More marriages expected as new laws come into force across the UAE

New federal law allows non-Muslim couples to have civil ceremonies in UAE courts

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A change in the UAE's law to allow couples to marry and divorce in non-Sharia civil ceremonies is expected to lead to a rush of marriages in the coming months.

Dubai Courts said on Wednesday it was ready to welcome couples looking to tie the knot, on the same day a federal law came into effect. Ras Al Khaimah's court service confirmed the same.

The decision was made in December and took effect on February 1. Men and women will marry in short civil ceremonies run by the UAE's court services.

The new law is effectively a nationwide extension of Abu Dhabi's civil marriage system, under which 5,000 expatriate couples tied the knot in the capital’s Civil Family Court court last year.

“Anything that eases the process for non-Muslim expats to get married here is to be welcomed,” said Liz Nunez, co-founder of Easy Wedding.

“This is positive news as it will allow a lot more people who live here to get married in the courts here.”

In 2019, Ms Nunez, from Paraguay, wanted to get married in a civil ceremony in Dubai but was unable to do so because she was a non-Muslim.

This led to her and her now-husband, Florian Ughetto from France, tying the knot in a ceremony in Georgia.

The couple run the wedding planning company together.

“We built the company that we wished was there to help us at time,” said Mr Ughetto.

“The challenge for us [when planning a wedding] is usually more a case of sorting the couple’s legal situation than arranging the flowers.”

The new family law that came into effect in the UAE on Wednesday allows non-Muslims to marry and divorce through a simple civil procedure and in a non-Sharia process.

The newly introduced laws also cover a raft of family matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody.

It is expected that there will be a huge rush to book dates at civil courts as expatriate couples take advantage of the new law and get married in the UAE instead of flying out to their home countries for a civil marriage.

The Abu Dhabi court's standard service, which costs Dh300, is fully booked until the end of April for civil marriages.

Another wedding planner said the move would greatly reduce the number of Dubai residents travelling elsewhere to get married.

“Previously most non-Muslims would have chosen locations in the likes of Europe to get married because they couldn’t have a civil ceremony here,” said Owais Khan, an Indian events planner who has consulted on several weddings in the UAE.

“Now they can just get married here because things have been made a lot easier for them.

“These new laws ensure there is equality for all men and women living in the UAE.

“Residents will now say to themselves ‘why don’t we just get married here instead of going somewhere else’.”

Updated: February 02, 2023, 4:01 AM