Interview with Rhiannon Downie, Founder of BRIDECLUBME.com

Hi Rhiannon! I know we have featured you on our website before, but can you briefly introduce yourself for our new readers?

RhiannonDownieMy name is Rhiannon, aka ‘The Fairy Bride Mother’ as one of my readers named me, he-he. I am the founder of Club Media FZE and founding editor of www.brideclubme.com, a leading UAE based wedding inspiration website and directory. I also run my personal wedding blog www.expatbride.com.

You launched Bride Club ME in November 2012. Eighteen months after launching, how has the site evolved?

We have come such a long way since 2012, the site has grown dramatically in terms of unique visitors over the past two years. This did not happen overnight, I have worked hard on our marketing strategy, and have invested into growing my business. I don’t expect brides to magically know about us, so our own marketing is vitally important for our growth. I initially launched the website with CPI Publishing, which was a great opportunity and I learnt a lot in the process.

However since then, I have gone independent and launched my own online media house ‘Club Media FZE, specializing in lifestyle website and boutique industry events. Our flagship website is www.brideclubme.com.

BCME_Badge_Logo You’re still fairly new to this industry but you’ve obviously had a lot of experience already, what has been your best so far?

Bride Club ME launched in November of 2012, but I had been blogging about my own wedding planning 7 months prior to this on my personal blog www.expatbride.com, So I have been exposed to the wedding industry and writing about it for two years now. The whole experience has been great, I get to write about a subject I am passionate about, get involved in styled photo shoots, event concepts and work with talented people on a daily basis.  I get a sense of accomplishment by helping brides in the region with their wedding needs and dilemmas.

What have you noticed as some of the biggest wedding faux-pas since you have entered the industry?

I guess the biggest mistake I notice when I receive emails from brides, is time management. Many brides leave things far too late in my opinion, and become ultra-stressed because of it. On a different note, I once heard of a story of a groom leaving his own wedding to go and race cars in the hotel car park with his buddies, needless to say the bride was not impressed.

Everyone wants the perfect wedding and it is easy for costs to escalate.  What advice do you have for future couples to plan the perfect wedding on a budget?

Start with creating a wedding budget spreadsheet to keep on top of costs. Plan early, negotiate where possible, DIY smaller projects, prioritize and delegate to friends and family. For example, if you have a talented singer in your family, ask them to perform at your wedding, that’s what I did.

The last time we talked we asked you about current wedding trends. What do you see has changed in terms of trends for 2014/2015 Wedding Season?

Trends are always evolving in the wedding industry, but since planning my own wedding, I really think it’s important not to get too caught up on themes and trends. I did not have one, we just went with what we liked. Saying that, we did incorporate a few new concepts, such as a finger print tree instead of a guest book, I DIY’ d a lot of my wedding and we had funky signage everywhere. Some key wedding trends for 2014 are:

– Shiny and metallic wedding cakes

– Romantic and elegant weddings – back to the traditional

– Small and elegant wedding invitations – wedding invites are set to get smaller and more dainty

– Slow motion video booths – brides are now opting for a twist on the traditional photo-booth with silly wigs and oversized glasses, now, guests can perform in front of camera and let loose.

– Jeweled necklines and necklaces – Expect more focus on the bridal dress neckline, or necklace.

Colour – gone are the days of all-white weddings. This year, big pops of bright hues are back for wedding colour palettes. I had pops of hot pink, silver and turquoise during my wedding.

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Destination weddings seem to be gaining more and more popularity. In your opinion, what are the top new locations for destination weddings?

Well of course, living in Dubai and promoting the UAE, my top locations would be Dubai and the Emirates. However, top destination weddings (according to the feedback I get through Bride Club ME) for UAE based brides are, Thailand, India, UK and Italy. I personally have a soft spot for Italy, it’s such a beautiful and romantic country.

What are the most common inquiries and questions you get on your website?

Brides and grooms can access our website 24/7 for free information, features, advice and more. I often receive direct emails and sometimes even phone calls from brides and grooms. They often require legal advice, or need to find a celebrant to conduct their blessing, or just ask for my personal recommendations of wedding suppliers based on their needs. I am always happy to help, guide and give suggestions and refer them to our vendor club and various features on the site.

You recently got married, congratulations! What is the number one piece of advice you have for couples planning their wedding?

I had a two year engagement, and planned my wedding slowly and carefully, but it was stressful at times and I felt alone now and then in the process. Much like my advice above, I would say plan early so you don’t miss out on your dream venue, photographer, etc. Suppliers get booked up quickly. Also take time out and remember why you are marrying, sometimes brides can get caught up in the small details and lose site of what the day is all about. Monitor your budget carefully, it’s easy to spiral out of control if you are not vigilant.

 

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What did you do at your own wedding to make it a unique experience for guests?

Our wedding was a reflection of us as individuals and a couple, we had lots of personal and unique touches. We thought about the comfort and enjoyment of our guests throughout. Brides can read all about my wedding in part 1, part 2 and part 3 of a ‘Thunderstorm Wedding in Dubai’ on www.brideclubme.com.

What were some of the more creative and different wedding gifts you received at your wedding?

We received some really thoughtful and lovely wedding gifts. My favourite was a hand painted piece of ‘Art you can hold’ by my good friend and artist Sanya Budna. This was very personal and something I will treasure. I also received a beautiful gold necklace from one of my Muslim friends with a pendant saying mine and Adam’s name in Arabic, I wear it all the time…we also loved our gifts purchased from your site mylist.ae, which included a funky cat bowl, cutlery set and state of the art toaster.

I am sure that over the past year you may have heard some interesting and unique ways that grooms proposed to their future wives. Do you have a favorite story?

All proposal stories are my favorites, from a simple home proposal to a grand affair, love is love. One groom called me, to ask for advice on popping the big question, he wanted to have a seaplane fly across the beach with ‘MARRY ME’ printed in big letters, which I thought was sweet. One of my readers was also proposed to underwater which was unique.

Amongst the weddings you attended in 2013, which was the most special, and why?

I attended two weddings in 2013, three if you include my own. One was a Pakistani Muslim wedding at the Atlantis Hotel Dubai and the other the wedding of my cousin, which took place in a converted castle/prison in Oxford, UK. The venue was unique and different. All were special in their own way, I love weddings.

What are some of your favorite wedding locations in the UAE?

I do love venues with beautiful outdoor ceremony options and am not too keen on bland banquet halls. There are so many fabulous outdoor options in the UAE? Without sounding biased, I love the Desert Palm Retreat in Dubai, this is where I got married. It’s unique, intimate and boutique, which is what I like. There are so many beautiful locations in the UAE, and I would be writing an essay if I were to list my top wedding venues. I would suggest brides check out our vendor club for wedding venue ideas, as I have visited each personally and can highly recommend them.

Lastly, tell us some of the future plans for Bride club ME?

We aim to keep growing and improving the website, we are now working on phase two of the development to make small improvements for both our users and advertisers. As we have grown and found our feet as a small business, we have naturally evolved into other areas, and have already started our own unique industry events, such as the ‘Bride-to-be ladies night’. We often have brides and vendors asking us to organize events.

We are also launching a sister website …..But I shall keep that one quiet for now.

I have plenty to keep me busy, so another project on my agenda is expanding the Bride Club ME team. If anyone reading is interested in joining our team, they can send me their CV at Rhiannon@brideclubme.com.

Lastly, we want to continue successfully helping engaged couples in the region and connecting our vendors with brides and grooms.

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