Wedded bliss

Bridal exhibition BRIDE Dubai returns this month with an extra emphasis on small businesses looking to break into a competitive and very active marketplace. Exhibition director Daphne Cota and two small business owners tell us why working together is a match made in heaven

Numerous wedding dresses will be showcased at the exhibition

Numerous wedding dresses will be showcased at the exhibition

Anybody who has been to an Arabic wedding will know that it’s a serious business.

The traditional western one-day affair demands enough attention to detail, from invitations to dress, menu and venue, but marriage celebrations in the Middle East are in a different league.

Whether it’s the henna night, welcoming procession, outfit changes, jewelery, musicians, feast, or deciding where to hold the wedding, and for how many days, every details is important. It’s not just the acknowledgement of two people’s love for each other; it’s the most precisely planned – and biggest – party you can imagine.

The stats speak for themselves. While western weddings have an average spend of $20,000, Arabic weddings hit an incredible $82,000.

The UAE National Bureau of Statistics record that in 2011 there were a total of 15,105 marriages registered at courts, meaning that – based on the two averages above – somewhere between $302m and $1.24bn was ploughed into the wedding market in that year alone.

So it’s little wonder that the Middle East’s largest bridal and fashion exhibition, BRIDE Dubai, continues to attract more and more visitors.

“We are getting more visitors every year,” says exhibition director Daphne Cota. “This year we’re expecting more than 16,000 – that’s an increase of about seven to eight percent on last year.

“We also have about 350 exhibitors – a ten percent growth compared to last year.”

Taking place between 10-13 April and organised by Informa Exhibitions, the reason both visitors and exhibitors flock to the show seems obvious. With fifteen editions already behind it, as well twelve editions of its sister event in Abu Dhabi, BRIDE Dubai has become an institution, giving exhibitors huge exposure, and giving visitors a one-stop-shop for all their wedding needs.

“We promote it as a consumer show,” continues Cota. “You can buy the products on display and people buy a lot of them because you can’t find them in the stores here. We try to balance the different items in the show, from wedding dresses, jewelry, wedding organisers, and so on.

“Over the years we’ve tried to give a platform for exhibitors, both local and international, to showcase their products. It’s really a place where people can buy something different and unique – there are things at the exhibition that you won’t easily find anywhere else.

“What’s good for us is that the global market crash didn’t really affect the wedding market. It’s growing by 20 percent each year, which is really impressive. Numbers are still growing at the exhibition, which is great to see.”

One of the important aspects of the show, according to Cota is the inclusion of start-up businesses and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

Teaming up with Dubai SME, an agency of the Department of Economic Development, BRIDE Dubai now features more young designers, business owners and entrepreneurs than ever before.

“It’s a very good initiative to tie up with Dubai SME this year,” continues Cota. “It gives us a broader range to show and it’s a good opportunity for SMEs.

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