For the past fifteen years Zainab Alsalih, Founder and Creative Director of Carousel Weddings has been creating dream days for husbands and wives to be across the Middle East.
Her personalised and high-end approach to making her client’s big days that extra bit special has earnt her an incredible reputation across the region, with so of the Middle East’s most impressive weddings in her portfolio. But until now, most of these weddings were experienced solely by the bride and groom and the guests on their special day. Zainab started to realise that she wanted to share more of her experiences with the rest of the world, giving an insight into the beauty and elegance of weddings in the Middle East. During the COVID lockdown, when many weddings and events were cancelled, Zainab began to put together a book featuring highlights of some of the weddings she has worked on, as well as her thoughts and knowledge about all elements of a modern wedding today. This soon transpired to become a published book, showcasing some of the wedding planner’s accomplishments and her thoughts and secrets to planning the perfect wedding today.
“A Carousel of Weddings – From Dubai with Love” offers an insight into the world of weddings as well as being an inspiration for brides, grooms, wedding and event planners, designers and professionals. It includes several chapters, dedicated to particular aspects of weddings including regional traditions, couture wedding gowns, bridal hair and makeup, bridal bouquets, and more. Here we find out more about the book, as well as Zainab’s plans for the future of her company.
Congratulations on your new book – tell us about how this came to life.
I have always wanted to write a book, to show the world the beauty of Middle Eastern wedding traditions, and by association, the beauty of our culture. The only problem is that I was too busy creating these weddings, and didn’t have time to write a book about them, and then came COVID, and the forced shutdown, which although was a terrible time for the world and our industry, had a silver lining: I had the time to focus on writing my book, so I spent the COVID period doing exactly that.
What are some of the highlights of this book?
The book has two main sections: the first is about the making of a Middle Eastern wedding, and the various beautiful elements that go into it, and the other section is a gallery of photos from twelve selected weddings we have created over the years. As for highlights, the opening of the book tells my personal story and my “journey of a thousand weddings…” It’s very heart-felt and it’s very real. I also love the section on wedding bouquets. I love flowers and using them as a principal ingredient in our weddings, and the bridal bouquet remains a deeply personal item for each bride. We have created so many beautiful bouquets over the years, some of which are shown in the section of the book titled; “To Have and to Hold”.
What in your opinion are the key elements of hosting a successful wedding in the Middle East?
For any wedding, the key ingredient is joy. The happiness of the families on this special occasion is the principal ingredient. Beyond that, we simply try and create an atmosphere that allows the families to celebrate their joy elegantly and beautifully. The way to create this atmosphere is with a very bespoke, personal and authentic approach. This is how we create true luxury, that is elegant, stylish and timeless.
Are there any particular weddings you have worked on that stand out in your mind?
All our weddings are unique and truly one-of-a-kind, so it’s hard to compare them, and like a proud mother who loves all her children, I have loved all my weddings. Some of the weddings we created during COVID were special because they gave us a glimmer of hope and beauty in an otherwise sad and uncertain time, so those will always have a special place in my heart, and on the cover of my book is a picture from one of those weddings.
This issue is about success – how would you describe success?
Success is finding your true calling, and answering it, it is learning what you are passionate about, and applying that passion to create and build something lasting, but most of all, success is about creating joy and happiness, and making a positive impact on the lives of people.
What do you think is the secret to sustaining a business in today’s market?
Being resilient, both emotionally and financially. Don’t stretch yourself or your business beyond its limits, and achieve success slowly and in a measured sustainable and constant way.
What has the post-COVID bounce back been like for the wedding industry in the region?
It’s been what we always hoped and expected it to be: there was tremendous pent-up demand, and what I called a huge “back-log of joy,” waiting to be released. Needless to say, we have been extremely busy, but you will not hear me complaining!
In a high-pressure business, how do you keep your cool when things get stressful?
As the leader of the business, I know that my mood and behaviour have a knock-on effect, and will spread to my team, my partners, my suppliers, and everyone else. So I have a responsibility to remain calm, and even if I am going crazy on the inside, I must maintain a posture of calmness, confidence and control on the outside. I consider myself the custodian of a little girl’s dream, and I cannot allow anything to undermine it. It’s never about me, it’s always about her, and him, and their families.
What are some of your favourite wedding venues in the Middle East?
Dubai has some amazing venues, that are truly world-class. Several come to mind, including Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Armani Hotel Dubai, The Four Seasons and Dubai Opera. These are some of my favourite venues.
Can you share some of the wedding trends to look out for this season?
While we try not to be too trendy in our approach, and we always seek to create stylish and timeless weddings, some interesting trends are emerging, including minimalistic, sustainable and organic approaches to wedding design. I am also loving the monochromatic colour palettes. Perhaps as a result of the hectic few years we have all endured, there is great appeal to the calming effect of clean and simple design and that is perhaps why I am now more drawn to pure and minimalistic décor. It is just so calming and light.
During the lockdown you launched an interiors section of Carousel – tell us where this division is at today.
Yes, this was a major “pivot” for me and my business. As events were shut down, and as we at Carousel have an incredible and talented team of designers, project managers, stylists, and florists, I decided to leverage this capability in designing beautiful permanent spaces and interiors, and this turned out to be another silver-lining of COVID. Today, the interiors division, which we call “Carousel Casa” has designed and executed some beautiful interior spaces, including most recently the Majlis at Mandarin Oriental, Jumeira, which has received some wonderful feedback and accolades.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt throughout your career?
It’s not about what you do, or even how you do it. It’s about why you do it, and who you do it for.
What is the professional motto that you live by?
Do it with passion, or not at all.
What else are you currently working on and what’s in the pipeline for the rest of the year?
We have an upcoming wedding in East Africa, for a wonderful family that wants to create a stunning and memorable wedding for their beautiful daughter. Also, as the wedding season here in Dubai slows down, we have several interior projects that are starting and will keep us very busy this summer.