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Managing Saudi weddings by remote control

As part of a consultancy brief that I was given from the owner of a luxury boutique resort in Thailand last year, I was asked to identify untapped market opportunities for future development: The fast-growing gay honeymoon market, the Saudi honeymoon market, and the demand for lavish wedding parties and exotic honeymoons increasing dramatically, primarily due to the ease in which the younger generation of Saudis can now access social media.

During my first full month as the new leader of this property’s team, I was amazed to see that nigh on 25% of our entire revenue came from post wedding parties, and that the trend looks set to continue throughout the year as more young Saudi couples tie the knot here in grand style, and then head off overseas in search of the picture perfect honeymoon, with Thailand, Maldives, Malaysia, and Indonesia topping their lists of dream destinations.

The really interesting point about these grand wedding parties, which take place after the actual wedding ceremonies are over, is that the majority, perhaps 90%, were female only. No males were allowed to enter the premises while the events were being set up and served, a quite unique standard operating procedure which prevented me and my all-male team from ensuring that all went according to plan once the wedding hall doors were sealed and guarded.

The actual service for these all girl events was however professionally managed by a specialist female weddings director, and by her legions of all female servers hired from a local agency, an arrangement which can occasionally lead to service shortfalls as none of them have been trained by us.

But generally speaking, the system works well, and everyone is happy, with the celebrations often lasting well into the wee small hours of the dawn.

As another indication of this dynamic market’s development, Princess Moudi Bint Nasser Bin Abdulaziz recently opened the all-female 16th Saudi Weddings fair in Jeddah, which attracted 3000 prospective brides (but no prospective bridegrooms), hundreds of leading Saudi businesswomen, Saudi and international wedding dress designers, super models from around the world, jewellery designers, fancy wedding cake designers, and many female weddings managers from the country’s leading hotels, all keen to get a slice of the action.

On display were exhibits from haute couture, photography, beauty, fitness, hair styling, cosmetics, perfumery, body care, beauty salons, wellness spa equipment, hygiene products, toiletries, crystal and other luxurious brand name wedding gift accessories, exotic floral arrangements, magnificent wedding halls, honeymoon services, and Rolls Royce limousine services, all of which might seem strange to outsiders looking in, but here in the Kingdom, weddings are a very important social occasion, with some lucky couples enjoying a million dollar event, hopefully, in one of our hotels.

But I will not be able to see it, unfortunately.

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