Wedding cakes in Singapore

History of a wedding cake

Weddings are filled with traditions and often times we dont even give a thought to why some things are done in a certain way. Wedding cake is one of those things that is expected at almost every wedding. Most people dont know that the idea of a wedding cake actually goes way back in history to Ancient Rome. It was not exactly the kind of contemporary cake you would have these days, but back then it was a piece of bread that was broken over the bride’s head. The ceremony was said to bring good luck for the newlyweds.

Fast forward two thousand years, and you will get something that resembles something more of a modern wedding cake. Prince Leopold had a wedding cake that was completely edible with layers of thick icing and thats where the more modern tradition of wedding cake comes from.

Symbolism and even superstition have always been attached to the cake, cutting and the whole ceremony around it. Traditionally the cake is white and symbolizes in most western cultures something that is innocent and pure. The bride and groom would cut the cake and distribute the pieces among the wedding guests, but first they would give each other a share to symbolize their union.

Types of wedding cakes

In medieval times the cakes were constructed from rolls and buns stacked over each other, but the modern cake is something completely different. A white wedding cake is still probably the most popular one, but there are a lot of exeptions to this rule. I always enjoy seeing a cake that somehow represents the couple and their personalities.

A traditional stack cake might look very ordinary to the outside, but inside you could have virtually any flavour you can imagine. Chocolate is very popular, but in Finland the stack cake is often filled with fresh strawberries, specially if it is a summer wedding. I would say that cakes with fruit fillings are more popular because chocolate is sometimes too “heavy” to be eaten if it happens to be a hot day. And yes, the summer can be hot in Finland in case you were wondering 🙂 In Singapore this would generally not pose a problem since most weddings are held at hotel ballrooms anyway with airconditioning.

Fake cake

I dont know from where exactly this idea of fake cakes in Singapore came from, but these days it is very common not to have a real cake at the reception. Probably one of the reasons is that hotels always include the fake cake into their packages, so it would require an extra effort to get a real cake. And of course real cakes are expensive as well, specially when you have to consider that you might have more than 200 guests at your wedding.

If you dont want to “go fake” all the way, one option is to have a smaller cake for cutting, and let the guests have their piece served from the kitchen. Obviously the cake for guests dont have to be as glamorous as the one for cutting. If you want to have a cake with very extravagant design, another option is to have a smaller real section for cutting, and the rest can be fake. If it is done properly, nobody would notice the difference.

I understand that real cakes are difficult to make and they are rather expensive, but if your budget permits, go for the real one. A wedding cake is a beautiful tradition and it really adds that “special something” to your wedding day. And make sure your actual day photographer captures the cake before it’s all gone 🙂

chef decorating a wedding cake

Why wedding photography is so expensive?

If you are planning to get married and are in the middle of all the preparations, I’m sure you have been wondering why wedding photography is so expensive. And if you have been doing a bit of research, you have noticed that some photographers charge more than others. Actually some might even be very cheap while others would charge a few thousand dollars.

sign for ordering extra sambal

Buying a service or a product?

Usually people are not getting married many times in their lives, and this creates a kind of a problem when it comes to purchasing and booking things to your wedding. If you are doing all of this the first time, you dont really have a “buying experience”, and it is very hard to compare different services and packages. This usually results in a situation where you are comparing vendors based only on the price. But you have to understand that photography is not really a product, but a service that might include products.

The situation would be  the same if you are thinking about food. You can walk down to the market and get a big portion of Indonesian curry rice for three dollars or you can go to Jamie Oliver’s new restaurant and spend sixty dollars for a dinner. How would you compare these two? After all, they both serve food that will satisfy your hunger, but can you say that Jamie’s is twenty times better? Maybe the food really is so much better, but I dont think you would eat there every day. You would spend the money on a special occasion, perhaps a birthday or maybe you got promoted at your work that calls for a celebration.

fish head curry

The same goes for your wedding photography. You have to understand that it is a special occasion, and you would not want to go for the cheapest option available. Most of us are carrying at least one device capable of taking pictures, but if it really was that easy, then everyone would have beautiful wedding photographs. And unfortunately you dont have to dig very deep to find bad examples of wedding photography gone horribly wrong. The same goes for the food being served at a wedding; it is not enough just to have expensive pots and pans, but you need someone with experience and vision to do the cooking.

Then there is the question of cheap wedding photographers and I’ve written about that already before. A cheap photographer might be someone who is building a portfolio, or maybe it is just a side business. In both cases ask yourself if you can expect a professional service from someone who is not experienced?

Malay wedding venues in Singapore

Most cultures celebrate wedding as one of the biggest events in life and Malay weddings are no exception to that rule. Traditions vary a bit throughout the region, but traditionally Malay wedding would take a few days to complete. The most important ceremony and day is the “Bersanding” which actually means “the bride and groom sitting together on the bridal couch”. Some events on the actual day are rather similar to those of a chinese wedding, such as the groom going to the bride’s house and the challenges before he is allowed to be next to his wife.

Traditional wedding venues

I think it would be safe to say that most Malay weddings in Singapore would be bigger in terms of guests when compared to chinese or indian (hindu) weddings. It is not uncommon to have a Malay wedding with 1000 guests. Of course there are exceptions to the rule and specially when it is a mixed marriage, some opt for a more typical banquet at a hotel ball room or a restaurant.

As you probably know, hotels and restaurants generally have round tables for ten people. The venue would then charge according to how many tables the couple want, and what kind of food and drinks are to be served. The rates range roughly from $800 to $1500 per table and lunchtime reception is always cheaper than dinnertime. Most places would also impose a minimum amount of tables that needs to be booked.

Ang pow disaster

Usually guests would bring a token of appreciation in the form of ang pow envelope to cover their share of expenses at the wedding. A simple formula to figure out how the ang pow money is to divide the cost of the table by ten. At the same time you need to be mindful of the fact that some of your guests might think it is enough to put some 10-50 dollars into the ang pow envelope. I totally understand the thinking, but from the point of someone who is planning a wedding at a hotel, there is a big potential for a budget disaster. Lets say you would book 50 tables with the rate of $1000 each. So total bill would be $50k but if each guest only gives you about $50, you end up paying the hotel $25k from your own pocket.

Malay void deck wedding

There are a few reasons why many Malay weddings are not held at a hotel, but rather in a community center or even more commonly at the void decks below hdb flats. First of all, a lot of the restaurants or hotels don’t have the capacity for a very big wedding. Secondly the places that have the capacity, are going to be very expensive. For example the Marina Bay Sands can cater up to 150 tables, but each table will cost roughly $1300 for a dinnertime banquet. Of course this is not a problem if you can afford that. These days a lot of people are looking to get their wedding done on the cheap, but I would recommend spending the money and think of it as an investment.

You might think that having a Malay wedding at the void deck is very low class, but I have to say that these days some of the weddings held there are quite amazing in terms of facilities and decoration. Not only void decks can have a huge number of guests, they are also possible to decorate in any way you can imagine. This is a huge bonus for someone who wants a customized style, as hotels generally have very limited options when it comes to decorations. Of course you need to consider the weather in Singapore and would have to install fans and aircon units to keep the temperature somehow under control. You would not want the bride and groom to faint because it is too hot 🙂

malay wedding venue

Wedding date

I have to say that I am not really following the tradition of auspicious dates for a a wedding, but I have a feeling there might be some in August and September. The reason why I have this feeling is because I’m getting quite a few of wedding photography quotation requests for that time of the year.

While I am very happy to receive these requests, there is one thing missing way too often, and that is the actual wedding date. I do understand that booking vendors for a wedding day is not something what you do every day, but it would be very helpful to include at least the basic details into the email. Obviously this would not be a problem if you are calling me, but more often than not, the first contact comes via email. I’ve also noticed that some people end up my website when they are searching for cheap wedding photography, but I’m afraid I’m probably not the right match for that search. I think wedding photography is an investment and as the saying goes: “Pay peanuts and you get monkeys”.

The reason why I would like to know the actual date is very simple. Most of my clients plan their wedding very thoroughly, which means that the venues and vendors are booked 10-15 months before the actual day. There are only a handful of things that need to be booked so early, but actual day photography is one of those. It would save everyone’s time to know the date, as I can instantly check my calendar and see if I’m still available or already booked. There are always some dates, specially during the week, that might be still available even if you are booking late, so I encourage you to get in contact as soon as possible.

This year 2014 I will focus Singapore, Malaysia and the surrounding countries which means that I wont be going back to Europe for any wedding shoots. I’ve also made changes into my contact form page. You still can send me email directly as my address is listed on the page, but if you are using the form, you need to insert the actual date in order to send the message.

chinese calendar

Chinese wedding photographer

For some weird reason people end up to my page when they are searching for “Chinese wedding photographer”. Okay, I am not Chinese but an “ang moh”, except that is not exactly true either, as my hair is not red, and most of the time I have it shaved off anyway. I have not really understood how having Chinese ancestors would make you a better photographer. Of course having a Chinese background might get you language skills (I dont speak Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese or any other dialect) but then again, photography is pretty universal and on the actual day I dont really talk that much with my clients. The language might be an issue if I was shooting in People’s Republic of China, but not in Singapore or Europe.

portrait of a wedding photographer

Maybe this search has something to do with the chinese wedding ceremonies and traditions, I get asked about those quite often. The chinese wedding ceremonies are fairly standard fare, at least here in Singapore. Usually the wedding day starts very early, which is great because it’s quiet and weather is much better. Just make sure everyone has their transportation figured out as MRT and buses dont start their service very early.

I believe the first ceremonial bit would be the hair combing which takes place the night before the wedding day. The bride and groom would take a bath with pomelo or pomegranate tree leaves and change into a new set of clothing and shoes. There should be a “good fortune woman” to comb the brides hair and say the four blessings aloud. It really depends how traditional you are, but some would have a kind of sweet soup with rice balls after the combing. The brides mother would also give some jewellery or red packets to the daughter who is about to leave her childhood home.


Another big thing in the morning would be the gatecrashing. It is still very popular tradition, despite some might think that it is a bit childish in this day and age. Then again, it is also a chinese belief that you are not really an adult as long as you live in your childhood home. And generally you would live with your parents until you are married.

I’m all for having a big gatecrashing ceremony. And of course the photographer in me is happy when there is lot of action that I can shoot. The idea is that when the groom and groomsmen arrive at the bride’s home, they need to go through a series of challenges in order to enter the house. A real metal gate is often found in front of the door. The challenges can be almost anything, but usually they are a mix of physical, mental and eating tasks. I would go easy on the eating / drinking challenges, because you dont want to have the whole wedding timeline messed up because of a groom with an upset stomach.

Of course there are many other smaller and bigger traditions that are important at a chinese wedding, but I will write about them in another time.

chinese "double happiness" symbol