Wedding planners feel the loss of wealthy Arab visitors


Political turmoil means fewer regional visitors spending lavishly on extravagant nuptials

BEIRUT: Rawya and Assem Darwish’s plan to purchase an apartment in Lebanon has not dissuaded the couple from tucking away $30,000 to cover the cost of a wedding party in one of the most prestigious hotels in Beirut.

“Our plan to throw a wedding party will definitely affect our ability to purchase a house in Lebanon but I really don’t want to give up on my dream of having a beautiful wedding,” said Rawya, who will be moving to Italy, where her fiance works, shortly after the wedding.

The trend for elaborate weddings continues, and the Lebanese wedding industry is skyrocketing as profits and customers grow.

“A good wedding usually costs between $50,000 and $100,000 in Lebanon but a really outstanding one costs above $100,000,” said wedding planner Zeina Kortbawi, who added that the industry in Lebanon is one of the most profitable in the country.

However, the combination of troubles in both Lebanon and the wider region is having a negative impact on profits, thanks to the sharp drop in the number of Arab visitors to the country.

“Personally, 80 percent of my business comes from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan and Syria while the rest comes from Lebanon,” said Kortbawi, who owns the Precious Memories wedding planning agency. “The political and security turmoil that has been witnessed lately in Lebanon and the region caused the demand on wedding services by Arabs to drop by more than 50 percent,” she said during the recent Wedding Folies exhibition held at BIEL.

Wedding Folies is a yearly event held in Lebanon, where those in the industry exhibit their services to couples and their families.

“This year was the best edition of Wedding Folies and we had around 6,000 to 7,000 visitors per day,” said Nathalie Owaida, a project manager at Promofair, the organizer of the events.

Owaida confirmed that the recent turbulence in Lebanon and the region had impacted demand from Arab clients for Lebanese wedding services. “The wedding industry is much more developed in Lebanon than in any other Arab country but the political and security situation in the region had a negative impact on demand by Arab clients and most of the visitors this year were Lebanese.”

Wedding planners interviewed at the exhibition agreed that the most profitable business in recent years has come from the wider Arab region, rather than Lebanon. Planners lamented the fact that the majority of clients this year were Lebanese, most of them reluctant to spend as lavishly as other Arab clients. Some agencies refuse to cater to couples with a budget of less than $50,000.

“We usually do not get into weddings of less than $50,000 because they are not very profitable to us and they are not very much worth the great efforts we make,” said wedding and events designer Jessica Antoun.

Antoun, who owns the My Pleasure wedding planning agency, said that Gulf Arab clients are scarce this year. “Arab clients are the ones who pay the most for their weddings but we haven’t been able to meet any of them during this exhibition unfortunately,” she said.

The budget expectations set by wedding planners and the constant increase in the services they charge for have encouraged some couples to organize their own parties.

“I am honestly not going to hire a wedding planner for my wedding because I can get the same results by doing the job myself,” said Rawya Darwish. “I will be working a bit harder on my wedding and I am sure it will go perfectly well.”

Despite the many wedding loans offered by Lebanese banks, many couples are trying to avoid getting into an endless cycle of debt by throwing dinner parties, a less-extravagant alternative to traditional weddings. “We personally do not care much about celebrating our marriage by having a lavishly expensive wedding,” said Mona and Zaher Choueib. “We will be throwing a dinner party for our close friends and family members at Beiti restaurant and the cost will not exceed $10,000,” they said.

In fact, the overall takeup of the wedding packages recently introduced by Lebanese banks has been low, according to Banque Libano Francais Marketing Manager Ronald Zirka. “We do not see a really great demand for wedding loans, but the trend is still the same as in the previous years and it was not really affected by the recent political and security events,” he said.

Zirka said that couples nowadays prefer to depend mostly on their bank accounts for their wedding list.

This is how Hala and Bassam Nassar are going to finance part of their wedding needs. “We would have seriously preferred to use this money to finance other expenses such as furniture for instance, but our families and friends want us to have a wedding and they have encouraged us to do so,” they said. “We will be opening a joint account for the wedding list and it will help us finance much of our expenses,” they said.

Hala added that she and her fiance would never think of taking a loan to finance their wedding. “It is not really the top priority in our life together.”

Reviews

2 Reviews
Jennifer
Sydney, Australia
Love Weddings in Lebanon! :))

well, I am getting married in Lebanon next year and I can't wait.

March 2011

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Leila
Jounieh
I agree

Yes, it is true... of course unfortunately but let's hope things will get better soon! I can see more Lebanese living outside are getting married in Lebanon and this is helping a lot.

March 2011

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