BCME’S Assistant Editor Rachael’s rustic DIY wedding @ The Desert Palm, Dubai

Rustic DIY wedding @ Desert Palm, Dubai

Today, we bring you the real wedding of our very own BCME Assistant Editor, Rachael, who got married in April this year at the beautiful Desert Palm Resort here in Dubai.

Rachael, who originally hails from York in the UK, met her now husband Sandy, from New Zealand, through mutual friends in 2012. Immediately she was struck by his love of the outdoors and the common interests that they shared.


It was not all plain sailing in the early days of their relationship, however, when Sandy had to break the news to Rachael that he had Cancer and was about to start treatment. Sticking by him throughout, Rachael credits these uneasy times with making them all the more stronger as a couple, and Sandy remains thankful for Rachael’s support and positivity during his chemotherapy. He is now back to full health, but emotions ran high on the wedding day and are very clear from the photographs, spectacularly captured by BCME vendor Liz JvR Photography.

As with most expat weddings, Rachael and Sandy had their legal marriage in a small ceremony at Christ Church Jebel Ali, and then had about 80 guests for their actual wedding at the Desert Palm. It was very much a hands on wedding, with lots of DIY and details that reflected both of their interests. Rachael was an avid user of BCME and chose many of our vendors for her big day! Read on for Rachael’s interview…

How did he propose?

Although we had previously talked about marriage, Sandy’s proposal took me completely by surprise! We were at the breathtaking Al Maha Resort for a couple of days in June 2014 when it happened. We love Al Maha and visit every year. This time round, we opted not to go on the sunset safari, and instead Sandy took me on a walk through the dunes outside our suite. 

DIY wedding Dubai

It was a glorious, still evening as we sat and watched the sun go down with herds of Oryx and Gazelle in front of us. It was then that Sandy popped the question! As it was spur of the moment (Sandy later told me that he wanted to seize this beautiful opportunity and make it really memorable) there was no ring, and so at first I didn’t believe him! I remember him slowly sliding down the dune on one knee as he asked me for a second and then a third time, with panic growing in his eyes. It was then that I said yes! A week later we went to Hatta, where Sandy presented me with a beautiful ring. He had picked it himself and it was perfect!

Let’s talk wedding gowns. Where did you buy your dream gown?

I actually got my gown in the UK on a visit there just six months before the wedding. I tried on several gowns in Dubai, and although they were nice, I just didn’t feel that they suited me or were exactly what I wanted. I had previously envisioned wearing a slim fitting, boho style gown, but soon realised that they did not suit me at all!



DIY wedding Dubai

DIY Wedding_dubai



I was beginning to despair when I got to the UK, but eventually went to one shop where I found not one but three gowns that I absolutely loved! I then had the problem of choosing between them, but in the end was one hundred per cent happy with my choice. I felt like a real ‘bride’ and knew that the dress suited me, enhancing my good bits and hiding my not so good bits!


Belles and Beaus in York, where I bought the dress from, were so good and arranged all of my fittings for when I was back in the UK for a week in March. They really did accommodate me as an expat bride and went beyond the necessary to help. The fun part was taking my dress back to Dubai – everybody was asking about it at the airport and seemed genuinely happy for me! Even now, I absolutely adore my dress and would love to get the chance to wear it again!

Did you decide upon a wedding theme? If so, talk us through your choice.

At first, we were really torn over where to get married, which had implications for the theme. Once we decided upon Dubai and not a destination wedding, we had to choose between possible beach venues and other alternatives. As soon as we saw Desert Palm however, we were sold and this then lead us naturally to a rustic theme. The venue is so stunning that we wanted to keep things simple so as not to detract from the beauty of the place.




DIY wedding Dubai

DIY wedding Dubai  DIY wedding Dubai

DIY wedding Dubai  DIY wedding Dubai


DIY wedding Dubai

Sandy and I are not particularly ‘showy’ people by nature, so something in that kind of theme would not have been ‘us’. Once we had the rustic theme, we incorporated little mini themes such as travel (for the tables) and even went slightly farmyard in some of our décor, with hay bales! We wanted to incorporate our personalities and hobbies, so Sandy even used his massive Unimog truck as part of the day!




DIY wedding Dubai



DIY wedding Dubai



DIY Dubai wedding

DIY wedding Dubai

I’ve always loved the glass jar candles wrapped with lace, so we used these to make things a little more feminine. One of my favourite touches was a photo frame that incorporated two hearts with the words ‘you’ and ‘me’. In this I placed childhood photographs of each of us. It is now in our kitchen!


You were quite the DIY bride. How did you find planning your own wedding?

Well…..it was lovely to see everything come together on the day of the wedding. To look around and see everything that we had worked so hard on and put blood, sweat and tears into looking so amazing gave us a real sense of accomplishment and teamwork.

DIY Wedding Dubai

DIY Wedding_Dubai

DIY Wedding, Dubai

DIY Wedding Dubai

DIY Wedding, Dubai



However, the build up to the wedding and getting everything ready was something I would not have willingly put myself through had I known beforehand! The last month was particularly intense, and I spent every waking moment painting, spray-painting, gluing and doing whatever else was needed. Looking back, it was far too much to deal with in addition to sorting out the people who were coming over for the wedding. We were both sleep deprived and I felt like the slightest little thing would set me off into tears. I’m a bit of a control freak and was not very good at delegating, but in hindsight I should have done less and given myself a chance to enjoy the build up.

People say that it was an amazing wedding and that I should become a wedding planner. My answer is always a big NO. 🙂

Tell us about the wedding cake…

The cake was one of the biggest nightmares of the wedding. We were originally having a friend make the cake, but just a few weeks before she told us that she was not able to do it after all. Of course, this caused so much stress and was an extra financial burden. With time running out, all we wanted was a cake that we knew would taste amazing, and which was in keeping with the rustic theme. 


We nearly decided to go without, but just a few days before contacted Lime Tree Café and arranged for two carrot cakes and one chocolate cake to be delivered on the morning of the wedding! We have always loved their cakes, and they went down really well with our guests, and also fitted in nicely with our rustic theme! Most people might have thought that we planned it that way, not realising the stress that had previously ensued!

What was the most enjoyable part of the planning process?

As I said above, seeing everything come together on the day was the most incredible feeling. Apart from that, making our playlist was also really enjoyable as I love music and for once people would have to dance to everything that I’d chosen. Ananda was fantastic and really enthusiastic, even about some of my more bizarre requests. Going through the decades and selecting songs for all age groups was such fun, and seeing everybody singing along and dancing made me very happy.

Making our wedding invites was also very enjoyable. It took forever, but as it was early on in the planning stages I didn’t feel stressed and actually found it quite therapeutic.



All in all, I discovered a creative side to myself after previously thinking that I wasn’t very ‘arty’. To know that we were both working together to make things that everybody would see and hopefully be wowed by, was very rewarding indeed. It was a once in a lifetime chance to really show our personalities and create something special.

What was the most testing part of the wedding planning process as an expat bride?

I found it difficult to think of a colour for the wedding party, particularly since one bridesmaid was living in Egypt and another in Canada, so they weren’t around for me to see which colours suited them – I had to guess! I originally wanted blush pink, but bearing in mind my sister’s red hair and pale skin, I was concerned that it wouldn’t look right. My three bridesmaids were completely different shapes and sizes, with different skin tones, so I wanted to choose something that they felt good in. In the end I opted for a light green colour, which I was so pleased with. I had never considered this colour before, but it suited each bridesmaid perfectly and also looked great at the venue. The guys wore matching green ties and I spray-painted old glass bottles in the same colour. To stop things from looking a bit too green, we used mainly pink and purple flowers, which really stood out and looked amazing!

Desert Palm, Dubai, wedding

As we decided to do the flowers ourselves, we had no option but to prepare these on the morning of the wedding. My Maid of Honour did an incredible job, but again it’s not like me to leave something to the last minute!

It was really difficult trying to arrange the flights of close family, and whilst we accommodated as many people as we could at our house, I felt bad that other people who had travelled a long way had to stay in hotels. Also, doing all the planning myself meant that I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to spend with guests.

How did you use BCME to help plan your wedding?

BCME was an invaluable resource! From the moment I saw the wedding of Bride Club ME Founder ‘Rio’ at The Desert Palm, I knew that we would have to go and have a look at the resort as a potential venue. As soon as we got there, we both agreed that it was the perfect place to hold our wedding. All of our guests commented on what a magical place it was, how good the food was and how courteous and friendly the staff were. Even now when we go there for dinner, the staff still remember us and reminisce about our special day!

I also chose Liz JvR Photography thanks to BCME. Liz was phenomenal and turned me from being camera shy to quite the poser! I absolutely adore our wedding photographs and love how each emotion and detail has been captured; from the anticipation of getting ready, to the tears and joy of the ceremony, and finally the wild party that followed!

Monica from Blush Beauty made me feel spectacular, and I was so impressed with her work on my Mum and Sister in particular. My sister never wears make up and yet Monica gave her a natural look that everybody commented on.

Finally, I must say a big thank you to DJ Sister Rock, who I also found via Bride Club ME. I was pretty much a last minute booking, just 4 weeks before the big day, yet Ananda communicated with me so well and we both worked together to create an awesome playlist that had everybody dancing all night long! Her enthusiasm was infectious and she was great to work with.

What were your favourite moments of the day?

It is true what everybody says: the day goes by so fast! I loved seeing my Mum and Sister all glammed up. Walking down the aisle with my Dad, and his speech later on were real highlights, as I know that he was more nervous than me!

DIY wedding Dubai

Surprisingly, our first dance went without a hitch, and I felt as though I was floating on air. Later on in the evening, my bridesmaid Georgina did an excellent job of holding up the train of my dress as I danced. Every time I looked behind me, she was there with a big smile on her face.

DIY wedding Dubai

DIY wedding Dubai

 DIY Wedding Dubai

DIY Wedding Dubai

DIY wedding Dubai

Lastly, seeing all of our guests in one place, chatting and laughing together, was priceless. I loved that our wedding was fairly small, as it meant that we could talk to everyone at least once. I remember one of our guests saying to me, “Stop. Take a deep breath and look around”. Seeing everybody at that moment was something that will stay with me forever.

What are your top three tips for a bride-to-be?

 Experiment with colour schemes and themes that you might not necessarily have considered at first. You may be pleasantly surprised!

♡ Hire an on-the-day wedding planner. I loved having creative input for my big day, but I would also have appreciated having somebody to help out on the day itself, checking that everything was as it should be.

 Give yourself plenty of time, especially if you’re doing a lot of DIY!


Bride’s Little Pink Book

VenueDesert Palm Resort and Spa / DressJustin Alexander / Photographer Liz JvR Photography / Hair and Make-upMonica at MHG Beauty / DJSister Rock / CelebrantHelen Schrader / Bridesmaids dressesDebenhams / SuitsMurad Boutique / CakesLime Tree Cafe / FlowersPurchased at Spinneys and put together my me / Special thanks –  Bride Club ME.

Looking for more real wedding inspiration? Click here.

BCME’S Assistant Editor Rachael’s rustic DIY wedding @ The Desert Palm, Dubai, 5.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings


  1. This is a wonderful read. Thanks for the shout outs. It was a lovely wedding, with an awesome couple and party. Thanks again for letting me be part of your big day 🙂

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