Monday, August 26, 2013

Super Sunday: The Atelier Bridal, Tirtha Weddings, 1-Altitude Part 1

It has been a while since I last updated on my wedding preparation. We pretty much didn't do anything during this period. Then suddenly the floodgate opened, we check out three different wedding vendors in one Sunday afternoon - thus the name Super Sunday.

First, The Atelier Bridal.

I found out that The Atelier Bridal is having a sale on Singapore Brides on Saturday night, immediately drop them an email and secured the last appointment available at 12:45 pm the next day.

I have been eager to check out The Atelier Bridal since I found out they are bringing in US-label wedding gown. As a bride-to-be who has been heavily bombarded by American wedding industry ( No thanks to Martha Stewart's Wedding, David Tutera and WE channel on Mio TV), of course I am influenced to see them in real person.

I have seen their bridal gowns at Alkaff Mansion Wedding Fair and found their quality were quite nice - not overwhelming but better than most gown you got off the package. I am interested to check out the workmanship of these designer label dress more closely. Moreover, one can't judge a dress without trying them on (the whole idea of online clothes shopping still baffled me), so I decided to give them a try.

The Atelier Bridal is located at Ann Siang Road. Viewing is by appointment only, which is great as I got their full attention and didn't feel rushed or have to try out various gown in front of strangers. I find trying wedding gown is a very personal and intimate experience and having to try them in a small room full of unknown people really takes the charms away; not to mention the pressure from other brides who are waiting for your changing room. The shop is tastefully decorated with 3 panels of full length mirrors for you to look at yourself. The trying experience is one of the better ones I had so far, and comparable to Designer Bridal Room in KL.

The Atelier Bridal. Picture from their blog.
There's around 20~30 dress on the rack during my visits. If I remember correctly, the gown ranges from $3,000 ~ $13,000. I tried 4 dresses from Alyne by RIVINI, Carolina Herrera, Marchesa and Amsale. Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to try Oscar de la Renta. The first 3 dresses are in the range of $5k while the last one by Amsale is $8K.

The 4 dresses I tried. Top left: Alyne by Rivini. Top right: Carolina Herrera. Bottom left: Marchesa. Bottom right: Amsale. 

Hazel from Alyne by Rivini

The first dress is Hazel from Alyne by Rivini. I like the flowers detailing on the bodice but is a bit worry about their extension all the way to the upper hip, which creates a drop waist impression. Drop waist is pretty popular for the Caucasian brides since it elongates your figure IF you are tall enough. At my 160 cm height, it only emphasis how short my legs are (T.T).

The bodice of this dress is softer than my expectation. I felt a soft bra pad sewn into the lining, but I was advised to wear a bra while trying the dress. That's interesting. I half-expected that gown at this price point would have a built-in bra and corset, which is the case when I shop at Designer Bridal Room.

On a side note, the construction of bodice is very important for strapless dress. The proper placement of boning creates a beautiful bust line, gives the impression of small waist and most importantly hold the strapless dress in place (so you won't keep pulling your dress up throughout the night). A lot of people thought that the bust holds up a strapless dress, which is not true. A properly constructed strapless dress would have a bodice that keeps the form itself, and secured  by a waist stay that is strong but comfortable.
(Read here and here if you want to find out more about boning, waist stay and their importance for strapless dress)

Left: Bodice constructed with 19 bonings. Middle: Standalone bodice. Right: Waist stay
In fact, boning is also used in wedding gown with strap to accentuate the female curve. However, I think that there is a trend among the top designer in using less boning to give the dress a softer and de-construct look. But I guess most brides would still like to looked primed and proper for their wedding and not everyone has the body shape that able to pull off a formal dress without some help.

Justine by Carolina Herrera

The next dress I tried on is Justine by Carolina Herrera. I choose this dress because I love lace and tulle, and thinking that the flare out at the hip can emphasize tiny waist and conceal big hip. Unfortunately, this is not the case. I am not sure whether there is some discrepancy between Westerner and Asian body type or it was done on purpose, I found that the boning does not really follow my bustline. As a result, there is a huge gap between the bodies and my body, which end up not flattering at all.  

Marchesa Fall 2013 collection

The third dress is from Marchesa Fall 2013 collection. This dress has no boning or sewn in-bra cup. I don't think it even has a lining. I must say I was pretty shocked when I first tried it on. Even the cheapest wedding gown would have these albeit they most likely will be very low quality. But very soon I realized that this is probably purposely designed this way. 

What you probably can't tell from the picture above is that the body-hugging part of the dress are actually made of high quality stretchable materials which is then overlaid by lace. I must say this is a pretty innovative way to construct a mermaid dress easily. Just think of all the alteration needed to make this mermaid dress fit every curve of yours if it is made of typical materials like satin. And the dress wouldn't fit you if you happen to lose or gain some weight right before your wedding. The problem of such materials is that it can't have additional layers to accommodate boning, bra pad, lining etc, and thus the lacks of it.  

As a result, the upper part of this dress is very thin. Good for hot and humid Singapore. But bad as you can see one underwear easily. It also feels like wearing a swimsuit, where every inch of your curve and lumps will be displayed clearly. Unless you are a super model, you probably need a special underwear with proper corseting that doesn't show through the dress, which I think it is an additional hassle and risk (of not able to get a suitable one). 

Nevertheless, it is my favourite dress out of the four I tried. The pattern of the lace is beautiful and the lace itself is very soft and delicate. I love the luxurious amount of organza skirting at the bottom. But Alas, I don't have a super model body so this is out for me. 

Plaza by Amsale

The final dress is Plaza by Amsale. Tried this dress because the beading on the bodies is beautiful, which is unfortunately not able to captured by photo. However, the cut of the dress just doesn't flatter me, which is weird since I thought a ball gown cut like this should be easy to pull off. I guess these wedding gown created in the west might not fit Asian body type perfectly, thus the dresses I found here doesn't not complement my body type as well as Lusan Mandongus or Annasul Y in Designer Bridal Room

Later on, the Japanese owner from Tirtha Weddings told me the same thing about western eastern body type differences. So, they work with Italian gown designer to create high quality gown for Asian brides which is available for rent or for sale. 

That's it for my Super Sunday update for now, I will continue with Tirtha Weddings and 1-Altitude in the next post.  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Becoming Housewife Part 2

This is a 2 part series translated from an article published in S Weekly. See the first part here.

The New Waves

Wan Dan used to join an online community form by Gen-Y housewives and participated in their offline activity. They went for steamboat lunch on weekday, enjoyed a leisure afternoon tea, and rushed back to prepare for dinner before evening peak hours.

It is a natural human instinct to join a similar community like themselves so that one can get support from the people who faces the same challenges and problems. For people who have less social presence (at least in China) like housewives, such needs is even more urgent. However, Wan Dan doesn't feel that this is for her. There are something else that's bothering her about being housewife, something more emotional then physical.

It is becoming more common for women to become a full-time housewives in China, especially for globalized city like Beijing. It isn't a luxury that only reserved for the riches as more middle-class women finding themselves treading down the path. Mrs Tao - a full time housewife - summarized the common attributes of such women in Financial Times (China) column: they are typically of working class, no immediate financial stress, have one or two young child, will go for a long vacation once a year, shopped in the hypermarket every week, and splurge on organic food once in a while. They also enjoy a bourgeois lifestyle: watching movies, dining out in restaurants or spending lazy afternoons in Beijing's Summer Palace.

But Fiona, one of the group leader of Gen-Y housewives community, doesn't think that it is that simple to categorize this group of women. She is very active and familiar with many of the Gen-Y housewives member. According to her, the group have 200 members, with 50~60 of them participating actively with the group activity.

Unlike Wan Dan, who is sort of unwillingly gave up her career and became a housewife, another member Xiaohe wants to be a full-time home maker since young. "In the 90's, this is a weird thought that I can't share with anyone." Multi-national enterprises have just enter China en masse during that time. Almost every girl dreams to land an office job. Full-time housewives probably have the same social status as a mistress.

Knowing what she determined to do, Xiaohe prepared herself for the job of a home maker early. When she was in college, she spent a lot of time reading and learning various skills that's helpful for her life of home maker. She does everything to increase her exposure but also at the same time spend a lot of time doing housework. She is lucky, in the sense that she met someone she loves right after graduation. And her husband is willing and has the means to support her as a full-time housewife.

Xiaohe's husband is an entrepreneur and is financially stable. Both are Buddhist and easy-going. "We never had a fight during the last 8 years since we met. This is something that I am really proud of," said Xiaohe. Xiaohe's husband transfers all household assets under Xiaohe's name as a financial assurance for her as a full-time housewife.
Despite full support from her husband, Xiaohe still faces numerous pressure from the society. Filling in "home maker" as a occupation were frequently changed into "unemployed". Her decision is not supported by her parents too. She refuse to further her studies in England as she doesn't see the value of a master degree if she is staying home and doesn't want to risk ruining her relationship with her current husband. They were very unhappy on her decision and still refuse to acknowledge their daughter as a full time housewife till now. "They will introduce me as married and is currently studying for an advance degree."" They couldn't understand my decision, but I guess they will accept the face slowly"

The Fortunate and Not-So-Fortunate Ones

Xiaohe is a happy housewife. The slow homemaker lifestyle softens her already-mild manners even more. She has all the patience and tolerance to face the arrogance and derogation she encounters in her daily life. "Some sympathizes you for your inability to make a living by yourself; while others think that you are useless and not contributing to the society. Anyway, almost everyone think that your future is dim: not self-sustainable, dull and unattractive, constant worries about adultery, and possibly divorce."
Most of these prejudices come from young ladies who just started their career or successful career women. This is not surprising since "young girls need lots of motivation to kick start their career while successful women are usually critical." said Xiao He. But all these negatives comments doesn't matter to her. "There is constant supply of young women who are eager to contribute their time and energy to the society, but my family needs a devoted wife and mum. Since I have no interest in having my own career, I might as well as stay home and do my part as a homemaker."

In a society that lacks respect and understanding towards housewifes, it is important that any woman who is considering this options must both enjoy being housewife herself and has a husband that is supportive of it emotionally and financially. Xiaohe is a fortunate case where a homely girl met a guy who is looking for a housewife.

But not everyone is as fortunate as Xiaohe. In fact, most housewives in China - like Wan Dan - resigned to the position reluctantly. Fiona is also one of them. Even though she is the head of the housewife community and the go-to-person when any members are in trouble, she is as lost as most members. Pretty and aggressive, Fiona used to be a human resource executive in a government enterprise. She left her position when her husband gained an opportunity to work in United States. Her parents warned her against being idle once settled in US, "get a job or further your studies," they told her. She didn't heed their advice. She settled into the position of full time housewife in US very soon, since it is pretty common in her neighborhood. The housewives have their own community, social circle and enjoy insurance protection as well as tax relief, which gives Fiona even less incentive to find a job.

Unlike Wan Dan and Xiaohe, Fiona didn't have a consensus with her husband on the issue of being a stay home mum. She settled in the position passively, without much thought. Financials were tight when Fiona and her husband first came to US. She can tell that her husband secretly hoping that she will work to elevate the financial stress. However, once found out that only lower level jobs such as nanny or cashier are available, she gave up the idea of working.

Fiona didn't think that she has a easy life as a housewife. Her husband changed jobs five times in the first three years and he spent all her time moving, packing and unpacking. When they finally settled down by the fourth year, in which she finally is able to enroll in a master degree course, she found out that she is pregnant.

"My parents are very unhappy with me. My best friend commented that I have achieved nothing apart from moving houses during these few years." Fiona is also disappointed with herself. Although she didn't dream to be very successful in her career, but lacking one makes her feels that she is losing her status at home. There was once that her husband bought a second hand BMW without consulting her, on the ground that "money is earned by him". She was furious but at the same time upset and sadden by the fact.

"It is my biggest mistakes to be a full time housewife," said Fiona. "You can clearly tell that your husband is losing all his respect and adoration towards you... All men wants a wife who can take care of the family, but at the same time earns a decent living and have high social status." Fiona's husband rebutted, "Isn't it similar for women? They want everything: easy life at home, love, adoration and respect from husband."

The main problem for Fiona is that her husband doesn't recognized that it is also hard work to be a housewife, probably not any easier then his job. "If I have known this is what it is going to end up to be, I wouldn't have came to US with him. I might not even be marrying him." Even though Fiona has been giving advice to many others women who are in similar position, she is as lost as them. "I don't have any long term pan now, just deal with the situations along the way... Probably I will go back to China with my son after finishing my master degree."

Part Time Housewives

Ding Dang used to have a respectable job. After graduating with a master degree in Chinese, she stayed on at her university as a career counselor. She was active socially and enjoyed her time spent with students. The benefit of working in a university is good and she got to enjoy long holiday. As a results, she managed to travel extensively.

Ding Dang married in 2009, and was pregnant very soon after. She decided to quit her job due to 2 factors: firstly, she would like to spend a part of her life devoted to her family entirely. Secondly, although her job is well respected with decent pay, it isn't what she really wants to do. And so she quit.

Adjusting to a house maker life is not as easy as she thought. After 10 years of working life which provided her income, satisfaction, sense of accomplishment and joy, she quickly feel lost and empty facing housework day in and day out. "It isn't that I have too much time in my hand. Having a child means that you have endless things to do." But she is lost emotionally. A sense of emptiness that can't be filled just by cooking and washing. She needs something more creative and meaningful, a goal that she can fight towards it.

Since Ding Dang loves to travel and shares her travel experience, she decided to write a book about travelling in 2012. Her son is one and a half years old by then. Without hiring any help, Ding Dang woke up every day at 6:30am, wash and cook and keep herself busy with the household until her son fall asleep by 9pm. Only then, she will start working on her book. It is not unusual that she works on it till 2~3am.

The proceed from the book, when compared to her previous income or contribution to family income, is meager. But to Ding Dang, this is something that's very important to her. It provides something for her to look forward to and work on.

Although most educated women are tired of working full time and devoting more time to career than their family, they don't want to give up financial independence and totally rely on their husbands' income either. They probably should be acknowledged as "Part Time Housewives".
Yan Hong used to work at Wall Street Journal, held managerial positions in two university and work as a press officer at Australian Embassy. Yet, she quitted all these when she had a first child and stay home for more than 10 years. During this period, she wrote 10 books on children education and she never had doubt regarding her status. "My husband will introduced me as the children education expert, my children will tell their friends that I am a writer... but all these doesn't really matter to me. I am totally fine if they just introduced me as the stay home mum. I am proud of it."

Apart from understanding and acceptance, the space for full time housewife in China is still relatively less due to less active social activity. But Ding Dang and Yan Hong proves that this is not necessary the way. There is still a space for you to develop yourself apart from the cooking, washing and caring for your child.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Becoming Housewife Part 1

This is a 2 part series translated from an article published in S Weekly. It talks about dilemma faced by educated women who find themselves ending up as housewife, and the difficulty transiting into such role.

I grew up in an era where feminists' prolonged quest for gender equality has finally starting to bear fruits. With almost equal education and career opportunity, we were brought up believing we will contribute to the society in the same manner as men.We judge ourselves using the same yardstick as men: how educated we are, how much we earn, how far in advance we are on the corporate ladder.

But as years passed, I start to find this to be unrealistic: Who is going to take care of the child and family with both parents working? Who is going to be the one taking off from work when a family member is sick? Are we going to leave the early education of our child to some strangers in the pre-school while it has been proven again and again that adult interactions in the early childhood is the most crucial part in child upbringing? What about the inescapable maternity leave?

With the fortunate or unfortunate reality of my husband earning multiple times more than me, I found myself wondering about the possibility of being a full time housewife, a career that I never consider, and frankly, once loathed.

Becoming Housewife: Increasing trend of educated full time housewives (in China)
Article by Hong Gu, translated by Jessie Tong.

Wan Dan has never considered a career as a full time housewife. However, on her thirtieth birthday, she quit her job for good.

Wan Dan barely sees her husband during their 3 years of marriage. As a business consultant, she travels often. Her husband works in an investment bank, an industry well-known for long working hours. Having a dinner together during the weekday is an occasion so rare that it deserves a celebration.

Once, when Wan Dan was on a business trip in Inner Mongolia, she told her husband that they have not seen each other for 42 days. Her husband begs to differ. Apparently, he saw her before she left for Inner Mongolia. She was asleep when he came back from his work at 2am. He kissed her, fell asleep at the sofa and left early in the morning before rush hours; while Wan Dan, who woke up later, left with her luggage that has not been unpacked from the previous trip.

The last straw came as Wan Dan's birthday is approaching. Having just finished a huge project and judging from her upcoming schedule, she believes that she can finally enjoy a weekend off. She looks forward to a normal couple life just enjoying some time with her husband, perhaps a candlelight dinner, a staycation or a movie.

On the day of her birthday, her husband removed himself from all commitments, left work early and waited for her at her office building. But after he finished his quick dinner at 6pm, snacks at 9pm and supper at 12am, Wan Dan was still nowhere to be seen. Apparently, her bosses assigned a new task on that day and the whole team was on full force till 2am. At 1am, when Wan Dan finally got the chance to call her husband, his only response is "I have cancelled the hotel booking.".

Both Wan Dan and her husband eventually came to a consensus that they have to change their way of life. As educated adults, they approached this issue rationally and systematically. Each writes down a list of what they look forward in this marriage. Intimacy, quality time, and family life rank top of their lists, while financial gain does not.

It is apparent then one of them has to give up his/her career and devote more time to the family. Since her husband earns twice her pay, she will be the one who do so. They ponder over the possibility of her getting a less demanding job. However, the comparatively meager salary does not justify getting her to spend few hours travelling back and forth everyday, as well as the lost of flexibility in time arrangement.

Thus, one month later, Wan Dan became a full time housewife.

Learning To Become A Wife

Life didn't change much after Wan Dan's marriage. They have been staying together as a couple and the hectic working schedule after marriage took their focus away from married life. There is no time for conflicts. All they want is just more time together.

Wan Dan only started to feel like "a wife" after quitting her job. She would prepare breakfast for her husband every morning and sort out his suit every night. She would cook and bake. Spending half an afternoon in the kitchen becomes the norm. Then it would be the endless wait for her husband to come home from work.

She didn't inform her parents about her decision to stay home. She can imagine their furious. "They have invested so much on my education. And I 'wasted' it by becoming a housewife?!" Nor does her parent-in-laws know about it. "I guess my husband doesn't want them to worry too much since he is the sole breadwinner now."

Her close friends and colleagues are still busy working and she finds it hard to share with them about her new status and thoughts about it. The common impression for full time housewives is a group of women who has nothing better to do, spends all their time shopping and doing beauty treatments. It is difficult to talk about the physical and emotional distress of a full time housewife when most people have more immediate challenges facing them at work.

When Wan Dan finally got the chance to attend her college reunion dinner after quitting her job, she found out that she is not the only housewife there. And it makes her feels much better. 3 out of their 8 dorm mates , including her, have quit their job. One stops working after marrying and relocated to German. Another quits after having a child.

Last year, in a survey titled "Who want's to be a housewife", they found out that out of 20,000 female participants, more than 1/3 have spent a certain period of their life as a housewife. This figures roughly tallied with Wan Dan's dorm mates' experiences, where 3 out of 8 women are staying home now. Among the women who choose to stay home, 22.09% do so to take care of their family, 21.32%  is due to pregnancy and childcare, 15.10% fed up with the stress at work. However, in Wan Dan's age band, the main reason for women to quit their job is related to childcare.

In China's main city, the cost for hiring a full time helper increases much faster than the pay of an office worker. At an average wage of 5,000 yuan for a full time helper, it is not a small sum for working or middle class family to fork out with. Wan Dan's dorm mate - an accountant previously - decided to quit after calculating the cost. Of course, they can always ask for help from their parents. However, differences in living style and children upbringing philosophy force them to double think about such options.

It was particularly interesting that Wan Dan was not close to this dorm mate at all during their college years. Both of them were high achievers and were too busy with their goals, thus lacks of interactions with each other. But now they are more appreciative of each other. "No one understand what you are going through as a housewife. Acquaintances will think that you are enjoying a care-free life; Close friends might feel sorry for you for not able to do what you are trained to do. But eventually, nobody cares about your daily ups and downs, perhaps not even your husband."  

Anxiety and Emptiness

After one year of staying at home, Wan Dan's anxiety reaches the peak. As a highly-educated person, she can't bare to spend all her time dolling up and waiting for her husband to come back from home. She has learnt flower arrangements, obtained a barista license, practices yoga every two days and even adopted a dog. Just walking the dog alone will take 2 hours of her time everyday. Yet, she still fell lonely. She will chose to walk to the wet market 20 minutes away to get her daily needs instead of the store nearby, so that she can talk and bargain with the sellers there.

Such loneliness is totally different from what she faced when writing her thesis alone in the icy and chilly Canada. "You have hopes and dreams during that time. You never thought of spending your life cooking and washing when you are 32."

"Life breezes through when I was working. Time flies. Now, it feels like the day never ends." Wan Dan thinks that she is experiencing such emptiness because there is nothing for her to look forward to. She used to gain satisfaction from small things like an additional day off, a lazy afternoon or an end to a project. Now, she has nothing. Her husband had earned a pay raise, they have upgraded their car since then. Since they agreed not to have children before they got married, she have nothing related to childcare to worry about. They went for a trip in Maldives, but her worn-out husband preferred to spend his holiday sleeping then sight-seeing. New dishes does not generate the same excitement from her husband as it used to be. He started taking her for granted.

Wan Dan's dorm mate thinks that not everyone is suitable to be a full time housewife, just like not everyone is cut out to be a career woman. She planned to return to work once her son enters kindergarten. Wan Dan is not so sure about returning to workforce. Although she was bought up believing that having her own income and career is important in building her self-worth, and she has her fair share of unhappiness over her current status, she is not that sure whether she is really meant for throat-cutting soul-eating working life. She had fallen in love with her current way of life and paying her full attention to her family. But is this all it is going to be for a housewife?

There are a lot of similar women in Wan Dan's situation. You can see them in the gym, shopping mall, coffee shop, spending their time wandering by themselves or with their children when they are suppose to be in the office. Some are comfortable with their current situation, others are depressed, while some - like Wan Dan - are anxious.

Wan Dan tries to envision housewife as a career. " Like a career, you will have ups and downs, bottlenecks and breakthroughs." She is probably facing a bottleneck in her career as her housewife now. However, where's and what's the breakthrough? Is bearing a child the only solution?

Wan Dan watched "Desperate Housewives" twice. Despite all the challenges faced by the women in Fairview, at least they are comfortable with their social status. Wan Dan not sure whether she is the only one feeling lost with the idea of being housewives, or it is just that the society in China is not ready to accept their existence?

"My mother generations, as long as you are educated, you are brought up believing men and women are equal and will contribute to work and society equally - very few women will voluntarily give up their place in either work or society."

"In our generations, we never learnt how to be a housewife or take care of the family. We might be great in school or work, but we are clueless on how to manage a family. There is still a great deal to learn before we can live our life as a housewife to the fullest."

To be continue....

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Alkaff Mansion Wedding Fair 2013

I have been looking forward to Alkaff Mansion Wedding Fair, as the it seems to have all we want. Food reviews are good, unique colonial style bungalow, and a quiet venue located in the middle of Telok Blangah park. However, after visiting the actual place, I am not that convinced. Perhaps my expectation was too high.

Flight of stairs leading to Alkaff Mansion

Walking up a flight of stairs (Point to Note: the stairs are steep), one will face the main building. I didn't manage to take the photo, here's the photo from their website. Pretty amazing, isn't it?

Alkaff Mansion's main buidling. Photos from Alkaff Mansion Website

The entrance is tastefully decorated with the used of antique-looking chairs and table. It is used as the restaurant reception area.

Alkaff Mansion main entrance

Walking through the main door will bring you to the ground floor dining room, which seats 60 pax. The second level dining room is accessible through the staircases on both side before entering the building. The ground floor and the second floor is essentially separated in this sense. Ideal if you are just planning  to utilize either one of them.

I personally don't recommend using the ground floor dining room for celebration. There is a huge glass display in the centre of the dining room that will essentially block the view and interactions for most guests.

Ground level dining room

The second level holds a bar and a dining room. The bar is one of my favourite spot of the whole building. It is very cosy with lots of sunlight coming in from the windows. A small solemnization can be done here for around 20-30 guests. It also makes a perfect setting for pre-event cocktail reception.
The bar at the second level

The bar has a full view of the garden and the gazebo. This is the picture you want your photographer to take if you are having a garden solemnization in Alkaff Mansion. 

The 2nd level dining room is adjacent to the bar. You can see the relative layout of the staircase, the bar and the dining in the picture below. 

The layout of second level dining room is not very ideal, but is better than the first floor. As you can see from the picture below, there is a square opening at the middle so it create a sense of separation. However, since the view is not block, it is not as disrupted as the first floor.

The main draw back for this dining room is the partition of 2 private dining room at both sides of the floor. Although glass is used to minimize the disruption, but the fact that the panel is not movable or removable will still creates a barrier among the guests.   
Picture shot from the entrance of the 2nd level dining room. A private dining room is partitioned away at the far end. A similar room can be found at the right hand side of this picture. 

2nd level dining room from another angle, here showing another dining partition. 
Here's a video that probably can give you a better idea of the whole layout. The second level can fit 100 pax including the 2 separate partition. Probably knowing their own limitation for events, Alkaff mansion has a permanent marquee at its courtyard, which is where the main wedding fair is being held this time round.

Outside the main building is the garden gazebo, which you will probably passed by before entering the building. The gazebo can be used for garden solemnization. Few chairs were laid out to give an idea of a solemnization set up. As you can see from the pictures, it is NOT a good idea to have your solemnization between 10am-5pm. You guests will be baked directly under the sun!

Between the main building gazebo is the terrace, which double up as a bar and probably a cocktail reception area for garden solemnization. It has the much needed shelter for Singapore's rain and sun.

The courtyard and the grand marquee is after the terrace. This is a shot of it. Yes, it is located a level below the terrace and the building, thus more stairs!

The grand marquee at Alkaff Mansion
This is the view of the stairs from the courtyard/marquee level. You can see the tip of the mansion from here.

Staircase connecting the main building and the courtyard.
One thing that irks me about Alkaff Mansion is the feeling of "tentage everywhere". To be fair, there's only 3 addition of tentage: one at the right side of the building, which is partially hidden from sight and used as backup venue for solemnization; one at the left, which is the shelter for the bar; and the last one is the wedding tent that located at the courtyard, which is situated at a lower level away from the main building. 

They are probably a necessity given Singapore's unpredictable raining pattern. But the modern tentage takes away the rustic colonial and spacious feel that makes Alkaff Mansion grand.    

Various tentage on Alkaff Mansion ground

Inside the marquee were some display of vendor's services. Here are some table setting that was setup.

Optional table setting

They also have wedding cakes on display, which is rare in Singapore!
Cakes by The Delight Heaven

And since the theme of the day is Wedding Tea Party, the food station is decorated with various Alice in The Wonderland props. They are so cute. Hope I can get my hand on it. :P

Props by Celebrate Heaven

The food was very good. But as it is a buffet style, I can't get a proper pictures of them.  The penne in truffle porcini mushroom sauce is one of the best we have eaten, and we have been to Italy to eat them. The wine that came with the package is by il Meridiane from Sicily. It was smooth and easy to drink. And frankly, I have not tasted a bad Italian wine before.

Food and wine
The highlight of the show is definitely the bridal fashion show by The Atelier. I have been quite looking forward to this fashion show since I am considering buying a dress. The Atelier is one of the wedding boutique in Singapore that bring in designer wedding dress. Dresses showcased on that day includes collection from Marchesa, Carolina Herrera, Legends by Romona Keveza, Amsale and Alyne by RIVINI. Here are some of my personal favourites.

Left: Alyne by RIVINI. Right: Legends by Romona Keveza

There are some hits and some misses for both designs and quality. Designers and overseas labels does not automatically equals to quality. It is important to see and feel the dress for yourselves. The dress at The Atelier ranges from $3000-$13,000.

The food is good (rank high in my list of Italian food). However, the mansion layout is not very optimal for wedding. While having a celebration at the grand marquee is possible, it does not have the charm of a historical builidng, which sort of defeat the purpose of having a wedding at Alkaff Mansion.