Having lived in Portsmouth for five years, she was determined not to let the 4,000-mile distance and Covid travel restrictions stand in the way of her marriage plans.
Rachel, a chief engagement officer for the ‘largest insurance broker’ in Dubai, and fiancé Sabri, a retired banker, decided they wanted to hold their wedding at the Queens Hotel, so Rachel began talking to the events team.
‘All of the planning for our wedding was done at a distance and it all came together in the end perfectly,’ says Rachel.
‘Sabri was born, bred and lived in Dubai his whole life but he is of Omani nationality/heritage.’
The couple’s lucky number is two so they jumped at the chance to marry on February 22, 2022.
Rachel explains: ‘We started talking to event co-ordinator, Amanda Gilmor in August. We agreed the Queens would be perfect for us and that we'd come over as soon as our Red Zone travel restrictions to the UK were lifted.’
In mid-October, much to the couple’s delight, travel restrictions were lifted.
‘We came over in November to give notice at the register office and meet Amanda to book our wedding. Then we returned to Dubai and applied for a MarriageVisa.’
What should have taken three weeks ended up taking 13. Rachel admitted it was quite stressful waiting for the visa to come through.
‘Without that piece of paperwork, we couldn’t get married but once it arrived, we were all systems go.
‘I arranged all the decorations for the wedding from Dubai. A specially designed runner for the floor was made in America and I had it sent to the hotel directly.
‘I ordered some bits and pieces on UK websites and had them delivered to friends and family.
‘But a lot of the stuff we brought with us in excess baggage. I had our initials cut out in MDF which I then painted here and I designed table menus and invitations too,’ Rachel explains.
Their attention to detail knew no bounds. As well as each guest having a hand-cut acrylic calligraphy place name, Rachel also designed a monogram logo incorporating the letters S and R from their names and this appeared on everything even down to the vases of flowers on the tables.
The couple designed a perfume in Dubai to be worn on the day and Rachel received a special gift from Sabri.
‘He got me a live oyster which I opened to reveal a pearl. We then had it set in a necklace we designed with a jeweller here in the world-famous Gold Souk in Dubai,’ she says.
They decided on a monochrome theme for the wedding. Sabri's outfit, including his velvet flocked damask shoes, was custom-made in Dubai.
‘Sabri would look good in a bin liner,’ joked Rachel. ‘He looked really wonderful on the day and I must admit my dress was a little more contentious.
On the morning of the wedding, RacheI admits to having a ‘little wobble’ after second guessing her choice of dress colour.
‘Choosing to have a black dress was a bit of a talking point. I love black and I wanted to look different,’ she explains.
‘In Dubai it’s not that unusual to choose different colour dresses to get married other than white or cream so the dress designer here wasn’t shocked at all!
‘Once I got to ceremony room and saw how it stood out against the décor, I was happier’.
Rachel was delighted to have chosen the Queens Hotel to host her special day.
‘Everything was perfect. Arranging this at such a distance, you might have anticipated something would go wrong but it all came together.
‘All our guests commented on how wonderful the food was and all the staff were so friendly and nothing was too much trouble.
‘The vision of what we wanted became a reality. We are a story of the digital age. The whole day felt like a virtual hug,’ she says.