'Say Yes to the Dress Arabia'
'Say Yes to the Dress Arabia' Image Credit: Starzplay

For women who are getting married, one of the most important aspects in the planning process is finding the perfect wedding dress. For 15 years, the whirlwind of emotions that comes with this task has been documented in the hit reality TLC TV show ‘Say Yes to the Dress’.

Now, 20 brides aged 23 to 50 from the Middle East have been showcased in the 25th localised spin-off of the series, out now on Starzplay, featuring women of 12 nationalities.

‘Say Yes to the Dress Arabia’, a Starzplay Original production made in partnership with Discovery, was filmed across the span of 12 days at Hazar Haute Couture, a bridal boutique in Dubai. Lebanese celebrity stylist Khalil Zein took on the duty of hosting the show and guiding the brides as they try to find their dream wedding dress.

Three of the Dubai-based brides — Indian social media influencer Naomi D’Souza, Iraqi-Polish radio presenter Eve Jaso and South African fitness blogger Amy Jean Fox — shared what it was like being part of the show in an email interview with Gulf News.

Tell me about your experience being on reality show ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ from applying to be on it to actually getting on set.

Naomi D'souza on 'Say Yes to the Dress'
Naomi D'souza on 'Say Yes to the Dress' Image Credit: Starzplay

Naomi D’Souza: I feel honoured to be chosen as one of the ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ brides! It was always a dream to be a part of a reality TV show, now that, combined with the fact that it’s for MY WEDDING GOWN was a double tick.

Choosing a dress wasn’t an easy feat on its own, and doing that on camera, with my mom and mother-in-law, only made it more challenging. Having three minds with conflicting thoughts, especially on camera, was tad bit embarrassing and intimidating for me. Nonetheless, the entire experience was super fun and different.

Amy Jean Fox: I really enjoyed my experience being on Say Yes to the Dress Arabia! I was very excited about it, but also slightly nervous and worried I wasn’t going to find a dress before arriving at Hazar. When I arrived with my mom everyone was so friendly and helpful and I ended up being really relaxed and just had fun! It’s an experience I will never forget!

Eve Jaso: This is my all-time favourite girlie TV show! It’s a must-watch show in my home, because it’s the “nearly always” happy ending. I watch Randy in America help the girls find their dream dresses. Then Gok in the UK get the ladies their best dresses too. So I am a huge fan of the show. The moment I found out it was coming to the Middle East, I wrote an obsessed fan email in CAPITALS with stars to get their attention and stand out. And probably sent it a few times to all emails I could find to be a part of my dream show and represent the Middle East.

Then being picked and getting to the bridal shop was like a huge dream come true.. It was finally ME getting help to find this dream Disney dress! It was super exciting to feel how real it all was … it was more magical than I ever expected. Especially with my loved ones there to share the moment.

What was your vision for your perfect wedding dress?

Eve Jaso on 'Say Yes to the Dress Arabia'
Eve Jaso on 'Say Yes to the Dress Arabia' Image Credit: Starzplay

D’Souza: My priority was a white A-line dress, fitted at the top, flowy at the bottom with some sparkle. I had two key points in mind, first for me to feel and look like an absolute princess and second, to ensure Jake’s jaw drops whilst looking at me. I thought of trying an off-white or a different coloured dress as well, but I settled for the classic white.

Fox: I was looking for something elegant, flowy and fun. I really wanted something I could wear to dance, and feel comfortable in, during the wedding reception; whilst still looking fabulous. And I ended up finding the perfect fit!

Jaso: Being with my partner Brent, he gave me the inspired vision to be a Disney super fan. We both love Disney and we will always go to the theme parks anytime we go to the States for holidays because he is American. And we’ve made good friends with Disney Arabia because we adore everything about their ‘happiest place on earth’ motto! Brent took me to the original Disneyland and Disney World in the US and I’ve been in love ever since. So, I have this vision of a Disney dress. I just didn’t know which princess to be…. Cinderella ball gown or Little Mermaid fish tail dress. I have a thing for pearls, but with a little sparkle. So, the vision was a mix of it all. All the Disney Princess vibes!

Was it difficult to decide and ‘say yes’ to the final pick? Or did you just know it was The One?

Amy Jean Fox on 'Say Yes to the Dress Arabia'
Amy Jean Fox on 'Say Yes to the Dress Arabia' Image Credit: Starzplay

D’Souza: My family and I had been to multiple boutiques prior to participating in ‘Say Yes to the Dress’, which is why we had a fair idea on the type of dress we want. In spite of our experience, finding the perfect dress was difficult. The process of trying the wedding dresses is time-consuming and tiring. At times, even if I found something I liked, my mom, or mother-in-law would not approve of it either because of the fit, the design or the material. Ultimately, I did know though that when I find ‘The One’, I will have butterflies in my tummy, and I did and so did my family!

Fox: I loved two dresses in the end, but I just knew by the way one made me feel that it was my dress!

Jaso: I was super realistic and tried not to let the love and super fan of the show inside me cloud my judgement on my dress decision. This is THE one big dream dress (I want to only do this wedding thing once, so can’t just get any average dress). It has to be everything I dreamed of in my mind. Just trying to portray that dream Disney dress to the bridal team was the toughest. Trying to get them to see the image in my head, was the difficult part. I told my partner if I don’t get that tingly feeling or at least cry… I will say no to the dress. Find out if I got my dream Disney dress on the show.

Stylist Khalil Zein’s advice for brides...

Khalil Zein at Hazar Haute Couture. Image Credit: Starzplay

The host of the show Khalil Zein has dressed a number of celebrities such as singers Haifa Wehbe, Nancy Ajram and Maya Diab. Here’s what he had to say about the show and his top tips for picking a wedding dress.

What was it like working on ‘Say Yes to the Dress’?

It was definitely a challenge at times due to the fact that we had multiple brides from different cultural backgrounds and each member of their entourage wanted a say in the dress, but that is what made the experience interesting. I really enjoyed working with all of the brides to dig deeper into what exactly it is they are looking for and making them feel their very best on their special day.

As a stylist, what to you makes the perfect wedding dress?

The bride is what makes the perfect wedding dress in my opinion. When I see a bride try on a dress and her face radiates confidence, that is how I know we’ve found the perfect dress.

What are your shopping tips for a bride on a small budget?

I have always said that buying a more expensive dress is not necessarily better. On the show, our brides had a wide range of budgets and we were able to choose dresses for them to try on that suited each of their budgets. Nowadays, especially in the wake of the pandemic where weddings have become smaller and simpler, brides have access to vast choices for wedding dresses. My advice for brides with a smaller budget would be to keep an open mind while shopping and not allow budget constraints to get in their way of finding what they want. With all of the choices out there, you will find exactly what you’re looking for without breaking the bank.

What’s your trend advice for brides of 2022?

For bridal I believe there aren’t trends. I personally think bridal wear should be traditional, classic and timeless but can always have a modern twist.

Fun fact

The ‘Say Yes to the Dress Arabia’ brides chose their wedding dresses across a wide range of budgets. One bride said yes to a $14,000 (Dh51,422) dress, while another bride had a budget of $615.

Don’t miss it!

‘Say Yes to the Dress’ is streaming now on Starzplay.