Behind The Scenes: Dream Wedding

So the big question's been popped and the ring's on the finger, but the wedding journey is only just beginning. We turn to experienced wedding planners and expat couples who've had their walk down the aisle for some planning advice.

by / Published: 5 Jul 2016

Behind The Scenes: Dream Wedding

Now that the Instagram pictures of the engagement ring have been shared, the congratulations and ‘likes’ have piled up, both your Facebook relationship statuses now read ‘engaged’ and the post-proposal glow is just beginning to fade, it’s time to get your head out of the clouds and get down to work. Weddings don’t plan themselves, you know – unless you have a fairy godmother on hand!


First things first: find out how to go about getting legally married or the whole thing is moot. According to the Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs, the standard procedure if one or both parties are foreign nationals involves a submission (in person) of the relevant application to a National Registration Department counter, which is usually in Putrajaya. Forms, documents and time requirements may vary according to your nationality, so make sure to get that clarified quickly.

“We had to visit the registation office in Putrajaya, then needed a letter from the British High Commission before we could submit the forms – and then we were told we had to get it officially translated as the forms were in Malay before Chris could sign it! So we had to walk around and find the legal office to do this for us as well,” says Anusha Segaren, who married her English beau here in 2012.

Of course, it’s extremely handy to have an experienced local guide you through the procedure if possible, as Marjan Sipsma did: “It was near impossible to get the right person on the phone and we were directed from Putrajaya to PJ to Shah Alam for weeks without answers. So when I was recommended Adam Malik from Langkawi, who would arrange everything for us within Malaysia, I was very happy!”

“Adam advised what paperwork we needed to organise from our countries such as birth certificates and proof we were not already married, which we did online and had the originals sent. He arranged everything in Putrajaya and Langkawi, including doing the registration at the resort on our wedding day and being the celebrant, which saved a lot of time,” says the Dutch national.

An alternative might be to get your marriage license in your birth country, which is what Australian Damien Marik did in his wife Elizabeth’s hometown of Singapore. “Going to Putrajaya seemed very impersonal – they decide the date and time, plus it’s done in a nondescript room. So we decided to get legally married in Singapore and we had a smaller event there at the place we met,” he says.


The next step is to decide the date that you’ll be having your ceremony on. Most couples tend to have the formal ceremony (especially if it’s in a place of worship) in the morning, with a reception elsewhere in the evening where everyone can let loose, containing the whole operation in a single day. However, some may opt for multiple ceremonies and receptions at different locations to be able to share their day of happiness with distant loved ones and pay tribute to different upbringings.

“We decided that since it was a marriage of a mix of cultures, we knew the significance of each type of wedding, especially to our families. So we decided to have both so that we could experience both types of weddings and understand each other’s cultures and significance more,” says Anusha, who had both a traditional Indian temple ceremony and a Western-style garden wedding.

“Looking back now, it was the best decision ever – and I got to wear both a saree and a wedding gown!”

Depending on your culture, choosing the date might be a rather tricky endeavour; Asians in particular place a strong emphasis on ‘auspicious’ dates, which are often decided by temple priests of various faiths by using anything from birth dates and numerology to looking at the astrological alignment of the planets and stars. You’ll generally be given a few options to choose from – whether you believe in it or not, it’s a nice nod to local tradition and a little extra luck on your wedding day can’t hurt!

However, bear in mind that your date selection will also depend heavily on your venue availability. Popular venues can get booked out as far out as a year in advance, especially on unique dates such as Valentine’s Day, so prepare and inquire as early as you can if you have your heart set on a particular location. 


This is where your wedding starts taking shape as you begin the laborious process of narrowing down the details: flowers, cake, dress and everything else besides. There’s no shortcut around this – you should expect to spend many, many hours doing research, asking for recommendations from friends and family and visiting vendors.

Naturally, the Internet is resource numero uno for having a wide variety of readily-available choices and information at your fingertips; for instance, you can browse through the online galleries of bridal boutiques like Designer Bridal Room, then save the designs you like on Pinterest and show them to your potential vendors to save time and give them a better idea of what you want.

Time-consuming as it may be, Kris advises not to skip the legwork: “Make it a point to meet with each potential vendor personally as it is important that you can get along well with them. Meeting in person will help you narrow down your choices and make a decision – and once you have decided, pay a deposit quickly to secure their services.”

While it’s common for most wedding vendors to push the sale of package deals, don’t get carried away as you may end up paying more for things you don’t really want. “I read a lot about how pushy vendors can be by asking you if you want a different dress or hairdo to ‘upgrade’ your package and I didn’t like some that tried to do ‘hard sells’. But if you do enough homework and go into enough dress shops to know the going rate, it’s not that bad,” says Elizabeth.


Being hands-on is nice, but if time is precious, hiring a wedding planner may be a less stressful option if you can afford the expense. “If you’re unable to meet timelines for important decisions, then it is time to seriously consider hiring a planner, but it is best to hire one at the onset rather than midway through the process. An established wedding planner would also have established links with vendors and venues, which you can tap into for better services and deals,” says Kris.

At Elysium Weddings, a wedding planner will work with a client through five stages:

• Stage 1 – Discuss, develop and design (12 months away) This is where your theme, concept, budget and event programme and timeline will be established, as well as getting recommendations for and quotes from vendors.

• Stage 2 – Source, compare and build ideas (6-11 months away) Booking and arranging the vendors for all aspects of the wedding, as well as the venue.

• Stage 3 – Coordinate and assist (3-5 months away) Religious and traditional ceremony proceedings will be coordinated, as well as the reception layout, out-of-town guest accommodation and final vendor confirmation.

• Stage 4 – Bridal party coordination (2 months away) This is where final fittings, gift registry, family logistics and special helpers will all be coordinated and rehearsals will begin.

• Stage 5 – D-Day! Your planner will be on the floor on the big day making sure everything runs on schedule, distributing final vendor payments and delivering collected gifts to the bridal suite.

If you want to have control over the details of your wedding but don’t want to worry about coordination on the day itself, do what Elizabeth did and get a planner just for the day. “I needed someone to help execute the wedding day itself as all my friends were coming to Singapore and I didn’t want them to be working. I was quite happy to switch off that day as I hired a good team of wedding planners who ensured people were doing the right things at the right time, so that helped,” she says.


If you have visitors flying in from abroad to attend your wedding, you’ll most likely need to think about arranging or at least suggesting accommodation and transport options for them around the wedding venue. Some couples opted to rent units in condominiums for their foreign guests, while others simply booked rooms at the resort they were having their ceremony at so that everyone was concentrated in one easy location – and could have a great holiday at the same time.

To save yourself the pain of repetition, both Damien and Marjan recommend setting up a website with all the details of your wedding as well as some tourism information on places to go and things to do for those who might want to stay and have an extended holiday here after the wedding.

“As we had about 150 invited guests who were travelling from all over the globe, I set up a web page with all the information like menu choices and airport transfer on arrival, which made questions like ‘who is coming’, ‘what are they eating’ and a million more from the guests much easier to deal with. People can also reply with their RSVP and you can then download it to Excel,” says Marjan.

When all is said and done, though, planning your wedding is just as important as the actual day itself, so you should think of it as less of a stressful experience and more as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to arrange a rockin’ party to celebrate your happiness with your nearest and dearest, just as Elizabeth did.

“They say enjoy the wedding day; I enjoyed the whole process of planning the day from the makeup trial and photoshoot to the food tasting. At the end, I remember standing by the window as I washed my hair, staring at the Twin Towers for a good two minutes and saying ‘that’s it, the day’s gone and six to nine months of planning are over and done with’!”