Text: Koh Jia Ling
At the Tudor ballroom in Goodwood Park Hotel, a gazebo stands at the entrance, with leaves and flowers crawling up the metalwork, and a ball of flowers adorned with crystals hanging from its roof. A Hello Kitty balloon and several other pink and lavender aluminium balloons add a girlish touch to the reception area. But the crowning glory belongs to the stage décor. Elaborate carvings, pink and red arrangements of flowers, mirrored stands, and even a chest-of-drawers form the spectacular backdrop. Illuminated by pink lighting from below, an aura of romance and magic is born.
Welcome to the ‘pink shabby chic’ wedding of Mario Widjaja, 29, and Germaine Woo, 28. A banker and a fine jewellery designer respectively, they met in June 2008 in Melbourne through a mutual friend. She was studying then, and he was working. After that initial meeting, they found out they had more friends in common, and often went out in a group.
After that, they met up more often, and “decided to embark on a food culinary journey to find the best Vietnamese noodles in Melbourne” (Mario’s euphemism. In short, they met up at different places but always ate Vietnamese noodles). In those experiences, they got to know each other better, and found out they had a lot in common.
Even so, they weren’t intending to pursue a relationship. When Mario got to know her in June, he already knew that she was going back to Singapore in January, so there seemed no point in continuing a relationship, as Mario wanted to stay in Melbourne.
But as they got to know each other better, their feelings got in the way of what they originally wanted. Mario decided to come back to Singapore in 2009 for Germaine, despite loving his freedom in Melbourne.
They started dating in September 2008. After two years, they decided to get married because “we have already gone through that stage of quarrelling, fighting, shouting at each other… and we think that we can actually settle down because we have managed to find a solution as to how we can get past that stage of fighting to resolve the issues,” says Mario.
Mario proposed to her on a private beach in Phuket. In order to get to the beach though, they had to take a sampan to the other side of the island from where they were. Germaine tells the funny anecdote of how it was raining, and Mario had hid the ring in a duffle bag that she was carrying, so he was super protective of the bag and sheltering the bag with the umbrella more than he was sheltering her, causing her to wonder: ‘What is wrong with him and this bag?’ On hindsight, she now happily knows why.
Of their wedding preparations, finding the ballroom décor company was the hardest part. Germaine did not want a cookie-cutter wedding with the standard decorations of a few flowers here and there, as provided by most hotels in Singapore. She wanted there to be a specific theme to the decorations, as well as a backdrop. Being a lover of all things pink, as well as a Hello Kitty fan, she wanted there to be a lot of pink in the ballroom or in the wedding, to give the guests a really warm and fuzzy feeling, “as though they are in Hello Kitty land” (as Mario puts it).
They went on a hunt for wedding décor vendors. All of them quoted exorbitant prices, and as the hotel could only allow them to start setting up from 4pm onwards, there was the additional difficulty of setting everything up in two hours. The vendors all said they needed about six hours and wanted to come in from lunchtime, which would cause the couple to have to pay for the extra usage of the ballroom; otherwise they would also have to top up large sums of money for the manpower needed to get everything done in two hours.
Mario and Germaine were almost on the verge of dropping the idea, when they met Robert and Sari, the Indonesian owners of Jakarta-based event decorator Butterfly Event Styling Boutique, at a wedding fair organised by Wedding and Travel at Marina Bay Sands in July. Their specialty is churning out spectacular backdrops using styrofoam, but they can also do splendid decorations using wood and fabrics. Despite being relatively new in the business, with only one to two years of experience, Robert and Sari have already worked on and pulled off many events and weddings in Indonesia: from intimate small weddings, to extravagant galas for over 2,000 people.
Germaine was impressed by the decorations that Robert and Saree had done for the Wedding & Travel fair, as well as their portfolio. She reinforced that they would only have two hours to finish setting up on that day, but it did not seem to faze Robert. Mario and Germaine were won over by his confidence and the good vibe that they got from them, so they went ahead and hired them.
Another key factor was their ability to create carvings from styrofoam—they seemed to be the only ones they have seen so far who can do elaborate carvings using styrofoam. The local vendors they sought seem to only be able to do a lot of flowers and drapery, and as fabric is quite expensive, it explains the high cost of hiring local vendors.
Besides doing the backdrop, Robert and Sari also accompanied the couple to pick their flowers from the florist, as they did not want to waste the standard floral decorations that come with the hotel package, but still wanted them to be in line with the theme that they are trying to create. All in all, the entire concept for the décor took two months to conceptualise and another two months to create.
The end result exceeded their expectations. Both Mario and Germaine were extremely satisfied with the way the decorations turned out, and Germaine recounts delightedly how the guests marvelled at the backdrop too, with several of them coming up to her and complimenting the décor. It certainly made their hotel wedding one-of-a-kind, just like their romance.