A UAE-based couple whose wedding was cancelled due to coronavirus was treated to a surprise virtual wedding on the Internet by their friends and family around the world.
Rawan Alhalees, a compliance analyst, and Mohammed Shaath, a banker, both 28 year-old Palestinian expats living in the UAE, are among several couples whose plans to wed were postponed amid the COVID-19 lockdown in the UAE.
The couple had originally planned to tie the knot at 8pm on April 10, 2020, at the Waldorf Astoria, Palm Jumeirah. When the UAE announced in mid-March that all weddings and events have to be cancelled or postponed, the couple, who got engaged in February, was upset. The hotel tried to convince them to postpone, and not cancel, the wedding, but they went ahead with the cancellation. Their refund is currently being processed.
“I had 250 people on my wedding guest list. We also cancelled our 10-day honeymoon in Bali that was planned for April 12,” Alhalees told Gulf News.
To help them celebrate what would have been their big day, the bride’s brother reached out to their respective family and friends to organise a surprise virtual wedding. Alhalees was instructed by her brother to dial into a family conference call on online video-calling app Zoom at 8pm on April 10. She was asked to dress in white and look good to make her mother happy. The bride’s parents live in Saudi Arabia, while her siblings are based in Canada. The groom, Mohammed, was also instructed to wear a suit. His parents live in Abu Dhabi.
More than 50 family members and friends tuned into the gathering from countries like Canada, the US, Germany, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and within the UAE as well. Many were dressed for the occasion, in gowns, with make-up and had their hair done.
One of the bride’s friends played music, another friend in the US baked a cake and everyone congratulated the couple. Both sets of parents virtually blessed the couple while other guests made heartfelt speeches expressing their affection for the two during the 90-minute ceremony.
When we logged in, music was playing. We had a virtual cake cutting and also performed our first dance together
“When we logged in, music was playing. We had a virtual cake cutting and also performed our first dance together. They followed the same order of events as at a physical wedding,” Alhalees explained.
Although Alhalees had kept her wedding guest list confidential, her brother and friends made sure that everyone she wanted logged into the Zoom call.
“I teared up during my virtual wedding as I felt so special that my family didn’t want my wedding date to lapse. They took out the time to sit in front of a screen for an hour just to celebrate our big day,” she told Gulf News.
Their wedding has already been registered with the UAE authorities since the papers were required to rent an apartment in Dubai. The couple are now waiting to move in and start their new life together.
Alhalees plans to host a dinner party once the lockdown ends, with her immediate family flying in.
“The biggest lesson from this is that people should reach out to their families and friends during this lockdown, despite the distance or lockdown. No matter where they are, their love for us will always prevail. This episode has triggered a deeper appreciation for family and togetherness,” she added.