Unveiling the truth
5 women reflect on their wedding dresses years after saying "I do"
They said yes to the man, then they said yes to the dress. There's no questioning whether they made the right choice with the former, but do they secretly wish a do-over with the latter?
The last dance has been long danced. The final song has been long sung. After the epic toasts, the boozy cheers and the congratulatory confetti settles, the glamour of a wedding slowly but surely deliquesces, making way for the calm settling into marriage modus operandi. Details a bride typically huffs and puffs and fusses over — the flowers, the cake, the seating plan — become a distant memory, though a handful of moments remain clear as day as the years go by. The look on her husband-to-be's face as she walked down the aisle is one. How she felt in her dress as she recited her vows is another.

The trials, fittings, and dilemmas that the bride subjects herself to in finding the perfect dress is often only second to that of the search of her groom. For the most part, the math tallies. At the risk of sounding dangerously sentimental, a woman's wedding dress is the first thing she wears in the new chapter that is — one hopes — the rest of her life. They may be the source of heightened stress but they're also the strength she relies on when her confidence takes a hit on the big day, as we found out when we sat down with five women who individually could not have had a more diverse bridal experience if they tried.
Ryan Kwak and Valerie Cher Goh
Tell us about your wedding dress.
It was part of the package from the bridal studio we hired for floral decorations and photography. Despite it being a cheap rental, it was everything I needed it to be as it made me feel beautiful when my face allergies threatened to dampen my wedding day! We were really late with settling the dress — it was only about a month or two before the wedding — and I was quite stressed out about all the options, but when you know, you know!

Who did you bring to your appointments?
My husband went with me. Although it's a bit of a taboo to let the groom see the dress, he's my best friend and I rely on his opinion for most decisions. He was there at every viewing and every fitting and took leave off work to spend hours with me in the dress shops. He was actually a lot more patient than I was. When I got frustrated, he would calm me down and encourage me to try another. While I was changing and getting the dresses pinned in the dressing room, my husband would browse other dresses on the racks and choose a couple more options for me.

That is just about the sweetest thing. How did you two meet?
We first met in junior college, when we dated for a month. We broke it off due to communication difficulties and cultural differences (he's Korean), then he went to army while I went to Australia for university. He tried contacting me every year after but I never replied him until my final year in school. We met for a catch-up when I was back in Singapore for a break, during which we rekindled the flame and never looked back ever since!
The best-laid plans

"We left the entire wedding itinerary and event schedule up to the maid of honour and best man to plan, so we didn't know what was really going to happen at our own wedding. It was great! They did a fantastic job: they had games planned and thoroughly entertained the guests with multiple performances. It wasn't one of those "boring Chinese banquet weddings"; instead of itching to leave by 10pm, the guests stayed late and was shouting, 'Encore!' when it was over." — Valerie Cher Goh
And the proposal?
It was terrible! He was suspicious and fidgety the whole day. We took a stroll in Botanic Gardens after our dinner at Halia. He was in the washroom for 10 minutes before the proposal in the park, practising how to pull the ring box out of his pocket smoothly so that the box faced me. I was standing outside the toilet in the meantime getting bitten by mosquitoes!

How did you feel about your wedding dress on your wedding day?
It definitely did the job and I'm about as satisfied with it as I could possibly be for an off-the-shelf dress that is not custom made to my exact specifications. It was also my saving grace from my otherwise destroyed confidence due to my face rash. Whenever I look at photos from our wedding, I still smile at the sight of how beautiful the dress is.

Did you lose weight or get into a diet for your wedding dress?
I didn't go on a diet intentionally, but I was so stressed leading up to the wedding that I lost about 3kgs in the eight months leading up to the wedding. It was the lightest I had ever been in my adult life.
Shanthi Regupathy and Jose Jeuland
Tell us about your wedding dress.
I had always wanted to wear a sari for my wedding, and I knew what colours I wanted for the sari as well, so it was a matter of visiting various clothing stores in Little India and picking out the best one. I was very excited and nervous at the same time, because selecting a sari is different from selecting a wedding dress, in that you can get a ready-made sari, or just the sari material to tailor. But that also means you have to get the sari blouse material to tailor as well. The options can be endless!

What was your process like?
For over three hours, I ran through different designs and colours, followed by getting the sari tailored and eventually trying it out. Sari selection is never straightforward, like I mentioned, because you not only have to search for the fabric, you have to get the sari tailored, as well as find a matching fabric for the blouse to be tailored as well. (A sari can sometimes come with its own matching blouse material attached, especially if it's an elaborate sari, or you can find separate matching material like I did).

In the end, was the sari everything you ever wanted?
In a way, it was. I gave myself a budget of less than $700 because I was looking for a particular style instead of a designer brand, and I knew I would be able to find a unique wedding sari within my budget. My wedding wasn't a huge and elaborate event; I had an intimate Indian wedding, a luncheon with Indian food and music, so the sari fit the bill.
A whirlwind romance

"Jose was a professional triathlete when I met him by chance at Changi Airport; he was stranded due to a long layover. At the time, he was racing in Asia and since he was in the region, we had plenty of opportunities to meet in places like Bali and Koh Samui before he returned to France. Because we weren't sure when we would be meeting next, he "proposed" to me with a promise ring to affirm our relationship. We embarked on our long distance relationship and he proposed to me two more times — while hiking up Sigiriya in Sri Lanka and in a castle in Vitré, Brittany — before we got married." — Shanthi Jeuland
How did you feel about your sari on your wedding day?
My make-up artist and stylist, a Malayalam lady with vast experiences in Indian weddings, made me feel like a proper bride when she made me up and put the sari on me in an elaborate way (there are various different, often-regional or event-specific, methods to wrap a sari). That's when I really got into the "mood" of the wedding.

How do you feel about your sari now?
I keep it under wraps as it is a very special sari to me. Even though I don't wear it anymore, the fact that it was my wedding sari holds an intimate place in my heart. In fact, I'm planning to have a traditional Indian wedding ceremony with Jose in the near future, and that would require a whole new sari to shop for.

Did you lose weight or get into a diet for your wedding dress?
[Laughs] Not really. I think I lost about 3kgs due to the stress while I was organising the wedding luncheon and reception. Given that Jose was busy making a move from France to Singapore and I was managing my family and the organisation of the wedding by myself, it was a tough time that made me lose weight inadvertently.
Clinton Leicester and Nicole Wong
You rented a dress and had a suit made for your wedding.
I went to a couple of bridal shops to figure out the silhouettes that would best fit me and it was pretty straightforward after. I didn't want anything dramatic, only comfortable. My budget for it was next to nothing. I always knew I never wanted to spend much on a dress that I will never wear again but rather on a suit that I still wear to date. My favourite moment in that dress was when I got to change out of it and swapped it for flats and my Kay-Jen Dylan suit!

Why a suit?
A black tuxedo worn with a low cut cream silk shirt fits my personality more than a dress does. It was an unexpected twist that made dancing the night away a breeze too.

Who did you bring to your appointments?
Two of my best friends, Kent and Parveen because they were all I needed. I'm quite sure they were more excited about it than I was. [Laughs]

How did you feel about your wedding attire on your wedding day? And now?
I didn't give much thought to the dress because it's not the dress that makes the memory but the moments. The dress was just a garment that I wore; women put too much pressure on ourselves to find that "perfect" dress. If I bought a dress, it will just be kept in storage and that didn't make sense to me. I am however, still in love with my suit, which was everything I could ever want and need. As I still wear it, I get to keep a piece of my wedding close to me till today.

Did you lose weight or get into a diet for your wedding attire?
No, because I can never diet. I love to snack.

What were your favourite memories from your wedding day?
My husband Clinton and I got married on 17 July 2016. By the way, I had to look up the date! I don't think I can point to a single moment and say that was the favourite. The overall mood was just right. But I have to admit, we were very happy when it was all over and all that was left to do was dance!

How did your husband propose?
It was after about eight or nine years of dating. We were at our first rental apartment that we've lived in since our early 20s, preparing a simple dinner when he suddenly popped the question. I was draining the noodles.

You didn't feel the need to find "the perfect dress". How did you know you found the "perfect man"?

I do not believe in the perfect man. Nothing is "perfect" in this world. It isn't about checking all the boxes but how they work with you, side by side, through the good, bad and the unimaginable in life.
Sufian Z Hakim and Liyana Meer
Tell us about your wedding dress.
I had five wedding dresses in total; two were bespoke, three were rental. Because our wedding was over two days (a solemnisation and reception for my husband's family and a reception for mine), we needed two different traditional outfits. I had set my sights on Yaya from Peti Solek — The Bridal Room and Nora Zee as my bridal houses right from the start.

And your bespoke gowns?
When Rid, a really good friend of mine, approached me with the idea of wearing something that he made, it was a no-brainer. I said yes immediately; he already had a design and fabric in mind that he felt would flatter my frame. We worked on the design together and within three weeks, I was ready for my first fitting. It was a very simple process, one without tears or drama! As for the second dress which I wore during my family's reception, it was made by Mas Angelina from Arared, a Malaysian-based designer. We made a trip down to KL six months before the wedding to discuss fabrics, patterns, silhouettes – basically everything that I'm looking for in a dress. Because Arared was known for their romantic and feminine detailing, I knew I wanted flowers in a flowy silhouette.

Who did you bring to your dress appointments?
My in-laws came for the fittings of the traditional outfits. It was important to have our parents as part of the process because we wanted them to be involved with our planning as much as possible. The look on my father-in-law's face when he saw my now-husband in the traditional outfit was priceless! He probably had flashbacks of his younger self on his wedding day. I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world. Naturally, I had to have back-up, so my two best friends were there with me too – to zip me up, help my put on my shoes and be my moral support. They are brutally honest so I know I can trust them to say it like it is!

How do you feel about your dress now?
I still love my dresses. For a few months after the wedding I would occasionally put them on just because. I couldn't do that anymore six months after the wedding because we got pregnant.

Is there anything you would change about the them?
Considering that I had five dresses (never too many!), I would say that the custom-made dresses went above and beyond my expectations. What I would do differently though are my traditional outfits. Because they were rental, the dresses understandably weren't tailored specially for my frame. A few hundred others have been in them and the designs were limited too. So if I could have a do-over, I'd have the bridal house tailor a traditional outfit.

Did you lose weight or get into a diet for your wedding?
I wished I had worked out more. I wasn't frantically working out but I was clocking in about two hours per week with interval training just so that I was sweating it out and that the flabby bits were contained. Although it didn't make that much of a difference because Spanx saved the day.

What do you intend on doing with your dresses?

I foresee perhaps a 10-year anniversary shoot, if I can still fit them! It would mean the world to me for my daughter Leia to consider wearing one of them in her future wedding (no pressure there, kiddo). The dresses are definitely hers if she wants them. Otherwise, they will always have a place in my closet.
Alli Sim and Mark Teal
Tell us about your wedding dresses.
I had two dresses! The bespoke Rusly Tjohnardi gown was inspired by Neil Gaiman's Stardust. It is, coincidentally one of my favourite films, and I love the scene where Yvaine, the fallen star (played by Claire Danes), realises she's in love and her whole being is just lit from within. I had a really clear vision of what I wanted and thankfully Tjohnardi was able to elevate that and bring it to life. He trained in couture in Paris, and his pieces have a really dreamy finesse to them.

And your second wedding dress?
I initially wanted to wear to wear the Tjohnardi for our friends-only reception in Bali, but the intricate beadwork and tulle made it a lot heavier than expected so I opted for a Marchesa Notte for that instead. I love the idea of a flowy cape, so both gowns had various incarnations of it.

Who did you bring to your dress appointments?
I've never really believed shopping to be a team sport so I went to my dress appointments by myself. You watch those shows like Say Yes to the Dress and while it's all very sweet to bring your bridesmaids and family, I knew it'd make me feel too overwhelmed, so I decided to go at it alone. My husband has a great eye but he wasn't involved at all.

Was your bespoke dress everything you wanted it to be?
When it comes to a bespoke gown, you really put a lot of trust in the couturier and that means giving them the space to be creative. So there's a nice dance that you do that involves lots of communication, tear sheets, keywords, cultural references… but ultimately it's up to them to bring it to life.
Storybook meet-cute

"We met at a wedding of mutual friends. I wasn't meant to sit at his table, but another guest had broken up with his girlfriend, so she had to be swapped out and I took her place — something mildly dramatic like that. He was the empty chair next to me; he was two hours late and really stroppy because he had come late from the office on a Saturday. He claims he asked me to the after-party, and that I had gotten up and walked away wordlessly, never to return. In reality, I didn't hear him and probably left to go watch CSI at home. [Laughs] The next time we met was at a Mmerci Encore pop-up. He bought a body scrub for his mum and the rest is history." — Alli Sim
How long did it take?
The entire process took around seven months, so you really need to give your designer time. It'll be worth the wait. There are probably a few things I'd adapt, but on the whole I love my gown. The same goes for the Marchesa Notte reception dress – I had to go through at least two rounds of alterations to get it to a perfect fit. As Tjohnardi is based in Jakarta, the process involved him flying over to Singapore with the work-in-progress gown, and me eventually hopping on a plane for the final fittings and to collect the finished gown.

How did you feel about your wedding dress on your wedding day?
Tjohnardi pretty much hit the nail on the head for me. I loved the embellished sleeves and trailing cape with just the right amount of sparkle. I also loved that this was created in a nude-blush tone — it made things less bridal and a lot more romantic. It was super exciting to see it all come together – the hair, makeup, gown. I used to be a stylist, and this is what I envisaged from the start.

How do you feel about them now?
Because I know I picked gowns that are really true to who I am, I still love them as much as when I first got them. Only now they're even more precious, as they really do draw you back to the day.