Hi Rhiannon! Can you briefly introduce yourself for our readers?
My name is Rhiannon Downie and I am the Co-founder and Director of www.brideclubme.com. I also have a personal wedding blog called expatbride.com. I am originally from London/UK and moved to Dubai four years ago. I’m currently engaged to be married and the date is set for November 2013 in Dubai.
What is BRIDECLUBME.COM?
brideclubme.com is the UAE’s premier on line information resource, for a cross culture of UAE based expat brides-to-be. It is a support network, forum and community for one of the biggest days of a woman’s life. The website is licensed under the publishing house CPI; they are my business partners and supporters of innovation and entrepreneurship.
When and why did you start BRIDECLUBME.COM?
I started brideclubme.com this year in November 2012; however, I had been working on the launch for a good five months prior, including working on the design and development of the site, our marketing strategy, hiring staff, coordinating with partners and creating a buzz across various social media platforms.
I first came up with the idea behind www.brideclubme.com when I became engaged in March 2012 and had a barrage of questions, queries and a desire to find regular inspiration and ideas, at my own convenience. After researching the current bridal media market in the UAE, I saw a gap for a modern, stylish and interactive website. Whilst there are a few UAE blogs and websites for the wedding industry and brides, there are elements of www.brideclubme.com that are very unique, and readers will come to see what those are, as they browse our site and become familiar with our online personality.
Having worked in the media industry for over 12 years, I have directed and developed various magazines and on line portals, in addition to planning and organizing events around the media I have managed. I have self-professed obsession with anything wedding related, creating events and a passion for blogging and the creative arts. Given the above, and the fact that we are backed and supported by one of the region’s largest publishing houses ‘CPI’, I feel I have what it takes to make www.brideclubme.com a huge success.
What is unique about BRIDECLUBME.COM?
No other wedding inspiration website or blog in the UAE has a space for brides to interact with one another, ask questions and gain advice and support from each other, we provide this at www.brideclubme.com with our ‘Forum’. In addition to this our ‘Vendor Club’ is a directory unlike any other, all our vendors are vetted for quality and experience and we prefer our vendors to leave specific information that a bride would need to know immediately, we have also negotiated special promotions for our readers with our vendors, so our brides are in for a treat with the various BCME vendor specials on offer.
We are also unique, as the site was founded by myself ‘a bride-to-be’. Whilst I am running a business, I am also passionate about ensuring other expat brides to-be are given the correct information regarding the legalities of getting married as an expat, have access to a data base of experienced suppliers, and can read regular, fresh inspiration through quality editorial features. Another unique element to the Bride Club ME brand will be the boutique events we will be introducing, watch this space!
How do you work with the future brides-to-be and grooms?
Future Brides and Grooms can access our website 24/7 at their own convenience and gain inspiration from our features, advice from our experts and find suppliers via our ‘Vendor Club’ directory. We also take the time to personally respond to questions and queries we receive from our readers on a daily basis.
How do you select the vendors featured on your website?
We get enquiries from vendors who want to list on our website or advertise with us, we also research the market and contact vendors directly if we feel they are suited to our target audiences needs. We are selective with who lists on brideclubme.com, as we require each vendor to have direct experience in working with brides and grooms and weddings, we also look for passion and dedication to their craft. If a vendor contacts us and has never worked with a bride or groom before or on a wedding, we tend to ask them to contact us after they have some weddings under their portfolio. Whilst we are not an authority, we do owe it to our readers to provide them with information on experienced and respected wedding vendors. Another thing we look for is client testimonials, these go a long way. On the Bride Club ME blog, which is an addition to brideclubme.com, we also have our ‘tried and tested’ page, dedicated to our team reviewing various services such as make-up, fitness training, cake tasting, the bridal attire fitting and shopping experience, etc. These are completely honest and unbiased reviews.
What is the average cost of a wedding organized in the UAE? There is no ‘Average’ cost in my opinion. Every couple is different and has varying budgets, we must also consider the culture of the bride and groom. Arabic and Asian weddings are often a far grander affair than say, western weddings, and sometimes reach up to a 1000 guests in attendance, preferring ball rooms and large banquets, whilst western couples tend to have smaller ceremonies and intimate outdoor weddings in the UAE. I do feel that brides are becoming more thrifty with their spending these days too, preferring to DIY certain elements and save a few thousand dirham’s in the process. According to our research and a quote we found from the Marketing Manager at the Bride Show Middle East, The average Emirati weddings are valued at $82,000 (Dh300,940), compared to Western weddings which average at $20,000 (Dh73,400) [for the reception].
What are the new trends for 2012/2013 Wedding season? I am loving the 2012/13 trends and will be incorporating some of them into my own wedding in November 2013. Big trends at the moment include vintage and rustic style weddings, bird themes, DIY (do it yourself), the ‘Mix N Match’ look, garlands and bunting, pops of color in the wedding attire, for example, colorful wedding shoes, Ombre, the shading of one colour into another which can be incorporated into everything from the wedding cake through to the invitations, right up to slightly obscure tends such as ‘trash the dress’. Brideclubme.com will be reporting on all the 2012/13 trends to look out for.
In your opinion, what are the best ingredients to organize a wonderful wedding? Many elements go into organising a great wedding, but my top ingredients would include having great entertainment, a professional photographer for life long memories and really adding a personal touch to the day. It’s your wedding, so reflect that in the overall look and feel of the day. Also, time management and planning is important. If you know how the day is structured and you are well organised, you can avoid hiccups and awkward moments. The most important thing is that the couples ENJOY the day and do not get stressed; hiring a professional coordinator or wedding planner can alleviate a lot of the stress on the day.
What are the common mistakes to avoid when planning your wedding? Well, I am still in the initial stages of planning my own wedding, so I don’t claim to be an expert, however, I have the benefit of knowing many fantastic vendors in the UAE who have offered words of advice, in addition to receiving daily emails from brides who are panicked or stress because they have left things to the last minute. My top mistakes to avoid would be the following:
> Not sticking within your budget
> Trying to please everyone but yourself
> Being unprepared and disorganised
> Having unrealistic expectations
> Not enjoying the process and feeling the moment
What is your favorite Wedding memory? What is your worst Wedding memory? I have attended many weddings, but my favorite wedding memory would be my aunties BIG FAT GREEK wedding in London. She is Sri Lankan, but married a Greek Cypriot. I was a bridesmaid, and I remember thinking how beautiful she looked. My family love to party, so I really enjoyed all the Greek elements they incorporated in to the reception, such as the pinning of money on to the wedding dress and the traditional Kaslamantiano dance. I don’t really have a worse wedding memory; all the weddings I have attended have been great.
What are the traditional Wedding gifts?
I guess it depends on the culture of the bride and grooms family. In the British culture, where I am from, wedding gifts for the bride and grooms home are considered traditional, such as Kitchen ware, commemorative glasses, etc. However, I think brides and grooms these days tend to be set up in the department, as people are marrying at a later age. Gifts such as ‘ couple experiences’ are becoming more popular as well as cash gifts and more unique gifts that the couple personally love.
What is your opinion about an online gift registry service in the UAE (as MyList)?
The great thing about Mylist, is that the bride and groom can avoid receiving gifts they will never use and advise guests on the kind of gifts they would find useful or would actually prefer. They can also choose affordable gifts, as not all family members may be able to go extravagant with their offering. At Bride Club ME, we are happy to be supporting such an initiative.
What is the one piece of advice that you would like to give to our readers that are getting married? I’ve mentioned various tips in earlier questions, however to round it off I would say:
> Plan early,
> Be organised,
> Delegate where possible
> Enjoy your wedding!