The wedding industry: A business at risk [Archives:2008/1205/Last Page]

November 6 2008

By: Basheer Omar Al-Silwi
For: the Yemen Times

“I have really become tired by all the demands for my wedding,” Amer Al-Mekhlfi said as he described all the tasks he was required to perform in preparation for his marriage. “When I decided to marry, I lost myself between shops buying jewelry, accessories, coffers and dresses, and booking wedding halls.”

“All these requirements have made me very anxious. They cost us a lot of money, which in reality we need. These expenses consume our budget and lead bridegrooms into more debt, which affects their future life long after getting married,” he said.

Al-Mekhlfi also added that most bridegrooms resort to borrowing a lot of money from others, which puts them under financial pressure and sometimes leads to domestic problems. This happens after the wedding, when the wife starts asking for money to satisfy their needs whereas the husband has not settled his debts yet.

Some Yemenis have decided that the solution to this problem is to eliminate the need to rent a big and expensive hall. Unlike Yemenis from the upper classes who buy a lot of gold for their brides, many Yemenis on low incomes are cutting the expenses.

Al-Mekhlfi added, “Money cannot make the marriage a happy one. There are many other things that can make it happy, such as love and satisfaction.”

Most owners of decoration, dress and sweet shops as well as the managers of halls confirm that weddings are their main source of income.

Basher Al-Kamel, owner of the Al-Kamel decoration store, confirmed this opinion: “The summer is our best season because most young people get married in this period, especially as this is when they finish their studies. About 80 percent of our work is connected to the wedding industry, especially in the summer season when we sell lots of flower bouquets and decorate cars. In the summer, we decorate about five cars on a weekday and 20 cars on Thursdays.”

During the academic year when most young Yemenis are in school or university, only about 20 percent of Al-Kamel's income comes from weddings. During this period, his store only decorates about ten cars in an entire week.

“When I decorate cars, the most expensive decorations cost YR 4,000 and the cheapest can cost YR 1,500,” he said.

According to Al-Kamel, who has been in the wedding decoration business for ten years, the demand for wedding accessories has decreased by at least 30 percent this year due to the increase of food prices. He explained that, as many people become increasingly concerned with basic living needs, they tend to spend less on more luxurious items, which affects his business negatively.

Mohammed Amin, the manager of the Queen Shop for weddings dresses, said, “I've been here for four years, and 90 percent of our work depends on wedding parties. Without weddings we cannot keep up our business, especially since some families have started borrowing wedding dresses from relatives instead of buying brand new ones. Summer is the season for selling wedding dresses, because it is when students end their studies at school and university and because most parents prefer this season to marry their sons and daughters.”

“The cheapest dress we have for rent costs about YR 5,000, and the most expensive one for rent costs about YR 15,000. In terms of dresses for sale, the prices depend on the demands of the customers who want to buy – the material, the design, and their financial situation.”

Amin added, “From the beginning of 2007, the demand for wedding dresses started to decrease by about 50 percent. Few people now ask for specially-tailored wedding dresses. The increase in the price of food and basic commodities has pushed people to reduce spending on things that are not so important.”

Issa Al-Sharabi, owner of a cosmetics shop, explained that 60 percent of his income is related to weddings. Most of his costumers are brides who come to buy perfumes and make up for their weddings.

“They come in saying they want the best perfume I have. I hear it all the time,” he said. “The years before 2008 were the best because there was a lot of work. This year, our work has clearly decreased, probably because of people's financial difficulties.”

He further recalls, “In the years before 2008, I only had a few products in my shop but my work was wonderful and sales were perfect. Now, I have all these products in my shop, but business is bad because there is no demand for them.”

Elias Al-Thobhani, manager of Al-Rebat Hall, said: “We rent our hall every Thursday [in the summer]. In July and August, we rent it out for weddings every day. About 80 percent of our income depends on weddings, and most of our customers are ladies. They depend on the halls as they cannot hold a wedding party in the street or in tents like men.”

Al-Thobhani concludes, “Renting our hall costs between YR 15,000 and YR 20,000, depending on the financial situation of the customer.”