We chatted to The Upper House’s Lili Chu to get the lowdown on her Hong Kong wedding, which featured trams, mini egg tarts and Gweilo beer!
Working as an Assistant Communications Manager at The Upper House, Lili Chu has seen more than her fair share of weddings. So when it came to her own, it’s no wonder that every last detail was taken care of. She made sure it showcased the best of Hong Kong for her international guests, taking them on a Champagne-fuelled tram journey through the city streets, before holding her reception in the striking Western Market building.
Lili first met her now husband, Andrew, when they attended a friend’s wedding in Ahmedabad in India. There were over 700 wedding guests at the three-day affair in 2016, but Lili and Andrew were the only two foreign and Chinese guests. They bonded instantly and even chose to travel around India together for a week after the celebrations. Fast forward just a few months and Andrew chose to make the move from Australia back to his hometown of Hong Kong…and of course, Lili. Two years later, it was their own turn to host a wedding!
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Every bride has a proposal story, so what’s yours?
We got engaged in Tasmania. I was feeling unwell at the beginning of the trip, so Andrew had to change his plan for the proposal. But on the day he proposed it was perfect. We first had an amazing lunch in Home Hill Winery. The restaurant overlooked the green hills, where alpacas roamed freely. That evening, we checked in to our little teepee cabinet, which had a cosy fireplace. We had a short hike and Andrew proposed under the starlit sky. Besides the wallabies that were lurking around our food, it felt like it was just the two of us in the mountains.
Tell us about the ring.
The ring is made with inherited diamonds from Andrew’s family and hand-crafted by a family friend. Each diamond has a story behind it. I love the history and tradition that come with the ring and hope that I can pass it on in the future as well.
What did you do for your hen party?
With the stress of planning a wedding, a big night out seemed like an exhausting idea. So for me, it was a casual night out with close friends, great food and great wine.
What about the dress? How many did you try on?
I found “The One” quite quickly. I tried on around five to six dresses and was set on an A-line, boat-neck dress. As I had a traditional wedding ceremony in a Catholic Cathedral, I wanted a dress that was elegant and timeless. When I tried on the dress and the consultant put the veil on me, I felt tears filling up my eyes! I felt so pure. I didn’t try on any other dresses after that.
However, soon after I brought the dress, I also wanted an off-shoulder mermaid dress. I couldn’t find one that was exactly what I want. So I had one designed and tailor-made for the party. It’s also typical in Hong Kong to have “pre-wedding” photoshoot. So I brought another cheap dress online for our photoshoot in Scotland, which made it okay when it was soaked with the Highland rain and mud.
What was the best piece of advice you received before the big day?
To have some time alone with your partner. It felt like the day just flew by the second I stepped into the church. The day was ending before we knew it. Between catching up with old friends and following traditional rituals, it’s important to set some time aside to connect with your partner. After all, it is your wedding day!
What was the wedding itself like?
We had over 300 guests, and half of them flew in from Australia, Canada, the US, Scotland, Poland, Korea, India and Shanghai for the wedding. For some, it was their first time visiting Hong Kong. We wanted to create a very “Hong Kong” experience for our guests. The church ceremony was followed by an epic tram party. We hired two trams and filled them with dim sum, mini egg tarts, Gweilo craft beer and more. The trams stopped right in front of the dinner reception venue at Western Market, a beautiful Edwardian building that represents the side of old Hong Kong. Besides canapés, a whisky bar, and an Iberico ham station (we flew a whole ham back in our suitcase from Barcelona), we also had a gai daa jai egg waffle station and a made-to-order dragon’s beard candy station for the cocktail reception. The night continued with more Chinese dishes, a live band and lots of dancing!
Did you have a favourite part of the whole day?
The dancing! Andrew and I took a few dance classes hoping to get the first dance right. Of course, we forgot quite a few steps but it was still very romantic and intimate for us. We were worried that no one would come to the dance floor but everyone came out to dance. Even our 90-year-old grandma!
What were the most memorable parts from the speeches?
Our childhood friends gave the speeches, which were beautiful and heartfelt. It was lovely to listen to Andrew’s best man, Damien, recounting the ups and downs of their bromance over the years, as well as their childhood in Sydney, and how Andrew has become his best self now.
Was there one detail you and the groom just couldn’t agree on?
The multiple “pre-wedding” photo shoots. Andrew isn’t a big fan of taking pictures. I convinced him to do one photo shoot in the Isle of Skye in the freezing winter, one in Carcassonne in the heat of summer, and one in Hong Kong. We actually ended up becoming good friends with our photographers. The amazing Andrew Rae came to our wedding and we went back to Scotland for his!
What was the most fun element of planning your wedding?
Selecting the food and drink, and picking out songs for the band.
And the most stressful moment?
The seating plan. It was a long process trying to shuffle 30 tables and to satisfy the needs and wants of both ourselves and our parents. Having an excel spreadsheet helped a lot.
What about the best decision you made in the planning process?
Getting help very early on. We were lucky to have my wonderful, resourceful and organised sister-in-law, Amanda, helping from the very beginning. From design, budget, manpower, lining up a talented six-piece band, sourcing delicious Portuguese wine, and so much more, she managed it all!
What were your wedding favours?
We wanted to make something useful and designed a tote bag with our favourite bible quote “Cling to what is good” on it.
Any tips and tricks for brides-to-be?
Spend money on food, wine and entertainment and less on disposable decorations. The unique experience made the difference.
And that brings us naturally to your honeymoon. Where did you end up going?
We waited six months for our honeymoon, as we had used up all our annual leave on our pre-wedding travels. We had a few weeks in Croatia, and it was amazing! It was the perfect combination of history, beautiful hiking trails, sunshine and beaches.
All photographs courtesy of REAL Gallery, Andrew Rae and Lucile Vives via Lili Chu.