Making Your Marriage Work

Many couples are so caught up with the pomp and ceremony surrounding the wedding, the actual vows is completely overshadowed. It seems there are far more important things to take note of other than the vows you repeat nervously after the celebrant or officiator. Once the couple is pronounced man and wife, chances are they have a fuzzy recollection of what they have just promised each other.

Research has shown, almost half of all marriages end in divorce; and experts have noticed the alarming trend that most of these unions end within the first two years of marriage. The irony of these break-ups is that the unions are based on more than five years of dating. Studies point to the fact that while many know what love is, they are unaware of the demands and expectations of married life. Many couples enter into marriage expecting the relationship to run on autopilot, and when the end comes, they simply shrug and say, “It just didn’t work.” The newspaper recently reported that more and more couples are visiting their lawyers to help draft a prenuptial agreement. While practical, the irony of the popularity of such an agreement signals that many people enter into marriage expecting it to end in divorce.

Do not for one minute fall for that “happy ever after” ending of fairy tales, with visions of the hero and heroine riding off into the sunset. Having grown up on a diet of children’s fables, fairy tales, romance, novels and Hollywood movies, many of us wake up the morning after with a rude shock. Dating daily for several years with the frequent weekend stay-overs, are still not preparation enough.

There are many entertaining anecdotes about marriage that reveal a very disturbing mind-set. One joke goes: The cheapest way to get a live-in maid is to get married. While another pokes fun at the guys with: A husband is the only bolster in the world that fills up with age. Comic relief aside, the attitude is rather worrying.

Countless reasons are given for breakdowns, errant ways and divorces, and many blame their spouses for the problems in their marriage. Often it is the “I and you” attitude that causes the rift. Early on in the marriage, many couples agree to maintain individuality and not to stifle the other party. This agreement may be acceptable with young couples as they start getting acquainted with each other. However, this agreement will have to be replaced with a newer arrangement: A “WE” contract. Popular pronouns “I”, “me” and “my”, must be replaced by “we”, “us” and “ours” for the marriage to work.

Marriage is a team effort and individualism has to be set aside for the “corporate” good. For a marriage to work, both parties must be committed to making the union work and suppress individual needs, attitudes and opinions.

Commitment is the basic infrastructure for every marriage. As there is no such thing as a happy-ever-after-marriage, couples have to brace themselves for the good times and for the bad too. Marriage is tough and it is only with commitment that husband and wife will be able to ride out the turbulence.

Closely related to commitment is willpower – the discipline to keep to the promises that you made in the wedding vows and abide by them. Only then will the most important aspect of a marriage take place: Two complex individuals slowly being moulded into one entity. All will be well, when two become one.

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Beachfront Paradise

This is one pristine vista not far away from our own shores.

The Inspiration

Have you ever wondered how a wedding in the mystical world of the sea would look?

Creating the Theme

Couples who enjoy underwater activities will be instantly hooked by this enchanting theme set-up.

In this postcard-worthy ceremony, it requires the elements of nature using an ornate white floral canopy as a photo frame to capture the lingering rays of the setting sun and the horizon where they sky meets the sea.

In dressing up the tables, you may want to use ornaments such as corals, seashells and pearl starfish to suit the seaside setting.

Unlike the splashier solemnisation set-up by the sea, the dining area is decisively more subdued with fresh ambrosial tulips and roses to soothe the senses as night falls.

Adding a unique touch to your big day, the resort allows couples to release sky lanterns carrying messages from the guests into the night sky. To pull off an incredible stunt like this in Singapore is cumbersome and requires a permit from the authorities.

Doing it Yourself: Ideas & Tips

Since this is a beach wedding, you may wish to let your hair down and allow your guests to dress down for the sand and sea in swimwear and beach shorts.

In case it gets colder as night falls, prepare sexy beach sarongs for the ladies and sunny design shirts for the men to make sure that everyone is still befittingly clad for the theme.

Please look for a resort which has its own ferry and ferry terminal; thus, your guests will have no lack of entertainment and recreation. You can arrange for water sport activities for your guests to keep them in the mood.

If you do not wish to hold your reception next to the beach, the fun-filled resort has also other dining venues as well as a ballroom for sit-down and stand-up functions. Couples with a small guest list can also consider holding their reception at golf courses.

Drop the usual floral hand bouquet and opt for a marine-themed bouquet made with conches, starfish as well as spirally and fan-shaped seashells instead.

A “free and easy” bridal look would go well with the breezy surroundings. Brides with long hair should go for a lightly tousled hairstyle that looks as natural as possible and match it with thin dress that would dance in the wind.

Purchase scallop shell holders in various colours to clamp the guests’ seating cards. These cheery holders will also make a wonderful memento for your guests at the end of the night.

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Enter The Twilight Zone

If this set-up looks familiar to you, you must have watched the nuptial scene of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen in the Twilight film series. Now here’s a pop quiz: What’s the name of that film?

The Inspiration

So what is you are not a doe-eyed half-human and half-vampire brunette, or a dashing vampire who is thirsty for love and not human blood? The wedding scene from the movie The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 has also put us feeble mortals under its spell.

In a tribute to W&T brides – and if you happen to be a Twilight fan too – let us show you how to adapt the scene as your own.

Creating the Theme

If you can recall, the wedding between Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s character is set amid luscious vegetation and overhanging white flowers. The colour scheme is a pleasing combination of green and white. On a white carpet rolled out across a neatly trimmed lawn, couples can exchange their vows during that time.

For the outdoor solemnisation, you can use vine leaves and small hardy white flowers consisting of baby’s breath for a clean look that can last in the heat. After the romantic solemnisation, your guests can retreat indoors where a more bewitching view awaits.

One can never have enough of greens, especially when they come in various shades and taste toothsome too. At the pastry table, the magic of the theme is given a yummy twist with a wonderful selection of customised green cake pops, macarons, cupcakes, mini buns and cookies that accompany the wedding cake.

The floral centrepieces on the guest tables follow the traditional bridal bouquet design with just a naughty tweak using wispy white feathers.


Doing it Yourself: Ideas and Tips

Print some famous quotes from Twilight on ribbons that you can tie to wedding favours or on paper which can be placed inside fortune cookies. Some of the quotes can be:

  • You don’t know how long I’ve waited for you.
  • And so the lion fell in love with the lamb.
  • I leave you alone for five minutes and the wolves descend.

Please don’t get someone to dress up as a vampire with fangs and cape as that will be overkill. You can instead get the bridesmaids and groomsmen to turn up sharply dressed in black.

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Hushed Grandeur

A classy wedding that whispers elegance and high society, but shouts love and romance.

The Inspiration

The euphoria over Prince William and Kate Middleton’s fairy tale union may have died down, but the interest for an English-style wedding is far from over.

This theme is a portrayal of a stately manor where English nobles gather to clink champagne glasses on a lazy afternoon.

Creating the Theme

This is one theme idea for couples who prefer a sophisticated function, minus the pomp and glitter.

Full-blooming roses in deep red and white tones, lilac hydrangeas and topiaries evoke an English garden charm in the restaurant. The table set-up design is kept simple, uncluttered, with no dramatic decorations and colours. Instead, the virgin hue rules with spotless white table linen and plates.

To break the monotony on the tables, two kinds of centrepieces are used – chest-level floral arrangements carried in silver polished ware and upward thrusting arrangement that balance on tall stem glasses. Both designs feature fresh green apples and succulent black grapes for an added contrast.

The aristocratic ambience is enhanced with the use of Roman pillars and tasteful old paintings reflecting the Victorian times that can be spotted around the room.

Although the key idea is about not going over the top and to imbue a cultivated taste in the details, it is important to add imposing elements, though sparingly. Here, a simple globular topiary decorated with vines and white roses resting on an antiquated roman column is erected at the focal point of the room to do the trick.

Doing it Yourself: Ideas and Tips

For the bridal look, women with long hair can let their hair down and get their hairstylists to give them wavy curls. Match the look with a floral crown or other kinds of hair pieces using pale-coloured flowers. Go for a lacy wedding dress.

Instead of the usual fruit platter, you can make “frosted” fruits using sugar and gelatine for the “icy” coating. Besides serving as eye candies, the fruits that will look as though they are covered in a blanket of snow are edible too.

In British wedding tradition, an elaborate fuirt cake and chocolate cake are served. You can, however, merge the two into a two-tier chocolate coated fruity cake.

Get the groomsmen to put on tuxedoes with bowties and dress the bridesmaids in Victorian-inspired cocktail gowns. Opera music can be a turn-off for some. Prepare soothing classical music for the restaurant to play in the background.

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Say It Like An Oscar Winner

We hear couples making “thank you” speeches like those at the Oscar’s in wedding dinners more often now. Why are couples finding it hard but necessary to do so? What is the tradition behind them and where can they seek help to make that perfect speech?

When Leslie and Fanny, both young doctors, got married after a six-year-long courtship two years ago, the most difficult task for them at their wedding was making their “thank you” speeches during the church solemnization ceremony and later at the dinner celebration.

Saying “xie xie” or thank you to their friends who helped them organize the wedding was easy. But expressing their gratitude to their parents who brought them up, attended to their needs all the years of their lives was hard to do, especially when they stood before all their friends and relatives.

Recalling that memorable evening at the five-star Marriot Hotel in Orchard Road where they had their wedding banquet, Leslie, now 32 and his wife Fanny, 28, said they spent many sleepless nights agonizing over the words in their “thank you” speech to both their parents, not because they had to, but because they wanted to.

“I think it was important we say so in public to show that we really appreciate all that they had done,” added Leslie.

In the end, they stole the show with their very sincere and emotional speeches, touching the hearts of many, especially both Leslie’s and Fanny’s parents who evidently shed tears of delight.

Like Leslie and Fanny, Daniel, a 40-year-old boss of a film post-production house, said when he got married 10 years ago, he even hired a speech writer to help him pen that “thank you” speech to his parents simply because his father had given him everything he needed, including expenses for his wedding banquet amounting to nearly $100000.

Besides screening a video showing the newly-weds’ past, how they met and courted, and highlights of the big day’s events, guests at wedding dinners are increasingly hearing more brides and grooms and even their bridesmaids and best men speak.

Gone are the days when they bride was supposed to look pretty and quiet and the groom could do better drinking than talking. Some of them even took the opportunity to present their parents with gifts, from jewellery and overseas holiday packages to just a bouquet of flowers for mum and a shirt or tie for dad.

The Western tradition of making wedding speeches is catching on with the young in Singapore and many other Asian countries as a new generation of better-educated newly-weds becomes more articulate and independent minded.

“Yes, there is an increasing trend of the wedding entourage that gave speeches, including those by the best man, bridesmaids and even the parents,” said Anna Lim, a wedding planner from Spellbound Wedding.

She noted that “the grooms are normally the ones who give the speech, but the bride will also say something too. If it’s bilingual, the groom will speak in one language and the bride in another.”

A survey W&T did to check out how exactly the speeches were made at more than a dozen wedding dinners recently showed couples here were not following the traditional Western style of making wedding speeches to the letter.

In a traditional English wedding for examples, the purpose of wedding speeches is to congratulate the couple, wish them well in their future life together and to thank the appropriate people for their efforts in making the wedding a success.

They included the toasts, which occur after the last course of the dinner, followed by the cake-cutting ceremony and then the first dance on the floor led by the newly-wed couple.

The bride’s father who gave his daughter away to the groom is usually the first to speak, giving a story of the bride’s early life and events leading to the wedding before congratulating the groom for taking his daughter’s hand and to ask for their happiness.

It is followed by the bride and groom who will thank the bride’s father for his daughter’s hand and then showing happiness for having such a lovely bride, praise her parents for bringing up their daughter so well at the same time.

In his speech, the groom will also thank his own parents for his upbringing and usually tell an amusing story about how he met the bride or any problems that they have to overcome before the big day. Then, he will go on to thank all those who helped him in the wedding preparations and finally the guests for their presence and gifts before a toast to the “bridesmaids”.

The bride may or may not speak to thank her parents and her husbands’, but the best man’s speech is often the most anticipated so it is generally saved till the last.

As most of the necessary thanks have been said, he has the opportunity to entertain the guests with witty comments and interesting stories, especially those pertaining to the newly-wed couple. Lastly, he will present a toast to both the host and hostess.

The adapted version of wedding speeches practiced in Asian societies and including Singapore’s, is quite different from the traditional Western one.

In Asian weddings, the bride’s father is seldom a speaker. The bride and groom are the centre of attraction. It is the groom’s speech which is often more important, though increasingly the bride’s voice is also heard.

Essentially, it is an occasion for the bride and the groom to thank their parents and friends for helping them organize the wedding and guests for their attendance and gifts or Ang Baos.

Unlike in the West, at wedding dinners of Asian couples, especially the Chinese, the toast to the newly-weds, usually by an announcer or the master of ceremony, is offered after the speeches are made during the dinner, usually after the third of a 10-course feast.

The practice is to toast three times consecutively. All the guests are usually requested to stand as they raise their glasses high for each toast yelling the words, “yum seng” – meaning drinking to victory or success.

No book on the Asian or Chinese wedding etiquette and speeches has been written, but there are plenty published on the Western way.

Some of the more popular ones published recently include How To Write Wedding Speeches & Toasts by Barbara Jeffrey and Natasha Reed (Foulsham), One-liners For Wedding Speeches by Mitch Murray (Foulsham) and Making A Wedding Speech by John Bowden (How To Books).

Besides Making A Wedding Speech, John Bowden also wrote and published related titles including Making The Best Man’s Speech, Making The Bride-groom’s Speech and Making The Father of The Bride’s Speech, all published by How To Books.

Author John Bowden in his book, Making A Wedding speech, said the principles behind a good wedding speech are no different from those for other occasions. There must be an opening, a body middle or the main message and a closing. The aim is to communicate with the audience, to establish a dialogue with the audience, to establish a dialogue with them and to turn them from just listeners into participants.

How? He explained: “By involving them. By making them laugh. By making them cry. By allowing them not only to hear your speech but also to experience it.”

He asked whoever making the speech, except the one by the bride herself, to remember these three words, KISS THE BRIDE.

Firstly, the word, KISS is simple the abbreviations for Keep It Short and Simple.

He said one shouldn’t be suffering from the illusion that he or she can turn a speech immortal by making it everlasting. After all, he pointed out, the story of the Creation in the Bible is told in just 400 words, or over three minutes.

So his advice is: “Try to say everything you need to in less than 650 words, which is about five minutes.” In wedding speeches, he believed size, or the duration of the speech, does matter. And no speech can be entirely bad if it is short enough.

The second and third words, THE BRIDE, he said, should remind all speaking on the wedding day that it is her bid day. So don’t spoil it by embarrassing her or by knocking the institution of marriage.

Kiss the bride and you can’t go wrong.

In Barbara Jeffrey’s and Natasha Reed’s book, How To Write Wedding Speeches & Toasts, they said that unless one is a gifted public speaker, every bride’s father, bride-groom or the best man making a speech should do some research and write out a draft of the speech before making it on the big day.

Here are some quick questions to ask while doing the research, especially for the bride’s father and best man:

  • How long have you known the couple?
  • How did he propose and what was her immediate response?
  • How long have they been together?
  • What three words come to mind when you think of the groom/bride?
  • Are there common interests they share?

The book also suggests searching the web or Internet which contains a whole host of information on speech writing. Just typing words, “writing wedding speeches” into the search engine Google will probably result in over 200,000 hits.