Carissa and Bassem got married on the 21st February 2014. The gorgeous couple got married at the Mediterranean Olive Garden, Dubai Desert Palm. The garden themed wedding featuring yellow blooms and natural greenery was so simple and effortlessly chic. The Calla lily bouquet is gorgeous, and even though my love for peonies bouquets will be eternal, this yellow bouquet is the perfect accessory to Carissa’s stylish wedding dress. With over 150 guests Carissa and Bassem celebrated in style… lots of dancing, lots of laughing and lots and lots of love. It’s the best kind of wedding.
I am Australian and Bassem is Syrian and we both live in Dubai, so Dubai was a natural choice as a wedding destination for us as it was between Australia and Syria and was already on the list of holiday hotspots for many of our friends. We looked at 20+ venues in Dubai but once we saw Desert Palm we knew it was the perfect spot for us. The events team only held one event per day, so we knew we would have the full and undivided attention of the hotel on our big day (which we did). It’s also small and boutique, so we wouldn’t see hundreds of people, any other brides, or anyone in bikinis on the beach in our photos… plus the Mediterranean feel of the venue is very reminiscent of Syria. It’s such a magical garden; each of the olive trees in the garden are 300 years old and were imported from Italy at great expense….
We are both outdoors people so we knew from the beginning we wanted both the ceremony and dinner party outside, plus Dubai has such beautiful weather in February….
Number of guests…
120. We had people coming from 15 countries for the wedding including Australia, Syria, Afghanistan, Scotland, England, Ireland, Pakistan, KSA, South Africa, and more….
My wedding dress & accessories…
I got my dress custom made here in the UAE. It was loosely based on a design from Maggie Sottero’s ‘blossom’ gown but I had it tailored with a corset back and some embellishments on the waist. I didn’t wear a veil but I had a beautiful hair clip. I wore Paspaley Pearl drop earrings and beautiful Paspaley Pearl strand of pearls that I was given as a gift from my husband when we were still dating. My engagement and wedding bands were specially designed and custom-made at Palaces Jewellery in the Gold Souq, Dubai.
Finding my wedding dress…
This was a bit of a nightmare actually. I tried on (almost) every dress in Dubai from all the fancy wedding stores and even the more affordable stores but I couldn’t find the perfect one. I was waiting for that “aaahhh” moment but after trying on the hundredth dress, I realized that the problem was that the dresses were just too ‘same same’. I wanted something different. So I got it made and when it was ready I had the moment I was waiting for and I fell in love with it 🙂
The planning process…
I am a perfectionist and started planning nine months before the wedding. My background is in PR and events so I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, and the level of detail that needed to go into the ceremony and the dinner party. I had the help of Bassem and my family, but we would still do something almost every single day for nine months leading up to the wedding. It was pretty intense but it all paid off because on the day it was completely flawless despite many different and sometimes challenging elements.
We also engaged the help of a wedding planner (Mohammed Afiffi) from MV Communications, primarily to ensure that things ran smoothly on the day. I went to a wedding once when the bride was walking down the aisle and the music didn’t start on time and it was a disaster for her. Mohammed was an angel on the day, managing the event seamlessly, especially when there were some complex arrangements in place with the band, the sound/lighting, the dancers, etc. This was a big relief for me that he took care of this.
The readings & music…
I walked down the aisle to the Violin version of David Guetta’s “Without You”. I wanted something moving but not cheesy, and something that was not clichéd or overused. The lyrics of this song are so beautiful, it is the right speed and it was so moving.
After the ceremony had finished we walked out to an upbeat violin version of Pachelbel’s Canon. Both songs were remixed and played by Anna Pavlova.
We had four readings:
- Excerpt from The Prophet: “On Marriage” (In Arabic)
- Excerpt from “The Art of a Good Marriage”, by Wilferd Arlan Peterson
- “Friendship”, by Judy Bielicki
- Blessing For A Marriage”, by James Dillet Freeman
Our celebrant was Helen Schrader. She is also Australian and we liked the idea of having our blessing ceremony with a female celebrant.
We wrote our own vows. We decided on the first line together and agreed to choose the following lines individually and secretly, which was interesting as they ended up including promises about Irish whisky and fatty cheese…..among other things 🙂
The groom’s threads…
The groom and groomsmen wore black tuxedos made from Ascot and Chapels tailors in Dubai Marina Mall.
I had four bridesmaids: My friend Camilla, who flew all the way from England, my sister Jacinda, my friend Clare who flew from Australia and another school friend Anna who came from South Africa. All the dresses were tailored in Dubai.
The supplier was Black Tulip flowers. They are wholesalers so their prices are very reasonable and they did a great job for us. We were in a beautiful garden venue for both the ceremony and dinner party so we didn’t need to go overboard with flowers. We had yellow and white flower petals down the aisle, plus some big bunches of flowers in the blessing ceremony area as well as flowers on the tables.
The wedding cake…
We had a huge three tiered cake. Each tier was a different flavor (vanilla, chocolate, red velvet). It was from the most delicious cake shop in Dubai Cake Story Dubai.
The details & décor…
- We asked people to wear black tie and everyone got really dressed up, it was great.
- Décor: simple white tables and bunches of yellow tulips and yellow roses. We let the venue, the band and the great food take center stage
- The colour theme was yellow and white, as yellow is our fave colour
- The weather was perfect on the day, a warm winter day in Dubai, we were very lucky as the day before there was a sandstorm.
- We spent the night in a private villa at Desert Palm. It’s the most fancy hotel room we have ever stayed in, with a lap pool and hot tub in the villa.
- We had to get sound and lighting for the band. It was actually quite a complex logistical operation and quite expensive as the lights had to illuminate the dancefloor and the stage but not damage the 300 year old olive trees in any way.
- We had an MC (our good friend Stephen Francis) and a wedding planner (Mohammed Afiffi) manage things for us on the day.
- Speeches were in both Arabic and English
- Instead of wedding gifts we asked that people make a donation to the David Sheldrik Wildlife Trust. We have been there and witnessed the remarkable work they are doing to protect Africa’s elephant and rhino population. Our wedding logo was a little elephant. We also got matching tattoos.
Music for the dinner party:
We were lucky to have one of our favorite bands play for our family and friends during the dinner party.
We decided to splurge a bit on the music so we flew in a ceilidh band called Whisky Kiss from Glasgow to play at the wedding. We had seen them playing a few times at the Scottish Balls in Dubai and they are brilliant, we love their style and their energy. Everyone gets up on the dancefloor and they teach you how to do each dance, it’s very easy. From the first dance, most of the guests were dancing and having a wonderful time. We wanted the wedding to be really fun and it certainly was.
When Whisky Kiss were having a break we would play Arabic music as half of our guests were from the Arab World, so they were dancing the dabke and other traditional Arabic dances. It was a great cultural experience for our foreign guests to experience the fun of an Arabic wedding as well!
We had a mini-moon immediately after the wedding, where we spent four days at Al Sahel Villas, Sir Bani Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. In June we went for two weeks to Tuscany and Santorini (Greek Isles) for our “proper” honeymoon.
Our favourite moments…
- When my father made half of his speech in Arabic so that Bassem’s family could understand him. He had spent 2 months learning it with the help of an Arabic speaking friend, listening to his tape of the words over and over…
- When many people were crying in the audience during the blessing ceremony 🙂
- Seeing almost all guests of all ages and many different nationalities on the dance floor having a blast
- When Bassem through the bouquet and our (male) friend caught it!
- When so many people told us it was the best wedding they had ever been to…
- We had some kids perform 15 mins of Scottish dancing during dinner to complement the Scottish band. They did such a great job and everyone enjoyed watching them!
- Having so much fun and enjoying the best day of our lives (for both of us)
Advice for other couples…
- Ask one of your bridesmaids or groomsmen to ensure you both (bride and groom) have a couple of moments alone together after the ceremony but before the dinner to enjoy the moment and let the day ‘sink in’. It goes so fast so make sure you have a few quiet moments together.
- Don’t worry about having long conversations with your guests on the day. They are there for YOU so even if you just have a one liner, they will understand. If there are 100 guests and you spoke to each person for 2 minutes, that is 200 minutes of talking , which is almost three and a half hours of just talking!
- Consider doing a bride/groom photo shoot on another day after the wedding day. Yes it means you might need to do your hair/makeup again but on the day you can spend as much time as possible with your guests and you will have more time to relax and enjoy all the hard work that has gone into it.
- I was told that people remember three things from a wedding: the food, the ceremony and the music. The small details are nice to have but they are not remembered. If your budget is not unlimited, consider focusing your effort on those areas, as it’s so easy to get caught up with all the extras
We invited a renowned Irish photographer, but based in Australia, to shoot our wedding. He specializes in wedding photography and we love his work. We wanted the wedding day to be about our family and friends so we didn’t want to go for a private photo-shoot and split the day up between the ceremony and the dinner. Instead, we organized another shoot on the day after the wedding and we went into the desert to get some great sunset desert shots.
Credit for the lovely vendors…
Venue: Dubai Desert Palm
Wedding Celebrant: Helen Schrader
Music: Whisky Kiss
Photography: Solas Photography
Flowers: Black Tulip Flowers
Sound & Lighting: Access All Areas
Wedding Cake: A Cake Story Dubai
Wedding Planner: Mohammed Affifi – 0507808268