A government minister said the rise of virtual weddings prompted by the Covid-19 outbreak offered a "golden opportunity" to slash marriage costs and encourage more couples to tie the knot.
Hessa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development, told a remote meeting of the Federal National Council on Tuesday that the financial burden of lavish weddings led to many nuptials being delayed.
She stressed that wedding services carried out online - a necessity in recent weeks due to large gatherings being banned for safety reasons - could provide a cost-effective alternative long after the pandemic has been contained.
“Virtual weddings are carried out with least of cost, but with the same level of joy; and this is a golden opportunity to instill new social principles to save on wedding costs," Ms Buhumaid said.
“After coronavirus and when things are back to normal, we wish for an increase in marriages and joyful occasions, but more importantly to learn to cut costs and not exaggerate the [lavish] things that were one of the reasons many marriages got delayed.”
Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth, has also called for prospective brides and grooms to rein in the spending on their big day.
“We are going through a new phase in our lives which has pushed us to rearrange our priorities, to prioritise necessities over luxuries," she said in a post on her Instagram account.
“Our lives after Covid-19 will experience new practices, so for instance, during this period we can learn to make marriage easier for young people in the future? How can we create a generation who knows how to spend wisely and manage their lives better?”
Ms Buhumaid was addressing members of the council about the reasons for a decline in Emirati birth rates.
The minister said delayed marriages were a key factor in the fall in numbers.
The Ministry of Community has already taken steps to address the issue, including issuing Dh166.6 million in marriage allowances for Emiratis last year.
This figure was increased to Dh186m this year, the largest amount ever distributed by authorities.
Online wedding provides chance to start married life "without debt"
An Emirati couple who exchaged vows over Zoom shared a joyful experience with more than 300 friends and family.
“We did Kateb Al Kitab (Islamic marriage contract) in February and we booked the wedding hall on May 29 along with the bride’s dress and everything related to the wedding party but after the spread of the coronavirus outbreak we had to cancel everything,” said groom Mohamed Al Naqbi, 24.
“We thought that the wedding would be postponed until after the virus, but when my father and the bride’s father suggested the small party we became very excited with the idea and started planning for it.
“We decided to send E-invitations to all of our friends and family members to join the celebration, and we didn’t expect the numbers of attendees to reach more than 100, but around 300 joined the zoom call to congratulate us,” he said
The family organised two parties, one for the women and another one for men.
“Every woman dreams about her wedding day, but with the Covid-19 outbreak many things had to change,” said the bride Ms Al Naqbi, 22.
“Everyone was happy and dancing with us. I picked a simple white dress and my sister helped me do my hair and makeup.”
The newlyweds' families encouraged couples to follow their example.
“Young men and women don’t have to start their lives with debt,” said Khalifa Al Naqbi, the bride’s father.
“Weddings can cost more than Dh300,000, which can put more financial burdens on the newlyweds and that is not the right way to start a family.
“Many young men refrain from getting married due to the high expenses, which considered a primary reason for the high numbers of single men and women in the country.”
“We hope that many will take the same steps and start adapting with the current situation and support the young generation in starting a new life with less debt.”