Choosing the venue where you say your vows is crucial for most people when planning a wedding. In the UAE, there's no shortage of beach-fronted resorts, palm-fringed gardens and luxurious ballrooms that can host your special day, but for something extraordinary, Dubai Opera may be the front-runner.
A bona fide landmark in the heart of Downtown Dubai, this multi-format structure offers something a little bit different, and that's exactly why Ahad Qassim Shahin decided it was the right fit for her and her then-fiance, Faisal.
"I always imagined having my wedding in a very unique venue," says Shahin, an Emirati doctor. "I wanted somewhere that felt grand, theatrical and with elements that could help me to turn my dream of a fairy-tale wedding into reality. I'd looked at several options, but when I came across Dubai Opera, I knew that this was it, the perfect venue for me."
As Dubai's first purpose-built performing arts theatre, flexibility is at the core of Dubai Opera's design. Its intuitive architecture means the auditorium can be transformed so that it can function as a proscenium arch theatre, concert hall, and a destination for stage performances and special events. It's this set-up that makes it ideal for personalised weddings, too. It's not hard to see why the opera house scooped the People's Choice Award for the Best Wedding Venue at this month's Bride Dubai exhibition.
As one of the very first brides to have her wedding at the venue, Shahin was impressed by how customisable the space was. "The entire place was perfect in terms of accommodating the number of guests I wanted to invite, and there was so much flexibility with the space I could use and what I could do with it," she says.
If incorporating local heritage into your big day is important to you, the dhow-shaped design of the building perfectly echoes Emirati culture, while the sculptures and artworks placed across the venue make for interesting talking points. In the foyer, the immense drop chandelier is an ideal setting for the welcome reception, or as a focal point for a wedding photo shoot. Created by Libor Sostak and entitled Symphony, the five-tonne lustre is made of 30,000 individually crafted glass pearls, lit up by 3,000 LED sources.
Upstairs, the rooftop garden makes the most of Downtown's views and is another good choice for pictures. After all, not every couple can say they had the world's tallest building as the backdrop to their wedding ceremony. Meanwhile, the state-of-the-art sound system, technical equipment and theatrical lighting offer the ideal toolkit to customise the ambience and vibe. Add to that the knowledge that you'll be making memories in a space where world-class dancers, singers and actors have performed in.
Shahin says another plus point was the team at Dubai Opera, who oversaw everything from design and decoration to catering and menu-tasting. "As a detail-orientated person myself, it was a relief knowing that there was an amazing team working their magic behind the scenes. I felt like I got 120 per cent attention," she says.
With the bride keen on a princess-themed wedding, something she'd wanted since she was a little girl, Dubai Opera was turned into a floral-filled extravaganza for the occasion. The central kosha – where the bride and groom traditionally sit during an Arabic wedding – was faultless, says Shahin. "The interiors were perfect and the hues of brown matched the neutral tones that I wanted to have in my kosha."
The wedding party were all assigned dressing areas, while dedicated spaces were set up as a make-up area and dressing room for the bride. The final flourish was the female orchestra, all dressed in white, who entertained guests, while also acting as a bridge between the venue's musical prominence and the happy couple's special occasion.
For Shahin, the entire day was a magical experience, but her favourite part was her grand entrance. "The lighting, the orchestra, the large screen that I walked through – it all just came together exactly how I imagined it," she says.
The wedding party were all assigned dressing areas, and dedicated spaces were set up as a make-up area and dressing room for the bride. The final flourish was the female orchestra, all dressed in white who entertained guests while acting as a bridge between the venue’s musical prominence and the couple’s special occasion.
For Ahad, the entire day was magical but her favourite part was her grand entrance. “The lighting, the orchestra, the large screen that I walked through - it all just came together exactly how I imagined it.”
Watch Dubai Opera transform from concert hall to wedding venue: