More than 30 civil weddings have taken place at Abu Dhabi’s new Civil Family Court and more than a hundred are scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.
Abu Dhabi Judicial Department’s new court for non-Muslims is seeing plenty of demand, with both residents and tourists flying in to tie the knot in a process that is efficient, cheap and fast.
Since the first civil ceremony took place in December, the court has issued 30 marriage certificates.
Officials said more than 200 people have registered to exchange their wedding vows at the new court.
On February 22 alone, 11 couples are expected to get married.
The couples are from various countries, including the UK, US, New Zealand, Spain, China, and Singapore, with a few flying in specifically to get married in Abu Dhabi, which is expected to see significant demand as a new wedding destination.
Before the law came into effect, only couples of the same faith could get married in Abu Dhabi.
They could get married at a place of worship and later have it registered at court.
If they chose to get married at court, they would require a legal guardian and two witnesses. In both cases, it was considered a religious marriage and not a civil union.
The new court does not require witnesses or lawyers — only the bride and groom.
Sharia continues to apply for UAE citizens and most Muslims.
How to get married at the new court
The process is very simple and takes 48 hours from first applying to the court to getting approval.
First an application has to be completed. The form is found on Abu Dhabi Judicial Department’s Non-Muslim Family Court webpage, which has options for marriage, divorce, wills and other forms. It is all bilingual so there is no need for translation fees.
The completed application form, with the required documents, such as a passport copy, are then sent to email@example.com.
An applicant then has to pay a fee of Dh800 through an online payment link sent by SMS.
The applicant will receive an email confirmation from the court with the date of the ceremony to be attended either virtually or in person at ADJD.
Marriage certificates are provided by the court immediately after vows are exchanged and documents are signed and stamped. This process takes no longer than 15 minutes.
Abu Dhabi's advantage
Legal expert, Hesham Al Rafei said the new law “looks at marriage and divorce as a personal choice".
“It recognises that family affairs are one of the basic human rights that a person — regardless of gender, faith or nationality — has the right to decide freely how to live and whom to marry.
“The court would not question an adult's decision to get married. That's why the law lifted all restrictions related to interfaith marriages, in addition to abolishing the witnesses and guardian requirements, which are unfortunately still applicable in other jurisdictions.”
Mr Al Rafei said the laws are drafted to help improve life in the Emirates.
“The UAE's progression and success is reflected in its laws. It's one of the few countries where laws are drafted in a way to make people happy, to make their life easier and simpler, and to help companies and best talents to come and live here with no restrictions. Laws are made to help the economy and to serve the UAE ambitious vision,” he said.