, non of our vendors went bust by the time we held our wedding. 

Experience with Hotel venue
COVID-19 has affected the hospitality business in a huge way. For hotels, they do not have any tourists coming to stay and events were also not allowed to be held. For weddings, the number of attendees was limited to 50 initially then increased to a max of 100 now. 

We chose Hilton Singapore as our wedding venue 3 years back. This became the best decision we ever made. We were served by the wedding sales executive at the point of signing the contract and paying the deposit. Few months before our wedding, the sales executive went on maternity and we were than served by the sales manager. We postponed our wedding to 2021 and never heard from the sales executive nor the manager anymore from then on. I guessed they were either laid off or transferred to other roles. Blessings in disguise, we were now served by the sales director, Anthony, who provided us the best service we could ever ask for. 

We heard of many hotels starting to increase price or cut the perks as the number of tables were reduced. Many people decided to cancel their banquet but could not get back their deposits at all. Some had their 1 night stay in the bridal suite cancelled, others had their price per table increased by 20% or the wine and beer perks taken away. Hilton did not increase our price per table or take away our perks. Instead, we got more perks and experienced the most flexibility in table arrangement which we could ever ask for. Due to social distancing, the number of pax per table could only be a max of 8. Hilton used our per table price which we signed up back then and divided by 10 to derive the per head cost. They then allowed us to be flexible in assigning any number of guests per table and only charge us base on per head. So, I had some tables with 5 guests, some with 6, 7 or 8. They even went the extra mile to not charge for toddlers as long as we tell them not to serve food for them. This could not have happened in the past as most hotels will charge by per table of 10 persons regardless of how many guests were seated on each table that day. 

Besides being flexible with the table arrangement, the sales director often calls me to assure me and update me on any changes to government regulations. We wanted an additional night before the day of the wedding so that my wife could do the make up at the hotel itself on the actual day and were prepared to pay for the extra room night. To my surprise, Hilton offered the additional room without any charge. It was initially using the day use room which we have in our package for the additional 1 night but the sales director once again thought for us and mentioned it will be difficult to move our things from the day use room to the bridal suite so he initiated to let us have the additional night on the day before at the bridal suite instead. This made it so much better for us on the actual day as we had many items in the room. If we had to move the items from one room to the other, it would not have been a good experience. 

We had a live band package which we signed up for and this was converted to virtual live band instead due to government regulations of no live performance for weddings. Hilton initiated to help us contact our virtual live band vendor to test the connection just in case it doesn't work. On the actual day, our banquet manager Hasan and sales director Anthony were there to ensure everything is ok. They took care of our solemniser to ensure he has a space to park at L1 VIP lot so that he can arrive on time and contacted my sister in law to pick up my parents in law when they arrive. I'm not sure if this is the practice for most hotels in Singapore when it comes to service excellence but I really felt like a VIP on that day. I felt that Hilton has way exceeded my expectation on service standards and would like to express my appreciation for all that they have done for us in the midst of having our wedding during COVID-19.

Experience with virtual live band
Many wedding banquets have live bands nowadays to make it more lively. Me and my wife signed up a package for live band with Musical Touch more than a year back. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, live band was not allowed but virtual live band was proposed for us. So, our vendor actually rented a studio and had the live band livestreamed to our wedding venue. I was initially skeptical of whether such arrangements would work as there are many considerations such as whether it will be as engaging, whether the sound quality will be good and whether the internet connection will be stable etc. To my surprise, everything went well that day. The virtual live band had good sound, it sounded like they were there on that day. There was no lagging or cut in internet connection also.  

We initially signed up for a 2 piece band only with emcee service. The singer was supposed to double up as the emcee for our wedding. However, as the singer could no longer be here at the venue, the vendor had to arrange for a separate emcee to come down. There were additional cost due to this arrangement. We were initially not too happy about this as who would like to fork out additional money when its not what you wanted but Musical Touch patiently explained to us the reasons. We had several exchanges before we came to the decision to fork out the extra cost to continue with the virtual live band and emcee service. This vendor was sincere and really provided good services on that day. They even had an additional coordinator came down that day to ensure the coordination for the march in songs and accepted songs dedication as per normal. I would definitely recommend Musical Touch for anyone who wants a virtual live band for your wedding during this COVID-19 pandemic.  

Cost of wedding
A wedding is often the first money bomb in our lifetime. I wrote an article 6 years back in 2014 on how much money is needed to get married and start a family in Singapore. Here is the article:

The cost of wedding I calculated back then was: 

Cost of wedding after collecting Ang Baos: $19,000-$26,000. 

This cost included honeymoon which we couldn't go for due to COVID-19. If we add in a honeymoon cost of $5K-$10K, the cost I would have spent for wedding is in the range of $13K-$18K after deducting the ang baos collected. Yes it does cost 5 figure to get married in Singapore but I think all these cost are worthwhile to spend for your once in a lifetime occasion. I could also afford this amount as I've saved up significantly over the years since I wrote the above article and am fully prepared for the cost needed. It would not be advisable for anyone to take a loan for a wedding if you do not have the savings for it. 

All in all, we did not regret having our wedding at a 5 star hotel with all the good services which we needed to make the day better. We were happy, our guests were full of praise for the food and service and were happy too. This will definitely be something memorable when I look back in the future. 

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  1. Congratulations! I think that its amazing of Hilton Singapore to go the extra mile even though I believe that they might have their own challenges!

    1. Thanks Joshua. Yes they definitely have their own challenges but the spirit of providing good service still remains. Really amazing.

  2. It's wonderful how things have come full circle. In 2014 I read your original article and didn't pay much heed to it as adulting seemed an eternity away. In 2021 I got married also and looking back in this duration I've learned much, made many mistakes and accumulated great experiences. Wishing you good health and wealth, perhaps I'll comment again when we reach the next stage of our lives.

  3. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for reading my blog from 2014 till now. Back then, I was inspired to write that article on the cost of getting married as it was already a huge cost to me. Many years passed and we have all grown to be young adults and have got married. Life isn't so simple now with more responsibilities and expenses but fortunately we would also have earned more. But honestly, I'm still worried for retirement as there are always uncertainty through life which may derail our plans.

    Nevertheless, my view towards money changed after I got married as I no longer only think for myself but have to think for my family as well. Its no longer just saving up but also balancing providing a good life for my loved ones.