Alarmed by how expensive weddings are in Dubai these days? Our experts reveal how to save yourself a fortune, whether your big day is now or in the future
One of the most common problems brides and grooms-to-be come up against is that the price for venues, flowers, photographers, caterers and the rest seems to double as soon as the word ‘wedding’ escapes their lips. While no figures are available for Dubai yet, the average wedding in the US is said to now cost around Dhs73,500 and up to Dhs122,000 in the UK. One key trick for saving money as a result is to try and avoid using the ‘W’ word as much as possible, but how else can you save cash without sacrificing any part of such a special occasion? As the Bride Dubai show rolls back into town, selling all things weddings, we tap into the knowledge of those in the city who are experts in the art of making people’s big days the very best.
Ditch the sit-down dinner Forget catering a three-course (or more!) meal for a cast of thousands. Instead, get creative with your options. You could treat your guests to something far more unique and vastly more interesting by hiring a food truck. Dubai’s newest incarnation of this popular global trend is Ghaf Kitchen (From Dhs3,000, www.ghafkitchen.com, 04 443 0355), a Citroën H Van serving a range of different menus to suit a variety of occasions. The team can whip up anything – from cool canapés to barbecue fare to sit-down dinners, with dishes created by Chef Adrian Bandyk. We love the look of the truck’s beautifully simple signature menu – a Ghaf prawn cocktail starter and posh fish finger sandwich with mushy peas and tartare sauce for main, rounded off with an Eton mess for dessert.
‘If you’re getting married in the afternoon, opt for afternoon tea,’ says Joelle Clute, founder of Dubai-based blog My Lovely Wedding. ‘From experience, traditional sandwiches and a few scones cost much less than standard canapés,’ she adds, noting that many local golf clubs have venues that are just as good as the big hotels, and can offer a very reasonable (or sometimes non-existent) minimum food and beverage spend.
Swap the traditional cake That classic three-or-more-tiered cake may be tradition, but it’s also adding hundreds (if not thousands) of dirhams to the cost of your big day. ‘Save on the wedding cake by baking your own cupcakes or brownies, which you can arrange over three tiers,’ suggests Jalel Ghayaza of gourmet Dubai confectioners Delice Confectionery.
Work with the venue Getting married in one of the city’s magnificent hotels can come with a hefty price tag, but if you want to serve adult beverages to your guests, there aren’t many cheaper options. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help lower the cost. ‘Pick an unusual day or season and save loads of money – some wedding venues adjust their pricing when it’s low season, and if you have no cultural or superstitious beliefs, you might want to consider taking advantage of this,’ suggests Danelle Palang of Dubai’s Dusit Thani hotel. She also suggests checking out a hotel’s full wedding packages rather than just tapping them up for the venue: ‘Packages are always cheaper, and mostly come with a honeymoon package and everything for the wedding, right to the tiniest detail.’
The location you choose within the hotel will also dramatically affect the price – Danelle suggests holding an intimate wedding in a restaurant, which can work out far more affordable than taking over a ballroom or two. In addition, Julie of MyList.ae suggests choosing a location that requires no decoration, such as a lawn, while Joelle of My Lovely Wedding recommends tapping up the golf clubs again – specifically Arabian Ranches Golf Club, which she describes as a ‘fab venue’ with a minimum spend far lower than most hotels in the city.
Don’t get a designer dress ‘Before spending loads of money on a designer or brand name, visit a tailor that has come to your attention from a trustworthy source and have a look at their previous work,’ suggests Mennat Al Hammami of Dubai wedding organisers Cloud Nine. ‘Make sure the designer is someone you are comfortable working with, can deliver the dress on time and is available to make last-minute alterations,’ she adds. When getting a dress made, Joelle has another tip to bear in mind: ‘Opt for a dress with less fabric as something simple and slinky is going to cost you a lot less than a princess gown – just think of all that fabric.’
These days, it’s not uncommon for bridesmaids to pay for their own dresses, but many people are reluctant to lumber their friends with huge costs for their own big day. ‘To make it easier on your bridesmaids, have them dress in a similar colour tone and unify their look by making them all wear the same ribbon waist belt,’ suggests Mennat. ‘Alternatively you can apply the same idea using other accessories, such as a fascinator, headband or a headpiece, which is very in right now.’
Keep it simple with the suit Morning suits aren’t essential for the groom and groomsmen – and in a climate like Dubai, all those layers and extra fabric are just going to make the wearers uncomfortable. ‘Invest in a suit you can wear after,’ suggests menswear designer Franklin Eugene, ‘Spending a huge amount of money on a suit you’ll never wear again seems like a bit of a waste.’ Meanwhile, Rahma Himid of media relations and event management company Grace & Garbo suggests funking things up a bit to inject more of your own personality and keep costs in check; ‘Swapping your smart leather Italian shoes for funky Converse trainers could save you a few dirhams too, and your wedding photos will look awesome.’
Get friendly with your florist Flowers are never going to be cheap, but there are a number of ways to make sure you still have a bouquet without breaking the bank. ‘Ask your florist for the flowers of the season – they will be cheaper than ordering those that are out of season in this region,’ suggests Khaled Al Assaf of Majesty Event Services. ‘Also ask them to reuse the floral arrangements from the wedding ceremony for the reception set-up,’ he adds. In settings where the flowers may not be seen up-close by guests, Khaled suggests using a mix of natural and fake flowers. Individual flower centrepieces for tables can cost up to a whopping Dhs700 each – but they’re not essential, so get creative and make your arrangements more unique or representative of your tastes as a couple. ‘Use tin cans or jam jars, and spray paint them to make your centrepieces – you can also decorate them with colourful ribbons according to the theme,’ suggests Joelle.
Be inventive with your invitations While reducing the number of people you invite to your wedding is a sure-fire way to save bags of cash on all fronts, including invitations, what if you’ve already cut out as many people as possible? Firstly, print your invitations in one language instead of two, says Louma Bardawil of invitations design and printing company Design by Louma, ‘You’ll save 50 percent of the final printing and design costs,’ she explains. ‘Ask your invitations designer for readymade envelopes, rather than making new ones – often the envelopes cost more than the cards because they require more paper and labour.’ Alternatively, tap up designer or creative friends and ask them to help put together your invitations, which you can print and send yourself, or send by email to all your invitees – instantly saving on printing costs.
Ensure you Pick your photographer carefully Instead of booking an agency or individual with the best looking website or flashiest studio, do your research. ‘Firstly, haggle yourself a deal – lots of photographers in Dubai offer really good packages, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Secondly, over the past year there have been lots of new startup companies and freelancers on the Dubai wedding scene, so it’s a good idea to shop around,’ says Joelle. Another thing to bear in mind is the time of day, says Kashif Jasoob of Dubai photography company Light House Studio, ‘Have your wedding shoot done during the day – you’ll reduce the expense for lighting’, while he also suggests placing disposable cameras on each table to allow guests to shoot themselves and you.
Taking place from Wednesday April 2 to Saturday 5, the return of this annual wedding show sees 350 exhibitors set up at Dubai World Trade Centre to offer solutions for every aspect of your big day. From dressmakers to venues, florists to photographers, planners to jewellers, the organisers have thought of absolutely everything – there are even daily catwalk shows and demonstrations to help you navigate the overwhelming array of choice. Register for your free ticket by visiting the website. Wed-Thu 2.30pm-10.30pm, Fri 3pm-10.30pm, Sat 2.30pm-10.30pm. Exhibition centre, Dubai World Trade Centre, www.thebrideshow.com.
Win spends for Bride Dubai! We have VIP passes for Bride Dubai (access to front row seats for all fashion shows plus the Diva Lounge) plus goodie bags worth Dhs800 to give away to five lucky readers. click here your chance to win, by noon on Tuesday April 1.