Same-Sex Wedding Overseas

As a Singaporean who grew up in the country, I’d say without hesitation that Singapore is a great place to study, work, and start a family unless you belong to the LGBTQ community. While there’s no denying that Singapore has become more progressive over the years, it still has a long way to go when it comes to recognising same-sex marriage and family, and addressing housing problems that the community faces.   

I spoke to Josiah, a 29-year-old Singaporean who recently moved to Canada and got married to his partner of 5 years there. Below, he shares the challenges he encountered when planning a same-sex wedding overseas, and his thoughts on Singapore and the LGBTQ community. 

Getting to know and date his then-boyfriend

Same-Sex Wedding OverseasImage courtesy of Josiah

It all began in 2017 when Josiah went on holiday to Vancouver ‒ he met Jared through a dating app, and they hung out for a quick sushi date before going their separate ways. While they didn’t establish any sort of relationship at that point in time, they kept in touch with each other. 

“It doesn’t hurt to make friends from around the world,” Josian shared. “The following year, I was in university, and thought about going on a solo trip to the U.S. and Canada so I reached out to Jared again.”

As Josiah planned to stay a week in Canada, Jared offered to let him stay in his place, and it was during their second encounter that Josiah developed feelings for Jared. Before leaving the country, Josiah confessed to Jared, but he knew that nothing would change because he needed to return to university, while Jared had just started a new job. 

“It’s just the right person, but maybe the wrong time, and the wrong place,” Josiah said. 

Things took a dramatic turn in 2019 when Josiah and Jared exchanged New Year’s wishes through text.  

“I could tell that Jared was slightly drunk, and he had friends over at this place,” Josiah recalled. “Out of the blue, he texted, Let’s just get married. I don’t need anyone else. I just want you. ‒ I was shocked.”

As if a scene straight out of a rom-com film, Josiah immediately called Jared after seeing his declaration of love. He asked what Jared meant, and they had an in-depth chat about it before deciding to start a long-distance relationship

Moving to Canada & getting proposed to during a concert 

Same-Sex Wedding OverseasImage courtesy of Josiah

For a long time, Josiah’s family and friends knew that he never wanted to settle in Singapore, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when he broke the news that he planned to move to Canada. Instead, they were supportive of his decision. 

“Singapore was never the end game,” Josiah said. “I’ve never dreamed of owning a BTO or having kids in Singapore. So, for me, it was always about moving overseas.”

After the borders reopened in Singapore and Canada in 2021, Josiah made a couple of trips to Vancouver to visit Jared ‒ once, even staying there for as long as six months

During Josiah’s next visit in August 2022, Jared proposed to him at The Weeknd’s concert.

“It wasn’t a grand proposal,” Josiah shared. “We were both sitting down, and he said, “Let’s get married.””

Despite the absence of romantic flowers and a tear-jerking speech, Josiah was satisfied with the proposal, knowing that he too wanted to spend the rest of his life with Jared. 

He could envision himself moving to Vancouver since he found it similar to Australia, where he did his undergraduate studies. Not only was there a large Asian community, but Josiah also had family members living in Canada. The decision was a no-brainer for Josiah.

Before Josiah returned to Singapore, the couple went to secure their engagement rings, which later also doubled as their wedding bands. 

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Having an unconventional wedding in Canada

Image courtesy of Sambajoy

A wedding is the celebration of love between two people, and Josiah had always fantasised about his as a party where guests would go, “Holy sh*t, that was so fun!” ‒ nothing like a traditional hotel wedding.  

“I just want my guests to have fun, and make the occasion memorable,” Josiah shared.

That being said, Josiah and Jared decided to have their wedding at L’Abattoir, a restaurant they visited right before they attended that fateful The Weeknd concert. 

“The restaurant has a private dining room that allows intimate weddings for around 50 people,” Josiah explained. “It fits our budget, and we had previously tried their food, so everything was perfect.”

Having a large wedding was never on Josiah’s mind, and he was very pleased with the space the restaurant provided, particularly because he wanted to talk and connect with every guest. Josiah and Jared even decided on a blue theme, and on the day of the wedding, their guests showed up in blue dresses and suits. 

Compared to weddings we normally see in Singapore, Josiah explained that it is not a must for guests to give angpaos to the couple. Instead, guests can gift the couple practical items such as electronic appliances as listed on the couple’s gift registry. To put it simply, “Canadian weddings are much more chill, and not so uptight.”

In terms of the cost of the wedding, Josiah and Jared spent around $40,000, which included booking the venue, food, flowers, and customising their suits. 

“We were able to save on our rings because we “reused” our engagement rings as wedding bands,” Josiah elaborated. 

Challenges faced when planning the wedding 

Josiah and Jared got married in July 2023
Image courtesy of Sambajoy

Usually unheard of in a Singaporean context, Josiah and Jared didn’t face any external challenges when planning their wedding, especially since Canada recognises the union between same-sex couples. They were even able to source vendors who had experience with gay weddings, unlike LGBTQ+ couples in Singapore, who struggle to even find venues for  same-sex ceremonies to celebrate their love. 

You might recall that in 2022, one hotel in Singapore was under fire for allegedly discriminating against same-sex couples.    

“It was slightly difficult for me to coordinate and call some of the vendors since I was in Singapore for a few months after getting engaged,” Josiah said. “However, it was still manageable.”

Instead, the biggest challenge Josiah faced had nothing to do with the actual wedding planning itself ‒ he wasn’t able to get his parents to attend his wedding ceremony. 

“They were okay with me being gay, but I think for the wedding, it took some time for them to come around,” Josiah said. “But, unfortunately, not in time for the wedding.”

Nonetheless, their absence was filled by Josiah’s brother and chosen family, which consisted of 16 friends who supported him through thick and thin. They flew across the Pacific Ocean to celebrate this joyous occasion. 

Luckily, Jared’s mother understood where Josiah’s parents were coming from, and she stepped into the role of a mother during the wedding ceremony. He was grateful that she was more than willing to help out, especially during the planning process.

When asked about the current relationship between Josiah and his parents, he revealed that they met Jared when they flew to Vancouver for a holiday several months after their wedding. They even brought a custom leather valet with Jared’s name engraved. 

“I’d say things have greatly improved now,” Josiah said. 

Future plans as a couple and advice to others

Image courtesy of Sambajoy

To add on to the good news, Josiah recently received his permanent residency in Canada, and will no longer have to rely on his tourist visa.

“It’s great since I don’t want to be a tourist forever,” Josiah commented. “I want to have access to healthcare and insurance, and open up bank accounts.”

On the other hand, he also considered holding a small party in Singapore to celebrate his marriage for those who couldn’t attend the wedding in Canada. It would be a great opportunity to catch up with his loved ones, and allow his parents to be part of the celebration. 

As a word of advice to LGBTQ couples in Singapore who plan to get married one day, Josiah thinks that they should do it on their own terms. 

“One of the things that people always talk about when it comes to weddings is “My parents are paying for half of it, I have to listen to what they want”,” Josiah shared. 

Instead, he believes that the couple should do what they want, and go for the concept and ideas that they dream about. After all, it is their moment. 

That being said, he understands that since Singapore doesn’t recognise gay marriages, some LGBTQ couples prefer to tie the knot overseas. However, not all of them have the luxury of affording a destination wedding, and he believes that Singapore still has room for improvement when it comes to recognising same-sex marriages. 

“What if I get injured one day in Singapore, and Jared tells the hospital that he is my husband?” Josiah said. “They’d probably think that Jared is crazy although we’re a legally married couple in Canada.”

With that said, Josiah can only hope that Singapore will become more inclusive as time goes on. 

Josiah’s Story Shows That Singapore Can Do Better For The LGBTQ Community

For most Singaporeans, signing the ROM and getting married in the presence of our loved ones seem to be something we take for granted. Unfortunately, these are not recognised in Singapore yet for those who belong to the LGBTQ community. 

Hopefully, through Josiah’s story, more awareness will be raised about the obstacles that the LGBTQ community encounters, fostering empathy and promoting positive change in Singapore.

Cover: Image courtesy of Josiah and Sambajoy

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