2019 WORLD WEDDING TRENDS: New report unveils all


Global wedding events association International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning (IAWEP) has released its fifth annual ‘International Wedding Trend Report’ highlighting the hottest new trends for weddings this year as well as the essential statistics on the wedding planning industry according to experts in the field, journalism.co.uk reports.


The hundred experts who lent their observations to the report include household industry names such as Colin Cowie and Mindy Weiss and the document covers many of the upcoming wedding trends making their mark in 2019 in the UK and Europe, North America, Australasia, South East Asia and the GCC region. Overall, there is an increasing trend towards ‘eco-conscious’ weddings that minimise the use of plastics and other environmentally unfriendly materials.

In announcing the free public release of the report, the IAWEP’s chief executive officer, Kylie Carlson said in a press release from the association: “The International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning is a global leader of continuing education in the weddings and events industry,’

“Our connection to industry experts around the world provides us with the unique opportunity to invest in researching and revealing worldwide wedding trends. Each year offers new and exciting styles and designs, and we’re thrilled to share that 2019 has a lot in store.”

Among the highlights covered in the International Wedding Trend Report will be the rise of new colour trends and floral arrangement choices among brides and grooms-to-be, as well as trends in centrepiece and table layouts.

More couples are opting for sharing foods and buffets over traditional plated assemblies, they increasingly want to capture the memories of their big day as videos and animated images such as GIFs, rather than the classic shoot with a wedding photographer, and more people are opting for holding their weddings on Fridays and Sundays, rather than the usual Saturday, the report states. The report can be accessed via this linkHighlights from the Report can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLYtFv57ag0


“2019 wedding trends unveiled in annual international report” – journalism.co.uk (7 January 2019) https://www.journalism.co.uk/press-releases/2019-wedding-trends-unveiled-in-annual-international-report/s66/a732755/

“Get your FREE copy of the Global 2019 Trend Report.” – International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning https://weddingacademy.lpages.co/the-wedding-trend-report/


“File:W E D D I N G 1 (67357911).jpeg” – Cj Hudgins & Vember Photo via 500px, Wikimedia Commons (20 August 2018) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:W_E_D_D_I_N_G_1_(67357911).jpeg  – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.


GOOGLE SEO: What are the SEO trends in 2017?

MEHFUZ HUSSAIN (writer) with VIJAY SHAH (editor)


This article was written by Mehfuz Hussain, a digital marketing specialist based in London with expertise in online marketing concepts and Google Analytics.

Search Engine Optimisation has seen many changes in 2016 thanks to Google. From the launch of its ambitious AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) Project in February 2016, Google has shaken up the way traditional SEO worked. Understandably, Google knows well that the best way to dominate the industry is to be aware of how search engines are changing, and strategising SEO and content techniques accordingly. The world of SEO continues to evolve at high speed. While some SEO techniques have been a staple for several years, there will be many new ones that you will have to pay attention to. Here are some of the game-changing trends to help you stay ahead this year.


Photo credit: BigOakInc.com


1. Mobile-first Approach by Businesses

With ongoing improvements in the mobile computing field, browsing on mobiles has become equivalent to desktop browsing if not more In many countries, mobile browsing is more popular and dominant than via traditional desktops and laptops. In the last few years, the plethora of new smartphones with internet capabilities has changed the way search engine look at them. Remember Mobilegeddon?

A few months ago, Google said, “To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.” This influenced their latest search algorithm which prioritised ‘responsive’ websites at the cost of older, mobile-unfriendly sites.

So, in 2017, your top priority is to separate your desktop and mobile measurement plans to account for the fundamental differences between mobile and desktop behaviour.


2. Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Google Rank Brain

There is no doubt, Google’s main focus in 2017 is on Artificial Intelligence. If you followed the Google I/O event 2016, most announcements were related to AI. Google also said that the speech recognition errors have reduced from 25 to 8 percent. It’s been officially named Google’s third-most important ranking factor. Voice search will grow even more in 2017, with better voice recognition and understanding.


3. Infographics

Infographics make complex information eye-catching, shareable and easily digestible. An image coupled with information tends to stay in the minds of readers. Such content generates more social shares and also generates leads. Of course, your content should also be suitable enough to add Infographics to it, and they can really make it pop.


4. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) takes centre stage

A great way to ensure better user experience is switching over to Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). More brands are using this option as Google also has begun to favour the use of AMP. It contains three sections – AMP HTML, AMP JS, and Google AMP Cache. Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) allows websites to make pages equipped for loading right away onto mobile screens. Interestingly, sites that have switched over to AMP are given more visibility with a special icon in Google searches.



5. Branding gets personal

There is no denying the power of personal branding. If used strategically, it can be a powerful tool in ensuring the success of SEO campaigns. Even social media platforms like Facebook refine their algorithms to favour individual posts over branded posts. Also, once you have a personal brand in place, it gets much easier to boost user trust and engagement. This, in turn, will up the traffic to your site.


6. HTTPS Everywhere

Google has inducted https as a ranking factor in its algorithm. Since then many companies hurriedly made the transition from HTTP to HTTPS in order to protect their own and their users’ privacy. It helps even more if there is money transactions happening on the website (e-commerce) and gives consumers extra confidence about their privacy. Let’s expect more websites switching to HTTPS than ever before in the history of the Web.


7. Focus on Content Curation

Though many people do not realise it, content marketing and SEO needs to work together for better results and visibility. Include all types of content in the mix: press releases and newsletters as well as articles and blog posts. A good content mix will help you increase backlinks on authority websites and establish you as an expert in your field. This strategy will help you boost your business to the top of Google’s SERPs.


2017 will see a massive hike in Internet usage. People are more concerned about the content they read. Now is the right time to prepare a well-developed strategy to survive in the market and beat the competition. As an SEO marketer, you have to be prepared for changes. Keep an close eye on SEO trends in 2017. All the best everyone!


“Google SEO Magnifying Glass” – BigOakFlickr, Flickr (1 July 2016) https://www.flickr.com/photos/31682982@N03/27940989741
“Free illustration: Seo, Web Page, Responsive – Free Image on Pixabay – 2016484” – Templune, pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/seo-web-page-responsive-web-design-2016484/

IRAQ OIL PRICES ON THE UP: Markets rise despite Iraq ISIL tensions; disorder

This report is based on one supplied by the London office of The Daily Star website of Lebanon, via the international news story supplier and agency AFP, with additional background information on the ISIL/Iraq conflict supplied by the HEM blog editor and reporter.

Despite ongoing tensions in Iraq as a new militant group sweep their way through much of the country’s north and centre, oil prices for the area continued to rise as of today, according to crude oil analysts and Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper, it has been reported. Quoted oil prices on the international commodities market continued an upward trend this Monday holding not far from last week’s exceptional nine-month peak, analysts have noted.

In particular, outbound deliveries of Brent crude-priced oil from the beleaguered Middle Eastern nation, one of the world’s top producers, added 10 U.S. cents to the price of a barrel, which now stands at $114.91 under London prices via their late morning deals compared with Friday’s closing level. Oil pricing benchmark West Texas Intermediate of the United States reported a larger 22 cents increase on their prices for Iraqi crude and barrels there have been quoted at $107.05. Both transatlantic trends have proved unusual in that armed conflict and disarray generally cause a drop in oil prices, but this weekend’s running increases seem to have bucked that usual trend, perhaps buoyed in part by increasing demand for oil from highly industrious countries like China and Mexico.

Dorian Lucas, an analyst at British-based energy consultancy Inenco, helped explain the situation with Brent oil. In an interview, he stated ” Brent crude opened today at fractionally below $115 per barrel…Prices remain around the nine-month high average achieved in the back end of last week, supported by the continued violence and instability in Iraq “.

Last Thursday witnessed a soar in price for Brent oil $115.71 a barrel – the highest point since September 9, 2013. In the New York commodity exchange, prices jumped to $107.73 per barrel, a level not witnessed since September 19, 2013.

(c) L. M. Francioni/US Navy via Wikimedia Commons

The Khawr Al Amaya oil platform, off the coast near Basra (Al-Basrah) in south Iraq.

While oil traders in the Western markets have rejoiced, the situation on the ground for the Iraqi cabinet of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been far from pleasant. The ISIL militia, also known as ISIS, and fully referred to as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant & Al-Shams have cut a swathe across Iraqi territory these past few weeks. Active in neighbouring Syria, where ISIL fighters are battling the government of that country’s president Bashar al-Assad, the militia, once allied with Al-Qaeda but following their own trajectory now, have invaded and occupied several of Iraq’s major cities. The birthplace of former dictator Saddam Hussein, Tikrit, as well as the oil producing city of Mosul have been quickly taken over by ISIL while local regiments of the Iraqi army have fled after abandoning their posts, uniforms, equipment and bases. The ISIL have threatened to march and take Baghdad, Iraq‘s capital as well as the predominately Shi’a south, including the holy cities of Najaf and Karbalah.

Iraq’s security forces are struggling to contain the insurgency as ISIL have overrun five of the country’s provinces, exacting murderous revenge on those soldiers and civilians unable to flee in advance. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been made effectively homeless and there are fears the country could slide into sectarian civil war and even break apart. Iraq is still reeling from the aftereffects of the US invasion of 2003 which saw the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist government. Many people, both inside and outside the region,still claim the Americans’ main motivation for the invasion was to secure control of Iraq’s vast oil reserves.

Recently, the militants have swept into the towns of Rawa and Ana in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, after taking the Al-Qaim border crossing with Syria. They have now formed a corridor of Iraqi territory linking them up with co-fighters across the border with Syria.

The crisis has however, benefitted oil prices internationally, with barrels from OPEC’s number two producing nation still flowing largely unimpeded. However, in an industry prone to sudden falls and uncertainty, markets have now priced in potential supply disruption, traders say. David Lennox, a resource analyst associated with Fat Prophets in Sydney, told the French news agency AFP: “We see oil retaining support from the violence in Iraq, but markets have already priced in a significant risk premium in the last few weeks,…

ISIL militants have yet to arrive in the south of Iraq, where most of the lucrative oilfields and installations are based. If they do manage to take up these fields, it is assumed that oil exports will drop significantly and that ISIL commanders may use the fields’ revenues to bankroll their occupation and ongoing struggle in both Iraq and Syria.

We see prices remaining relatively stable at current levels as long as the crisis does not spread to Iraq’s south where most of its exports are coming from,” added Lennox.

The market has already been quite used to patchy output from the north where the fighting is currently going on, and it must also be noted that Iraq has been extremely volatile in terms of output for many years now.”

Iraq currently is the world’s second largest crude oil exporter after Saudi Arabia. Both are members of the twelve-nation oil producing and exporting union Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Iraq is believed to possess around 11 per cent of global oil resources and generates 3.4 million barrels of ‘black gold’ a day.

Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind
The Daily Star, Twitter https://twitter.com/DailyStarLeb
“Oil market climbs on Iraq tensions” – AFP via The Daily Star Lebanon, The Daily Star (23 June 2014) http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Business/Middle-East/2014/Jun-23/261217-oil-market-climbs-on-iraq-tensions.ashx#axzz35RobsNzy
CC Search, Creative Commons http://search.creativecommons.org/
“File:Iraq’s Khawr Al Amaya Oil Platform (KAAOT) just after sunrise.jpg” – Lenny M. Francioni/United States Navy via Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons (4 October 2008 – date image taken, 5 October 2008 – date of publication) [ published under US NavyID 081006-N-8861F-001 ] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Iraq%E2%80%99s_Khawr_Al_Amaya_Oil_Platform_(KAAOT)_just_after_sunrise.jpg


A TODDLER’S INGENUITY: My niece’s hairband bangles – art of a mini-genius

By Vijay Shah

It is not commonplace to think of toddlers as being smart, and certainly not as being highly creative. For an average tot, the apex of creativity is a paper or wall plastered with scribbles or a misshapen Lego tower that soon gets demolished as the child decides to go on a running rampage. Give a party of pre-schoolers a pack of felt-tips and you will soon need a new lick of paint for every wall in the house.

A pile of Lego blocks, of assorted colours and...
A pile of Lego blocks, of assorted colours and sizes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lego: the multicoloured building equipment favoured by tiny construction engineers the world over

Only a few days ago, my 3-year-old niece Shaniya tipped the theory of toddler creativity over onto its head in some kind of infantile mould-shattering handstand. My little superstar single-handedly took one group of objects and completely reinvented their purpose in a simple yet stunning action that completely left me, her uncle, in an open-jawed state of shock for several seconds.

It was a cold, miserable Boxing Day in the east of London,in a terraced house not far from the Beckton Alps. My sister, Shani’s mother, had requested me to come to her house to stay for a few hours babysitting. My niece, like most young girls her age, kicks off playtime by hauling various toys from her room to take to the living room. Her favourites are her baby dolls with matching prams, small toys from the plastic balls you get in gumball machines, pens and paper, large electronic gizmos and an enviable collection of teddy bears and stuffed plush animals. She also takes after Mummy with her keen eye for shoes, jewellery and other ‘trinkets’. She loves to walk around the flat in her shoes, but usually wears odd pairs. A pre-school attempt at shattering fashion trends?…

English: A photograph of 3 teddy bears. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: A photograph of 3 teddy bears. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Feel the wrath of Shaniya’s army of bone-breaking barbarian bears!!

When Shani takes respite from bringing in playthings directly from her bedroom next door, there are always a few stray toys stashed behind the sofa or lying around the floor to help break the monotonous re-runs of Horrid Henry on CITV. If she does not find any toys because they have been put away by Mum and Dad, then she will mess around with a necklace, one of her mother’s earrings or her all-time favourite: elastic hairbands.

As the winter sky stealthily darkened outside and the Uncle & Niece Partnership weathered yet another hour of kiddy telly, I saw Shaniya pull out several round sparkling objects as she sat in the middle of the living room’s rug. It was a motley collection of different coloured hairbands, freshly shop-bought. Shaniya has long curly black hair that is a mission to comb and keep tidy, so her mum buys elastic hair ornaments to quickly scrape her daughter’s barnet into a single or double ponytail when things start to get frizzy on top. She does not yet know how to tie up her own hair, as smart as she is, so resorts to pulling them over around her hands or feet and wearing them as some kind of flexible bangle.

Normally the standard policy here is one or two on the wrist or above the ankle, with official colours usually black or pink. Shaniya then walks around as normally as the pedestrians on the road outside wear their scarves. But this time the little angel decided to ramp things up a bit…

My niece’s hairband bangles (c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

I was only half-aware that while I was playing games on my phone, Shani has been slowly picking up the silver-striped hair accessories one-by-one and threading them on to her right wrist forming what looked like a sparkly scaled-down version of a Eighties legwarmer. For those readers who are familiar with South Asian weddings, the brides often wear gold or coloured plastic bangles in groups of up to 20 or so on each wrist. When I did a second double-take at Shaniya’s creation, I did think that it looked like the huge displays of bangles you can find at Asian jewellery shops.

Apart from the obvious intelligence shown by my niece in comprehending that the hairbands were elastic and of a suitable size enough to fit her chubby little fingers through, I was also taken aback at how she organised the colour layout: blues and pink at the posterior, preceded by equally spaced bands of purple, light green and red. It could be a fluke but it also could be the artistic and functional expression of a mini-genius. Shaniya certainly is adept at her three years and 3 1/2 months. She can hold a conversation, although half of what she says is gobbledygook. She has learned to use both regular phones and smartphones, as well as her father’s iPad (she is crazy for Angry Birds) and has only recently started getting the hang of taking photographs. She tidies up after herself and can sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Jingle Bells” fairly well. Even at such a tender age, what a lot of people assume are snivelling little monsters with a penchant for eardrum-splitter screams can possess substantial intelligence and motor skills far beyond their years. At the age of six, I myself possessed the reading age of a child twice my age.

Three years ago, Britain’s Daily Mail reported on a two-year-old Guildford toddler named Karina whose IQ was measured by a specialised education psychologist at a 160 points, the same as astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. She was tested on various linguistic and cognitive skills and was found to be in the top 2% of intelligence centiles, with a preference for words especially. Her intelligence measurement was high enough to challenge kids twice her age and meant she was eligible to join MENSA  – the world collective of superminds.

Next time you see your toddler scrawl odd shapes on your kitchen wall, he/she could well be a Picasso in the making…

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“Meet Britain’s brainiest toddler: Two-year-old Karina has the same IQ as Stephen Hawking” – Beth Hale & Claire Ellicott, Femail – Daily Mail Online LINK