Dubai can certainly provide lots of options for a wedding to remember forever – but first, a few things to bear in mind if you’re planning on making Dubai your chosen venue for your day of a lifetime.
For a start, you can’t hold the religious or civil ceremony in any of the venues I’m going to suggest a little later. These amazing wedding venues are strictly “after-match function” locations.
You can hold religious wedding ceremonies in Dubai, but these must be held at one of the officially recognized places of worship. Even if you could find a minister of religion willing to follow your wishes, I strongly suspect that the venue owners or management would say no.
I’m also not aware of any of the embassy-based marriage celebrants being either willing or authorized to carry out civil services at locations other than the official Embassy premises.
That said, there’s no reason why you can’t publicly (in front of your guests at your chosen venue) repeat your wedding vows already made in church, temple, or during the civil wedding in the Embassy.
Take a deep breath and unzip your wallet
With the above in mind, Dubai has a burgeoning industry all ready to make your very special day utterly memorable: all you have to do is consult and be ready to pay the bill for what you’ve chosen.
And the bill, since this is Dubai, is never going to be small – and can be eye-watering! If you’re prepared to spend, there are very few limits to what you can have.
All of the venues I’m going to suggest are indeed amazing, and all have wedding-planning divisions, but they’re equally coy about giving you a ballpark figure for a wedding celebration with a given number of guests.
There are, as we will see, just too many variables. You’ll need to make personal contact via the web links and talk specifics to see what can be done – and at what cost.
A few of the variables to keep in mind
Do you want the party entirely inside or outside? Would you like a mix of both? What time of the year were you thinking of? How many guests are going to be invited? How much food will there be? Are you planning on serving alcohol?
These are just a few. Take, for example, the issue of time of year. Some parts of the year are going to be very hot and humid. Other times will be cooler, but you also run the risk of rain, wind (which can be cold in the evening), and even sandstorms.
A large, fully catered, sit-down multi-course wedding “breakfast” is going to cost considerably more than a stand-up, elegant, finger-food affair.
And what about entertainment? Live music or discreetly pre-recorded background music? Don’t forget that Dubai has curfews on outdoor live entertainment – often as early as 11.00pm, but the venue wedding-planner can advise you on this.
And finally, the provision of alcohol can really inflate the cost of the event – far more than you would expect at a non-Dubai wedding celebration.
The Wedding Planners
There are some dedicated wedding planners that offer a variety of tasteful options: Jam, Virginie Wedding Planner, and one I know is very good – Pinch me. These experienced planners can offer you unusual venues and personalized service. They have more freedom than the hotel options.
There are many joys when using a freelance planner, but if you choose the right hotel, it will be spectacular. Here are a few, well seven actually.
The Burj Al Arab, on its weddings page found in the link, promises “weddings with a difference.” If you fancy the helipad as your wedding photo location, it can be arranged. Just use the “explore more” buttons on the page to find out what’s on offer, and who to contact to ask the key questions.
Actually, this link provides all the Jumeirah Group properties, so if the Burj Al Arab is not quite the right fit, you can try any or all of the others. The Madinat Complex, the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Emirates Towers – they’re all there, along with specific links to weddings – which the Jumeirah Group Wedding Planners will be happy to assist with.
The Burj Khalifa is currently the tallest building in the world. Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest an extravaganza almost a kilometer high. This will be a lot closer to the ground – in a beautiful hotel, but right in the heart of the actual Burj Khalifa Tower.
Try the Armani Hotel – what could be better? Let Giorgio provide the suit, the dress, and the venue. Actually, it’s not quite as mad as it sounds – it will still be expensive, but may be not as much as some of the Jumeirah Group options I’ve listed above.
Fancy a Desert Wedding?
It certainly can be done, but you might need to pick your time of year quite carefully – any al fresco fantasies tend to vanish pretty quickly in the 50°C midday highs of July and August.
This chart might be helpful in making your decision, but remember these are monthly averages. A July monthly average of 41°C is arrived at with quite a few days higher than the monthly average – and 41 in the desert is very uncomfortable.
The Al Maha Resort will give you a special day amongst the gazelles and oryxes, but you’ll need to scroll down the page to the “Meetings and Events” section to find the specifics on staging an outdoor wedding here. It is a delightful resort – the wedding plus accommodation would make a memorable occasion.
Al Maha’s desert rival, Bab Al Shams Desert Resort can also give you everything you might wish for in a desert wedding (not sure about the gazelles here), and has the advantage of being physically closer to downtown Dubai. It might also be not quite so expensive.
Meanwhile, way down in old Atlantis…
Hotel Atlantis, The Dubai Palm’s brash newcomer to the hotel scene, is all geared to go head-to-head with its rivals listed above. Wedding under the sea? No problem for Atlantis.
OK, this one’s cheating a little bit, I know…
But I hope I can persuade you to take it every bit as seriously as any that I have mentioned so far. The brief was amazing venues, right? Well I think it fits the bill, in more senses than one.
So, why cheating? Well, it’s not actually in Dubai: it’s in the neighboring Emirate Abu Dhabi’s second city, Al Ain.
A long time ago, a favorite weekend activity was to go to Al Ain and watch the sun sink into the horizon from the top of Jebel Hafeet mountain. It’s barely 1000 metres above sea level, and there was a first class road up to the summit, which really was just a big car park.
Then, just over 10 years ago, a luxury hotel was built almost at the summit. The Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet Al Ain Hotel is a very nice hotel, and perfectly suited for those rather stunning sunsets.
Strangely, the website doesn’t specifically mention weddings in its corporate events/meetings section, but I’d be very surprised if you got a “no, we don’t” response to a call. The good thing is that the cost structure looks very inviting, but you’ll still get a stunning and memorable wedding event.
And finally, a personal favorite
Back to Dubai and out to the skyscraper jungle that is the Dubai Marina and the entrance to the Palm Jumeirah. Before any of this was there, in December 1999, the One and Only Royal Mirage opened for business. So many new hotels go for glitz and sparkle. The Mirage didn’t, and it won me instantly – and by Dubai’s standards, forever. Still highly recommended for its understated opulence and location.