The over-the-top wedding enjoyed by Araminta Lee and Colin Khoo in the hit Hollywood movie Crazy Rich Asians vividly shows what money – and film productions – can conjure up. 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 for the wedding and Gardens by the Bay for the afterparty in the movie adaptation.
The transformation of these popular Singaporean landmarks showed how impressive the filmmakers’ vision was – but the extravagances of a real-life Crazy Rich Asian wedding might well astonish not just the movie’s producers, but even the author of the book himself.
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 witnessed the proposal two years earlier – itself an eye-popping event replete with laser-beamed declarations of love and a whopping 6-carat rock from Bulgari – I was quite convinced the actual wedding would be nothing short of spectacular.
As planned, I had arrived in Bali on Friday afternoon for a weekend of celebrations. Once immigration was cleared, the airport greeter quickly whisked the guests from my flight into a waiting vehicle bound for the hotel.
I was checked into a US$1,000-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 more than 400 guests arriving, complimentary accommodation had also been arranged at the nearby Ayana Resort at Jimbara.
At about 6pm, 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”, an easy one, allowing us to dress up or take it easy with our sartorial choices.
The atmosphere 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 caterers, and a liberally flowing bar tended by mixologists flown in from Bangkok. An English band entertained the crowd during dinner, after which a DJ took over until 3am.
With the welcome party already kicking off the celebrations on such a high note, it was hard not to wonder what the actual wedding would look like. Bets were made whether there would be fireworks, or if a celebrity would perform at the black-tie dinner reception.
An orderly queue started forming at 5.30pm at the hotel’s lobby for transfer to the wedding site. Our brigade of black SUVs were escorted by police on the congested road to ensure a speedy arrival at the wedding venue before sunset.
The ceremony took place atop a cliff at the Ayana Resort, and the ocean-view open-air chapel – adorned with white wisteria, roses and hydrangeas – was breathtaking.
Between the moment when the sky had turned pinkish blue and the setting sun blazed it crimson, the bride finally marched in, her father by her side. She wore a gorgeous beaded gown by a renowned Indonesian couturier, with Bulgari high jewellery adorning her neck.
Until now the proceedings may have been flashy, to say the least, but the vows of the lovebirds were simple, sincere and heartfelt. Tears fell abundantly during the exchange of vows.
Cocktails were then served on 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, dressed in modish black. Glazed flowers spun from sugar sat on top of dinner plates bearing the guests’ individual names as they awaited the five-course dinner designed by renowned chef 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 newlyweds.
At this point it became abundantly clear that no expense had been spared to make this the most memorable wedding for most, if not all, the guests in attendance.
The evening continued after dinner with live music and dancing in the tent that lasted until the wee hours. 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 guests. The next day all guests were driven to the airport for our flight or next destination on the island.
After years of attending parties and weddings, this was definitely a weekend to remember as the planning and resources poured into three nights of celebration in Bali rivalled 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’s sheer opulence made it seem unreal, it had indeed been a genuine and sincere invitation to celebrate two people’s love for one another. The scenes dreamt up in the book and movie just to show off Singapore’s tourist attractions paled in comparison.
Besides the highly popular option of Bali as wedding central, I would recommend four other venues to consider for staging a resplendent CRA-style wedding in Asia.
Four Seasons Kyoto, Japan
The newly built Four Seasons Kyoto stands next to a 800 year-old pond garden within the ancient Japanese city’s scenic Higashiyama temple district. For a wedding venue that is historic, elegant and understated, Kyoto, with all its imperial refinements, would be perfect.
With the many conveniences of Singapore less than 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, Amanoi Resort is perched high up in 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 Huravalhi island 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.