How did you get into planning weddings?
I was lucky enough to travel a lot when I was young. My parents were expats and we went all over the world, which meant I was able to meet people of all nationalities and get a taste of international design and creativity. After school, I studied business and engineering and was a telecom engineer for 10 years, but then felt it was time for a big change. I’d always wanted to be in the creative field, so I also did a course in flower arrangement in Paris 11 years ago. I’m a qualified master florist. I began doing flowers at five-star hotels and then for a lot of weddings.
How long have you been in Dubai?
I came to Dubai nine years ago – a wedding brought me here. I loved the energy and vibe of the city and decided to set up shop here. I started off doing flowers for hotels, then moved on to planning and organising weddings. I have been designing and planning weddings in the UAE and beyond for five years.
Your weddings are pretty spectacular...
I did a Mission Impossible-themed wedding for 350 guests at Armani Hotel Dubai. A life-size Bugatti covered in candies and special musicians and performers were the highlights of this event. We also did one for 1,700 guests at Dubai World Trade Centre. Hundreds of amber candles and blush-coloured flowers were used to decorate the hall. Yes. I’m lucky to do lots of big weddings. I have 40 people working for me in Dubai. I’ve also worked in Saudi Arabia, Doha and Oman, and last year, I did the wedding of the Malaysian Prime Minister’s daughter for 4,500 people.
What makes your weddings so special?
I’ve introduced a lot of processes and technology into their design such as video-mapping, using projectors. I also really pay attention to whatever the bride loves and try to do a story around that. We aim to turn each wedding into a fairy tale, an experience.
The most important element is revealing the bride – the moment when she enters the room. That’s especially true here and that’s where we need to be creative. I’ve used seven-metre-high screens showing a four-minute video to introduce one bride and had 20 dancers performing as another appeared on a revolving stage. One time we had the bride rising from under the floor – nothing is impossible.
Does the bride typically drive the planning?
I do involve the bride in every step, but a lot depends on the nationality – every culture has its own characteristics and there are many differences. Emirati weddings, for example, have separate ceremonies, so for the bride, it will be a ladies-only affair with between 600 and a few thousand people, as well as the groom.
How many weddings do you do annually?
We do around 200 events a year. It can take between one month and up to a year to plan a wedding. It depends on the client and how they want their wedding day to be. As for the budget, it’s private.
How many staff cater for a large wedding?
A lot depends on the food. If it’s a buffet, you will have maybe 100 waiters; if it’s a silver service, you will have one waiter per four guests, so 250 waiters. For a five-course meal, like one I had last year for 1,000 ladies, there were 600 waiters.
Name a wedding you worked on that you are particularly proud of.
I created an Imaginarium Garden of Van Cleef [the French jewellery company] – a 360-degree space, which transported the guests to a wonderland of decadence and romance – for a member of a royal family in the region.
What do you find romantic?
I love jewellery, dresses and flowers. The flowers I like right now include peonies, David Austin and baby roses, moth orchids and hydrangeas.
Does a beautiful event cost a fortune?
No. Beauty does not mean money, it comes from the design and scenery. You can have a room with 500 candles and it will look wonderful, and the candles won’t cost you that much. The same room filled with flowers will be wonderful, too. It’s just a different kind of wonderful, and it will cost a fortune in comparison.
Where are people heading on honeymoons these days?
It depends a lot on the family, but usually people do long trips of one to two months. We can organise the honeymoon too. They might go to the US, Tahiti and Asia, or if it’s winter, they might go skiing.
Finally, is the worst part of a big wedding cleaning up afterwards?
There is no mess, but it’s a huge set-up so we have a team to dismantle it. There’s no hassle because we are well organised. When you’ve worked so hard to get the design right, you are happy when you deliver, and when you can see that the family is really happy, that’s a good moment too. But just after the wedding, you need a few days off to recover.