Singaporebrides | Real Weddings
Jia Min and Darren’s Local-Themed Wedding at Si Chuan Dou Hua
Jia Min and Darren pooled together their favourite wedding vendors and got the wedding of their dreams this January at Si Chuan Dou Hua. Read about how these best friends turned into business partners, then turned into partners in life, and their very sweet journey to the present!
Darren Christopher Olsen, 33, met Phua Jia Min, 31, 10 years ago and was immediately attracted to her, but he didn’t reveal his feelings for her until much later. Together, they journeyed through university, started a bake club that would eventually lead to an excellent business idea, experienced break-ups, and became the best of friends. Now, let the founders of inthebrickyard and That Vegan Cake tell you how they became a couple.
TELL US HOW YOU WENT FROM SCHOOLMATES TO SOULMATES!
Jia Min: We met in NUS Chemistry (grad 2011). Even though he was two years older than me, he was one year my junior in school. We didn’t become friends until a mutual friend invited us both over to her place to bake and cook for fun. We started to spend more time together after that, and from there, we realised we have similar dreams and visions, and even tastebuds! Eventually, our mutual friend went to Germany for good so we continued to meet up without her. We agreed on many views, such as what a company should look like, how things should be run and managed, what certain things should taste like, what quality means to us, and so on.
We decided to start a business together. At that time, I was seeing someone else! Darren became my best friend over the five years of running inthebrickyard together. We made many difficult decisions, spent many days toiling and nights worrying about the bakery together. After I made the difficult decision to end my five-year relationship, Darren told me how he had felt about me and we decided to give the relationship a go, and here we are today!
Very quickly we realised we already knew everything about each other and were so certain that we would always love and care for each other, so naturally we decided to get married and are now expecting, all in less than a year! I feel so lucky and blessed to be able to marry and start a family, and to go through this adventure, with my best friend.
Darren: We met for the first time about 10 years ago in Uni. She was my senior by a year and I remember being immediately attracted to her smile and her personality.
After graduation, because of our similar interests in food, we started a “Bake Club”, as we called it. Just a fun get-together and cooking and baking and sharing that meal over conversation. Soon after our mutual friend moved to Germany, we lost that connection. But one day Jia Min called me up and said, “ Shall we do Bake Club again?” I think she missed it and I definitely was excited. I started to really enjoy her company and be around her. So we started it again.
Fast forward a few months, she went to Hong Kong for work and she asked all her friends to go over if they could. I immediately said yes. (She now tells the story like it was a “just ask but sure no one would take it up” kind of question. So she felt slightly weird that I agreed.) We really bonded during that trip over our common goals and vision for our lives, knowing that we found someone special. It was the turning point.
About a month later, she started to feel like working so hard for a company that wasn’t hers didn’t make sense. At that same time, my best friend asked us to do her baby’s first month order! We met up and discussed and decided to form this company, “Brick”. It represents the foundation of everything and just being in its pure raw form, not prettified but beautiful in its own way.
It was this that started everything. We soon both quit our jobs and really started doing the business for friends and family. The business grew and while there were so many challenges and trials to face, we came out stronger through it all. We learnt each other’s pet peeves, and at some point we completed each other’s sentences. I became her best friend, I knew everything about her. And she was the same for me.
Finally, sometime in January 2018, she had just broken up with her boyfriend and I knew I had to do something because I didn’t want to lose her. Telling her my feelings was the best decision I ever made. I was really scared that it would be one-sided, then the whole business relationship would be awkward after. But by this time I loved her so much, I knew I wanted to spend my entire lifetime with her.
And so we became a couple. This was a shock to some whom we have had to convince over the years that we were not a couple. But it was also not that big a shock because all our friends were like, “Finally!” Our dear friend said in her speech during our wedding that “it’s like Darren was constipated for four years waiting for Jia Min”. I think there’s some truth in that.
HOW DID IT FEEL FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOUR BEST FRIEND?
Jia Min: It was so strange and surreal initially! After all, we spent a good five years as friends then best friends. I’d always seen him as a BFF, as a brother, as someone I would think of many ways to prank while he was working. It was so strange to start having romantic thoughts about us!
I’ve always admired and loved his ocean of patience, his kindness and love for every human and living thing―those are the qualities I always wish I have more of, so being in such close proximity to him made me want to be a better person.
I love that we find the same things extremely funny so many days were spent in the bakery laughing till our tummy hurts and I love knowing him so well now, and being very confident in our decisions that we make as a couple.
Falling in love with him was natural because I already loved him so much as a friend. I couldn’t imagine my life without him anyway! Initially, I told him I wasn’t sure how long it would take for me to feel ready to date again, but in a span of a few weeks he gave me space and made me feel so comfortable to make the best decision for myself, and at some point I realised I didn’t want to do life if Darren wasn’t in it.
Darren: The top things five things I love about Jia Min are that firstly, she brings adventure into my life because I’m the sloth. Secondly, she makes me a better person every day. This is crucial because we all fall into the trap of gossiping about others. She taught me to see the perspectives of others, and that wasn’t easy. Thirdly, she makes me want to live my life better not just for myself but for others too. Fourthly, her love for her family and friends. Last but not least, I love her smile, her face and all that she is.
HOW DID THE PROPOSAL GO?
Jia Min: We were texting each other randomly about the possibility of a wedding without actually having a proposal yet. Then suddenly, it got quite serious as we started discussing dates and stuff. So I asked him, “Is this you asking? ‘Cause if it is, I will say ‘Yes’.” And he said “OMG” or something, and then we were both like, “Oh okay, so that’s it. HAHAHA.”
On the side, he had actually ordered a jade ring (local theme!) but it hadn’t arrived at the point of the “proposal”. One morning, when we both just got out of bed, he got the ring in the mail and he was so excited he came to me and just asked, “WILL YOU MARRY ME?!” I had barely opened my eyes and I must have laughed and said something like “YES, OF COURSE”. I guess that was it.
DID YOU HAVE A WEDDING THEME?
Jia Min: We knew from the start that we wanted a local theme. inthebrickyard evolved to be a local-themed bakery because we realised the local flavours were really what made us happiest when baking, what our community loved the most. Our (Ondeh Ondeh and Pulut Hitam) pandan cakes were the first and, till date, the top sellers. We have had many other flavours like Earl Grey, Lavender, Berries and et cetera, but felt happiest using what we could find from the supermarkets.
We also baked our childhood into cakes. Ya Kun Kaya Toast’s Set F was a peanut butter toast set that Darren and I ate for a good three months sometime in 2016. Every morning we would just go to the same Ya Kun outlet until the auntie knew our orders by heart. One day, I told him we should make this into a cake. And he did. These flavours made our bakery ours, and we wanted our wedding to be so much of these stories as well!
So we got together all our favourite wedding vendors in less than 15 minutes; we already knew who we were gonna ask if we ever were to need styling for our wedding, or flowers or photography so that was really easy and quick, since they have been our industry partners turned friends. Very quickly, this wedding concept was pulled together, with every vendor having free reign to conceptualise what local wedding means to them. We love all of their work and have absolute trust in them anyway. And true enough, they all over-delivered! We loved it!
BEING BAKERS, WAS IT DIFFICULT TO CHOOSE A WEDDING CAKE?
Jia Min: It was an easy decision! We already knew our favourites on the menu. The cake was decided to be from our latest sister brand, That Vegan Cake, because we wanted to share the message that vegan food can be so delicious that you can’t even tell the difference from a regular cake, except that it is so much healthier! We were so excited to share it with everyone.
Darren: Baking for my wedding was surreal. I didn’t even think of it as I was working. It was like any other order. I just followed instructions and made it. We had two other wedding cakes to bake and I did those first. When I finally put the cake topper on mine (love that topper!) it finally hit me that this was my wedding cake. And I could suddenly visualise myself at the wedding. I remember just wanting the day to happen right then.
WHAT WAS YOUR WEDDING DAY LIKE?
Jia Min: We were surrounded by everyone we love and by their blessings. It was kept simple, so there was no march-in, just having God in the centre of it and a simple lunch to celebrate. Our emcee friends wanted to play games so we went along with them, otherwise it was just the Best Man and Maid of Honour toasts, along with a speech by Darren’s parents to share their joy with family and friends, and us thanking everyone for being so instrumental in our lives and how they all had a part to play in teaching us what love looks like. We even did away with the table-to-table photos and yam sengs so we could really be more present and spend more time speaking to people individually.
The day passed so quickly, and before we knew it, it was over! It still feels so surreal that we are married that we still exclaim every other day that we can’t believe we are married and having a baby.
Darren: Our wedding was as planned. I loved the church wedding because it solidified our love in front of God. And it was super emotional; I cried many times as I met my family and friends before the ceremony. Then I did an “ugly cry” when I saw Jia Min walk down the aisle.
The lunch was unforgettable. Many thanks to Si Chuan Dou Hua and the team for the great service and just making us feel special. Of course we’d like to thank Med Kärlek for the styling and Thomas for helping us immortalise the day by making us do funny shots after the lunch.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF THE WEDDING?
Jia Min: It has to be the bridal procession. It was so fun to be the VVIP having the ceremony start upon my arrival. My Maid of Honour drove me so Darren didn’t see me in my dress until I walked into the church. Catching a glimpse of Darren’s ugly cry (he is very emotional), having our witness and their kids be our flower boys and girls, and reading our vows to each other in front of everyone who loves us and whom we love. Those were the best parts of my wedding. To me, the lunch was just to have a meal together, but the church part of the wedding, where we got married by our favourite priest Monsignor Ambrose Vas, was really what meant the most to me.
Darren: My most memorable moment during the wedding was during the march-in at the church. It felt like eternity but it was so beautiful. We had our family and really close friends march in together in the bridal procession to our favourite song “A Thousand Times” by Jarryd James. Jia Min actually had part of the lyrics to the song tattooed on her arm two years back. It was all a plan in the making. We just didn’t know it yet.
The Size of Wedding: 230 guests
The Cost of the Wedding: $37,000
The Pre-Wedding Photographer (Outdoor Shoot): The Beautiful Moment
The Pre-Wedding Photographer (Indoor Shoot): Twist Photography
The Wedding Photographer: Thomas Tan
The Wedding Videographer: the other brother
The Wedding Stylist: Med Kärlek
The Church: St Vincent de Paul Church
The Venue: Si Chuan Dou Hua
The Make Up Artist: Candy T Makeup Artistry
The Wedding Robe: Bells & Birds
The Wedding Car: Volkswagen SG, in partnership with Car Club
The Wedding Gown: Wedding Crafters
The Suits: Style Smith
The Wedding Florist: Floral Magic
The Dessert Table: inthebrickyard (local themed pastries), Coconut Club (local kuehs)
The Wedding Cake: That Vegan Cake
The Cake Topper: The Good Makers Company
The Ice Cream Vendor: Merely Ice Cream
The Manicurist: The Nail Lab
The Solemniser: Monsignor Ambrose Vas
The Wedding Rings: Black by AJ
Credits: Images by Thomas Tan
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