x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Demand for extravagance loosens budgets for expat UAE weddings

Take our poll: The cost of tying the knot in the UAE has doubled over the past year to an average of Dh200,000, as demand surges for extravagant weddings across the country.

Arab expat couples are spending an average of Dh200,000 for their wedding day, from Dh100,000 a year ago. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Arab expat couples are spending an average of Dh200,000 for their wedding day, from Dh100,000 a year ago. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

The price of tying the knot in the UAE has doubled over the past year as demand surges for extravagant weddings across the country.

Arab expat couples are spending an average of Dh200,000 (US$54,452) for their wedding day, from Dh100,000 a year ago, as they splurge more money on wedding invitations, centrepieces and flowers to decorate their love couch.

“Around this time last year, clients were quite price sensitive,” said Sandra Faris, the managing director at The Wedding Factory in Dubai. “Their budget was tight and any simple koasha [translated from Arabic to love couch], with plastic flowers on the backdrop would do the job. “Now they want more and real flowers, which makes it more expensive, starting at Dh40,000 and upwards.”

The annual Bride Show begins today, with 12,000 visitors expected to visit the event in Abu Dhabi and view the latest wedding paraphernalia.

Prospective brides will be able to discuss with exhibitors their long to-do lists, from venues to photography, honeymoon destinations and table settings.

A recent surge in tourists to the UAE who traditionally visited places such as Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere in the region has helped to boost earnings at hotels, which remain busy catering for weddings.

“December was extremely busy for us,” said Jasmine Arika, the director of marketing at Beach Rotana in Abu Dhabi. “We had close to three weddings a week. What also helped is that we have two ballrooms to host a male only and female only wedding at the same time.” The average for last year was 1.5 weddings a week. The 0.5 accounts for female-only weddings.

Rami De Marchi, who works in Sydney, Australia, decided to have his wedding at Abu Dhabi’s Sofitel hotel to ensure most of his family and friends living in the Emirates could attend his big day.

“It was painful to coordinate – but I am very, very happy with the end result,” said Mr De Marchi, a private equity banker. “We tightly managed the Sofitel and to their credit gave us an experience beyond my highest expectations.”

But not all are looking to spend. A rising number of younger couples are becoming budget-conscious, paying from their own pockets, to ensure families do not interfere with their wedding decisions, said Mennat Al Hammami, the founder of Cloud Nine Weddings & Events in Abu Dhabi.

“For many of these couples, it’s their first or second job. They come to me and say, ‘our budget is X and we are looking to have a small wedding, 150-200 guests’,” she said.

“They have realised that they don’t need to spend so much to get the best decor. There’s a lot of ‘do-it-yourself’ like printing your own menus, organising your own flowers. There are ways to go around it.”

halsayegh@thenational.ae