“It is a rare and beautiful thing to turn a passion into a career, to work hard to build something and slowly watch it bloom,” this the answer Mennat gives when most people ask what it was like setting up her own business.
Cloud Nine Wedding and Event Organizing was created in June 2011 by Mennat with the help of her mother, and idol. Prior to working, the duo began redecorating a number of homes for close friends and family that richly reflected their unique style and personas. The true joy of taking it on professionally, Mennat explains, is meeting and working with different people in the UAE, creating new ideas, expanding beyond the traditional ways of thinking, and watching guests’ reaction on event day – always adding a couple of surprise elements here and there. Another aspect that makes Mennat enjoy what she does is to welcome each new event as a new challenge, no matter what the scope and size, and excelling when it comes to blending in with Arab customs –as that is her forte. “My goal is never to win the pitch for a million dollar wedding, but winning the trust of the couple to create the best wedding they can afford,” says Mennat.
We asked Mennat a few questions that give us a special inside view of her world.
1. What made you open a wedding planning company? From a very early age, I wanted to open my own business. After majoring in economics and leaving the banking world, I became fascinated with all of the elements of planning. It didn’t take long before I became a wedding coordinator and the rest is history.
2. What are the most important aspects that attract you to your clients? Their level of etiquette, sense of creativity and sense of humor.
3. How many weddings a year do you do? We manage between six to ten, depending on size and scope – if I have three very grand ones scheduled for the year.
a. What is grand in size? 400 persons or more.
b. What are examples of the range in sizes? From 80 to 400.
4. How many people make up your team? We have five full-time employees and then we have affiliates that range up to twenty.
5. How does a bride go about finding you? How do you attain your clients?
There are many wedding online portals thriving in the Middle East now, particularly in the UAE. Wedding directories and blogs, most of my brides see us featured in articles or as a member of websites and Instagram.
6. How far in advance should a bride select her wedding planner? Six to eight months.
a. What are the qualities of the wedding planner that they should seek? Look for clarity and communication. The planner should be comfortable to speak with and generally you can tell after the first meeting whether the person is a good match.
b. Should there be an interviewing process? Yes, every couple is different and so is every wedding planner, the consultation should reveal every aspect that is important to each party and then each can usually determine whether this is the right relationship.
c. What should be a few questions asked? For couples living in the UAE mainly, there is such a wide variety of cultures and nationalities; ask if the planner has experience with their traditions. Also, ask about the planner’s process and pricing scheme, their portfolio and number of weddings he/she has previously created.
7. Do you work on all aspects of the wedding: dress, location, flowers, designing the venue, seating, invitations and honeymoon? As the wedding consultant, I can be involved as early as searching for a venue. However, many brides hire me after the dress, location and their invitations have been determined.
8. How involved are you with the entire wedding?
In general, I am involved with all the details from 100% – décor, production and entertainment.
9. Do you travel to the destination? Yes, we just went to Egypt for a destination wedding, and we are back in March 2016.
10. How does the pricing work?
I charge a fixed management fee for every type of service that I offer. The actual items are rented to clients (or bought by them) at market price.
11. How do you identify vendors in other locations?
The wedding industry in the UAE is tightly knit, and any new vendor who is up to standard, is instantly introduced through the bloggers and directories. Most of these vendors recommend their international peers. We also meet vendors through word of mouth. A lot of clients in Egypt have introduced me to dress makers, giveaway makers and invitation designers, which has been extremely successful.
12. What would be 5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts that the new bride should consider?
- Do start to plan the wedding as early as eight months ahead of time. Start by choosing your date then the venue.
- Try to buy your dress at a time when it is not peak wedding season to guarantee a good price. If you are having something tailor-made, the makers will also have more free time to pay more attention to your needs.
- Do get on some kind of exercise program to relax your mind and body during this entire process.
- Try to eat as healthy and as clean as possible.
- Find a planner you are comfortable with. If you cannot afford one, hire an on-the-day-coordinator to oversee everything on the day.
- Do not try to plan the entire wedding yourself! Save your energy and focus on making the vital decisions for your day and actually enjoying the process with your planner or coordinator.
- Do not leave your dress to the last minute.
- Do not forget about your fiancé in the process. It is so easy to lose yourself in the process and worry too much about certain details. I see many brides lose focus of what is important: their union. Make time to relax with your other half and get some downtime alone together.
- Do not accept everything at face value. Negotiate with your venue and your planner (or vendors). Always ask for a less expensive option.
- Do not be a tense bride. Taking from the do’s, find a regimen that helps you to relax and ease your mind before the big day. Your energy and mood will set the tone for the entire day!
13. What is the best time of the year to get the best prices in your country?
June and September, when the wedding season is very quiet.
14. Are there any special nuances to traditional Middle Eastern weddings?
The Middle East is a varied landscape, and different countries in the area have various economic and cultural distinctions. I can list a few that tend to cover the majority. First being the excessive abundance of food and drink throughout all affairs leading up to and including the wedding. This excludes any pork and alcohol. This is mainly due to religious reasons. The bride and groom are treated like royalty where the groom always has to display the ritual of taking the bride from her family with a special procession accompanied. The bride and groom in most instances cannot spend as much time alone with one another until the last celebratory evening.
15. What is the most memorable and emotional part for the family?
For most, it is when the father of the bride hands over his daughter to the groom and the two make their way as husband and wife along with the procession.
Believe me this wedding business is not for the faint of heart, but you can hire people who have an eye for flair, beauty and design; be mindful of those who are well organized, pay attention to detail and are sensitive to the occasion – your wedding is a once in a lifetime experience.