'Normalising smaller ceremonies': Young Emiratis welcome Dubai wedding programme

Scheme offers marriage incentives, such as planning services and budgeting courses

The Dubai wedding programme has been launched to encourage young Emiratis to get married. Photo: Getty Images
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UAE citizens have welcomed the new Dubai wedding programme, calling it a “great initiative” to encourage young Emiratis to marry without the financial burden.

The Dubai Wedding Programme, announced on Monday, offers citizens incentives to help reduce wedding costs, including marriage planning services and venues for parties in modern halls across the emirate.

Family counselling for newlyweds will also be provided, as well as marriage planning, family management and financial advice for young couples.

Dubai's Community Development Authority said it aimed to reduce the financial burden on citizens and provide them with stability and a higher quality of life.

This is the perfect solution to help newlyweds in Dubai
Alia Mohammed, 24, Dubai

Alia Mohammed, 24, from Dubai, said she welcomes the idea of joining the programme if her future husband wants to apply for it.

“This is a great initiative for us young Emiratis, as we see a lot of young men postpone getting married fearing debts and pressure, so this is the perfect solution to increase and help the newlyweds in Dubai,” she told The National.

“I've heard some stories about grooms getting in debt because of large and luxurious weddings. They spend years of their lives paying for it.”

Ms Mohammed said she had noticed a cultural shift in weddings after Covid, with many opting for smaller ceremonies rather than lavish ones.

“Pre-Covid, there were many luxurious and large weddings with guests exceeding 500 to 800 people.

“But now people are starting to arrange their weddings at home or in an outdoor setting, such as in a tent with a more classic and minimalist design where they would invite only family and close friends.”

Ms Mohammed said that while the culture isn't completely how it used to be, she has recently attended weddings in hotels and wedding halls.

“It is much better this way, as couples don't feel the need to pressure themselves to have a large wedding and it is more normalised to have smaller ceremonies.”

Manahil Elarki, an event planner from Sudan who has lived in the UAE for two decades, believes the main issue faced by couples when planning their wedding is trying to manage the budget.

“It usually doesn't have a big impact, but I've handled newlyweds who were emotionally affected to a point where they feel sad due to the high expenses, and eventually no matter how much I try to reduce it, some of the services remain unaffordable,” Ms Elaraki told The National.

Ms Elarki, who lives in Abu Dhabi, said that since the pandemic it has been rare for a wedding to have a guest list of more than 1,000 people.

“After many regulations were enforced by authorities to reduce guests at events for safety, many residents started accepting the idea of having a more relaxed ceremony, which brings along the idea of having to pay less for everything wedding related, which they then save up money to help with life after marriage,” she said.

High expenses puts couples off

The amount of money spent on a wedding, however, depends on the family's traditions.

“Currently an ideal wedding with 150 to 200 guests can range from Dh35,000 [$9,500] to Dh100,000, depending on the design and additional services.

“Usually the amount is spent on the overall decor, lighting, buffet, photographer, hospitality and DJ or entertainment.”

Muna Alblooshi, 27, who is from Ajman and living in Abu Dhabi, praised the counselling and educational services offered by the programme.

“I think it's really important for people to understand how they can budget their weddings because what I notice from most of the weddings that take place is that people tend to focus on entertainment and other unnecessary things that cost more than Dh50,000.

“Sometimes the groom has to take a loan from the bank to cover these expenses,” she said.

“Understanding financial budgeting and knowing how to plan the wedding without getting yourself in debt will result in a happy, stable marriage in which the couple can focus on saving to plan their future together.”

Ms Alblooshi, who got married last year, said she felt the financial pressures of planning the wedding.

“Sudden and unexpected expenses came up even a few days before the ceremony.

“Our wedding had more than 200 guests, so you can only imagine the food costs, wedding hall sizes and other expenses,” she said.

She added that while getting married is one of the “most impressive and beautiful achievements”, the cost of weddings can put many off.

“Due to the high costs, some people are considering avoiding marriage because they would have to save up for years.”

The wedding programme is exclusive to Emiratis in Dubai and also covers all wedding expenses for women at the ceremony, as well as the cost of 250 guests.

“This includes high-quality food, decorations, hospitality, and other services,” Huraiz Al-Mur bin Huraiz, chief executive of Planning and Social Development at CDA, told The National.

“Couples can choose to hold their weddings at various CDA wedding halls, including Al Barsha Hall, Al Lisaili Hall, Hatta Hall and soon, the Al Twar Hall.”

Mr Huraiz said that to qualify for the programme, grooms must possess a Dubai-issued passport and be more than 21 years old, while brides are required to be a UAE citizen.

There are no financial requirements to be eligible for the programme, he added.

Couples can apply for the programme through the CDA website, DubaiNow application, or by visiting any of the CDA's customer service centres.

Updated: January 18, 2024, 9:50 AM