Coronavirus: weddings called off as UAE couples count cost of Covid-19 outbreak

Travel restrictions and concerns over the spread of infection at large gatherings have placed a strain on the wedding industry

WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 22: (CHINA OUT) A woman wears a mask while passing in front of wedding shop on January 22, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. A new infectious coronavirus known as "2019-nCoV" was discovered in Wuhan as the number of cases rose to over 400 in mainland China. Health officials stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts confirmed can be passed from human to human. The death toll has reached 17 people as the Wuhan government issued regulations today that residents must wear masks in public places. Cases have been reported in other countries including the United States, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.  (Photo by Getty Images)
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The global coronavirus outbreak is wreaking havoc with marriage plans in the UAE.

Wedding season is traditionally at its peak from October to April to take advantage of the cooler weather during those months.

But travel restrictions and concerns that Covid-19 could spread easier among large gatherings of people have led to couples making the difficult decision to postpone, and in some cases cancel, their big day.

The UAE announced 14 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, taking the total to 59.

As of Tuesday, there had been more than 114,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, causing more than 4,000 deaths.

“We were supposed to get married on April 3 and had to make a really tough decision to postpone it last week,” said Dubai-based lawyer Marine Aoudi, 37, who had booked a reception for 200 people to celebrate her marriage to fiancé Mazen Darwiche.

“We put the final decision off for as long as possible but all of my family live abroad so we couldn’t be sure what travel restrictions would be in place by then.

We were worried if we invested any more money we would just end up losing it

“We were worried if we invested any more money we would just end up losing it.”

Ms Aoudi, who hails from Canada, said she was not sure when the wedding would finally go ahead due to the continuing uncertainty surrounding international travel.

“We were thinking about rescheduling until November but we didn’t know for sure if the situation would be better by then,” she said.

“We are thinking of getting married here, just the two of us, and getting on with our lives,” she said.

“Maybe we could have a party later on to celebrate with friends and family.”

Ms Aoudi said she ran the risk of losing deposits if she left it any later to make a decision about her wedding.

“I had to cancel my wedding dress but I got a refund from the dressmaker because they hadn’t started to make it yet,” she said.

“We’re talking to the venue as well about a refund, they’ve already said they are happy to reschedule it.”


The average cost of a wedding in Dubai ranges from Dh300,000 to 500,000, according to Rhiannon Downie-Hurst, founder of bridal website

She said there were many couples who had taken the decision to postpone their weddings in the UAE because of coronavirus.

“It’s happening because a lot of them have guests coming in from areas that may be impacted,” she said.

“They have no choice but to postpone their weddings.”

She said couples were taking a wait-and-see approach to announcing when their rescheduled weddings would take place.

“In some cases they are sending letters out to the guests saying the UAE was being very stringent about the coronavirus and are continuously monitoring the situation,” she said.

“They are telling people they will make a decision in a few months’ time about where and when their wedding will be.”

One unexpected result of the outbreak has been people who were planning to get married abroad were now opting to hold weddings here in the UAE.

“I have had brides who had weddings booked in places like Bali and Italy who have completely had to change plans and get married here in Dubai,” she said.

“They’ve completely shifted where their wedding is taking place, which is good for Dubai.”

Joelle Clute, from My Lovely Wedding, has spoken about the impact of coronavirus on the industry. Courtesy: Joelle Clute.

Joelle Clute, from Dubai-based stylists My Lovely Wedding, said there has been a negative impact on the industry from the outbreak of coronavirus.

“There have been a lot of postponements and even one cancellation as a result of the coronavirus,” she said.

“People are reluctant to travel which is definitely impacting on us especially as this is peak wedding season.”

She said a lot of couples were making the decision to postpone, even though their weddings were not due to take place until April, because of the fear they would lose out on deposits.

“They had to take into account as well they would have a lot of family and friends flying in so they needed to make a decision well in advance,” she said.

Another Dubai-based wedding planner said it was important couples did not panic about their preparations.

“It’s a personal decision for everyone, to fly or not to fly, but I think you should never allow panic to take over,” said Olga Gerashchenko, from Save the Date.

Ms Gerashchenko said she had a wedding with a number of guests expected to fly in from Iran and Bahrain, which was postponed until December.

She said most of the postponements were from expatriate couples with Emirati weddings still going ahead as planned, due to the number of local guests who did not have to arrive from another country.

Extra hand sanitisers were being installed in venues as an added precaution, she added.

It was not just wedding reception plans that were affected as one teacher told The National he had to cancel his honeymoon to Bali following pressure from his employer.

“My school said travelling outside of the UAE over the next four to six weeks would put my job in doubt,” said the teacher, who asked to remain anonymous.

“My wife is gutted but we have discussed it and agreed that, even if we were allowed to travel, the experience could be impacted by changes (to travel restrictions) that could happen between now and then.”