UAE: Wedding planners hope for an industry revival this season
As this year's wedding season will begin in November, planners and vendors say enquiries and bookings started coming in for the season
As global lockdowns last year forced couples to put their weddings on hold, downsize to intimate ceremonies or get hitched on Zoom, wedding planners and vendors in the UAE are hopeful of an industry revival this year.
While the summer months are least preferred for weddings in the UAE either way, planners say enquiries and bookings are coming in for the latter half of 2021 or early 2022. Planners, who enjoyed an average of 15 weddings during peak season, are now doing two to three at most.
Currently, attendance for weddings in Dubai is capped at 100 guests and staff who are fully vaccinated. In the capital city, no more than ten guests are allowed to attend wedding ceremonies. In Sharjah, 20 guests are permitted at weddings and celebrations in Ajman are limited to 150 people. Authorities asked wedding venues in Ras Al Khaimah to reduce capacity from 50 to 30 per cent. Live entertainment and dancing are generally discouraged or not allowed.
“Mass vaccination campaigns would’ve ideally meant revival; however, people continue to be hesitant,” said Stefanie Heller, the founder of Jam Wedding Planners. Heller, a veteran in the wedding planning industry, founded her company 12 years ago as an artist and event management firm.
However, over the last six years, Heller and her team have been focusing only on weddings. “We also work on entertainment and corporate events. However, the last year and a half have been extremely challenging,” she said.
“People are hesitant to organise weddings. There’s no dancing allowed, the mandatory use of masks, and the limitation of numbers of guests are still discouraging couples from holding wedding ceremonies,” Heller added. “There were no weddings in June, and we’re looking at two in July and four in August. Pre-pandemic, we had at least triple or four times these numbers.”
The peak wedding season in the UAE is from November to March. The demand for outdoor and indoor venues during these months is usually booked to capacity. “Couples of all nationalities look at these as favourable months. A lot of Europeans look at getting married starting mid-October to mid–April. Last year, from October until the New Year, we did some weddings, even though the restrictions were in place,” Heller revealed.
However, couples are still hesitant to hold big-fat weddings. Punit Lalwani, a wedding emcee, said: “Pre-pandemic, the dance floor was open to all and guests were permitted to dance. However, due to Covid, dancing at weddings is strictly prohibited. No one comes to an Indian wedding only to enjoy a buffet and to offer their wishes,” he added.
Demand among Emirati and Arab families are, however, still relatively better, said Melon Perez, a wedding photographer who co-owns MelRish Studio. “We are doing some Emirati weddings. For expatriates, enquiries and bookings are coming in the latter half of the year, especially during the winter months, and early 2022,” said Perez, adding that couples are also requesting an entire refund clause be added into their contracts if any government-imposed restrictions are introduced.
While intimate, smaller weddings might be the new normal, planners said the budgets do not change. “It still costs an average of Dh50,000 for a small-scale intimate wedding with 50 guests,” said Heller. “For something bigger, budgets could go into anything between Dh70,000 and Dh250,000,” she added.
Heena Khan and Vasim Sheikh, VCraft Events and Entertainment owners, are a husband-and-wife duo who’ve been planning events since their childhood. “The key to staying alive is to keep minimal staff. In our case, we’ve been hiring students and interns to run our weddings,” said Khan. Minimalist themes are the most happening trend for weddings at the moment, she explained. “There is very little demand for destination weddings,” she added.
Meanwhile, Shamoon Bhalli, an Indian expatriate who got married on June 12 at the Atlantis, Palm Jumeirah, said: “Due to the limited capacity, I couldn’t invite most of my friends and family members as only vaccinated individuals were allowed.”
Syed Mohammed Rahil SM, a sales engineer at Rolman World, said: “I had plans to get married on July 17 in my hometown of Bhatkal, Karnataka. Due to the ongoing uncertainty in flight suspensions, we decided to pre-pone our wedding and have it here.”
“The Nikah was on June 18. It is also recommended in Islam not to delay Nikah. Our guest list was minimal as we did not want to disturb our neighbours.”
— With inputs from Ayaz
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