Day in the Life: Banker turned Dubai wedding planner trades numbers for nuptials

Zainab Alsalih has organised hundreds of weddings at venues including Dubai Opera and Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental

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A Day in the Life” allows you to step into the shoes of a UAE resident to experience a typical 24 hours in their work and home life

For most people, a wedding happens once in a lifetime. But for Zainab Alsalih, love is in the air every single day.

The founder and lead planner of Dubai’s Carousel Weddings has organised hundreds of extravagant weddings at venues such as Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental, Dubai Opera and Four Seasons Resort Dubai.

The former banker, from Iraq, was inspired to set up her business in 2008, turning her back on number crunching to focus on tulle, table plans and toasts.

Today, the mother-of-three welcomes couples from around the world looking for lavish ceremonies, including everything from desert escapes to seaside soirees.

Here, The National follows Ms Alsalih, 48, on a typical day juggling confetti, cakes and wedding crashers.

5am: All you need is love

Ms Alsalih starts the day by answering queries from brides-to-be looking for a special touch to their big day.

Over the last 15 years, she has organised hundreds of weddings – a far cry from her former career in finance.

“I didn't plan to be a wedding planner. I started my career as a banker, so it was the furthest thing from romance. But I've always had a creative flair,” she says.

“After I got married and had children, I decided to take a break but when the time came to go back to work, I couldn’t bear the thought of restructuring loans and dealing with bad debts.”

Instead, Ms Alsalih drew on her creativity to set up a corporate events company, which evolved into planning elaborate nuptials as Dubai took off as a destination wedding hotspot.

“I decided that weddings were my calling,” she says. “I thought it was such a fulfilling experience and I loved bringing joy and happiness to couples.”

Noon: Museums, deserts and foodie feasts

In recent years, Ms Alsalih has seen demand for UAE weddings soar as couples seek out sun, sand and spectacular experiences.

“Previously people used to care more about appearances, but now there's a lot more focus on creating a memorable experience,” she says.

“Food is becoming a very big trend and there's more focus on wedding menus than ever before.”

In the afternoon, Ms Alsalih often visits potential venues, which are increasingly varied and exotic.

“We get a lot of requests for interesting locations like remote islands or in the desert,” she says. “We’ve done weddings at Dubai Opera and the Museum of the Future is also an option.

“Dubai is pushing the envelope as to what kinds of venues are on offer.”

4pm: The big day

On wedding days, Ms Alsalih is on site long before the bride and groom, setting up for three days before vows are exchanged.

“We do a lot of big weddings in exciting locations for hundreds of guests, so we need plenty of time to get everything perfect,” she says.

“Our last wedding at Dubai Opera was one of the most elaborate I've planned, though in 2011 we built massive tents for 2,000 people facing Burj Al Arab, which was incredible.

“I also did a VIP wedding in Abu Dhabi at Emirates Palace in 2022, where we projected a video on to the hotel façade.”

With big events, however, come big challenges. Wedding crashers and social media slip-ups have caused chaos at events over the years.

“We’ve had plenty of wedding crashers in the past, usually hotel guests that stumble across the ceremony. Their curiosity is piqued and they decide to stay and eat.

“In the past people have also arrived uninvited or shown up with extra guests in tow, which is clearly unacceptable.

“Sometimes it's hard to tell someone to leave but usually security takes care of it.”

Overzealous social posting has also caused problems in recent years, with many brides taking drastic measures to prevent unauthorised leaks.

“A lot of people are very private and they don't want their entire wedding live-streamed on social media,” says Ms Alsalih.

“Sometimes we get asked to take people's phones on arrival or ask them to cover the cameras.

“We’ve even had security step in to stop people from taking a lot of photos and videos during the ceremony. It’s probably our biggest challenge.”

3am: Happily ever after

Ms Alsalih remains at the wedding venue until every guest has left to prevent any late-night hiccups.

“Weddings usually end at 3am and by the time I get home it’s four or five in the morning,” she says.

“It’s tiring but I like to make sure everything goes smoothly. Crafting those lasting memories makes my job so rewarding.”

Updated: January 02, 2024, 9:40 AM