There is no doubt that planning a wedding requires a lot of time: from setting the wedding date, to inviting guests, and picking the wedding venue, photographer, hairdresser, jewelry, honeymoon destinations, and many other things. While time consuming and tedious, they’re essential details in the most important day in the life of any bride and groom. In an attempt to bring newlyweds one step closer to their dreams, the Arab world has seen a boom in wedding planning websites all trying to meet the increasing demand.
Among these websites is Hatgawez (an Egyptian all-things-marriage listings site), the Emirati Zafafi magazine, iWedPress.com, which allows couples to create their own wedding website (Lebanon), Yebab.com for wedding-related services in the Arab region, ArabiaWeddings.com (Jordan), My Farah (UAE), WeddingsInEgypt.com (Egypt), BrideClubEMe.com (UAE), and others.
Despite the large number of these websites, there is still a place for new players. That’s why we met with two wedding website founders to ask them about the foundations for creating a similar website in the MENA region.
We talked with Joseph Milad, founder of WeddingsEgypt.com, which was launched about a year ago and set out to be an online listings website and a free source of information for every bride and groom in Egypt. They seem to have succeeded: the website gets more than 150,000 visitors per month. We also met with Sarah Farah who launched White Almonds in December 2013 from Dubai, a space that helps couples and guests alike pick the perfect gift with a wedding registry. They both had some thoughts as to what makes a successful wedding site, and a successful wedding site administrator:
- Familiarity with the field. Milad believes
that when you want to launch a website specialized in weddings you
have to have the know-how and skills of a wedding planner. He goes
on to explain that WeddingsEgypt.com was more like a software
solution for couples in the beginning. “However, we had to take the
role of a wedding planner to truly understand everything related to
this field and to experience the real thing, which helps, when you
create your website, to put a specific strategy and offer
information in a way that speaks to the bride and understands
- Offer accurate information. When you want to
have a wedding listings website, you have to be able to provide
necessary information on supplier services and all things weddings.
Milad tells us that his website follows international standards,
taking sites like TheKnot.com and
as its sources of inspiration. Milad and his team worked hard to
talk to suppliers and wedding specialists to gather information and
data and to put them in a free, interactive, and selective online
guide. “We only choose professionals. [This is difficult because]
the Egyptian market is very big and you’ll find in it many
‘jacks-of-all trades.’ We cleaned the database to offer the best
and most reliable information on our website,” explains Milad who
believes that this scrutiny and dedicated work is what has brought
the website to rank so high in terms of SEO when users search for
wedding-related topics in Egypt.
- Offer services that respect traditions. There
is no doubt that the services offered are the essence of the
website. Farah says that when she wanted to launch White Almonds,
she knew that it was necessary to provide her customers with her
services round the clock and to have a physical presence as well.
It’s important for a wedding site to be “a space where customers
can visit her to see the various gift options or to inquire about
how the marriage gift list actually works for instance,” she says,
stressing the importance of respecting different traditions and
cultures in every country. That’s especially important since in
some places people may think of the registry as something rude in
itself even if they expect to receive gifts. “In Gulf countries,
gifts vary from one family to another, as well as in terms of the
relation between the guest and the couple. Gifts are often
material, such as jewelry, cash, or other gifts for the groom,” she
explains, adding that the registry is more acceptable among
Western, Lebanese, and Syrian customers who constitute her main
target audience. However, she believes that traditions are changing
and that once she has succeeded in attracting one Gulf customer,
this will have a domino effect.
- Go local, not regional. “A local [wedding]
website has a better chance at succeeding than a regional one,”
according to Milad who sees that customs and traditions vary from
one country to another, even within the MENA region. “In the Arab
world, we follow the US model and add a local character to the
ideas,” he adds.
- Find a niche. For her part, Farah sees that
what’s important is to find a niche market and to distinguish
yourself from others, one way or another. “Our niche market was
there, especially that wedding gift list websites either did not
exist or existed but in a different way, since we don’t charge
extra fees on financial transactions and have an online presence,”
- Have absolute faith in what you do. Farah
tells us that many of her friends and acquaintances told her that
her project wouldn’t work because registries contradict customs and
traditions. However, she adds, “I believe in myself and I know what
I’m building very well. Let’s wait and see. Every time we fail or
stumble, we learn and get back on our feet,” adding: “Keep growing,
especially because a website needs continuous effort. Don’t forget
that doing business is difficult these days and marketing is
crucial. So find the best ways to market your project.”
- Know your competitors… without focusing too much on them. Farah asserts that it is essential to know what’s happening around you, but not to let that affect your work. “Competition is good because it keeps you going forward. However, don’t forget that the market is big and that there are many things you can do and many opportunities you can take,” says Farah, who believes that the wedding gift list service is just the beginning and that it might evolve and turn into something much bigger.