She is the talent behind countless engagement parties, wedding receptions, social gatherings – each more breathtaking than the last – and even a gorgeous gala dinner held in the alleys of Old Jeddah. She has used paper planes, vintage telephones, and fruits from the citrus family as tabletop décor, creating somewhat of an elegantly whimsical signature aesthetic in the process. And the concept of an “impossible request” doesn’t seem to exist in her dictionary.
Meet event and wedding planner extraordinaire Sarah Al Dabbagh, founder of Jeddah-based Lace Events. Here, she tells Savoir Flair how she got her start in event planning, the wedding trend she wishes would go away, the color she can’t get enough of, and the one venue she dreams of working with.
Tell us a little bit about how you got your start as a wedding planner.
I’ve always wanted to be a wedding planner. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a great passion for ceremony and celebration, making wedding scrapbooks filled with little cut-outs and pictures. As a teenager, my mom noticed the detailed comments I always came home with after the many weddings we would attend, and how I would hunt for any reason to throw a party and embellish it with lush floral designs.
My first attempt to take my passion to the next level was my high school graduation project, for which I created a variety of table settings according to every season of the year. This achievement gave me the confidence to take things to a larger scale: to plan my cousin’s wedding while I was still in my senior year of college. And as the guests congratulated me at the end of that wonderful evening, I knew that no matter how tired or worn down I felt, nothing could beat the joy of turning people’s dreams into reality. From then on, my love flourished into a passion – and then came Lace Events.
What does your average day look like?
I hate working out at night, so I book my classes early in the morning – starting my day at the gym puts me in the best mood! I have breakfast and coffee right after I’m done, and then shower and head to the office. Every Sunday, I pick up some fresh flowers on the way and love arranging them myself in vases. The first few hours at the office are usually dedicated to e-mails and returning calls. I then start writing my to-do list for the upcoming week.
The second part of the day always differs. I’m either brainstorming upcoming weddings and events, working on a current project by creating moodboards and floor plans, or at meetings, followed by lunch at the office. The afternoons are usually when I’m out running errands like fabric or accessory shopping, conducting workshop visits and check-ups on current projects, meeting with carpenters, etc. I usually aim to be home no later than 7:30 p.m. so that I can sit with my parents, have dinner, catch up on shows, and unwind after a long day. Weekends are dedicated to friends and the beach.
How would you describe your signature style as an event planner? Is there a particular aesthetic that you gravitate towards?
I strongly believe that less is more, and in creating designs that are simple, yet significant. I enjoy combining the simplicity of the West with the enchanting traditions of the East. It’s also always important to create a wow factor, leaving guests awed without being overwhelmed.
Many of your events feature whimsical details like paper planes and bowls of pomegranates as centerpieces. Do you think this region is slowly becoming more receptive to taking such décor risks and moving away from the typical definitions of beauty and luxury?
Yes, it is for sure, especially in the recent years as a result of all that social-media exposure. Our region is now more open to and accepting of new ideas and styles.
What do you think are some of the biggest wedding trends of the moment?
I’m not very big on trends and drastic themes when it comes to weddings, specifically. I prefer the more timeless ideas, so that ten or 50 years down the line, a bride won’t feel regret when she looks back at her wedding day. But that doesn’t mean that certain subtle trends or color schemes aren’t fun and inspiring to use at weddings. For example, all-white themes are making a comeback, as well as installing real trees and plants in indoor venues to give a garden feel.
Which of the above trends is your favorite?
White is one of my favorite colors. It’s timeless and romantic, so I’m happy it’s making a comeback!
What wedding trends or elements should be left behind in the past?
Definitely the shabby-chic and rustic-to-an-extreme themes – the teapots and mason jars as vases have been very overused. Themes that are too literal shouldn’t be applied to weddings in my opinion.
If you had to single out one key aspect of a wedding that is really worth investing money on, what would it be and why?
If we’re talking a setup-only aspect, then it’s flowers for sure.
What can a bride-to-be do to help you achieve her vision of a dream wedding?
Giving me words to describe her dream wedding is usually how I like to start, followed by images that best portray her style. For brides who aren’t very sure of what they want, it helps to share what they don’t want for their wedding. This way, I can suggest different ideas, and we can take it from there.
Have you ever encountered a request that initially seemed impossible to execute?
I actually haven’t received any impossible requests so far!
Some brides resist the idea of working with a wedding planner. What would you say to such a bride?
A wedding planner alters the process of planning from a chaotic routine to an unforgettable, heartfelt journey. Working with a planner gives that bride the chance to basically sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
In your opinion, what’s the biggest mistake that brides make in the days leading up to their wedding?
Overthinking and stressing about what could go wrong.
What practical advice can you share with a bride who genuinely cannot afford the services of a wedding planner?
Start by buying a wedding-planning journal and creating a moodboard – this will help you decide on the wedding vision and keep you on track. Choose flowers according to the season; you’ll narrow down the options and get better prices. Invest in a beautiful venue that doesn’t require a budget to transform the space and will require less vendors to hire. Lighting is crucial to set the mood, a good band or DJ is key, and good food is the way to everyone’s heart!
What is your one dream wedding theme to work on some day?
I have a dream venue actually, not a theme, and that is Versailles.
What tips would you give to someone who hopes to become a wedding planner?
Be organized and learn to delegate – it took me a few years to learn that. Be your own competition, always challenging yourself to do and create better.