Whirlwind engagements & lesbian weddings: Time to start talking about what marriage means in S'pore

Two weddings and a difficult conversation.

Joshua Lee | July 04, 2022, 09:00 AM

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What a season for weddings.

OnlyFans performer Titus Low — famous for dangling his sexy bits on the internet and getting into a spot of legal trouble recently — announced his surprise engagement to Malaysian influencer Cheryl Chin in early June, two weeks after they met at a party.

Executed within 24 hours, it's as spontaneous and surprising as whirlwind engagements go.


More recently, a lesbian couple's request to hold their wedding at Parkroyal Collection Pickering was rejected by the hotel, along with a curt reply that the establishment did not allow same-sex couples to hold wedding ceremonies due to "the regulation".

These two nuptial celebrations stood out in Singapore where many adhere to a traditional understanding of what a marriage should be: A union between a man and a woman, as dictated by the Women's Charter, and preferably one that has endured at least a year of dating -- according to this YouGov survey

Low's engagement to Chin seems to be the exact opposite of well-considered, the type that typically appears together with "Las Vegas" and "last weekend" in the same sentence.

And people had a fair bit to say about it.

"Lol. Less than a month and she thinks she knows him well already," said a Facebook user.

"True love and few months later… divorce," went another snarky commenter.

"Marriage to such people is a complete joke," denounced a commenter. "Sounds like a PR stunt lol," wrote another.

Perhaps it's compounded by how Low's carefully curated image of a risqué performer somehow doesn't sit well with the idea of a (relatively) tame happy ever after. Or maybe it's disbelief that Low, who made his money catering to thirsty male OnlyFans subscribers, would end up with a wife.

The pertinent question raised by Low and Chin's union — which Low referred to as "getting married / engaged" in a video about their wedding (nevermind which it was, he doesn't seem to care) — might be: If this isn't a joke or a prank, does it count as a marriage?

We don't know if Low and Chin actually got legally married.

But their wedding ceremony checked many of the other boxes. It involved two consenting adults - both are at least 21 years old - dressed in typical wedding regalia, promising to spend their lives together, in the presence of close friends. Their emcee-cum-solemniser even read from the Bible.

Whatever it is, it appears that people want to believe that the engagement was a terribly elaborate prank.

Within less than a week, another story about a wedding — this time between two lesbians — made it into the news.

More accurately, it is a story about a wedding that didn't happen at Parkroyal Collection Pickering.

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It was a bit of a public relations scandal for the hotel which used to be a corporate sponsor for Pink Dot. Some members of the LGBTQ+ community blasted the hotel for what they saw as a hypocritical response.

The hotel subsequently issued an apology after the issue blew up on social media and attributed the blame for the whole fiasco to an associate who made a "wrongful assumption of the law".

To be fair, the hotel was not breaking any law when it rejected this wedding (or any other wedding, for that matter). There isn't a law here that prohibits a private establishment from refusing services to an individual, unlike in some other countries where something like this might be interpreted from a legal standpoint as a case of discrimination.

Similarly, there are presently no laws preventing the lesbian couple from holding private wedding celebrations, even though the Singapore government doesn't recognise their marital status.

Perhaps the more interesting observation is the hotel associate's instinctive — but misguided — response in quoting the "regulations".

Societal attitudes toward marriage and romantic relationships are changing.

Couples are marrying later, marrying less, and divorcing more.

Recently, a "nationally representative" survey by Ipsos found that support for Section 377A of the Penal Code (a colonial-era piece of legislation that criminalises sex between men) dropped by more than 10 percentage points in four years.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam however said recently in a BBC interview that the IPSOS survey seems "a little bit of an outlier in the context of other surveys, internal and public" that the government has, though he acknowledged that attitudes towards the repeal of Section 377A are shifting.

Against this backdrop of decreasing support and shifting mindsets, it's entirely possible that Section 377A will eventually come to exist only in history books, something that LGBT groups have advocated for a long time.

And when it happens, LGBT groups would hope that one day, two lesbians can register their union at the Registry of Marriages after a wedding ceremony at the hotel of their choice.

For others, these developments are chipping away at their idea of what marriage is, or should be — ever so slowly but surely. But as Singaporeans' attitudes towards these issues as well as the legislation that reflects them change over time, a pertinent question is: How will we respond?

Maybe it's a blessing that Singaporeans are quite (in)famous for our obedience and aversion to social disruption; it's unlikely our reaction to these social changes will escalate to the point of physical violence.

But our discomfort with accommodating different ideas of marriages and unions can simmer beneath the veneer of social courtesy and erupt in more benign ways: a sarcastic jibe at a divorcee, a puking emoji on a gay couple's engagement photos on social media, a hotel's tart refusal to host a lesbian wedding, a kneejerk call to boycott said hotel.

Here in our small corner of the world, we are beginning to see a diversity of views regarding marriage. Making space to have a deeper conversation about what marriage means to us as a society is going to be tricky and at times, difficult. But as these two weddings have shown us, we have to start talking now.

Top image via Titus & Cheryl/YouTube, @proutapp/Instagram, and David Attenborough/Facebook