When your squad is brimming with fabulous single ladies, you know it’s only a matter of time before someone puts a ring on it … and someone just did. We were so thrilled and excited for our lovely W when she broke the news of her engagement, and after a whirlwind couple of months, which included an intimate and rather hilarious bridal shower, she’s now a blissful Mrs.
This was my first Emirati wedding, and with the Bride being someone I hold quite dear, it made the experience all the more special. While I was away for the Henna night and Nikah ceremony, I made sure I was back in plenty of time for the Wedding Reception, which is traditionally held separately for the Men & Women. So the first question I had of course was, “What does one wear?”.
If you’re thinking dazzling and ornate designer gowns that look like they’ve just stepped off the red carpet, you’d be right. Thankfully, I had gotten prior intel on this, so the long & flowy, black, chiffon dress I had decided on befitted the occasion perfectly, even if halfway through the night, the diamante attached to my shoulder strap started losing its rhinestones 🤦♀️ I’ve never been so grateful for my long hair which just about managed to cover up my little wardrobe malfunction.
While most of the female guests arrived dressed in modest attire, upon entering the private sanctuary of the ballroom, Abayas & Shaylas were shed to reveal glamorously clad ladies looking resplendent in their lavish jewellery, flawlessly applied makeup and elegantly coiffed hair. It is quite an awe-inspiring sight to behold once you pass through those closely guarded doors and in some ways, kinda makes you feel like you’ve just been welcomed into one of the world’s most exclusive clubs.
Inside, we were greeted by a lively, celebratory atmosphere, with many guests already dancing up a storm to the Arabic music blasting from the speakers. I’ve come to learn that music and dancing especially are a big part of Middle Eastern weddings that can get very boisterous indeed.
The ballroom itself was beautifully decked out with thousands of fresh flowers that not only hung magnificently across the chandeliers, but also surrounded the catwalk-like stage on which the Bride would sit throughout the evening. It was all I could do not to snap a ton of pictures, which is a no-no at these weddings due to cultural sensitivities.
It is quite common for wedding invitations to state no phones & no pictures, which is completely understandable, as the women present are dressed to the nines sans their usual modest attire. So if you’re thinking of taking pictures with the Bride or any other guest for the purpose of sharing it to social media, think again – it’s totally unacceptable. If however you’d like to take pictures of the decorations or someone’s fancy shoes, just ask permission first (like I did) and be sure that no one else is in them, because the last thing you want to do is cause an upset.
Emirati weddings can last well into the night, but one thing you won’t have to worry about is being hungry. Even when I first got to my table, there was already an individual plate of canapés placed in front of me. And while the main course was not served until the Bride arrived at about 10:30pm, food, tea and cold refreshments just seemed to keep on coming, so by the time the main course arrived, I was pretty full. I still ate it though.
Then came the moment we were all waiting for – the arrival of our beautiful Bride, who was rather cheeky with her entrance. As we all waited with baited breath, eyes transfixed on the ballroom doors for her grand entrance, she suddenly appeared out of nowhere from behind the stage. That technically meant that she had walked through the kitchen to get there – a surprise move which had her Bridal attendants, Svetlana & Roxx, wishing they had grabbed a bottle of perfume to spritz her with before she came out.
Not that it mattered, because W looked positively stunning and radiant as she took to the stage in her gorgeous white lace wedding dress. With my eyes still fixed on the ballroom doors, I didn’t even see her at first, until I heard the unique sound of the Zaghareet announcing her arrival. (The Zaghareet or Ululation is the high pitched, trilling sound Arabic women make at weddings to express joy and excitement). As she then walked the runway, demurely presenting herself to her guests and thanking them for being part of her special day, I felt such a surge of love for our darling W, who was just glowing with happiness.
And then everything seemed to happen really fast. We all lined up to take official pictures with her, there was more dancing, a lot more eating, followed by even more dancing, then Bride Squad bedroom slippers were being handed out to soothe our tired feet, and before you knew it, guests started reaching for their Abayas & Shaylas in a sudden flurry of excitement. It was about 12:30am by now and I must admit, I was a little confused, until I realised the flurry of excitement was due to the impending arrival of the Groom.
It was quite a special moment watching the Groom arrive with W‘s Dad & Brothers and to see how respectful and tender they are with her and her Mum. They only stopped by long enough to take a few photos and were off again, at which point the music was cranked back up and the dancing resumed. Alas for some of us, our tired feet could dance no more and as it was getting rather late, I decided to call it a night and headed home, the pulsating sounds of Arabic music still ringing in my ears.
And so that ends the story of my dear friend’s wedding, which also just happened to be my first Emirati one. It was an enlightening and wonderful experience that I’ll always remember, and one I’m sure to enjoy again. For now, I’d just like to wish W & S all the love in the world. May you both always have peace in your soul and joy in your heart. And Inshallah, should you have a daughter one day, I hear that Farah or Michele are really good names 😉