Singaporebrides | Real Weddings

March 2022

Ming Tong and Daryl’s Sustainable Wedding with Gold Accents at Botanico at The Garage

Ming Tong and Daryl overcame the obstacles caused by the pandemic and tied the knot in an intimate celebration at Botanico at The Garage.

Ming Tong met her husband, Daryl, at an architectural firm where she interned at and where he coincidentally took up a job offer. Years later, Daryl surprised Ming Tong with an at-home proposal with the ring they picked out together. Like many couples who tied the knot during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ming Tong and Daryl found themselves facing several obstacles along their wedding planning. With determination, love and support, they overcame every challenge they faced and tied the knot in an intimate and heartfelt celebration at Botanico at The Garage.

How did the two of you meet? What drew you to each other?

Ming Tong: We were both working at the same architectural office when we first met! I signed up for a pilot attachment programme introduced by my school and became an intern. Meanwhile, in a miraculous turn of events, Daryl chose a job offer over a university opening in Melbourne. And we both found ourselves seated right next to each other in the office!

From colleagues, we became friends and travel buddies for a year before we started dating. Eventually, I graduated and started a full time job at another design firm while he left to complete his Masters programme in Germany. Two years later, we found ourselves back in the same office where we first met and have been working there ever since. Until recently, we decided to get married and relocate back to his home in Mauritius.

Daryl: I still remember my first day of work in Singapore on 15th January 2015, and my colleague next to me caught my eyes. It was Ming Tong. As I was new to this country, I befriended most of my colleagues in the office and we started going on lots of outings together. Soon, I was attracted by her simplicity, introvertness and smile. We started to go out for drinks after work and we could talk until 5 a.m. in the morning. I still remember her asking me some weird and philosophical questions like, “Why am I me?”. She made me think quite long, and even in my dreams, I still remember our talks and moments.

Thereafter, I started to get more interested in her character and personality. I started to stalk her on social media, and whenever I see her being somewhere, I quickly make my way there and pretend to bump into her, and then accompany her. She is an opposite of me, and as we know, opposites attract!

What drew you to each other?

Ming Tong: I was drawn to him in the beginning because of his sincerity and friendliness towards everyone around him. I remember I really admired the way he treats people with honesty and without judgement, and I thought that it was such a valuable character trait to have in a friend!

What is it about your partner that you love the most?

Ming Tong: Daryl’s “can-do” attitude is truly unmatched and it’s what I love most (perhaps also, sometimes hate) about him! I love that about him because it motivates me to take initiative to achieve my goals and drives me to be my best self!

Daryl: Her look, calmness and zen attitude are what I love the most. She is very grounded and can handle the most stressful situation with ease. This really helps me to balance my energy in time.

What was the proposal like?

Daryl: I knew she doesn’t like over-the-top surprises and she also shrugged at the idea of a proposal because we had already talked about getting married and moving on to the next chapter of our life together. Soon after we conceived the idea and were looking for a wedding band ring, she came across an engagement ring in a tapered baguette-shaped stone. The simplicity and design was so nice that she wanted one, so we decided to get an engagement ring too, in the same cut. Our jeweller told us it will take two to three months to complete. We initially agreed to meet our jeweller together to collect the rings, but I did not tell her that I had secretly contacted our jeweller asking if I could get her designed engagement ring ahead of time, before the wedding bands, so that I could surprise her. Once I had collected the ring, I went home and waited for her to return home from work one night, got down on my knees with the ring and asked her to marry me — sweet and simple, just the way she likes it!

Tell us about your wedding.

We are both nature-lovers and we knew we wanted to hold a reception at a restaurant that looks as good as the food they serve and is suitably sized for an intimate event for our close friends and family. So, we narrowed our top three choices to Open Farm Community, White Rabbit and Botanico.Botanico finally won us over because of its location in the beautiful Botanic Gardens, housed in a conserved heritage building, has a semi-outdoor terrace that’s sheltered with air-con, and offers an exclusive use of the entire venue at the most reasonable price. They also offer full customisable wedding packages where they partner with external vendors (baker, stationery designers, etc.) and their own in-house florist, which most other restaurants did not have. So, that made our decision a lot simpler.

Ultimately, what we loved most about the venue 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!”

When most couples would have chosen to postpone their wedding due to COVID-19, you decided to go ahead with your wedding as planned. Can you tell me why you decided to go ahead with your wedding instead of postponing?

We initially planned our wedding and solemnisation for October 2020. It was eventually postponed to May 2021 because of border closures, as it meant that Daryl’s family would be unable to attend physically. At that time, we were still quite optimistic about the whole situation, thinking that things will go back to how it was before and we could have the cosy lunch “reunion” that we’d envisioned for our close friends and family at the reception!

However, we realised very soon we’d had to accept the fact that Daryl’s family members could only join us virtually. So, we stuck with the revised date of May 2021. Then, the news of P2(HA) came. It was shocking initially, and we toyed with the idea of postponing again. But we also knew postponing meant more uncertainty, as well as all sorts of time and cost implications, and we did not want to let the pandemic delay our plans to move back to Daryl’s hometown! So we decided to push ahead.

We actually thought we were rather unfortunate to have the wedding on the day P2(HA) was implemented at first. But on second thought, we were actually quite lucky that it was on that day because of the fact that we could go ahead as planned, due to the exceptions made for May 16 weddings!

What was it like planning your wedding during the COVID-19 pandemic? What was your wedding planning journey like, and what challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

For us, it was a rollercoaster ride of emotions throughout the entire planning process with multiple iterations and last minute changes!

When we first envisioned the wedding back in 2020, we planned to have our solemnisation and tea ceremony in the morning at the semi-outdoor terrace of Botanico with our family members, before the other guests arrived. A cocktail reception would then follow before proceeding indoors for lunch.

We had originally pictured four long rows of “Pinterest-worthy” communal dining tables with draping garlands, table runners, each seating about 16-20 guests, and the two of us seated at a separate table facing our guests. 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!

What we were looking forward to most were the activities we shortlisted and the most important thing was to have both our families meet each other IN PERSON after all these years, and to finally reunite with our overseas friends over a good lunch! That changed with the decision to postpone. We also decided to go ahead with our solemnisation at the Registry of Marriages in 2020 and held off the reception to a later time when measures were hopefully more relaxed.

So, during Phase 3 when the 8-pax rule kicked in and we were back planning for the wedding again in full force, we had guests spread out and seated both indoors and at the semi-outdoor terrace. But we had to scrap the idea of having a cocktail reception and entertain the possibility of a much quieter wedding. So, we planned for a shoe game where we had our guests write down the questions to ask us instead (we had no idea what questions we’d be asked!), and printed out crossword puzzles for each table, to lighten the mood!

All was going great until a week before when we got the news that we’d have to cut back to maximum 5-group gatherings and arrange PET testing for receptions with more than 50 guests. Our first thought was postponement again, but our contract only allowed postponement a month in advance, so we were a little bumped but we had to push on.

That’s when we came up with the third seating iteration of 48 pax from the initial 70. Because Botanico did not have the physical space to do PET on-site prior to the event, we were told that our guests would have to do the testing within 24 hours prior. And because our event starts at 11am, this very well meant we had to be tested the day before the wedding. That was what made us cut down to less than 50 pax, because we were so sure none of our guests would want to go through all that trouble.

Then, we were dropped with yet another bomb again on 14 May when it was announced that P2 (HA) will start on 16 May, the day of the wedding! This time, we were given the option to postpone. While that seemed very tempting, it also meant a lot of uncertainty since no one knows how things will pan out after 13 June either. So we decided to explore all our options: we did a quick survey of all our guests and toyed with the idea of PET, and found out a good majority of them didn’t even mind 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.

For us, the biggest challenge throughout the entire episode was juggling the guests, seating them appropriately, making sure they stay entertained amidst all the changing regulations. We value social interactions but are also wary of the safety precautions. So we were really particular about grouping guests at tables with people whom they’d feel most comfortable and familiar with. Also, the crosswords puzzles were a great ice breaker to keep guests busy throughout the lunch! We also had pieces of paper where they’d pen down questions for the shoes game which minimised physical interactions between tables.

As we did the decorations ourselves, the constant adjustments and last minute changes were quite stressful to deal with! We found ourselves having to reprint the seating charts and table signs twice, due to the changes in seating plans. But that also taught us how to think on our feet and come up with solutions that were most efficient! During the final seating layout, after shuffling the tables around, we decided to put two table signs on the same table that we had combined due to drop-out guests instead, which reduced the number of reprints we had to do. It also became another little “joke” we played on our guests so they could see who was supposed to be here but couldn’t make it!

But, despite these challenges, with a possibly shorter tea ceremony and minus the solemnisation, we realised we were able to have more time to relax and enjoy the lunch with the company of our guests!

Ultimately, we were most glad we had each other to overcome these challenges with! We’d serve each other reminders to stay calm when things seem to take a turn for the worse, sit back, breathe, and wait until we have clarity before we make our next move!

And most importantly, we saw the chaos, the last-minute adjustments and the franticness as an embodiment of a wedding to remember. And the satisfaction of seeing our guests bursting with laughter during the reception was priceless. And honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way!

Take us back to your wedding day. What was the day like and how were you feeling?

We thought the day passed by too quickly and wished we had more time to soak it all in! The night before, we couldn’t really sleep because we kept thinking if we had forgotten to pack anything. And we had to wake up at 4 a.m. on the day itself to prepare because we had arranged to meet the photographer at 8 a.m. for a photoshoot around Botanic Gardens. So by the time the event ended and we’re resting in our hotel room, we were both so tired but at the same time we didn’t want the day to end!

The shoot lasted for an hour, so we still had time to chill before our guests arrive at 10 a.m. for the tea ceremony. This helped to calm us down a little bit before the start of the lunch, where we decided to emcee ourselves and stood in front of everyone for a short speech! Although it was a small crowd, it was nerve-wracking because we usually shy away from attention!

In between courses, we managed to approach the other tables for a chat (but of course with necessary safety precautions!), and this was the part that we truly enjoyed. Because of the intimate scale, we were also able to visually interact with all the guests from where we were sitting. The whole atmosphere was friendly and homely, and by the time we reached the champagne toasting and our thank-you speeches, we had warmed up to being in the spotlight!

We also put aside time to interact with our Zoom audience after the champagne toasting, as the majority of them were Daryl’s family members and our overseas friends. It was heartwarming to see some of them preparing their own wine (or juice!) to join us!

We were also quite worried about how the event would end. In a typical Mauritian wedding, guests would all proceed to the dance floor and dance the whole night to Sega music. Because we could not do that here, we moved the shoe game towards the end (and also lots of photo-taking with our guests!) so the day would end on a high note! We’re truly grateful and fortunate to have a smaller crowd in a great location so that made managing the guests so much easier, and less scary when we had to address them!

Finally, back in the hotel, it was a bittersweet moment trying to savour it all! Our photographer, being awesome as he is, managed to send over the sneak peeks in just a couple hours’ time so we could look over them in the room and that made it such a wonderful ending to the day!

Was there a wedding theme?

We are huge fans of lush and bold foliage, and coupled with Botanico’s landscaping, we knew from the beginning we wanted the theme to be something that’s foliage-heavy, with the occasional tropical blooms to add a bit of colour. Being heavy on the foliage, it also meant the theme would end up looking a bit less “polished” or manicured, and a bit more raw, which we absolutely love!The colour palette actually came from a RSVP website template that we used! After browsing through the different website themes, we came across one with a deep green background, with sand and gold accents. The colours also went nicely with the green table runners that Botanico was using in the restaurant! So we took those colours and replicated them to our physical invites and table signs. The palette also complemented well with the kraft paper that we used for the door gifts and crossword puzzles!

This slightly rustic colour scheme tied in nicely with all the other low-waste, repurposed, DIY elements we used for the décor, which came second-nature to us because we are both passionate about sustainability! We wanted to reduce our impact as much as possible, so when Daryl came across an empty roll of toilet paper one night and cut them into table sign stands, we both thought this was such a brilliant and amusing idea as a conversation starter! We were constantly trying to inject low-waste ideas into our décor as much as possible! I think we were quite lucky, because we are both quite crafty in our spare time, so we just made use of the things we’re most familiar with and recycled these ideas for the wedding!

Our invites were printed on seed paper, the table sign stands were upcycled from cores of toilet paper rolls, we hand-poured candles in reusable glass jars as part of the dining table décor that our guests can take home as well, home-baked some Mauritian cookies (a.k.a. napolitaine) as door gifts, and handed out paper bags so our guests can bring home floral pieces without having them trashed like they usually would.

On the reception table, we printed out photo cards as décor which will be put back into our homemade, hand-stitched “guestbook,” doubling up as a keepsake to remember all the adventures and travels we took. All the other décor items were knick-knacks found lying around our home that we collected through the years, and our florist, Ching kindly loaned us some pillar candles to add on to the table.

It was honest, raw, a little rustic, and made for a cosy little Sunday brunch, which we were absolutely grateful for!

What did your family/friends have to say about your wedding day?

Our favourite comment, made by one of our closest friends, was that it was heartfelt! There was also a funny comment that was passed around during the reception: that this was the last time that all of us could dine-in in groups (and also the last wedding reception that we could attend) for the next couple months because of P2(HA)! And that somehow made the day extra special!

Share with us the most memorable moment of your wedding?

Ming Tong: For me, it was being a part of the prepping team on the day itself. I remember the hour before the start of lunch when Daryl and a friend was helping to set up the Zoom cameras, I was placing candles, table signs and random décor items on 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 all 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!

Despite all the wedding guides that tell the bride and groom to chill and let the bridesmaids/groomsmen do the work, we can’t ask for anything more than to be a part of the prepping. Because it was such a special moment and it was also a ton of fun and wasn’t the day supposed to be one where we all have fun?

Daryl: Being our own emcees! One of our friends who was supposed to be the emcee could not turn up, so we decided to take things into our own hands! After all, it was a small crowd and since our programme was quite straightforward, we both stood at our seats at the beginning to announce the start of the lunch, and in the middle for the champagne toasting. It really made the whole event feel much cosier and intimate!

What is one lesson you’ve learned from your wedding planning that you’d like to share with other couples?

It may sound daunting at first, but we found wedding planning can be fun and there’s loads of room for you to inject your own ideas! Try not to be bogged down by what others say you ought or ought not to do, because a truly memorable wedding is one that is personalised and shouts you! Although at first we were saddened that a number of close friends and families weren’t able to make it to our wedding, we realised that holding a small-scaled wedding due to the pandemic gave us more time and energy to personalise and DIY the wedding details instead.

We were also very fortunate to have family members who were very understanding and not as “traditional,” so that gave us lots of freedom to plan it the way we’d envisioned it! And that makes for a very special wedding that we thoroughly enjoyed, from the planning process, to the preparation and all the way until the end of the event!

The Venue: Botanico at The Garage
Cost of Wedding: $20,000
Size of Wedding: 41 persons
The Bride’s Gown: Stitch by Stitch Co.
The Bride’s Shoes: Charles and Keith
The Groom’s Suit: SuitYourself
The Groom’s Shoes: TANGS
The Wedding Photographer: Bottled Groove Photography
The Wedding Bands: Tree & Bee
The Hairstylist and Makeup Artist: Lush Looks
The Florist: 5AM Flowers
The Wedding Invitations and Stationery: DIY by bride and groom
The Wedding Cake: Yume Patisserie
The Wedding Resource: SingaporeBrides

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Ming Tong and Daryl’s Sustainable Wedding with Gold Accents at Botanico at The Garage