Getting married is a mammoth undertaking, if the rows upon rows of options at the Bride Show Dubai are anything to go by
Preparing for the biggest day of your life can be one of the most stressful challenges you'll ever face. With so many choices to make, places to go and people to see, it's hard to know where to start.
That's where The Bride Show Dubai comes in. With more than 300 exhibitors under one roof, the event at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre is the only place to be if you have the big day to plan for.
Even so, stepping into the venue is somewhat daunting to say the least. The endless aisles of stands offer everything you can imagine.
Slightly overwhelmed, I feel like a magpie dazzled by sparkle, not knowing where to flit to first.
I find myself drawn to the Cocoon stand which is bursting to the seams with ample wedding dresses in a range of subtle hues.
One customer emerges from the tiny fitting room looking stunning in an ivory creation but declines a photograph as a bashful bride-to-be.
Cocoon's owner Hana Yassin, however, is thrilled to chat about the exclusive range of 32 designs she has sourced especially The Bride Show.
Ian Stuart, Jenny Packham and Cailand are just a few of the haute couture labels promising to make you the belle of the ball among the collection. If you really want to push the boat out, there's an Atelier Aimée ensemble, handmade in Italy, that will set you back Dh32,000.
Hana says: "All the dresses we have are exclusive to us and nobody carries our lines. This is the first time that we are participating and we are excited to see what the response will be."
As well as European-style dresses on offer, there were numerous Arab designers featuring shaylas and abayas with subtle adornments for the discerning customer. Traditional Indian bridal saris and lehengas in richly embroidered fabrics were also to be found in the maze of stalls.
But one stand that stopped me in my tracks was by Le Trousseau Couture. I was fascinated by the five extraordinarily-clad mannequins poised against a striking backdrop.
A white wall was splashed with the name of the store seemingly written in blood, graffiti style, underneath swathes of scrunched up cellophane sheeting.
'Red is life'
On hand to explain was the Filipino designer Rocky Gathercole.
"I'm a bit weird," he admits. "The white represents purity and cleanliness, and the red, which looks like blood, is kind of scary. But for me, red is life and joy and happiness."
The obvious wedding dress among them was a Dh30,000 white gown, created using seven different fabrics and Swarovski crystals and pearls.
But the other designs in mint green, shocking pink, gold and autumnal reds can easily be recreated in more traditional hues, says the 40-year-old designer.
"If you are looking for something more creative and more unusual, I am the right person," he says.
Over at Marriagement, the Deira-based wedding planners, I caught up with Rutania Baker who informed me the company charged from Dh10,000 for a basic package up to Dh25,000 for their services.
Among their more unusual requests was from a couple who wanted to walk barefoot on broken glass during the ceremony to symbolise how they met. But the challenging demand was eventually dropped when the families of the bride and groom protested.
Assistant wedding planner Baker said: "We once had a couple from the UK and they had nothing planned - no menu, no stage - they had invited the guests and that was it, and we had only three days to plan everything.
"It wasn't a simple wedding either. They had one of the grandest stages with favours and everything: the cake, limousine, hotel rooms, photographers, videographers etc."
Thankfully for them, most couples seek their help three to six months in advance of their wedding day.
Flowers too are well represented at The Bride Show. At Cédric Amani's stand there are walls of more than 3,000 roses costing up to Dh10,000.
Creating everything imaginable with flowers, the company can cater for wedding needs costing from Dh15,000 up to Dh300,000 or more. Favourite colours remain white and pink for weddings while orchids, lilies, roses and peonies are popular choices by brides.
Pandering to all the senses, there is plenty to be found for the taste-buds among the exhibitors. Chocolatier Dellisse was constantly busy thanks to their samples of exquisite flavours savoured by visitors needing a boost.
Perhaps most important of all for any bride-to-be is making sure you look your best for the moment you walk down the aisle. Karisma Ladies Centre has a large stand dedicated to just that. Their hair, beauty, nail and wellbeing techniques were all being tried and tested while I stopped by.
General manager Alia Madanat says: "It is our third year at The Bride Show and every year is really busy. The impact is really good and we had a lot of clients after last year."
Providing the works before the big day, the centre offers a bridal package for Dh5,000 which includes everything from facials, massages, hair, make-up, full body detox, hair removal and a Morrocan bath.
Looking forward to her wedding day in July, Sudanese Namariq Abdelrahim, 27, enjoyed browsing through the stalls.
Speaking of the event, she says: "I would recommend it otherwise you have to run here and there to many places. At least everything is in one place here and you can find most things."