You are an expat in Dubai, you should really get married at home for your parents, you should really take advantage of being this side of the world and enjoy an exotic destination wedding, you should embrace the luxury that Dubai offers and get married here as the service won’t match anywhere else in the world. It’s a tricky one! The lovely thing is that there really is no right answer, and pros and cons to both. Really, you should do what is best for YOU. Managing Director at Thinkliquorice and www.meetmrsmarty.com (coming soon!), Zahira Marty got happily married here in Dubai last year, and tells us why Dubai wins for her, and tips for the big day:
Saying I do, in Dubai
Living in Dubai is full of exciting experiences. For me, the greatest of them all was meeting my now husband and starting our life as Mr and Mrs in the place we now call home. For many friends and couples we chat to, making that decision on where to tie the knot is a tough one – particularly if you have families across the world like we did. Here’s some advice having done the desert ‘I do’ and so incredibly happy that we chose Dubai.
I’m South African (a very proud one too) while my husband, Andrew, is Australian – a very passionate one (aren’t they all!) – which started our first big decision on where to get married. We considered a few things when deciding between our respective family home countries, and these were some of the things we considered before settling on Dubai.
- With any decision, our guests were going to need to travel. Travel on the Rand would be very cheap but lots of flying from Australia, on the Aussie Dollar a fair bit more expensive and still lots of travel – so the Dirham seemed like a middle ground.
- We wanted guests to have the option to make a holiday out of attending the wedding. Dubai was the perfect stopover location to allow them to fly on, and many of them did.
- Dubai is our home! And we wanted people coming to celebrate us to experience all the wonderful things about this city we both have grown to love.
So the planning had to begin.
Andrew is a racing camel vet so his season’s along with school holidays for both sides of our families, and the weather in Dubai were all key factors in our decision. In the end we didn’t quite tick all our boxes, as Andrew was mid racing season, but we settled on 25 March 2016 as the date – both countries on holiday, and generally good weather in Dubai – or so we thought!
The where was an easy choice for me, but to keep an open mind (and give my then fiancée the options he needed) we looked around at a few hotels in the city. Ultimately, we settled on what I consider to be my luxury home away from home – Fairmont The Palm. Hotels in Dubai vary greatly with cost and what they are willing to offer so if you starting off without preference do shop around. Keep in mind that some (One & Only Royal Mirage for example) will only allow bookings 3 months in advance of the wedding date – so that could make things quite stressful. Fairmont The Palm were a dream and I’d almost guarantee you won’t find a better wedding management team. There was another wedding on at the hotel the night we had ours – the staff managed everything so well that neither us nor them were overlapped at all.
- Who? (To bring on board and to invite)
Both Andrew and I had long invite lists but getting married away from home did help narrow down the list. Dubai weddings are not cheap, not matter how simple you want them to be, so think about who you want and need to have there. Early invite waves also help you gauge the numbers as most people decide in advance on whether they will travel or not.
The other side of ‘who’ is who to use to bring your magic day to life. Yes, there are great local suppliers for a lot of things but everything is a touch more pricey here in terms of wedding service providers (particularly fresh flowers) so if you have alternative resources then use them. We did a lot of our wedding ‘shop’ in Australia, online and most of our event day printing in South Africa. We had loads of people going back and forth so shipping wasn’t a factor to worry about but if nothing else – shop around, weigh up all the costs and factor in quality. There’s a lot of things you can’t get away from using locally so shop, ask and research for the best solutions. I had trips back and forth so getting most of my things outside of Dubai made sense – there’s no point eating into your wedding budget by paying for flights and crazy shipping costs.
- How? (Do you bring it all together)
Based purely on my job, I loved putting my wedding together, but I can see how it can be a daunting task. I recruited the help of one of my amazing team members in the final stretch and she took care of a lot of the things I couldn’t – bridal shower with my bridesmaids, setup on the day, and a lot of the behind the scenes action.
Wedding planners in this city are crazy expensive, however, each hotel has a dedicated wedding coordinator who can be used like a planner if you get a good one.
Check list upon check list is the key to making sure everything is considered, and with any local supplier (big or small) go into as many graphical details on your expectations as possible. They may say yes to everything but have a very different picture in their heads to yours.
Things to consider
- It may rain! (Yes, even though it’s Dubai!)
When we sat down to plan our date one of the hotel managers said ‘March – it never rains in March.’ It poured the entire week of our wedding except the wedding day, and about a week after. Have a rain plan for anything outdoors. We were just lucky!
- Choose reliable bridesmaids
Getting married in Dubai can make logistics and planning for your bridesmaids difficult if they’re from outside Dubai. My suggestion is to link them with someone here, other than yourself as the bride, to assist them do their jobs… and you get the day you’re after. Mine were from Australia, and South America with one bridesmaid Dubai based, and Felicity, (brand manager come wedding planner), was the perfect glue between them all.
- RSVP crucial with traveling guests
Bums in seats are crucial at any event but more so at a wedding – when every Dirham counts. Get your bridesmaid/mum/planner or recruit a friend to constantly chase up on RSVP’s. Rule of thumb with outside guests – count them when their flights are booked.
Send out the Save The Date well in advance, particularly if you’re going after a busy travel period, and set reminders at intervals between that and the invitation and wedding day to keep track of things.
- Choose your suppliers well!
I know I mentioned this before but choose your suppliers well. Go with suppliers that have good recommendations, are familiar with the venue and who prove to be efficient and punctual in the lead up (meetings responses etc). I burnt my fingers with one of mine and looking back should have gone with my gut!
Part of the excitement of getting engaged is certainly planning the wedding. My husband proposed on a surprised trip to New York City – an absolute dream come true!
I did what every girl does and started planning it all the minute the adrenaline settled – I was in Barnes and Noble buying my planner and clearing the shelves of wedding magazine. Looking back though, some of the best resources that helped me with ideas and decisions were tools we have at our disposal at no cost.
This was a heaven sent!! I pinned more ideas to boards than I can remember – everything from helping my bridemaids with ideas on the shower to florals and décor. If you’re engaged and not on Pinterest – Girl, get on board!
This seems like an obvious one but in all honestly between Pinterest and Instagram you don’t need anything else. The only step you need to take from here is maming sure you find the right accounts to follow, but that’s easily remedied with some good key words.
As mentioned above, I did a lot of my décor planning and buying by piecing together ideas and shopping for the individual items online. There are companies that will take care of this for you, but if you’re a little creative and hands on like me, here are a few sites and stops to help you:
This is a UK based site and has amazing little party favors, wedding novelty games and décor pieces. They ship quickly and are reliable.
Etsy was amazing for bridesmaid’s trinkets, wedding décor and novelty items. A lot fo the suppliers are US based so things take a while to ship and you will need a P.O Box.
Always a good idea for things you need (or don’t) a visit to Dragonmart will help you fill gaps or find the odds and ends that you will need – from straws to cake jars, or fans like I did for my outdoor ceremony.
I could talk about my wedding day forever – for me it was a magical day and I loved getting involved in all the nitty-gritty details of the planning. There are people who can help with any aspect of a wedding in Dubai and ultimately it comes down to your budget, and your personal style.
For Andrew and I, we wanted our wedding to be a celebration of our love, but also a celebration for those who were there to witness that with us. Our wedding was a week of fun with friends and family with everything from desert safari welcome dinners, to yacht party’s and golf days. We took our loved ones to our favorite dining spots and included parts of our different, yet individually important cultures in our union – and that’s something I am most grateful for.
Whatever you decide for your big day – do what makes you happy, and always keep in mind core values and purpose of your day of matrimony. The confetti gets swept away, the food will be eaten, but the love, understanding and celebration of each other is the only thing that matters in the long run.
Follow Zahira: https://www.instagram.com/zahirahv