She Speaks: The Pandemic Through the Eyes of a Leading Wedding Planner

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Planning a wedding is stressful enough and, by virtue of their job descriptions, it’s wedding planners who bear the brunt of it. But what if you’re held responsible for the planning, organization, and management of one’s big day in the midst of a global health crisis? Here, Savoir Flair speaks with leading wedding planner Zainab Alsalih, founder of Carousel, about what these unprecedented circumstances have meant for her line of work.

As a wedding planner, how have you been personally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Due to the nature of the shutdowns and extreme restrictions, the events industry is one of the hardest hit, as everything came to a screeching halt overnight. We’ve had most of our weddings and events canceled, and anything in the pipeline is now put on hold. We live in a very strange and uncertain time, with people putting their lives on hold.

What has been the single biggest challenge for you in all of this?
Managing the fallout from all the cancellations as we navigate a very delicate balance of remaining commercially viable and compassionate towards our employees, partners, and clients.  We are focused, above all, on managing this crisis with grace and dignity – both personally and professionally. We must remember that we are all in this together, and how you deal with this situation now will determine how people remember you and your business long after this is over.

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Photo: Courtesy of Frans Hulet

What can you tell us about the weddings and events scene in the UAE, both presently and in the foreseeable future?
All events, weddings, and gatherings are currently on hold. March and April are some of our busiest months, so this has been a big blow. However, health comes first, and we support and encourage these measures as they will ensure that everyone is safe during this pandemic. The sooner we all abide by these rules and restrictions, the sooner we get out of it.

We have always said that weddings and social events are recession-proof; no matter what the economic environment is like, people will never stop celebrating. This could not be more true than today. After we emerge from social distancing, shutdowns, and this pandemic, people will be more excited than ever to get back to life – to celebrate each other and catch up on missed memories. I project that the weddings and events scene will be bigger than ever once we are out of the woods.

What is the one question you’re asked most frequently asked these days?
“How do we ride out the storm?”

Everything came to a screeching halt overnight.

Planning a wedding is stressful enough, and the current circumstances are only adding to it. What advice would you give to brides-to-be who have to postpone/cancel their wedding?
There is so much uncertainty, and it’s understandable that this is a very stressful and anxiety-inducing time for brides. My advice is to postpone, not cancel. Our industry has started a movement to encourage clients to postpone their weddings and events. They should also remember that this is a situation outside of everyone’s control and there is not much we can do about it. Therefore, turn to your wedding planner for guidance as they will help you put together a backup plan and understand what the options are. Currently, most planners are suggesting moving weddings to July onwards.

What advice would you give to a couple that was supposed to have a destination wedding in the coming weeks/months?
If you had planned a destination wedding, it might not be as easy to find a date as most venues would have been booked ahead of time. You will have to be more flexible with the date/day and consider moving your wedding to your home city.

Photo: Courtesy of PA Images

What tips do you have for couples that have decided to postpone their wedding, and now need to inform their guests?
I think it will depend on when your wedding will be held, and decide accordingly. You can send them a note that says you are monitoring the situation as it unfolds and will be updating them on any date changes as more information becomes available.

From a professional standpoint, what aspect of the current circumstances concerns you most?
How long this will last and the strain it will put on the global economy, along with the general morale of couples.

Lastly, what can couples do at a time like this to make your job a bit easier?
Postpone, don’t cancel! Promote hope and positivity – this shall pass, and life will resume.
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