The over the top wedding scenes of Araminta Lee and Colin Khoo from the hit Hollywood movie Crazy Rich Asians vividly represent what drama and opulence money can conjure. Where the book by Kevin Kwan originally had the wedding reception staged on a private island away from Singapore, the producers eventually settled on CHIJMES Chapel and Gardens by the Bay for the movie scenes.
Whilst the novelty of transforming these popular Singaporean landmarks into lavish sets may have enhanced the production values of the movie, the actual flourishes of a real CRA wedding may astonish even the producers of the movie, and very possibly the author of the book.
Exactly a year ago, I was invited to the nuptials of a Singaporean couple I have known for years. The groom is one of Singapore’s most successful venture capitalists and a man with a keen eye for grand details. Having bore witness to the proposal 2 years prior, itself an eye-popping event replete with laser-beamed declarations of love and a whopping 6-carats rock from Bulgari, I was quite convinced the actual wedding would be nothing short of spectacular.
As per planned, I’d arrived in Bali on a Friday afternoon for the weekend of celebrations. Once immigration was cleared, the airport greeter quickly whisked the guests from my flight into the waiting vehicle bound for the hotel. I was checked into a US$1000 a night ocean view villa at Alila Uluwatu, one of Bali’s most stunning hotels, with a wedding favour and note of thanks from the happy couple as well as a schedule of the day waiting in the room. With over 400 guests arriving for the wedding, complimentary accommodations have also been arranged at the nearby Anantara and Ayana resort.
Dinner setting at the 'Black and White' welcome reception at Alila Uluwatu. All wedding photos are provided by the bride and groom.
Guests arriving at the 'Black and White' welcome reception
Around 6pm that evening, guests started trickling onto the lawn of the Alila Uluwatu against a gorgeous backdrop of pink sky and blue sea. The theme of the welcome party was ‘Black and White’ and it was an easy one where we could dress up or take it easy with our sartorial choices. The ambience was relaxed but definitely luxurious, with fabulously decorated long tables, a sumptuous spread of Balinese delights laid out by one of the island's most reputable caterer and a liberally flowing bar tended by mixologists flown in from Bangkok. An English band entertained the crowd during dinner thereafter a DJ took over until 3am that morning.
The party continued late into the night the day we arrived
When the welcome party had already kicked off the celebrations on such a high note, it's hard not to wonder what the actual wedding will look like. Bets were going around if there was going to be fireworks, or if a celebrity will be performing at the black-tie dinner reception. An orderly queue started forming from 530pm at the hotel's lobby for transfer to the wedding site. Along the congested road of Uluwatu our brigade of black SUVs were escorted by police convoys to ensure a speedy arrival at the wedding venue before sunset. The wedding took place atop a cliff at the Ayana Resort, and the ocean-view open air chapel adorned with white wisteria, roses and hydrangeas was simply breathtaking.
The gorgeous view of the sea from the resplendently decorated open air chapel at Ayana Resort
Right between the moment when the sky had already turned pinkish blue and the setting sun blazed it crimson, the bride finally marched in with her father by her side in a gorgeous beaded gown by a renowned Indonesian couturier and Bulgari high jewellery adorning her neck. Up till now the proceedings may have been flashy to say the least, but the vows of the lovebirds were simple, sincere and heartfelt. Tears were falling abundantly during the exchange of vows.
An adorable page boy initiating the march-in
The newlyweds after they've exchanged rings and vows
Cocktails were then served at the extensive lawn with live music before we were all conveyed to the dinner area, a specially erected tent at another part of the hotel's extensive grounds that's dressed in modish black. Glazed flowers spun from sugar sat atop dinner plates bearing the guest's individual name as they await the 5 course dinner designed by Akira Back. Before the sumptuous gourmet affair commenced, a troupe of exotic fire-dancers marched through the pathway leading to the entrance of the tent before a round of fireworks announced the arrival of the newly weds. At this point it was definitely clear that no expense was spared to make this the most memorable wedding for most, if not all the guests in attendance.
Exotic fire-dancers entertained the crowd before the wedding reception
Fireworks announced the arrival of the newlyweds at the dinner reception
The wedding reception took place within an air-conditioned tent with its own zen garden raised specially for the wedding
Personalised plate setting is just one of many luxurious details at the wedding
The author busy taking pictures with other guests at the wedding
The evening continued after dinner with live music and dancing in the tent that lasted till the wee hours of the morning. Everyone was naturally exhausted the next day, so Sunday was capped with a very relaxed garden dinner party in the early evening. The hospitality was still top notch though as we feasted on gourmet roasts and international favourites amidst live music and impromptu performances by some guests. The next day all guests were sent to the airport for our flight or next destination on the island.
The table dressing for the casual farewell/thank you dinner was as regal as any top wedding settings
After years of attending parties and weddings, this is definitely a weekend to remember as the thoughts and resources poured into three nights of celebration in Bali can rival even the celebrity studded events of major brands that I have attended.
And how does the real deal compare with the fictitious wedding of Crazy Rich Asians the movie?
Much as the wedding seemed unreal for its sheer opulence, it is real, and a sincere invitation to celebrate 2 individual's love for each other. The scenes conjured by the movie with such overt manouveurs to showcase Singapore’s tourist sights felt reductive by comparison.
Besides the highly popular option of Bali as wedding central, I would recommend 4 other venues one can consider to stage resplendent CRA style weddings in Asia.
Four Seasons Kyoto, Japan
Newly raised Four Seasons Kyoto stands next to a 800 year old pond garden within the scenic Higashiyama temple district of the ancient Japanese city. For a wedding venue that is historic, elegant and understated, Kyoto with all its imperial refinements would be most perfect.
With the many conveniences of Singapore just within an hour away from the resort island of Sentosa, the Capella Singapore, a grand hotel imbued with tropical elements and serene views, can cater to sumptuous weddings of various sizes and expectations.
Cloistered by the gorgeous semi-arid vegetation of Vinh Hy in central Vietnam, Amonoi is perched high up the rugged terrain that comes with incredible vistas of the South China Sea. With gorgeous views all round, a wedding here would look out of this world.
Anantara Kihavah, Maldives
One of the comeliest properties under the Anantara brand, Kihavah has stretches of sandy white beaches and crystal clear lagoons for the ultimate beach wedding. SEA, an outstanding underwater restaurant with its own wine cellar, is also a spectacular venue to say I do in.