Something Old, Something New...
And if CHERYL WEE AND ROY FONG could finish the old wedding rhyme, it would be with “… something very true to us”, which was exactly how their modernity-meets-traditional union turned out
Jean Yip Group scion and actress Cheryl Wee weds her college sweetheart Roy Fong in a very personal celebration
Shortly after news of their engagement broke early this year, actress and owner of Cheryl W Wellness & Weight Management Cheryl Wee and architect Roy Fong were approached by various publications for interviews. Professionally styled photo spreads of them posing in fashionable threads painted a trendy image of the college sweethearts. But it was at their much-anticipated wedding in July that it became apparent that these millennials are really old souls at heart.
“On the outside, we’re modern and we have a modern outlook on things, but we actually hold traditions very close to our hearts,” says Cheryl, scion of the Jean Yip beauty empire, a month after her wedding. “Unlike many young couples today, we did not live together or go on holidays alone together until we got married. So, getting married, not so much the wedding celebration, then living together and going on a mini-moon, means so much. It’s how couples used to be.”
Planned around a modern oriental jewel theme, their nuptials were similarly fresh in overall execution yet with an obvious nod to centuries-old customs, a concept expressed in everything from their wardrobe to the wedding events. We look at how their celebration brought tradition alive while mirroring their values.
THE GUO DA LI AND TEA CEREMONY
Celebrations kicked off in June with the guo da li, a traditional betrothal ceremony, and a grand Chinese tea ceremony. “Roy and I respect tradition and we knew we wanted to do things the traditional way because my late grandmother, who passed away six months before our tea ceremony, would have wanted it that way,” says Cheryl, adding that she went through all the wedding customs, from the hair combing ceremony the day before the wedding to the setting of the matrimonial bed.
Like a scene out of an old Chinese movie, the ceremony started with a procession where the bride was carried in a sedan by the groomsmen, then in Roy’s arms, to their new home. Certainly this added novelty to the celebration and many Instagram-worthy moments, but what was important to the couple was doing things that were meaningful to their loved ones, friends and themselves.
Cheryl’s wardrobe comprised the elaborately embroidered kua her mother Jean Yip had worn at her own wedding 32 years ago, topped with a headdress. The groom wore a changshan paired with a fedora and rounded dark glasses for a look straight out of the 1930s. Modern style took over during the vow exchange ceremony in church, where Cheryl was resplendent in the elegant threads of Vera Wang as she walked down the aisle on the arm of her father, Mervin Wee.
She admits she used to love the magic of Disneyland, complete with fireworks, but she was never one to dream about her wedding day: “Some people are very methodical—they set a date, then book a venue and a planner, before going gown shopping and so on. But to me, that kills the romance. I like things to flow organically. I just dreamed of getting married in a church but never down to the specifics of the type of flowers, gown designer or how big the diamond on my engagement ring should be. So, the entire wedding is more than anything I’ve ever dreamed of.”
While Cheryl picked out two Vera Wang gowns in London and paired her outfits with shoes from Jimmy Choo, Roger Vivier and Louboutin, Roy’s wardrobe was no less exquisite with pieces from Sartoria Rossi and Giorgio Armani. He portrayed a gentleman in a sleek tailcoat during the church ceremony, and looked debonair in a black-and-gold patterned blazer for his evening suit.
Cheryl’s doting mother gifted her eldest child four sets of jewellery. What touched her was the fact that her mum handpicked the diamonds and precious stones herself. She then designed a ruby set herself, while a sapphire set was designed by her sister Dawn Yip. “Hand-selecting and slowly collecting the stones before designing them took an entire year!” shares Cheryl. “That effort meant a lot to me, it’s something you can’t buy in a store.”
Perhaps the most special piece to her was the one from her late grandmother. “When my aunt presented the gold pendant my grandmother had wanted to give me during the tea ceremony, I could feel her presence in the room,” she recalls, eyes welling up. “I really wanted her to be there. She raised me and we shared a special bond.”
The pre-dinner cocktail session at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore was shrouded in an air of classical refinement with ballerinas prancing about as parents of the bride and groom, Jean Yip and Mervin Wee along with Geraldine and Michael Fong, welcomed family and friends. The ballroom was a magnificent sight that evoked an enchanted forest with figurines of unicorns, horses, rabbits and owls. “We chose unicorns because they signify purity and strength in the Bible. They are also symbols of success in business,” says Cheryl.
Magluminescent light displays and lush floral arrangements in vivid jewel tones by Boenga decorated the ballroom. In between video screenings where the couple shared intimate thoughts about love and happiness, both sets of parents delivered moving speeches and performances. Dawn Yip also performed while Mervin sang Joe Cocker’s You Are So Beautiful to his daughter. As a surprise post-dinner performance, the bride and groom did a beautiful dance, choreographed by STEP Studio.
When it came to the menus for the various events, classics were paired with the unexpected. For the tea ceremony at their house, there were siew mai burgers, Korean fried chicken nibbles and Peking duck. Many of the cakes were sponsored by Crème Maison, an artisanal bakery that incorporates traditional elements with modern patisseries, owned by Cheryl’s friend. “There were modern flavours like lychee rose, but also classics, like banana chocolate,” she says.
As Cheryl has a weakness for her mum’s homemade traditional desserts, a variety of local-flavoured delights was created for her wedding. Articulating the modern oriental jewel theme, accents of electric blue, ruby red and sapphire were used for these desserts which included pandan ondeh ondeh shooters with Belgium chocolate gems as well as bandung raspberry, and Caffe Gula Melaka macarons.
The dinner banquet comprised a six-course menu with traditional wedding delicacies such as abalone. Another familiar item on Chinese wedding menus, the fish dish was given a Japanese interpretation while the noodles were done as a yuzu somen. The wedding cake was a six-tier confection by the
founder of Bengawan Solo, Anastasia Liew herself, and reflecting the event’s romantic modern-day fairy tale mood, light blush and champagne colours dominated the Crème Maison dessert table.
Among the many heartfelt performances during the dinner reception, one in particular, took Cheryl by surprise: Roy tinkering on the ivories as he serenaded her with Alicia Keys’ If I Ain’t Got You. She shares, “He’s always told me he wanted to learn to play the piano since he was a kid but I did not know that he had secretly bought a keyboard and learnt to play on it. I was very touched!”
Like every bride-to-be, Cheryl had her little worries, one being that there would be too few guests at the church ceremony. “With its huge seating capacity of about 700, I thought it would be good enough if it were half-full.” However, she stepped in to find it overflowing with well-wishers. “I told my mum, ‘This must be what feeling high on drugs is like.’ I never knew one could feel so happy in life. In Chinese, we describe it as xing fu, meaning contentment and feeling blessed. And if there’s one thing we want people to remember about the wedding, it’s this abundance of love all around, not the flowers or the grandiosity of it all. There will always be another wedding that’s bigger, better or more beautiful. But these memories, the love and the feelings you get, the friendships you have, and feeling so blessed are things you can’t put a price on. You can’t forget that.”