QUAH SOON HONG AND CHERYL LEE
Married: October 22, 2005
Diamond anniversary (10 years)
It was not love at first sight for Cheryl Lee and Quah Soon Hong. In fact, Lee describes their initial encounter, during a night out with mutual friends, as a classic example of opposites not attracting. “We were both so awkward, because we were markedly different from each other’s usual types,” Lee recalls with a laugh. Quah's "type" were girls who tended to be sporty, so seeing the immacuately dolled up Lee (replete with high heels and a chic handbag) left him feeling out of his depth. “Appearance-wise, she was the absolute opposite of a girl I would typically go out with,” he admits with a smile.
Even so, the two did hit it off later that evening — by bonding over conversations about their shared passion for food and music. Despite his early reservations, Quah asked her out for a date the following day. The rest, they say, is history.
What was your first date like?
Cheryl: It was really casual and spontaneous. He called me out of the blue on a Sunday afternoon and suggested we play pool and have a drink. I don’t think he expected me to say yes, so he was pretty shocked when I did.
Soon Hong: I was. So anyway, we went to this small family pub I was running with some cousins at the time. The place was officially closed as it was the second day of Chinese New Year and later that night, my extended family came for a pot luck.
Cheryl: It was amazing.
And then you ended up dating for four years. What made you both eventually realise each other was the one?
Cheryl: You know the cliché about people falling in love the first time they see each other and then sometimes it fizzles out later? With Hong, it was the other way around. The more we got to know each other, the more intense the feelings were.
Soon Hong: It took a while, but I think over time, I realised that our values and goals were similar. I also realised that Cheryl overlooked all my flaws and took me for what I was unconditionally.
So how did Hong propose?
Cheryl: We were at a family friend’s resort in Batam on New Years’ Eve and walking along a dock leading back to the hotel. I don’t remember what exactly he said, but he was alluding to the fact that he could see us together long term. I remember thinking: Oh, this sounds like a proposal! I was quite excited but just then, my heel got stuck in between the planks of the dock. And then he suggested going back to the room, but I couldn’t move. So he thought I wasn’t moving because I didn’t want to and he got worried.
Soon Hong: I eventually freed her shoe, but she didn’t exactly say yes immediately. She said: “I’m tired, let’s go to the room and talk some more.” So we went to the room and she still didn’t say yes. She said: “Oh I’m very tired. I will talk to you tomorrow.” I couldn’t sleep that night. How can you propose and not get an answer?
Cheryl: I replied him the next day.
I heard you got her a temporary ring for the proposal.
Soon Hong: Yes. I asked her sister for her ring size, because how could I find out Cheryl’s ring size on my own without letting the cat out of the bag, right? But [Stephanie] didn’t know her ring size either. So I got a temporary one.
Cheryl: It ended up fitting my pinky more than my actual ring finger. But then he said, “Okay, this is just temporary. The real one is still in the making."
You recently marked your 10th anniversary. Did you celebrate it in any special way?
Cheryl: Initially, we discussed having a bunch of friends over and the family having a bigger party overseas. But ultimately, we realised that wasn’t really important. In the end, we spent our anniversary in Japan, having a simple meal at a restaurant, with a friend — Lynn Yeow — who also happened to be in Japan at the time. It was really good.
Soon Hong: It was more private, personal.
With two young kids in the picture now, how do you keep the flame alive?
Soon Hong: Cheryl still believes in and practices date nights. She makes sure that whatever it is, we have an evening by ourselves every week, without the kids. And I think that’s something that is good and healthy for our relationship. It doesn’t matter where we go, as long as it’s our time.
Cheryl: You cannot take things for granted. You’ve got to make the effort to rejuvenate the relationship as well.
So what kind of advice would you give to young couples or newlyweds?
Cheryl: Don’t rush things. Sometimes, I think they feel the need to achieve a lot of relationship expectations within a short time. It's best to let things evolve spontaneously, organically. And the main thing is of course, communication, communication, communication.
Soon Hong: I suppose for me, at least, it would be making a conscious effort to practice forgiveness, practice loving, practice all the good stuff that makes the marriage work — because it doesn’t come naturally.
Watch the behind-the-scenes video here.
Read the interviews of the other couples here.