Weddings ring up 20% growth in the UAE



The wedding industry grew 20 per cent last year making it one of the fastest growing  in the UAE’s thriving leisure and tourism sector – according to the Bride Show Dubai.

Other statistics, compiled by Doha-based International Wedding Exhibition, also shows that Qatar wedding business experienced annual growth of 25 per cent from 2006 to 2007.

The Bride Show, which begins in Dubai on Wednesday, marks the start of the wedding season in the GCC – estimated to be worth billions, with Qatari residents alone spending about $500 million (Dh1.8 billion) on their grand nuptials in 2007.

But while the market for UAE national weddings remains stable, demand from expatriates is soaring.

The cost of tying the knot can be anything from Dh20,000 for a small expat union to Dh500m for the most extravagant Emirati nuptials. But according to IIR – the Bride Show event organisers – the average cost is Dh300,000.

It is estimated that couples in the Middle East spend the highest amount per head on weddings anywhere in the world, with the average cost in the United Kingdom being just  £18,000 (Dh135,000) and in the United States $30,000 (Dh110,00).

As the wedding market continues to boom, specialist venues in Dubai are in turn reporting huge growth.

The Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) is the country’s most popular location, hosting an average of 25 receptions each month, although that figure peaked last July when it held 66 weddings. Najah Al Mulla, the wedding sales manager at DWTC believes it is the vast range of options the venue offers that makes it so appealing to everyone from expats to royalty.

“We have a wide range of services and customised value additions based on individual guest choices and specifications. We are flexible with guest requests and try to create a remarkable experience,” she says.

“There are various colour schemes and themes, service designs, state-of-the-art equipment, cutlery, crockery and linen to suit all our guests’ tastes and plans for the event.”
When it comes to the cost of the wedding, each one is different due to individual needs, but while menus at the DWTC usually start from Dh145 per head, couples who chose to have their reception at a five-star hotel should expect to pay upwards of Dh250 per head just for dinner. Sarah Feyling, Managing Director of the ME Wedding Network, recently held a wedding for 80 guests, which cost Dh350,000, but she says the average expat tends to spend between
Dh170,000 and Dh200,000.

Besides the DWTC, the city’s five-star hotels also host a large proportion of weddings, whether there are two or 1,000 guests.

The Habtoor Grand Hotel at Dubai Marina has seen its wedding business flourish  since it opened two-and-a-half years ago, and now hosts events each month.

Couples pay from Dh350 per person for a wedding package for 50 to 1,000 people, which includes food, cake, limousine service from the church, a one night stay for the bride and groom and  ballroom decoration.

Mai Noureldeen, event sales manager at the hotel, says each wedding is different according to the nationality of the couple.

“Europeans like to get married in March or April, Arabs in the summer so they can go to Europe for their honeymoon and Indians all-year-round,” she says. “But destination weddings are becoming more popular with the couple and their families staying for a whole week and having their annual holiday at the same time.”

Dubai is also becoming a hit with couples living overseas who want to get married in a city famed for its climate and stunning beaches.

What many do not bargain for, however, are the country’s strict rules regarding where the ceremony can take place.

Wedding Planner Feyling says: “Many coming here specifically to get married want a civil wedding, but some nationalities have to get married in a church, which can put people off if they want a beach wedding. Some then decide to have the ceremony in a registry office at home and come here for the main event, which can include a blessing.”

Feyling takes care of everything and charges a flat fee of Dh20,000, or Dh16,000 for destination wedding couples who want a wedding for between two and 20 people.

She has arranged hundreds of weddings for people from all backgrounds and for every budget. One couple decided to have a truly private day with no guests, but wanted a helicopter to take them from church to Burj Al Arab. Although this was a challenge, Feyling says the beauty of Dubai is that people can have their dreams come true.

“It is a growing industry in the UAE and, at the moment, almost anything is possible,” she adds.


The numbers


Dh300,000: the cost of an average wedding in the Emirates


25: Receptions are held at the DWTC every month – Dubai’s most popular wedding location


Bride show dubai

The Bride Show Dubai, being held at the Dubai Convention Centre, opens its doors on Wednesday and expects 300,000 visitors. There are more than 400 stalls offering everything from wedding venues to cakes and jewellery.

Now in its 11th year, the exhibition, which is organised by event company IIR, is the biggest in the region.

Exhibition Manager Daphne Cota says: “The show attracts a large number of brides-to-be, as well as women who enjoy fashion, beauty and jewellery because it is a one-stop show for products and services.”