The first wedding season of the new year is under way, running from now until March. The bridal gowns, floral decorations and catering for impending winter weddings will be influenced by the flora and fauna of the season. The same will be true of 2017’s second major wedding period, between July and the end of September.
Last month in Dubai, concierge company Quintessentially launched a one-stop-shop wedding atelier to steer couples through the entire wedding process – from the engagement party to honeymoon. They have come up with a curated list of suppliers, vendors and luxury brands for brides and grooms, streamlining the overwhelming number of fashion, flower, food and venue options.
The wedding showcase was held at the St Regis in Dubai, featuring 30 high-end exhibitors and attracting more than 700 visitors over two days.
“As a company we started doing ‘everything for everybody’ and this is just the latest division of it,” says Quintessentially’s managing director, James Lord. “Over the past 20 years we’ve seen budgets steadily increasing, and I don’t see that coming to an end in 2017. Everyone still gets married and people want to outdo each other. The rich, and a lot of the very wealthy people that we deal with, are spending considerable amounts.”
UAE couples seeking Lord’s expert advice spend on average Dh2.26 million on a wedding for 300 to 500 guests. It is also not uncommon for some families to earmark a budget of seven figures that reflects Lord’s top picks for the current wedding season, including a fleet of Bentley cars, priceless Burmese ruby and diamond suites from Sama by Damas, and regal wedding invitation boxes by ER Stationary that contain fresh flowers, perfume and crystal ornaments.
“People want something very different,” says Lord. “A wedding caricaturist, a swing covered in flowers or a harpist playing inside a Perspex bubble, for example. Some might say all that’s bonkers but it just hasn’t been seen before. For Dubai, the table decorations can’t have enough bling, and dance floors are sparkly and over-the-top.”
With brides often spending between 10-20 per cent of the wedding budget on their gown, couture dresses are a popular choice for the super-rich. To save time on follow-up consultations and fittings ahead of the big day, however, designer off-the-peg numbers are favoured by many.
“The trend for dresses this season is a lot of fine embroidery,” says Lord. “You’ll find it with designers like Suzanne Neville and Esposa boutique. I see the trend continuing for the next 12 months at least.”
Another label available within Quintessentially’s Wedding Atelier is Marchesa, which has designed a capsule collection of four bridal gowns in collaboration with St Regis Hotels and Resorts. Inspired by the cities of New York, Mumbai, Punta Mita in Mexico and Dubai, brides who purchase one of the creations will be treated to a fitting in Marchesa’s United States’ showroom with one or both of the maison’s co-founders, Keren Craig and Georgina Chapman.
The duo’s Dubai gown emulates the glamour and vibrancy of its namesake city in a slim silhouetted, floor-sweeping silk duchess satin design with a fishtail skirt. The upper half of the dress is elaborately covered in clear crystals and pearl beading, accented by intricate threadwork.
With the dress in hand, shoes are equally integral to a bride’s overall look. With this in mind, Jimmy Choo is offering a bespoke service this season, allowing ladies to choose the fabric of their bridal shoes along with the heel height and style of sandal or pump. A finishing touch is the addition of the couple’s wedding date, initials or message of love in gold letters on the sole of the shoes.
For fashion-forward brides, a current trend is to opt for brightly coloured shoes that can be matched to the wedding’s floral displays and even favours. A shade that popped on many exhibitor stands at Quintessentially’s Wedding Atelier this winter was purple.
Patchi featured chocolates hand-wrapped in mauve paper, embellished with ribbons and crystals while luxury flower suppliers showcased opulent, lilac coloured hydrangeas and violet Calla lilies.
“Purple and lavender are everywhere this season,” says Patrick Van Hesselingen, manager of premier clients at the florist Contempo.
“We’ve also gone back to the original source, using lots of natural greens and definitely no dyed flowers.
Arrangements aren’t overly styled, yet are still elegant. And personally, I’m over crystals and pearls. They were ‘so 2008’, and now it’s all about purity and nature.”
Developing unique concepts for VIP clients and weddings averaging 100 people, Van Hesselingen often has a budget of Dh200,000 to play with. Some couples request floral “wonderlands” with petals strewn on the floor and flowers hanging from the ceiling, while others favour 10 metre-high stone fountains festooned with exotic blooms.
“The most extravagant flower would be the black orchid,” says Van Hesselingen. “Per stem they cost Dh300-Dh400 and here in the UAE, there aren’t that many in the market.
“The most economical flowers would probably be chrysanthemums, roses and hydrangeas and many clients want to spend about Dh7,000-Dh8,000 for the atrium area and table displays. But the sky is the limit and we’re very careful to never copy a previous wedding’s design.”
With so many elements requiring approval by couples before they tie-the-knot, a long run-up to the wedding is preferred by planners.
“Six months notice would be ideal to guarantee the highest standards possible and ensure that the best suppliers are available,” says Lord, “That said, arranging a wedding for 100 people in a week? Oh, easily – nothing is impossible.”
What: Bride Abu Dhabi
When: January 25-28
Where: Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, Halls 7, 8 & 9
What: Hundreds of bridal-gown designers, florists, beauty brands, hotels and tourism companies will gather under one roof, offering daily catwalk shows, make-up and hair demonstrations, and more. An Arabic fashion section will feature abayas, jalabiyas and modest-wear wedding outfits. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door. Prices range from Dh20-125.
What: Bride Dubai
When: February 15-18
Where: Dubai World Trade Centre, Zabeel Halls 4, 5 & 6
What: A showcase of the seasonal offerings from the region’s leading bridal-gown couturiers and abaya designers. There will be runway shows featuring western and Arabic fashion, plus beauty presentations and styling workshops. Events companies, hotels and party planners will also be on hand to advise couples about venues, flowers and photography. Ticket details will be released in the coming weeks.
Other bridal services:
Abu Dhabi wedding concierge company Aghareed provides every couple with a dedicated “bridesmate” to help plan the details of their big day. Services range from proposal suggestions and budget planning to furniture rental and tuxedo hire.
The team recommends avoiding the months from June to September for marriages in the UAE due to the high temperatures. October to April are considered optimal months.
Other top tips include ordering or purchasing a wedding gown six months to a year in advance, plus allocating at least one hour for professional photographs on the actual day.
• Olivier Dolz
Wedding and events business Olivier Dolz is used to handling extremely large guest lists. The UAE company’s clients include royals, celebrities and VIPs from the region and further afield. Weddings have included a “Cave of Wonders” experience for 600 guests in the Al Bustan Palace in Oman, a “Gold Crown”-themed event at Adnec in Abu Dhabi for 700 guests and a regal “Queen’s night” for 1,700 at Dubai World Trade Centre. The firm also offers a prestige service and is skilled at organising destination weddings in locations from Mauritius to the French Riviera.
Of the services his company provides, Frenchman Dolz says that “dreams do come true – great design does not have a price tag, and planning an event must be full of passion and fun”.