"We're Getting Rich on Romance"

Meet the women whose 9-5 is all about that little thing we call love
Thursday , 14 July 2011
Adriana MeBarr
Adriana MeBarr
Florist Abbey Dean
Florist Abbey Dean
Sarah Feyling
Sarah Feyling

Adriana MeBarr, 42, has been a relationship coach at Soul and Mind Coaching in Dubai for five years.
“I was born to work with love. Being Brazilian, passion and relationships are engrained into my culture – we care about people being happy together. Right now, relationship therapy is booming. People are taking more responsibility for their own contentment, and there’s much less of a stigma behind getting professional help for your lovelife than ever before. It makes sense; if your car isn’t working you fix it, so if your heart is in pain you need to repair it.

No-one can escape love; it’s what keeps us alive and this is proven by the fact that I help people aged from as young as 15 years old to 65. I see about 20 clients – couples and singles – a week and they all come for different reasons. Perhaps a couple are arguing and need to learn how to better manage their problems, others feel they’ve fallen into a rut after years of marriage, some – especially here in Dubai – are battling cultural differences. Mostly though, it all boils down to one thing: the needs of one person in the relationship are not being met. What their needs are hasn’t been communicated and they’re unsure how to express what they really want.

I have an unusual way of working. People think of therapy and immediately conjure up images of a stuffy room and a long couch, but my room is clean, simple and couch free! Of course, we talk through issues but I also use yoga, meditation and role play to encourage a couple to work together. Often, sourcing the route of the relationship problem is made easier using the power of drawing or drama.

Most single women come to me complaining that they can’t find the right man. There’s a belief that Dubai is a place for the uncommitted, because it’s a transient place, but I don’t agree. You attract what you believe in and finding love is just about being in the right frame of mind. Re-wire your attitude and you’ll be ready for romance anywhere – even in a petrol station!

My job used to be draining as I’d get so involved with my client’s stories, but I’ve learned to let them go. Sometimes I’ve cried in sessions and, equally, I get angry with some too. They will be bickering and I’ll think, ‘

What a waste of time!’ or ‘What a waste of love!’ We really don’t know how long we’re going to be around so we should treat our relationships with kindness. Having been through a divorce myself, my driving force is that I don’t want to see others go through the same. My job means I can support love and keep it thriving. I see myself as the agent who holds the flames in people’s hearts.”

For further details, contact soulandmindcoaching@gmail.com.


Florist Abbey Dean, 30, set up her own store Bliss, three years ago. She was initially working out of her kitchen at home, but she now owns two stores in Abu Dhabi and one on the Palm Jumeirah.
“I love my job – even on Valentine’s Day when I’m running around like a maniac on hardly any sleep! On the day, I’m inundated with customers and everyone is in a good mood, being swept away by the romance. It is mostly men rushing around and buying the flowers, but you’ll occasionally get the odd woman coming in to buy a bouquet for a man – or even just for herself. In my Palm Jumeirah branch, where I’m based, I have 12 staff and we’ll have worked throughout the night before to prepare everything for the day itself. Then we’ll open the store until we sell out, which is normally by midday. Most men give red roses, but I’m trying to encourage clients to be more experimental. I suggest things like a bouquet of red roses, but with some hot pink hydrangeas scattered throughout. Over the years, I’ve also found people are more willing to spend more money on V-Day. Men will pay anything between Dh55 for a single rose to Dhs1,500 for 50 in a vase. One of the most expensive things I have for Valentine’s Day is my one metre gift package – an acrylic box filled with long stems of roses and rose petals all neatly tied up with a beautiful big bow. It’s very American rom-com movie!

When it comes to the messages, they tend to be the same things like ‘Wishing you a wonderful Valentine’s Day’ and ‘Will you be my Valentine?’ Some people have asked me to write the messages for them, but I think that’s okay as men need a little help sometimes. If someone wants to write something more personal – or juicy! – they’ll write it on a card and seal it in an envelope for us. It’s our job to be discreet and this is especially true when you’re asked to write the same message for two different bouquets going to two different addresses! I hate to say it, but I’ve dealt with rather a lot of men asking me to do this, but I don’t get emotionally involved. You can’t. Although I do remember one Valentine’s Day where the man put the wrong cards in the wrong bouquets with the wrong names on them – he had a lot of explaining to do!

Having said that, these men are the minority. Most of the ones I deal with – from 15 to 90 years old – know how important Valentine’s Day is to the woman they love and they want to do everything they can to make her happy.

Many people shy away from the concept, but I think Valentine’s Day is a truly lovely idea as we all need to be forced to do something romantic sometimes – this is the perfect excuse. I’m lucky that my husband, Jurjen, helps me out in the shop on V-Day, but we’ll always celebrate in the evening – and yes, he does give me flowers!”

For more details, visit blissdubai.com.

Sarah Feyling, 32, is a wedding planner and managing director of Couture Events, which is based in Dubai Media City. She set up the business seven years ago as she saw a niche in the market.
“It takes approximately 250 hours to plan an average-sized wedding, which can have anything between 50 to 500 guests, and can cost anything between Dhs40,000 to Dhs1 million. The hardest part of my job is managing people’s expectations with their budget. A bride might want a band flown in from New York and the Burj Al Arab ballroom, but I have to remind them that what they want and what they can afford are two very different things. Saying that, I want every couple to have their dream wedding and I’ll do my best to get them that. Although everyone asks me about bridezillas, we’re actually getting more demanding grooms right now, but this is because more men are choosing to have a part in the planning, which never used to happen. We had one groom recently who wanted to enter the venue on an elephant, but the venue wouldn’t let him, so we had to compromise on a horse!

We’re a small team of four and we do everything, from sourcing the venue (which is usually a hotel, where they’ll hold the service and reception in one place) and the flowers to organising the transport and lighting. Because of this, we do get emotionally involved. This isn’t a business for the couple, it’s the most important day of their lives and we have the job of making it everything they’ve always dreamed of. It’s a great feeling when you see it all come together on the day.

I go to all the weddings that I plan, so about four a month. These can range from Western expat weddings to Muslim celebrations (where the men and women celebrate seperately) and Indian weddings, which can go on for days. My friends ask me if I ever get bored, but my answer is always no. Every marriage is different, every couple are unique and seeing them happy reinforces my belief in love, especially when I see the lengths some people go to, to please their partner. I had one groom who wrote an emotional letter to his fiancé and read it to her in front of everyone on the day – we were all in tears! Another time, DHL lost the fiancé’s wedding ring. When it was found, the groom arranged for someone to personally fly it all the way from New York to Dubai – business class! We also had one bride who insisted on a wedding cake made out of cheese; the bottom layer was parmesan, the second cheddar and so on. It actually worked really well, but it began to smell after a while!

My next wedding is at Emirates Palace. It’s a local girl from Abu Dhabi and there are going to be 500 people. As it’s a local Muslim wedding, I have to make sure all the photographers, entertainers, serving staff etc at the women’s party are female.

I first set up my business in 2004 as I saw there was a niche in the market here, but it has grown to be so much more. When a couple whose wedding I’ve planned sends me photos from their honeymoon, or pictures of their first child, it really makes the hard work worth it. I helped them achieve their dream – how many people get to say that?”

Visit coutureevents.ae for more details.