Are more people having more than one wedding a la JLo and Ben Affleck?

UAE event planners speak of rising interest in multi-day ceremonies

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The world was surprised when Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck announced they'd married in a spontaneous Las Vegas wedding in July, but we were watching closely when they hosted their far more lavish second ceremony last week.

The nuptials were held at Affleck's $8.1 million Georgia estate amid famous friends and family members, as the couple, known colloquially as Bennifer, said "I do” — again — almost 20 years after their first relationship.

They’re not the only celebrities to have more than one wedding ceremony — and they certainly won't be the last.

Only a few months ago, Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker famously held three ceremonies — one also in Vegas, a second in California to make it legal, followed by a big bash in Italy.

In the Arab world and the subcontinent, having several wedding events is the cultural norm, but it’s also a rising, post-pandemic trend in the West.

In the US, for example, couples are having two or three events, something Steve Kemble, a wedding planner in Dallas, told The New York Times he calls “sequel weddings”. He said it allows “couples to create authentic moments of celebration at times that work for them and their loved ones”.

Brides magazine also named "full wedding weekends" a top trend for 2022. "With welcome parties, daytime activities and day-after brunches, many weddings are expanding their scope outside of the simple ceremony and reception," the publication wrote.

Mark Khawaja, co-founder of La Table Events in Abu Dhabi, says it's becoming more popular in the UAE, too. “There has been a surge in events happening in the Emirates from people coming from all over the world ever since they announced civil marriage," he tells The National, describing these as "truly exciting times”.

The events company, which specialises in weddings, has had many couples get in touch with them to organise their nuptials in the UAE, with plans for another ceremony in their home countries. "They have different themes, fashion and crowd. One can imagine the incredible experience.”

A couple who had one of their weddings organised by La Table Events. Photo: La Table Events

Arun Bablani, of Vivaah Weddings, recalls one couple who used eight properties to host 10 events across Dubai during a seven-day wedding extravaganza with more than 500 guests.

“Another couple who live in Benin, West Africa, held a traditional wedding over seven days in Benin City for over 1,000 guests. Then they held another three-day event in Paris, followed by four days in Dubai.”

It's quite usual for the company to organise multi-day weddings in Dubai, he says. “Many of the couple’s guests will be travelling from overseas to attend the wedding. So, planning a number of different events to keep guests engaged and occupied is pretty standard.”

It's particularly common for Indian weddings, he says, which can last between two to five days. "The need to honour the cultural history and in deference to their elders, couples will happily follow the same wedding plans that their parents and grandparents did."

Scroll through the gallery below to see inside a lavish, multi-day Indian wedding in the UAE, with laser shows, fireworks and Ain Dubai ceremony

Destination weddings simply can't be a one-day event, Bablani continues. "These days, it is not unusual to have family and friends scattered all around the world. Holding events over numerous days gives everyone a chance to really reconnect and spend quality time together.

"It helps create many wonderful memories in a way that a singular event cannot.”

It just makes sense for guests flying into the UAE, says Rasha Badran, founder of weddings and event planning company The Purple Chair. “Given that there is so much the country has to offer, couples are creating memorable events for their guests by giving them unique experiences," she says.

“Day one can be dedicated to people meeting each other and reconnecting. Day two can be the day of the ritual and celebrations without the formalities. Most couples are so overwhelmed on their wedding day that they feel it passes quickly and are trying to juggle their time between enjoying the night and meeting guests' expectations.

"By having multiple events, you tend to be more relaxed and have a smoother process of matrimony.”

But while it's nothing new in the UAE, there has been a noted rise in recent interest. Bablani, who also founded the Middle East Wedding Alliance, says that as Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted across the world, they've seen a "higher average spend”, since people had more time to save for their ceremonies, leading to more than one event.

There's also a religious and cultural aspect, he says. “With the rise in marriages of people born into different religions and the tolerance and acceptance that may have been missing in the past, couples feel more able to have celebrations that can encompass and honour both faiths. There are so many wonderful traditions and symbolic elements that are part of a marriage ceremony be they Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist or Jewish.

“Apart from the fun of having more than one wedding, it is also a great way of showing true respect to the family of your partner that you are about to become a part of.”

Badran, who has organised several three-day events in Dubai, says anyone considering a multi-day wedding should focus on providing guests with completely different experiences for each event.

Rasha Badran, founder of The Purple Chair, events organiser and wedding planner in Dubai. Photo: The Purple Chair

“The pre-wedding can always be themed and the main focus is to have fun and have all friends and family get together. Weddings should be more timeless and classic.

"The third day is usually more relaxed and laid-back. It can be a dressed-up brunch where guests say their goodbyes in a relaxed environment.”

Bablani says it's most important to know your budget. “It's easy for costs to spiral if you're not careful. Think about what elements of a wedding are really important to you. Remember past weddings you have been to and what bits you did and didn’t like.”

Khawaja also says balancing the budget is of utmost priority, but ultimately a multi-event wedding is a no-brainer — if you can afford it. “If one has the ability, resources and will to create and enhance these memories and share it with as many loved ones as possible, then why not?

"Covid taught the world that without joy, love and gatherings, we are just empty souls with filled-up bank accounts."

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Updated: August 28, 2022, 12:43 PM