The picturesque island in Abu Dhabi boasts some of the dreamiest wedding destinations in the UAE. Travel+Leisure India & South Asia’s takes cover star, the ethereal Bollywood beauty Aditi Rao Hydari to play bride at some of Saadiyat’s most beautiful settings. By Chirag Mohanty Samal
Produced by Aindrila Mitra
Photographed by Tarun Khiwal
Assisted by Abhishek Verma
Styled by Divyak Dsouza
Assisted by Sneha Marie
Hair and Make-up by Elton J Fernandez
Assisted by Pratiksha Muchandika
Couture Partner: Bhumika Sharma
Location: Saadiyat Island
As I reached the Saadiyat Island, 20 minutes away from Abu Dhabi International Airport, the stunning views of the glittering turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf, the never-ending expanse of white sands and the elegant, luxurious resorts—each strikingly stood out like prominent monuments in a setting perfect for an epic wedding.
You could very well imagine Elizabeth Taylor exchanging her real-life vows with one of her eight husbands here or Jennifer Lopez swapping Ben Affleck’s Georgia Estate for this island as their wedding backdrop—the reason: Saadiyat Island offers captivating natural surroundings and most importantly exclusivity. The island spells romantic escapism, glorified in the poems of Percy Shelley and John Keats or in Ingmar Bergman movies.
Little surprise that Saadiyat Island served as the destination for our cover shoot this special issue. Along with Bollywood actor Aditi Rao Hydari, we took a tour of this dreamy island as we captured some gorgeous locations.
Hydari along with the rest of the crew put up at Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island resort, an oasis of understated luxury. Offering panoramic views of the cerulean sea and a vast private beach, the contemporary property has been designed in a minimalist way to reflect its commitment to sustainability—be it the earthy tones of the interiors or the natural materials used for the upholstery. A glass-blown installation suspended from the ceiling in the lobby draws inspiration from drops of the ocean and the colour palette reflects the seven colours of the Arabian Gulf. Each of the 296 rooms, suites and villas have been done up in the same white and beige tones with floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic views of the ocean. The stretches of white sandy beaches look the most appealing at sunset as the sky dons different hues ranging from pink, orange, golden to purple. And the pool bar or the Italian restaurant Mare Mare are the best places to catch the sunset with a delish cocktail for company. If you have always wanted a sunset wedding, the beach terrace or the beautiful, landscaped garden are stunning locations that can turn a simple wedding into a fairy-tale.
One of the highlights of the property is the spa that spans 2,700sqm, with 13 treatment rooms that include sauna, hydrotherapy pools, steam room, salt room, experience showers, traditional Arabic Rasul room and the largest hammam in the city. So, if you want to calm the most jittery of nerves before the big day, book an appointment at the spa here.
The exclusive villas at the resort offer an exceptional experience with tastefully done up interiors. Minute attention to detail has been paid to each aspect of the villa—from the art works framed on the wall to the bed canopies and rugs. We shot with Hyadri at the five-bedroom villa, which had a private terrace, pool and lawn. On being asked what impressed her most at the property, Hydari was quick to reply: “The tranquillity and the laid-back vibe is going to stay with me for a while.”
Next door to Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort is the popular Saadiyat Beach Club that serves as a relaxing dining place in the afternoon and turns into a bustling party place in the evening with DJs belting out foot-tapping numbers from across the globe. We, however, headed early in the morning to the club, to catch a few stunning shots on the beach with our cover star. The pearly white sand is perfectly juxtaposed with the bluest waters of the Gulf and as the sun rose casting its magical light, the scene, one of the most beautiful that I have seen till date, remains etched in memory. Hyadri dressed in a flowing red outfit looked like a stunning boho bride.
The beach club is an ideal location for couples looking for a chilled out, seaside wedding. Cabana 9 Lawn at the club, spans an area of 655 square metres and serves as a blank canvas for a memorable wedding. To help out with the preps, the club provides dedicated event planners, tailor-made menus, banquet set up and five-star service and culinary staff.
Another popular wedding destination at Saadiyat Island is this 5-star luxury resort with 306 luxuriously appointed rooms, suites, and villas. It skilfully blends subtle elegance with regional charm and offers bespoke wedding services. The in-house team of experts take care of the needs of the guests—be it intricate floral decorations or a menu comprising local Emirati, as well as global cuisines prepared by the executive chef or live entertainment by local artists. Couples can choose from both indoor and outdoor function spaces. The beach lawn can turn into the altar and for a dinner dance reception, the beautiful 523-square-meter Alyazya Ballroom serves as an ideal location. What’s more, you can stay on post the wedding to unwind with indulgent spa sessions at the award-winning Atarmia Spa.
Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas stands out among other properties for its modern Arabic architecture. To those looking for an island getaway wedding with elements of local culture, the property is a great venue. The resort has 327 rooms and suites, and 13 beach villas. The swaying palms dotting the property and the beautiful, landscaped gardens overlooking the sea add a verdant green touch to the otherwise blue and white backdrop. The resort offers several exquisite venues for weddings – from three fully-equipped banquet and event rooms and an elegant ballroom to The Lawn, a large outdoor event venue. There are interesting dining options as well. From Si Ristorante Italiano & Bar, the first Italian restaurant on Saadiyat Island, Hamilton’s Gastropub, a lively nightspot to Turtle Bay Bar & Grill, a stunning rooftop bar–couples can easily choose one of the venues for cocktail parties or for intimate dinners. Rotana also offers customised wedding packages for the guests to choose from.
Imagine a classy Bridgerton setting, but in the UAE instead of the English countryside. We are talking about the the Lady Astor Afternoon Tea served every day at The Drawing Room at St Regis. The ritual is inspired by Mrs Astor, the founder of the first St. Regis in New York, who hosted intimate gatherings with her closest friends. How charming it would be to make this a part of your wedding celebration! The menu includes classic dishes from the St. Regis High Tea, while the ‘Local inspired’ menu includes regional desserts.
The rooms and grand suites also follow the same philosophy of blending classy with local influences—Mediterranean-influenced architecture are peppered with thoughtful décor elements like Calcutta marble floors, sustainable furniture made from petrified wood to sustainable teak, woven cane and resin rattan.
The resort is also home to nine kilometres of majestic white beach and crystal blue island waters, making it one of the most picturesque destinations in Abu Dhabi for a wedding. There are several wedding venues both indoors and outdoors to choose from including the 3,000-sqm Regal Ballroom with its ocean view terrace. The hotel staff is trained to ensure all your expectations are met. Additionally, you can hop in to the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and Iridium Spa for pre or post-wedding recreation and relaxation.
This secluded but beautiful island, which is a 12-minute boat ride away from Saadiyat Island, offers endless possibilities for a romantic wedding— surprise your friends with a palm-fringed party next to the beach, plan dinner by the shore with fireworks for your partner or turn one of the gourmet restaurants into your exclusive venue.
The luxurious, barefoot resort has a variety of ocean-facing villas. The aesthetically built water villas are ideal for intimate weddings. Set on top of the sea, they offer uninterrupted views of the ocean and lush green flora around. The palatial water villas with floor-to-ceiling windows and private swimming pools looking out on to the sea are apt for an intimate party with one’s closest of friends and family. The wedding planners, skilled butlers and gourmet chefs pay exceptional attention to detail to create experiences that last a lifetime.