Fairy-tale wedding amid the orchids

SINGAPORE - Inspired by pictures from fairy tales, Mrs Lily Low had dreamt of having a garden wedding since she was young.

Before they tied the knot in October 1996, she and her husband-to-be were walking in the Botanic Gardens when they chanced on a colonial building perched atop the present-day National Orchid Garden.

"We immediately knew that we wanted to have our wedding there," said the 48-year-old.

Built in 1886, the two-storey structure with black and white blinds and colonial furniture was named Burkill Hall, after Isaac and Humphrey Burkill, the only father-and-son pair to hold the post of director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The couple inquired about holding a Christian wedding ceremony in front of Burkill Hall. But the park authorities had their doubts about allowing a religious ceremony in a public place, Mrs Low said.

Then, after few weeks, the green light finally came.

"We were so excited. It was a dream come true," she said. "We wanted a garden wedding where we could mingle with the guests. It was not like a typical Chinese wedding dinner, in which the couple is typically busy, and you have to think about who sits with whom at each table."

Still, getting permission was only the first hurdle.

The gardens were so big that the couple had to station ushers to direct guests to Burkill Hall.

It had also been raining heavily in the weeks leading to the big day - Oct 19, 1996 - and that meant there were doubts as to whether the couple would be able to exchange their vows amid the orchids in the sprawling lawn before Burkill Hall.

"Miraculously, it was blue skies on the day itself - everything was perfect," Mrs Low said, her eyes lighting up as she recalled the day.

Before more than 100 guests, she and Mr Low Han Seng said their wedding vows. The couple now have three children.

Revisiting the Singapore Botanic Gardens for the first time in a decade last Friday, she marvelled at how the place had changed.

Burkill Hall, which used to be part of the open garden, is now located behind the gates of the National Orchid Garden.

When Mrs Low saw the building again, memories came flooding back. "At least I didn't have to worry about flowers or decoration for my wedding. The gardens took care of that for me."

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