Monday, October 3, 2022

Daryl & MingTong Heartfelt Wedding at Botanico

After covering so many COVID-19 wedding planning stories, we’ve come to realise couples eventually find their own way to cope with the situation. There were those who got a planner, those who consulted friends and family and those who simply took it one day at a time.

However varied couples’ coping mechanisms might be, the process that saw them through this whole rollercoaster of a ride essentially boiled down to them going through the same stages. It goes like this – first, there was definitely excitement. When the pandemic struck, optimism (and perhaps some distress) and hopefulness would keep them going. Then there would be a kind of detachment and indifference as rules constantly change. Eventually, no matter what came after, there will always be acceptance and best of all a kind of exhilaration as they approach the wedding day!

botanico wedding
Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography

Daryl and MingTong went through the exact same process but guess what their coping mechanism had been?

Honestly, we’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts on mindful thinking lately! So, planning this wedding was really a stab at practising what we learned (haha).

Daryl & Ming Tong

Not gonna lie, we think we could all do to start listening to these Mindfulness podcasts too. Because Daryl and MingTong’s wedding journey had been one epic panic attack-inducing journey. From pre-COVID to the Circuit Breaker to Phase 1, 2, 3 and then to find out their wedding day, 16 May 2021, was the very day Phase 2 Heightened Alert would take effect?! We are already breaking out in cold sweats.  Still, the couple thinks they have been extremely fortunate to be able to get to where they are today, happily married and with a wedding we all wished we had the chance to attend.

Read on if you’re up for some really wholesome sharing by the couple!

From Excitement to Despair to Exhilaration

Daryl is a Mauritian and after meeting MingTong during a stint in Singapore, a five-year courtship began. It had saw them through journeys and travels across borders during which they made and forged incredible friendships. Naturally, their wedding was planned to be a great big helluva reunion for everyone…until the arrival of COVID-19.  

botanico wedding
Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography

We planned for this day to be the perfect reason for all our friends and families, local and overseas alike, to come together, catch-up and have a good laugh over drinks, like one big fuzzy reunion. We imagined a whole lot of mingling, jumping from tables to tables, people talking over other people, and just chaos really, but a good kind of chaos, if you know what I mean! But the universe had other plans for us in 2021, and we had to come to terms with Daryl’s family and some of our closest friends not being able to fly in due to border closures.

Daryl & Ming Tong

Arriving at this arrangement was no easy feat. The couple went through four iterations (!) of their seating plans before arriving at the final one. Adjusting from the initial plan, they had prepared for a Phase 3 wedding until a week before the celebration when the tightening of restrictions was announced – gatherings were down to 5 pax and weddings with more than 50 pax would have to arrange for Pre-Event Testing (PET). Postponement wasn’t a choice with their wedding venue so the couple cut their initial guest list of 70 to 48 to avoid the need for PET. Just when they thought they averted the crisis, Phase 2 Heightened Alert (P2HA) was announced a mere 2 days before their wedding!

botanico wedding
Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography

You know how sometimes when you keep thinking about the worse that can happen, and then it just comes true? That was what happened two days before the wedding! How uncanny was it that now everyone had to do the testing?

I still remember when the news broke, we were having lunch at Plaza Singapura because we had to head to Art Friend to buy some last-minute materials we needed for the décor! We had absolutely no idea this was happening until we stepped out of the restaurant and saw the messages from our friends that came flooding in!

Then we made a conscious decision to try and retain our sanity: we texted our Botanico events coordinator to check for updates, and then put our phones back in our pockets along with all the unanswered texts while we waited for her reply.

Ming Tong

This time, the couple was given an option to postpone. But after assessing how uncertain things could be beyond 13 June (the date P2HA was supposed to end), they decided to explore all their options. They did a quick survey with all their guests and found out that a good majority of them didn’t mind having to do a PET at all!

Their replies gave us all the affirmation we needed. The final push came when, after juggling the guests around, taking out those that could not make it, and then putting back those that we initially kicked out (haha), we both looked at the fourth and final seating plan on that very same day and went, “YES! This is it!” And we never looked back.

Daryl & Ming Tong
botanico wedding
Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography
botanico wedding
Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography

The Acceptance and the Lesson Learnt

The only aspect that the couple struggled with was the idea of Daryl’s family not being physically here to celebrate with them. While MingTong was bummed about that, it was Daryl who reminded her that “those who are here are equally important, and we should focus on them too and move forward given the circumstance!”

botanico wedding
Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography

Undoubtedly, the wedding celebration was set up virtually on Zoom for their overseas guests. While every effort was made to make it a seamless experience, the couple only found out later that the technical aspect could have been better managed if they had hired someone to do it for them.

We’d recommend hiring someone to manage the Zoom! We projected the gallery of all Zoom participants on the screen for our physical guests to see. The visuals were fine, but the biggest issue was the audio, which we overlooked and didn’t manage to test. When we were speaking into the mics, the sound was being picked up by one of the three devices we had set up, and it ended up being too soft and muffled. Unfortunately, we didn’t know this until after the event when we checked with our Zoom guests.

Daryl & Ming Tong

A DIY Wedding Unlike Any Other

Looking back at it now, our wedding plans pre-COVID-19 does seem pretty ordinary compared to what actually happened! The restrictions on guest capacity were truly a blessing in disguise for us. And I’m sure it will be for other couples planning their weddings now. It meant we can devote more energy to making the day extra personalised and having deeper interactions with each and every guest!

Daryl & Ming Tong
botanico wedding
Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography

Indeed, we’d have to agree Daryl & MingTong’s wedding turned out to be incredibly amazing – so much so that we wish we had the opportunity to attend!

Both Architectural Designers, Daryl & MingTong are huge fans of lush and bold foliage. They are also extremely passionate about sustainability and made it a point to create a wedding that not only reflects their personality but also what they believe in.  

They started with selecting a venue that already emphasizes what they like. Then work on adding complementary elements that they DIY-ed on their own.  

What we love most about our wedding venue, Botanico, was the abundance of lush greenery. There was already existing hanging planters and greenery in the restaurant, and that already made for a good backdrop for the additional floral décor, so all we had to do was to complement the existing greens and add more “oomph!”

We know how much waste these one-off events typically create, so we went all out to DIY the dining and reception table décor.

Daryl & Ming Tong

It didn’t just stop at the decorations because all other touchpoints were given equal thought and attention. And that has gone a long way to touch the hearts of many who celebrated the day with them that day.  

Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography
Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography
Stationery

We wanted to reduce our impact as much as possible, so we printed our invites on seed paper.

When Daryl came across an empty roll of toilet paper one night and cut them into table sign stands, I thought this was such a brilliant and amusing idea as a conversation starter! So, we started upcycling the cores of toilet paper rolls to become our table sign stands.

We also printed out photo cards as reception table décor that were eventually added into our homemade, handstitched “guestbook” that doubles up as a keepsake to remember all the adventures we’ve been through.

Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography
Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography
Wedding Favours

We also wanted to bring some of Daryl’s Mauritian traditions into the wedding. So he baked Napolitaines for guests as door gifts using his mom’s recipe! It is a Mauritian butter cookie sandwiching strawberry jam and then coated with strawberry icing! He also made one with a Singapore twist using kaya instead of strawberry jam, and pandan flavoured icing with coconut flakes on top!

We hand-poured candles in reusable glass jars for our guests to take home.

Repurposing Flowers

We handed out paper bags so our guests can bring home the floral pieces without having them trashed like they usually would.

botanico wedding
Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography

Won’t you agree all these little things would have made you a very happy guests that day? Daryl and MingTong also made it a point to ensure guests feel comfortable and relaxed by setting the tone of the celebration as if they were merely hosting a casual Sunday Brunch with their loved ones.

They were all hands-on not only in the preparation phase of the wedding but right to the execution of it on the day. In true “gracious host” fashion, they joined their friends and vendors in putting up the bits and pieces just before their guests arrived. That quiet moment when everyone was in flow was something special they were glad to be a part of.

I remember the hour before the start of lunch when Daryl and a friend was setting up the Zoom cameras, I was putting candles, table signs and random knick-knacks all over the tables, my best friend was decorating the reception table (based on an image I sent her on WhatsApp the day before when we mocked up the table on our dining table at home!), and the other vendors and staff were just going about with their own tasks. It was like everyone knew exactly what to do, silently working towards the same goal, and we loved that we had been a part of that special hour!

Ming Tong

It is no wonder that MingTong’s best friend had said “this was one of the most heartfelt weddings I’ve been to.” And it truly was, right from the start; even we could feel the immense outpour of love and sincerity from the couple as we were writing this.

It was then that I realised “heartfelt” was really the only compliment that I’d wanted to hear, and “heartfelt” was truly the one word that we’d been looking for since the beginning.

Ming Tong

Heartfelt Advice

It is never easy to go from zero to something and then to everything! MingTong has been incredibly generous with sharing with us her thoughts as someone who has braved through this wild ride. If you’re finding yourself stuck, indifferent or demoralised, we think these are some of the best advice you will ever hear!

botanico wedding
Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography
Be There for Each Other and Get into a Mindfulness Podcast

For us, we found that we had each other to serve as reminders to stay calm and separate our thoughts from our emotions and external circumstances. Whenever one of us goes into panic mode, the other person (being the one outside these emotions) will start quoting some random tips from the podcast and bring the other person back!

Disconnect and Distant Yourself from the “Drama.”

Planning a wedding can be stressful especially with people around bombarding you with their expectations, which can exaggerate and magnify your emotions! So when things seem to take a turn for the worse, we’d switch off, sit back, breathe, and wait until we have clarity before we make our next move!

botanico wedding
Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography
When in Doubt, Write It Down!

When we couldn’t decide whether to postpone or proceed when P2HA was announced, Daryl suggested we do up a pros-and-cons list for all our options. It kept us grounded on the facts and information available at the moment. And once the list became clear, you’ll either hate it, or not—and that’s when you’ll know what you really want!

Look for Vendors Based on Personality First

…then portfolio and price second. You’ll need people you know you can trust. So it helps if they’re someone who feels like old friends that you can just “click” with in an instant! That was how we met Ching from 5amflowers. The florist was the one vendor we spent the longest time looking for! Her first few emails were full of ideas and possibilities, and we love her energy and excitement. After exchanging a couple of long emails just brainstorming ideas, we were sold, and this was even before we knew her rates! (Which turned out really competitive by the way!)

Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography
Start with Something Simple First!

Because things will eventually complicate themselves! From the get-go, we knew we wanted an intimate reception. And we often envision it to be something like a “chill, Sunday brunch” type of event. But even with the final 40-plus pax, there were a lot of coordinating and communicating going on. So with something simple (e.g. programme, guest list, décor, games, etc.), there will be more leeway for last-minute changes or additions (if it happens), and let your personalities take the spotlight!

Always Keep an Open Mind

Because anything can go wrong, no matter how much you’ve planned for it! Plus, it’s way more fun to adapt and improvise along the way. So embrace all the ups and downs! You’ll find you’ll end up with greater satisfaction and an even more memorable day!

Lastly (and Most Importantly), Have Fun!

From the planning to the actual day, it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and will make for a great story to tell!

botanico wedding
Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography
botanico wedding
Photo courtesy of Daryl & MingTong, taken by Bottled Groove Photography

With this, we can safely conclude that after feeling that final burst of exhilaration as couples approach the wedding day, all they are left with is a ton of fun and zero regrets!

We hope this has been an insightful and comforting read for you who might be going through a challenging planning journey. No matter which mental state you find yourself in now, hang tight! If you’re wondering what was the Mindfulness podcast that Daryl and MingTong had listened to, we’re on it! We will let you know when we find out!

Update: It’s The Lito Podcast! That’s what Daryl & MingTong were listening to! Even if you ain’t looking for any mindfulness tips, give it a listen because they will sure get you laughing hard! (We knew cause we tried!)

Professionals engaged for the wedding:


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