Locked down in Dubai with her husband-to-be, Rachel Al Mughairi knew Southsea was where she wanted to be for her wedding day.
She was determined not to let the 4,000 mile distance and the fact she was unable to travel due to Covid restrictions stand in the way of her marriage plans.
“It’s your day and it’s important that all the elements relate to you as a couple. When you are an older bride, you can be more confident because you know yourself more."
“Organising a wedding comes down to good communication and with the digital tools we have at our disposal, you can take away any confusion at the click of a button. I had a photo of Libby’s Room and drew tables on the image so the room could be set up as we wanted.”
“I’m originally from Portsmouth and moved to Dubai 5 years ago. I’m Chief Engagement Officer for the largest insurance broker in Dubai.
“Sabri is a retired banker. He was born, bred and lived in Dubai his whole life but he is of Omani nationality/heritage.
“All of the planning for our wedding was done at a distance and it all came together in the end perfectly,” she said.
The couple’s lucky number is two so they leapt at the chance to marry on 22.2.22 (and ironically the visa go-ahead for their ceremony to take place in Portsmouth arrived on 02.02.22).
Having chosen to hold their wedding ceremony and celebration at the Queens Hotel, Rachel began talking to the events team.
“We started talking to Event Co-ordinator, Amanda Gilmore in August. We agreed the Queens would be perfect for us and that we’d come over as soon as our Red Zone travel restrictions to the UK were lifted.
“This lifted in mid-October so we came over in November to give notice at the Registry Office and meet Amanda to book our wedding. Then we returned to Dubai and applied for a Marriage Visa,” she said.
What should have taken three weeks ended up taking 13 weeks instead and Rachel admitted it was quite stressful waiting for the visa to come through.
“Without that piece of paperwork, we couldn’t get married but once it arrived, we were all systems go.
“I arranged all the decorations for the wedding from Dubai. A specially designed runner for the floor was made in America and I had it sent to the hotel directly.
“I ordered some bits and pieces on UK websites and had them delivered to friends and family.
“But a lot of the stuff we brought with us in excess baggage. I had our initials cut out in MDF which I then painted here and I designed table menus and invitations too,” Rachel explained.
Their attention to detail knew no bounds. As well as each guest having a hand-cut acrylic calligraphy place name, Rachel also designed a monogram logo incorporating the letters S and R from their names and this appeared on everything even down to the vases of flowers on the tables.
The couple designed a perfume in Dubai to be worn on the day and Rachel received a special gift from Sabri.
“He got me a live oyster which I opened to reveal a pearl. We then had it set in a necklace we designed with a jeweller here in the world-famous Gold Souk in Dubai,” she said.
They decided they would have a monochrome theme for the wedding. Sabri’s outfit, including his velvet flocked damask shoes, was custom made in Dubai.
“Sabri would look good in a bin liner,” joked Rachel. “He looked really wonderful on the day and I must admit my dress was a little more contentious.
“Choosing to have a black dress was a bit of a talking point. I love black and I wanted to look different.
“In Dubai it’s not that unusual to choose different colour dresses to get married other than white or cream so the dress designer here wasn’t shocked at all!
“Even so, on the morning of the wedding, I did have a little wobble and wondered whether I had made the right choice for the colour of my dress but by then it was too late, and once I got to ceremony room and saw how it stood out against the décor, I was happier” she admitted.
As Rachel recounted what happened on her wedding day, the excitement in her voice was palpable and she was clearly delighted to have chosen the Queens Hotel to host her special day.
“Everything was perfect. Arranging this at such a distance, you might have anticipated something would go wrong but it all came together.
“All our guests commented on how wonderful the food was and all the staff were so friendly and nothing was too much trouble.
“The vision of what we wanted became a reality. We are a story of the digital age. The whole day felt like a virtual hug,” she said.