BEIRUT: Lions, tigers and brides: such was the result of wedding planner Walid Baz’s forest wedding theme.
“I put lions and tigers in a cave and put the DJ above the cave,” he said.
“For a wedding it’s not about fashion trends, it’s about having a concept, a theme – like the garden of Versailles or underwater.”
Baz was one of more than 150 exhibitors at the Wedding Expo currently up at BIEL.
Models paraded about the space, hair extensions teased, curled and sprayed until they defied gravity. Machines sent smoke swirling around white dinner settings. And LED light displays twinkled as far as the eye could see.
The Wedding expo opened Thursday evening and will continue until Sunday at 10 p.m.
For the brides weaving through dress displays and car rental services Thursday, nothing stood out as overly extravagant. Nearly every stand promoted an offer, from 30 percent off a dabke dance troupe to a wedding flower package at $1,500.
On average, a Lebanese wedding costs more than several new cars.
Baz, who specializes in high-end themed weddings, said his most expensive local wedding cost $1.2 million – and he’s planned weddings for double that budget and more in the Gulf.
Most of the cost of high-end weddings like his comes from the customized odds and ends that create a theme or ambience – from specially made LED-lit tables to leather-upholstered seating, ceilings covered in Swarovski crystals and back-lit Plexiglas dance floors.
Modern Lebanese wedding trends demand the presence of certain elements beyond the usual expensive dress and giant party – a dabke show, fireworks, rented luxury cars and a camera crew, just for starters, she said.
“$30,000 is the minimum, minimum,” said Pascal Ghanem, owner of Pascal’s Agency. “It depends, some people like Arabic-style weddings with zaffat dancers; some people like it classical.”The bride
Of all the elements of the wedding, a bride’s look should be left far away from the trends of the day, said stylists at the expo.
“Especially for wedding makeup, it’s important not to follow the trends,” said makeup artist Wassim Mogabgab. “She wants to look beautiful when she looks back on her wedding photos 10 years from now. When you see pictures of your mother’s wedding you see how old it was.”
Instead Mogabgab works on highlighting the natural beauty and structure of the face, he said.
It’s especially important not to overdo the makeup because photographers and videographers will be shooting very tight shots of the bride’s face, so it must look as natural as possible, he said.
Models presented wedding hairstyles at the expo ranging from delicate fishtail braids to enormous bees-hive buns and stiffly teased curls.
Rody Sargy, manager of Wissam Sargi Beauty Parlor, said the most common element of bridal hair is extensions, which allows naturally short hair to be styled into elegant knots and curls.
“I would say 85 percent choose extensions,” he said.
Sargy said most of his clients spend weeks preparing for their wedding appointment by getting precolor and color treatments a month in advance and working with the hair stylist to try out different looks.
In contrast, dress designers presented looks that were anything but timeless: over-the-top floral embellishments, deconstructed bodices with the corset boning peeking through, bows and sparkling silver detail.
From one dress to another, however, the basic silhouette remained fairly unchanged: a high waistline, floor-length cut, heart-shaped or straight strapless neckline and a billowing train or mermaid skirt.
Brides with a big enough budget prefer to have a custom-made wedding gown by one of the country’s many made-to-order ateliers. For those with smaller budgets or looking to wear a big-name international designer, gown providers like Anna Perenna Bridal Boutique offer rental services.
Style consultants like Your Image were also on hand at the expo. These wedding stylists help brides shop for perfect dress and wedding accessories, and give advice on hair color, styling and makeup.
Live dance shows have become an essential component of Lebanese weddings, said experts ranging from event planners to professional dancers.
The ubiquitous wedding entertainment is the traditional Lebanese dabke show, called zaffat, which usually proceeds the evening dinner and dancing. The hired performers wear modernized versions of Lebanese folk clothing: golden kaftans, sherwal pants, oversized headdresses and fake swords.
Due to the high demand for hired dancers, their offerings have become more diversified.
Zaffat Wedding al-Fersan offers traditional dabke along with Latin-inspired dancing, a church choir, a violinist to escort the bridal entrance and customized songs for the bride and groom.
Al-Oumara Group offers other kinds of folk dance – Egyptian, Hawaiian, Spanish and Armenian – as well as live musicians and dance lessons for the couple.
Like a dance show, fireworks have moved from popular to a required aspect of local weddings, as have creative entrances for the bride and groom. “If the wedding’s on a beach, then they are carried in on a boat,” said Michel Maalouf of Smiling Roses floral decoration. “Everyone wants to do something new and even more special.”
The adage “the devil is in the details” is no more relevant than at weddings, as even the flower arrangements have developed trends of their own.
Maalouf said local brides have begun demanding orchids at their wedding, in larger and larger quantities. Brides prefer delicate white flowers like orchids or white roses, said staff at Cocculus floral arrangements.
Prewedding rituals also demand particular colors.
The bridal party and her family meet at the family’s house before the wedding to take pictures and prepare for the ceremony.
During this prewedding tradition, the groom delivers a present of flowers and the mother-in-law presents a necklace. It has become increasingly expected that the groom send red roses.
Baz, the wedding planner, said one of the most important details is the lighting, which sets the entire mood and atmosphere of the reception. Lighting is also important in directing people’s focus to parts of the room.
“Lighting is the A thing,” he said. “You put the focus on things with lighting, you can hide things with the lighting. It’s so important.”
Evidenced by the parade of white cars honking their horns nearly every night of the summer, renting a pack of luxury cars or limousines for the wedding party and close relatives is a staple expense.
Renting old-style cars, like convertible Bentleys or Rolls Royces in models from the 1950s and ’60s, has become increasingly popular, said an employee at ELMA car rental service.
But in the end, one of the expo’s many zaffat dancers offered the only important thing about getting married:
“That you have a beautiful woman who loves you,” he said with a smirk.