Pressure builds on brides – Living – Al-Ahram Weekly

There is nothing more beautiful than a girl dreaming of her wedding dress, her fairy tale shoes, her mesmerising look, her gorgeous make-up, and her long-awaited groom waiting for her on her wedding day. 

Like many young women throughout Egypt, Mahinour Abdel-Atti, a 31-year-old accountant, dreamt of her wedding day to which she could invite all her family, friends, and neighbours. However, as she approached indoor and outdoor venues, she was frustrated at the lack of affordable wedding venues in her hometown of Alexandria. 

Since 90 per cent of indoor venues are closed due to Covid-19, Mahinour was stuck with outdoor venues, which are limited in Alexandria. As a result, she had to choose between venues in the King-Mariout district 30 km outside the city.

“I decided to rent a villa in the King district and to rent buses to transport my guests. This was almost my only option to have the kind of wedding I always wanted to have,” she said. 

She had cut down on some décor and photography expenses and to borrow a wedding gown because of the expense of holding a big wedding party and pleasing all the guests.  Even so, she paid almost LE100,000 for her wedding two months ago, an amount that she and her husband are still paying off.

Unlike Mahinour, Salma Nasr, a newly wed, opted for a very simple wedding in a mosque and had to argue with her family members about her decision. 

“I fought my family and my friends, who kept pushing me to hold a wedding party that would have cost me not less than LE200,000,” she said. “But Karim, my husband, and I decided to spend the money on our honeymoon to the Maldives, which we thought we would enjoy the most.”

“My simple religious wedding ceremony turned out to be completely gorgeous, and everyone was happy. We planned to have seven healthy platters, and we brought in a professional photographer and had lovely décor inside and outside the mosque,” Salma said.  

“I don’t regret anything. I do not regret not wearing a signature dress, or having the kind of big wedding party every girl dreams of. I do not regret anything. I liked it my own way,” she added. 

What is done with love is reflected in love, Salma said, something Sarah Ashraf, a wedding planner and florist in Alexandria, agrees with. Having been in the business for almost ten years now, she says that passion comes first when it comes to planning a wedding.

Ever since she was little, Sarah has dreamt of being a wedding planner. “I love flowers and creative flower management. Not everybody knows how to arrange a wedding display – which can take all forms from fresh blooms or dried flowers to paper designs. Then there is its relation to a whole venue or location,” she said.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the wedding industry in Egypt has been in the doldrums, especially in 2020 when people either postponed their weddings or made them into small family ceremonies. 

“Even now, we are suffering from the Omicron variant, and people are afraid of holding large wedding ceremonies indoors and outdoors,” Sarah said.

“But we are able to manage, and we can decorate anything from a very small hall to large wedding venues. We work within any budget. Sometimes we go over or under it, and sometimes we tell the client what will work best for him or her,” she added.

 “Some brides and grooms tell us everything they want. Sometimes they get into every single detail to make their wedding day a very personalised one, for example by planning a pharaoh-themed wedding, a Spanish wedding, a glass-themed wedding, and so on.”

No wedding can take place without photography either, even if it takes place inside a home. Some wedding planners play on the emotional appeal of the event and exaggerate the need to have the best photographer, the best make-up artist, the best hair dresser, and so on. But brides are not necessarily only looking for the best of the best.

 “It is also about punctuality, suitable prices, delivery deadlines, being friendly, being up to date, having good equipment, and knowing the latest trends,” said Ezz Alaa, a professional wedding photographer in Alexandria. 

He says that anyone working in the wedding industry must be up to date in every single detail, as photography is indispensable on the wedding day or at later special sessions. “There is always something new in photography. For example, photography sessions are no longer done in the studio but are done outdoors in some landmark areas of the city unless couples want something else,” Alaa said.

“Of course, Covid-19 has affected the whole wedding industry, but weddings are also seasonal.” Photography is still a huge business, he said.

“Sometimes brides and grooms are lost in front of the many choices offered to them. Sometimes people may even mislead them to pay more, and they should do their own research before heading to the professionals,” he added.

The wedding industry includes services, food and beverage, entertainment, lighting, facilities, locations, decoration and photography. It also includes special services for brides. 

“There is now a whole industry supplying wedding details for brides,” Omneya Diab, a 25-year-old newly-wed, said.

As a young bride who got married seven months ago, Omneya, who now lives in Belgium, listed all the details she felt she had to opt for at her wedding, largely because of societal pressures and norms. For pre-wedding details, there are now wedding planners and wedding consultants, make-up artists, massage therapists, skin and hair centres, and various treatments, she said.

 “There is a whole budget that needs to be put aside for the pre-wedding details, plus the budget for the wedding day,” she added.

“Culture plays a major role at Egyptian weddings, and it can put us under a lot of pressure. Three to four per cent of our wedding day budget goes on catering,” she said. “Every year, news trends in food appear and in every other detail of the wedding. This puts more pressure on the bride in particular.” 

“For example, this year, the guest tables must include, besides nuts and fruit and candy bars, ice cream and chocolate fountains,” she said. “But a wedding should be all about the bride, not about the food or setting.”

*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 February, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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