To many, their wedding is one of the most important and memorable days of their life — and arguably one of the most costly.

A poll posted on Gulf News, asking readers which nationalities they think spend the most on weddings, placed Indians in first place.

The poll, which was answered by 6,000 readers, showed that 58 per cent believe that Indians hold the most lavish weddings, followed by Arabs at 20 per cent and Pakistanis at third place with eight per cent.

While many Indian couples living in Dubai prefer to celebrate their wedding with family and friends, many of them return home to India to hold their dream wedding.

Wedding planner Liesel Papke, from Aghareed wedding concierge, said that based on her experience in the UAE, Arabs tend to invest the most money in planning weddings, especially for women-only ceremonies, followed by Indians and Westerners, she said.

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Traditions and customs

While each culture tends to follow specific wedding traditions, more people are also taking on board some universal wedding practices, Papke said.

“Today, more brides are wearing the white wedding dress rather than the traditional dress from their own culture,” explained Papke, who pointed out that the dress usually accounts for a huge chunk of the budget.

Decor and photography are two aspects of the wedding that most couples are willing to spend more on, she said. “With the help of online mood boards such as Pinterest, brides have access to more ideas and themes than they would in the past. This allows each bride to use different elements, creating their own unique experience,” she said.

No matter what country the couple may come from, entertainment is another important aspect of a wedding.

Papke explained that the majority of people today prefer classic or acoustic performances during the wedding, with some couples requesting shows, such as flash mobs, singing waiters and traditional Zaffah dancing.

“With so many different cultures, it is difficult to identify the most common customs,” said Papke. She pointed out that Indian and Western weddings involve an exchange of vows, which can last between 30 minutes to an hour. “Within the Indian culture, there are so many different practices; each wedding can differ depending on the desires of the couple,” she added.

On elements that couples tend to spend the least on, Papke referred to party favours and invitation cards. “At the end of a party, most of the guests do not take their party favours home, so couples feel that the money can be put to better use,” she said.

Just the same, after receiving an invitation card, guests will most probably throw them away, making the expensive process of designing and printing cards unnecessary. “Living in the digital age, more couples lean towards personalised websites and e-invites, and this can help decrease a huge chunk of the budget,” said Papke.

The Indian wedding experience

Newly married Indian Manish Keshwani spoke to Gulf News about his lavish wedding celebrations in his home country.

Despite the fact that his immediate family has been living in the UAE for 30 years, Keshwani held his wedding in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, in December 2015, so that as many members as possible of the larger family could attend the event.

With events for most Indian weddings being held over two to three days, Keshwani and his bride Ekta decided to have one event in Dubai and several more in India.

“We had our ‘Mata ki Chowki’ at Mina A’Salam in Madinat Jumeirah. The Mata ki Chowki is a devotional celebration with a prayer element in which the family seeks blessings from the [Hindu] deity Durga,” said Keshwani.

Travelling to India soon after, the couple celebrated their wedding with three more days of traditional events. “One evening, we had a big themed party welcoming our wedding guests who were all staying with us at the Marriott. We had a little carnival, replete with little booths, string lights, a big tent and carnival games,” said Keshwani.

On day two, the bride was seated on a throne in a room lavished with pink and gold Indian decor and attended to by two of Ahmedabad’s finest henna artists. “They worked on her non-stop for six hours covering every inch of her arms and legs in intricate, traditional designs. Her bridesmaids and the women from both families were around her for most of the morning, laughing, gossiping, and getting their own hands filled with small henna designs from some of the other henna artists,” said Keshwani.

During the evening, another event called the ‘Sangeet’ — with plenty of song and dance — was held at a hall.

“On day three morning, we had our proper wedding. My wedding party put me on a horse, surrounded me with a traditional Indian wedding band playing tunes of celebration, as all my friends and family danced madly for an hour as we inched back the 100 metres to the hotel,” said Keshwani.

During the party, the groom met the bridal party, and a couple of hours later they were officially married after walking “seven pheras [rounds] around a fire”.

The wedding events were concluded with a grand outdoor reception, six live cooking stations, fireworks, more music and dancing, and a total of 700 guests.

The total cost

Looking at the cost of his lavish wedding celebrations, Keshwani said the hotel rooms and event venues cost the most, with the total cost standing at approximately more than Dh500,000.

“Anyone who’s been in that situation will tell you that they’re happy to spend for a once-in-a-lifetime party,” said Keshwani.

Just the same, says wedding planner Papke, on average, most Arab and Asian weddings cost between Dh350,000 to Dh1 million depending on the couple’s nationality and the kind of highlights they prefer. “Westerners focus more on the details and quality of the small items, such as coloured napkins, glasses and the dance floor itself. On an average, a Western wedding can cost between Dh250,000 to Dh450,000,” she said.

A large guest list of between 500-2,500 people is also a factor that can raise the cost of some Dubai weddings in the range of Dh1 million to Dh5 million.

“There is no denying that a wedding is an occasion to celebrate. After all, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most, and couples want to celebrate their love in style with their friends and family,” said Papke.

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