Each year hundreds of tourists hold wedding ceremonies on the pristine beaches of Maldives. Though existing regulations do not allow non-Muslims to marry in the country, tourists can’t resist the temptation of holding ‘mock’ wedding ceremonies against the backdrop of azure lagoons and white beaches.
The ceremony is often Maldivian, with traditional boduberu drummers providing the music for the occasion. The grooms look dashing in shirts while the brides are dazzling in wedding gowns.
Alas the clothes are imported much the time, despite the fact that there are very good Maldivian designers and tailors capable of making unique ‘one-off’ gowns.
The bride fair recently held at Dharubaaruge aimed to bridge that gap.
“We’d like Maldivian designers and tailors to be able to showcase their talents to the tourists who hold wedding ceremonies here,” said Mohamed Shafi, Managing Director of Bride Maldives company which organised the fair.
The Bride Fair aims to be a one-stop place for those looking to tie the knot. Every aspect of the big day was covered by one of the stalls present.
Caterers like Juways and Salsa Catering had stalls.
“We have special menus for weddings and can cater different cuisines like Chinese or Indian depending on the request,” says Ibrahim Amir, Managing Director of Salsa catering.
His participation at the fair was intended to create more awareness and with five bookings to cater for weddings and 37 ‘potentials’ just in one evening, he deems the fair a success.
Brides to be seems to be the main visitors to the fair: “99 percent of the girls who enquire at our stall say they are about to get married,” he observes.
“Weddings involve a lot of things, and even when the bride and groom go for their photo shoot they are still unhappy or stressed out over some thing,” says Shafi,who is confident the fair has helped prospective married couples find all the services they need.
“Locally only two or three [designers] are well known, so we want to showcase unique and talented individuals to the local as well as international market.”
That talent is very much evident at Saadha Ali’s stall.
A diploma holder in fashion designing from Sri Lanka, at Ali’s stall three gowns take pride of place. One with a bodice made up of ties, striped and plain, tapering off towards the waist and held in place by huge orange roses. A white gown has paper birds on its skirt, while an eye-catching orange gown shows that Saadha can dabble in ordinary materials as well as unusual ones.
Not all gowns on display are locally made. Wedding planner Bridal Boutiques showcases an ethereal white gown, imported, and so are the gowns on display at another wedding planner, El Momento.
“In future we would like to work with a local, but to avoid the stress of chasing after a designer we are starting off with imported gowns,” says Hudha Haleem, El Momentos director. With their showrooms in the process of being finished, Hudha says the fair is giving them ample exposure.
“All the gowns are not locally made – we also want to cater for those who can’t afford designer gowns or who get married in haste,” Shafi explains, pointing out that there are Maldivian companies in the business.
In a country where marriages often take place less than three months after the decision, ready-made gowns are also much in demand.
For those looking to venture into the lucrative wedding cake business, EFFES institute stall gave information on their courses, where you can learn basic cake-making in just two weeks.
Even gyms like Heat and Male’ Fitness Centre have stalls, where one can see young women inquiring.
“We mostly get girls who come and enquire about our ready made fitness programs for couples,” says the girl at the MFC stall. Even though a poster on the wall offers three distinct types of fitness programmes for the couple, she says mostly the man declines saying “it’s just for the girl.”
A male staff member of MFC promises that the changes will be evident on the wedding day if one enrolls in the three month programme.
One of the visitors to the stall turns to her female friend and says she “needs to get rid of the flab around my waist.”
As promised, the stalls at Bride Fair covered every aspect of the big day.
The highlight of the fair however seems to be the runway show, with photographers jostling for a good view alongside spectators throng to the catwalk podium once it starts.
Shamla is easily the most famous wedding gown designer in Maldives, and showcases her collection first. It’s impossible to get a good view of it.
The crowd settles a bit. Next, Aishath Roza’s collection, modeled to the theme song of Bride Fair ‘Forever bride to be’ by singer Unoosha.
Her collection diverges from the classic white gown, to include a maroon gown with a crunched skirt. An off shoulder gown with a chequered bodice of black, white and maroon and a golden gown with a ruffled skirt, and of course one white gown.
Saadha Ali’s collection is colourful, bright orange and blue wedding gowns give way to light pink and purple ones, a row of red flowers snaking down the bodice of the white gown gives it a pop of colour. Men make an appearance in shirts with pleating details on the front, however its their hair cut in a Mohican fashion, with blue colourings and a pony tail at the back that grab attention. Screams of appreciation fill the air when child models appear on the runway, the boys with the Mohican cut while the little girls sports flowers.
Colours give way to white gowns for the collection titled Venus by Naisha Ibrahim. The gowns are sleek, with detailing like silver bow ties on the bodice, ruffled full skirts, and flowers of earthy colours. Complimenting the gowns is the hair, pulled back and in a bun, with hers a slight re-working of the classic white gown. The models are breathtakingly beautiful and carry the wedding dresses well.
“All the designs showcased on the runway are made locally by Maldivian designers,” says Nuha.
The sheer variety of the gowns would leave a bride-to-be spoiled for choice. The Bride Fair seemed to be a success both in terms of showcasing local talents and providing a place for would be brides to get help in planning the big day.
Photos: Mahrouf Khaleel