Downsize or delay: Saudis weigh up wedding options amid pandemic

Downsize or delay: Saudis weigh up wedding options amid pandemic
With the mandatory cut in the number of wedding guests by authorities, a pandemic wedding is practically a steal for some grooms. (Photo/Instagram: @photosbyiman, Iman Al-Dabbagh))
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Updated 14 February 2021

Downsize or delay: Saudis weigh up wedding options amid pandemic

Downsize or delay: Saudis weigh up wedding options amid pandemic
  • Home weddings were popular last year due to their intimate nature along with the relative ease of planning

RIYADH: Life has changed dramatically since the coronavirus pandemic hit Saudi Arabia.

Face masks and other personal protective equipment have become commonplace, daily tasks such as grocery shopping have become more hazardous, and terms like “social distancing” and “quarantine” have found their way into everyday vocabulary.

But life has continued in one way or another and even a global pandemic cannot stand in the way of true love because, despite the obvious challenges presented by preventive measures, Saudi couples have beaten the odds to find wedded bliss.

Jeddah-based wedding planner Rajaa Zagzoog said that the number of weddings she organized during the pandemic did not decrease. Instead, they went up.

“We actually had more weddings than we’re used to normally,” she told Arab News. “Those who had decided to postpone their weddings during lockdown approached us as soon as it was over to plan. Numbers were especially high during the mid-year school vacation, we had back-to-back weddings then.”

Zagzoog started planning home weddings as soon as the first lockdown ended and when ballroom weddings with up to 50 guests were allowed again, she started doing those too.

“However, the majority of weddings we’ve done during the pandemic have been at home.”

Home weddings were popular last year due to their intimate nature along with the relative ease of planning and the safety of conducting an event in one’s own space.

And, with wedding costs climbing and people’s finances still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, some Saudi couples have taken advantage of the situation to downsize their weddings and hold their celebrations at home with fewer guests.

One such person is Layla M, who got married at home last year with only her family and her husband’s family present, along with a few of her closest friends.

“Nobody can guarantee what is going to happen tomorrow, and never has that been truer than it is today,” she said. “If this virus ends up killing us all, at least I can say I got to marry the love of my life and spend a little time with him.”

But Zagzoog said that, contrary to popular belief, a home wedding was not necessarily cheaper than a ballroom one.

“The numbers weren’t as low as you’d expect. They depended on what we had planned for the wedding in the way of flowers and decorations, the number of guests, and so on.”

Wedding costs in Saudi Arabia vary greatly, but estimates from industry research company IBISWorld put Saudi Arabia’s wedding sector at $550m (roughly SR2.06 billion).

Arabian Business puts the price tag of a Saudi wedding at between $185,000 and $2 million, and reports that around $1 billion is spent every year on wedding jewelry and bridal dresses in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

“Some home weddings we planned even surpassed the costs of ballroom weddings,” added Zagzoog. “Even a home wedding can have a high budget depending on the design.”

When it came to the challenges of planning a pandemic wedding, she and her team were able to find ways to spruce up weddings and make both the couple and guests feel special, while also incorporating the necessary safety requirements into the wedding decor.

“We would write the bride and groom’s names on the masks, for example, or offer masks that fit with the theme colors of the wedding, or if the couple had a logo or a monogram, we would put those on the masks, or on the bottles of sanitizer, or go with something floral, for example.”

All in all the pandemic had put the importance of weddings into perspective for many of her clients, and she had noticed a definite change in the way weddings were now viewed.

“Since the pandemic began, people have really started looking at weddings differently. They’ve started focusing on the true reason behind a wedding - to be happy. Getting to wear a nice dress, not needing to be nervous all the time, just enjoying spending the day with family and loved ones. It’s much more intimate and cozier and, in my opinion, much nicer than before.”

But some Saudi brides are choosing to bide their time, hoping to be able to have their dream weddings in peace once things are calm again.

Raghad Abdulaziz, who is 23, got engaged just before the lockdown began last March. She steadfastly refused to get married during the pandemic, holding on to the hopes of having the elaborate and opulent ceremony of her dreams.

“Like almost every other girl, I’ve been dreaming of my wedding since I was just a kid,” she told Arab News. “I’ve had most of the details worked out since I was a teenager. The color scheme, the style of my dress, the wedding cake, everything. I’ve always wanted it to be a big affair. I can’t let go of that dream.”

Abdulaziz said that, as an only child, she wanted to give her mother the chance to celebrate her wedding properly as both mother and daughter had their hearts set on a fabulous fete to send her off to her new home in style.

“If the pandemic lasts for much longer, I will probably concede at some point. But for now, both my mother, my fiance, and myself are all in agreement to postpone for a little longer. I'm not in that big of a rush, for now. As long as there's a chance to still have the wedding of my dreams, I'm going to hold out for it.”

Marriage is a family affair and, in some families, is it common to find the groom bearing the cost of the wedding, home and furniture alongside the dowry and honeymoon. With the mandatory cut in the number of wedding guests by authorities, a pandemic wedding is practically a steal for some grooms.

Ahmed Abdulhamid, an engineer from Madinah and soon-to-be groom, came to an agreement with his wife to give up on the prospect of a large wedding in order to save for their dream honeymoon and home.

“It's an insult to the family if you can't pay for a wedding, it's tradition and though it's an expensive one, it's still too much of a burden on a lot of young grooms just starting to find a solid base in their careers and to settle down,” he told Arab News. “My wife is brilliant inside and out and my love for her grew more when we both stood our ground to get married in a small intimate wedding and save on the cost. I want to give her a dream honeymoon that she deserves and a home that we both want to build together, and that is now closer to reality when I was able to save almost 80 percent of the cost. It's what we both want and we've never been happier.”

 


Pakistan PM’s special adviser denies findings of US intelligence report on Khashoggi

Pakistan PM’s special adviser denies findings of US intelligence report on Khashoggi
Updated 28 February 2021

Pakistan PM’s special adviser denies findings of US intelligence report on Khashoggi

Pakistan PM’s special adviser denies findings of US intelligence report on Khashoggi
  • Pakistan in “solidarity” with Saudi Arabia to bring Khashoggi killers to justice
  • Kingdom took all measures to convict people responsible for the crime, Foreign Office says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special adviser on religious harmony and the Middle East has denied the findings of a US intelligence report containing an “assessment” of the Jamal Khashoggi murder case, calling it “baseless.”
Saudi journalist Khashoggi was murdered in October 2018 at the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to complete paperwork related to his divorce.
“The Saudi government fulfilled the requirements of justice, and propaganda against the Kingdom’s leadership is baseless,” Tahir Ashrafi, chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC), said during a convention in Lahore on Saturday.
He expressed solidarity with the Kingdom, adding that ties between the two countries “are strong and permanent, and nothing can dent the relationship.
“There has been a negative campaign against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since day one, but he laid down the foundations for polices of moderation in Saudi Arabia, and his Vision 2030 is for the development of the Kingdom and the entire Arab World,” Ashrafi said.
The Foreign Office of Pakistan on Saturday also expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia after the release of the report, saying that Islamabad recognized the Kingdom’s efforts to bring Khashoggi’s killers to justice.
In an official statement issued in Islamabad, the Foreign Office noted that the Saudi authorities had described the killing as an “abhorrent crime” and a “flagrant violation” of the Kingdom’s laws and values.
“The Saudi government has further underlined that it took all possible measures within its legal system to ensure that the individuals responsible were properly investigated, convicted and sentenced, and that justice was served,” the statement continued.
“Pakistan underscores adherence to the rule of law, respect for national sovereignty, and protection and promotion of human rights by all states, in accordance with their respective constitutional frameworks and international obligations,” it added.
Saudi Arabia has already rebuffed the contents of the report, saying that it “completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions.”
The Saudi Foreign Affairs Ministry noted that people responsible for the killing had been convicted and sentenced in Saudi courts, and that “these sentences were welcomed by the family of Jamal Khashoggi.”


Saudi Arabia announces 6 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 6 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 28 February 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 6 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 6 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 368,305
  • A total of 6,494 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

LONDON: Saudi Arabia announced six deaths from COVID-19 and 322 new infections on Sunday.
Of the new cases, 167 were recorded in Riyadh, 66 in the Eastern Province, 37 in Makkah, eight in Asir, eight in Najran, five in Madinah, five in Jazan and four in Hail.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 368,305 after 294 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 6,494 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Related


Arab states condemn Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia

Arab states condemn Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia
Updated 48 min 29 sec ago

Arab states condemn Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia

Arab states condemn Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: Arab states condemned the Houthi militia’s attacks on Saudi Arabia that targeted civilian areas across the Kingdom.

The Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed four Houthi drones targeting civilian areas in the Kingdom’s southwestern city Khamis Mushayt, one targeting Jazan and another targeting the southern region on Saturday.

One of the drones targeting Khamis Mushayt was fired earlier on in the day.

The coalition also intercepted a ballistic missile attack targeting the capital Riyadh.

Shrapnel from one of the Houthi ballistic missiles crashed through the roof of a residential property  in Riyadh after it was intercepted by Saudi defense forces.


The Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement: “The Houthi militia’s insistence on continuing these terrorist acts constitutes a continuation of the dangerous escalation that these militias are undertaking to harm the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and undermine the stability of the region.”
The minister said this was “a flagrant challenge” to international and humanitarian law and an obstruction of international efforts seeking to reach a political solution that ends the ongoing conflict in Yemen.
Kuwait renewed its call to the international community, and the United Nations Security Council, to carry out its duties to curb the Houthis “dangerous escalation” and put an end to it to maintain international peace and security.
Kuwait affirmed its support of Saudi Arabia’s measures to preserve its security, stability and sovereignty.

The Yemeni government echoed Kuwait’s response in condemning the Houthi militia’s “repeated terrorist acts,” calling it a war crime that endangers the lives of civilians.
The Yemeni foreign ministry reaffirmed its support of the Saudi government, and praised the Saudi-led Arab coalition forces in supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government.  
Bahrain also released a statement condemning Houthi attack on Saudi Arabia and affirmed its solidarity with its neighboring country.  
The Bahraini Foreign Ministry praised the coalition forces that were able to intercept and destroy the ballistic missile and drones, stressing the need for the international community to assume its political responsibilities towards these “unjust Houthi attacks” on the Kingdom’s territory.

Qatar strongly condemned the Houthi missile attack that targeted Riyadh and said it was “a dangerous act against civilians which contravenes all international norms and laws.”

In a statement, Qatar’s foreign ministry reiterated the state’s firm position on rejecting violence, criminal and subversive acts regardless of the motives behind them. 

The French Ambassador in Saudi Arabia Ludovic Pouille also condemned the attack and thanked Saudi forces for the intervention.

“I firmly condemn the ballistic missile attack claimed by the Houthis which has targeted Riyadh last night and the drone attacks against Khamis Mushait. I convey my deepest thanks to the Saudi Defense Forces for their efficient protection,” he tweeted.  


Saudi fashions ‘tell the world a story’

Saudi fashions ‘tell the world a story’
Those who watched the Saudi Cup horse race coverage would have noticed that many racegoers, including foreigners living in the Kingdom, donned eye-catching pieces from the Kingdom’s regions. (Supplied)
Updated 28 February 2021

Saudi fashions ‘tell the world a story’

Saudi fashions ‘tell the world a story’
  • Eye-catching traditional pieces that women wear on key occasions highlight the Kingdom’s diverse heritage

MAKKAH: With Saudi Arabia’s diverse and colorful cultural traditions, fashion serves as a medium where foreigners and citizens can meet.
Fashion has always been an important part of how people define themselves and others, and Saudi Arabia’s traditional clothing is no different.
Those who watched the Saudi Cup horse race coverage would have noticed that many racegoers, including foreigners living in the Kingdom, donned eye-catching pieces from the Kingdom’s regions, while others made sure they showed off traditional fashion items.
For almost 12 years, Brandi Janow has made Saudi Arabia her home. Janow, who calls herself an “American Saudi,” caught the eye of photographers at the Saudi Cup with her striking red hair and gold coin headpiece while wearing a farwa (heavy overcoat) featuring a Sadu piece, or traditional embroidery of the region, on her coat lapels.
Janow told Arab News that she felt welcome and comfortable since moving to the Kingdom, and dressed according to the traditions of the land.
“The fashion scene was remarkable at the Saudi Cup. I am going to dub it the ‘Met Gala’ of Saudi Arabia in future. Saudi Arabia has such an old fashion heritage, so it was wonderful to be able to take a trip through history and to tell the world a story,” she said.

Saudi Arabia has changed immensely since 2009, and that is something I have appreciated witnessing.

Brandi Janow

“As a history lover, this is probably one of the best places that I can be to see so many remarkable sights with my own eyes,” she added.
Celebrating Saudi Arabia’s heritage, fashionable guests appeared in pieces that highlighted the Kingdom’s diverse heritage, including intricately embroidered daglahs for men and the heavily embellished zaboon worn by the women of Hijaz.
Janow calls Saudi Arabia her home and is “happy my journey brought me here.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• For almost 12 years, Brandi Janow has made Saudi Arabia her home. Janow, who calls herself an ‘American Saudi,’ caught the eye of photographers at the Saudi Cup with her striking red hair and gold coin headpiece while wearing a farwa (heavy overcoat) featuring a Sadu piece, or traditional embroidery of the region, on her coat lapels. 

• Janow told Arab News that she felt welcome and comfortable since moving to the Kingdom, and dressed according to the traditions of the land. She calls Saudi Arabia her home and is ‘happy my journey brought me here.’

The private sector worker is also the program director for art, culture, media and entertainment at the American Chamber of Commerce in the Kingdom and also manages Smuug, a small business where she designs and sells products based on her illustrations.
“Before I came to Saudi Arabia I had never traveled outside North America, so I was quite excited to see a new place. I cannot say that I ever experienced culture shock, but I was in awe of how different the country was from my own. It is really beautiful how big the world is, and how different (and the same) we all are,” she said.
“Saudi Arabia has changed immensely since 2009, and that is something I have appreciated witnessing. I really think that humanity cannot prosper without change, growth and evolution.
“This is the natural way of life. As someone who works in the creative industry, it has been such a pleasure to watch the blossoming of talent,” said Janow.


Creative touch adds a little color to Jeddah’s corniche

Creative touch adds a little color to Jeddah’s corniche
The Colorful Corniche initiative will extend over the central island of the southern corniche for 4,500 meters and is due to be carried out in eight phases. (Social media)
Updated 28 February 2021

Creative touch adds a little color to Jeddah’s corniche

Creative touch adds a little color to Jeddah’s corniche
  • The event seeks to improve the appearance of main squares and meeting spots throughout the governorate in line with Vision 2030

JEDDAH: Citizens and creatives of Jeddah have come together for the Colorful Corniche initiative, painting roadways, walkways and squares to beautify the city.
The event, coordinated by the charity organization Oyoun Jeddah alongside Jeddah municipality, seeks to improve the appearance of main squares and meeting spots throughout the governorate in line with Vision 2030.
Prince Saud bin Abdullah bin Jalawi, adviser to the governor of the Makkah region, took part in the launch, while also overseeing mock-up paint trials carried out earlier.
Jeddah’s mayor, Saleh Al-Turki, inaugurated the event on Friday, saying that the collaboration between Oyoun Jeddah and the municipality, as well as government and private entities, will encourage the growth of the urban environment.
The corniche makeover has been praised by passers-by.

This is such a great initiative because it will turn this beach area where people hang out, have a picnic or work out into something vibrant and full of life, while encouraging creativity and showing the country’s support for art.

Nourah Al-Nahi

“I was having my lunch break at the corniche yesterday and I wish this had been implemented then so I could have seen it,” said executive assistant Nourah Al-Nahi, 29.
Al-Nahi said she often stopped by the corniche to sit and reflect.
“This is such a great initiative because it will turn this beach area where people hang out, have a picnic or work out into something vibrant and full of life, while encouraging creativity and showing the country’s support for art,” she added.
University student Jana Abdullah, 19, said that the urban makeover will encourage her to take more walks at the corniche.

HIGHLIGHT

The aim is to highlight urban design, and integrate art and architecture in the urban landscape, raising cultural awareness by improving access to contemporary work in daily life.

“I don’t go to the corniche often because of the crowds, but this makes me want to go early on weekends for a quick jog or fast walk.”
Abdullah believes this initiative will add life to the austere asphalt and stone setting of the walkway, and will appeal to both adults and children.
“It also represents the country’s interest in art and its desire to revitalize it and encourage those pursuing it,” she added.
The Colorful Corniche initiative will extend over the central island of the southern corniche for 4,500 meters and is due to be carried out in eight phases.
The aim is to highlight urban design, and integrate art and architecture in the urban landscape, raising cultural awareness by improving access to contemporary work in daily life.