Untangling complexities of Omani weddings

Of the many different family celebrations in Oman, Omani weddings are one of the most lavish and well-attended.
It’s a life event that today, has taken a regal and glamorous form with families willing to spend thousands of Omani rials to make sure that they organise a fitting send-off party for the grooms and brides-to-be towards marital bliss.
It didn’t occur to Sulayma al Jahdhami that she will end up making memorable events for couples as a wedding planner. Her background was Sustainable Tourism in Regional Development, a degree she earned from the German University of Technology in Oman. She always envisioned working for the hospitality and tourism sector. Working as a Weddings and Social Events Manager is something that she has embraced wholeheartedly and enjoyed every minute of.

As an Omani, Sulayma is aware of the many traditions taking place within an Omani wedding. One wedding becomes the launching pad of another one. It’s a place where sisters and moms are looking for a suitable bride for their brothers or cousins, which is why it is an important event that demands experience and mastery. It’s also a big turning point for any man or woman’s life and so crucial that people require nothing less than perfect.

“I interned in the HR Department of Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel when I was still a student. It was part of my training. After my graduation, I came back and joined the Voyager programme — worked in reservations for seven months, did concierge services and eventually moved to catering and conference services. Somewhere in the middle, I slide into the department that handles weddings, and it is from there that I fell in love with weddings,” Sulayma shared.
“I always had my eyes on it. When the previous employee left, I took over,” she shared.
Many hotels in the country cater to dozens of weddings every year. In their previous years, they had been booked almost 60 times a year with the current year’s target of 65.
“Not a lot of people know this. In Oman, weddings are actually happening the whole year through except during Ramadhan. You can have as many as three to five weddings a month; it all depends on how the clients envision their special day,” she shared.
“Since the time I took over the Weddings and Social Events position, I already oversaw 25 high-calibre weddings, one different from the other. A wedding in Oman can have as many as a thousand guests to as little as 150. The biggest we have handled is a garden wedding that has over 900 guests,” she said.
“Booking a reservation takes place a year or six months in advance. Most of the weddings we target are local ones. However, we do have some destination weddings where expats fly their guests to Oman to have the wedding here. We have handled Lebanese, Turkish and Indian weddings etc., and all of them required their personal, different touches,” she said.

Making the bride and groom’s life easy
“Challenges are a huge part of any job. Wedding planning comes with a lot of them, but it is something you can either enjoy the process and learn from or don’t do it at all. The most common challenge we face is clients panicking. They want everything to be perfect, and you have to comfort them that everything is being looked after,” Sulayma said.
Her job as a planner starts when a reservation is made. She talks to clients, lockdown what and how they wanted the wedding, identify the vendors required and propose potential providers. She also oversees the staff and double-checks that the respected department executes all the plans set-up weeks in advance.
“From one wedding to another, there are details that every bride wants. But all of them have a common flow and timing. It usually depends on the bride and the whole family in what they are looking for,” she shared.
“My job covers a lot of things, especially on the location and hotel side. I arrange for the menu, finalise the venue. I am present in almost all the preparation meetings communicating what the bride and groom want. I oversee timings of when the bride comes down, logistics for all the vendors, including photographers and DJs. I coordinate with hospitality vendors, flowers, the chef, and the banquet department. Different aspects have to be paid attention to,” she shared.

The Omani touch
“With weddings, there is also a part where you make an emotional connection with the families and guests,” she said.
“Clients and guests are usually surprised when they see an Omani handling their weddings. They are impressed by it. How I understood it from a client perspective is that there are not a lot of Omanis working in the hotel industry, especially ones who specialise in organising Omani weddings. That plays a major role,” she shared.
“When I handle these weddings, the Omanis feel more comfortable in communicating because it is someone who speaks the same language as them. They don’t need to explain the nuances of the Omani culture and traditions. It’s easy for me to understand when they request something for their mothers or sisters etc,” she shared.
“The mother of the bride once cried and hugged me during a wedding event. They were so happy about how it was handled that they made me feel I was part of the family. I am still in touch with them and gets invited to some of their important events,” she shared.
“For Omani weddings, it is not something that one person can do, however. It takes a team working in seamlessly creating an experience. From the chef to the banquet department, to housekeeping, to rooms services and registration, these are tiny details that take a team to execute,” she shared.
“What I would love to break in the Oman society is the fear of working in the hospitality sector or this particular segment of the tourism industry. Working in the tourism or hospitality sector does not mean just doing menial jobs. Even so, there’s nothing wrong with it as long as you are doing a decent job,” she said.
For Sulayma, being of service, being able to lend her skills in simplifying a wedding, brings her happiness. Not married yet, she looks forward to having her own. She hopes to communicate to all brides-to-be that weddings are not something you have to do yourself. She wants to point out there’s help around and people like her can make a memorable experience for them.