Meet the Hong Kong civil celebrants who go the extra mile on your big day

Husband and wife team check even the most mundane details to make sure wedding celebrations run smoothly

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 December, 2017, 11:18am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 December, 2017, 11:18am

Soon-to-be brides and grooms sometimes get so caught up in the glitz and glam of their big day that they overlook the importance of choosing the right person to officiate at their weddings. Eleven years ago, wedding rules were relaxed to allow marriages to take place anywhere and at any time, with the presence of civil celebrants, who are empowered to conduct weddings outside marriage registries and licensed places of worship.

If you think they are just lawyers who marry couples and sign marriage certificates, think again. Not only must they be licensed legal professionals who have been in practice for at least seven years, they should also be able to make the ceremony special enough that you and your guests will have a memorable story to tell in the years to come. And this is exactly the case for Anthony Lam and his wife Cana Cheng, who extend their celebrants’ services to the role of planning the wedding.

Having been solicitors and public notaries for more than 20 years, the pair especially love hearing the sound of wedding bells.

Currently, there are more than 2,000 registered civil officiants in Hong Kong, and it is the Lams’ flair for occasion that makes them stand out from the rest.

“Through the years, we have established the ability to handle ad hoc situations as they come at us while calmly taking control of the proceedings under a solemn atmosphere,” Cheng said, recalling a time when a bride walked down the aisle without her veil.

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“We all know couples pay a fortune for their photographers to diligently record the events of the day so everything must go smoothly but here I am standing in front of this woman who was about to say ‘I do’ without her veil.”

Cheng saved the day by adding an extra item to the wedding agenda – the father putting on her veil.

A lot can go wrong during a wedding, from forgetting the rings to wardrobe malfunctions.

For Lam and Cheng, they get to know the couples personally before agreeing to perform the ceremony and they make it a common practice to meet the couples at least a month before the big day to discuss the most mundane details.

“Whether the bride will walk down the aisle with her father or alone, and what kind of music will be played as they walk towards the altar. Will the couple stand to the side or in the middle? Will the groom walk to the front by himself or with his groomsmen? These are all the things that need to be worked out before the wedding day to ensure everything goes accordingly and there’s no stress on the big day.” According to census figures, there were 50,008 marriages in 2016, down from 51,609 the year before and the Lams contributed to a few thousand of those extravaganzas.

The pair, who got married back in 2004, also like to focus on the vows. While the celebrant reads them out for the couple to recite, they usually recommend that soon-to-be newlyweds add a sense of the personal touch by making their vows individually.

“Other than their feelings towards each other, they can talk about how they first met and they can also mention their friends and family in their vows.”

Lam recalled the “hottest”extravaganza he has ever been to. “It was a Hawaiian-style beach wedding in the middle of July, it could easily have been 40 degrees out there. The groom and groomsmen had all taken off their suits and ties, but I felt it was only appropriate to maintain my professionalism so I kept my formal attire on. At the end of the ceremony, as I looked down, I saw a sweat mark on the concrete from where I was standing.”

Having presided over thousands of ceremonies, Lam and Cheng believe every wedding should be nothing short of a magnificent work of art and that is exactly why they believe all couples deserve an occasion to be remembered for the rest of their lives.