UAE to hold first mass wedding that includes non-Emiratis

The wedding will be held in Abu Dhabi emirate on Wednesday

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - February 14, 2018: Men dance during a Baharna mass wedding reception, at the Park Rotana hotel.
( Ryan Carter for the Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi )
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The first mass wedding to include non-Emiratis in the UAE will be held this week.

On Wednesday, 10 couples will be wed in a mass ceremony in Abu Dhabi emirate.

Though mass weddings are frequently held in the country, to help Emirati couples cut down on costs, this week’s event will be the first to include non-Emiratis too.

It will also be the first time a mass wedding will comprise two ceremonies, with brides and grooms each due to have their own event on the same day. Emirati weddings, as in much of the Arabian Gulf, are traditionally segregated and, previously, mass weddings only involved a ceremony for the grooms.

The two ceremonies will be held under the patronage of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, wife of the UAE Founding Father Sheikh Zayed, and who is affectionately known as the Mother of the Nation. She is also Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation, President of the General Women's Union, and Chairwoman of Motherhood and Childhood Supreme Council.

In India mass weddings are for the poor but, in the UAE, no one is poor but these are part of efforts to reduce wedding costs

On Monday, the director general of the General Women’s Union, Noura Al Suwaidi, said the event was being held as part of Sheikha Fatima’s efforts to “ensure the happiness of Emiratis and residents.”

She said the mass wedding was in line with Sheikha Fatima’s vision of supporting happiness, strengthening family ties and encouraging young people to get married and “form a healthy and stable family.”

“The late Sheikh Zayed launched many initiatives to help the young generation build happy families away from debts and extravagant expenses including organizing collective marriages to reduce wedding costs,” said Ms Al Suwaidi.

“Collective weddings aim at meeting the nation’s priorities, which are represented in a cohesive society by maintaining tolerance and unity among community members.”

The wedding will be held in Al Mirfa, a coastal town in Al Gharbia region, about an hour and a half drive west of Abu Dhabi city.

Almost 800 guests are expected to attend the women’s ceremony alone. Refreshments for guests, hall decorations and wedding dresses and make-up for the 10 brides will be paid for by the General Women’s Union and other sponsors.

Dr BR Shetty, founder and chairman of NMC Healthcare and Finablr, is one such sponsor. The businessman arrived in the UAE 46 years ago from India.

“In India mass weddings are for the poor but, in the UAE, no one is poor but these are part of efforts to reduce wedding costs,” he said.

Mass weddings are generally held to lift the burden of wedding expenses on young Emirati couples. The average cost of an Emirati wedding in 2017, including male and female wedding parties, engagement party and dowries were  found to be around Dh683,000. Most is paid by the groom's family.

It is seemingly a modern problem. In the early 2000s, Sheikh Zayed, issued a maximum dowry limit of Dh50,000 for Emiratis. Of this, Dh20,000 was to be paid in advance when registering the marriage, and the remainder would be paid in case of divorce. Sheikh Zayed introduced this limit, and the concept of mass weddings to the country, to reduce financial strain on Emiratis and avoid cases of loans being taken out by grooms to pay for ceremonies.

Last week, three sons of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, were married in a joint ceremony.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed, chairman of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation, held a joint event to celebrate their weddings, following their official Islamic marriages a few weeks prior.

The men’s ceremony will be held between 4pm and 7pm and the women’s ceremony will begin from 8pm.