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Customs and Costs Surrounding Marriage in the UAE

Expats who choose to get married in Abu Dhabi or Dubai often underestimate the paperwork that is involved in starting off their marriage in the UAE. Fortunately, we have put together a list of requirements and some information on the subject, including information on UAE wedding customs and costs.
The Henna night is one of the many customs and traditions of Emirati weddings.
  • Henna Nights and Week-Long Wedding Celebrations are common wedding traditions the UAE.
  • Emiratis love big weddings which require big budgets.


Previously mentioned requirements and restrictions aside, a wedding is a joyous occasion and UAE nationals love to celebrate with a big feast. The main wedding season lasts from October to March when the weather is moderate and allows for an outdoor wedding. This does not mean that people don’t get married during the hot summer months, though. After all, perfectly air-conditioned hotels are more than prepared for big weddings all year round. Aside from the venue, you will also never fail to find a baker, florist, experienced wedding planner, or anything else you need for your special day in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

Henna Nights and Week-Long Wedding Celebrations in the UAE

Arab weddings often turn into huge celebrations. Even though some traditions may not be practiced as rigorously anymore, there are some wedding customs which are still very much alive today. The entire wedding usually takes about one week and is marked by various celebrations involving the bride and groom’s families. Although today many weddings are cut short and last only a few days, none of them come without Laylat al Henna, the henna night.

The traditional henna party usually takes place a few days before the wedding ceremony and is entirely reserved for the bride and her female relatives and friends. A great meal is served, while the women dance and celebrate with the bride-to-be. Then a henna artist decorates the hands and feet of the bride with beautiful ornaments.

On the day of the wedding, the religious ceremony, called nikah, takes place first, in the presence of only the family. The ceremony is often gender segregated and usually held in one of the big hotels or wedding halls which offer separate rooms for male and female guests. Some even have a TV in the women’s hall that allows them to follow the ceremony on screen. After the ceremony, the celebrations resume with a great feast.

Big Budgets and Big Weddings in the UAE

If you are used to weddings being a small, intimate affair that is celebrated only with the closest members of your family, attending an Arabic wedding will be a new experience for you. Arabic weddings are very big and elaborate. According to a survey conducted by the Bride Show — host of wedding fairs in Abu Dhabi and Dubai — 19% of UAE couples have more than 500 guests at their wedding. Over half of all respondents said they would spend more than 50,000 AED on their wedding gown.

However, it is not just the gown that puts a dent in the wedding budget. Many couples use a wedding planner to put the celebrations together and book an exclusive venue, transportation, and entertainment. Often, the minimum amount spent for each guest amounts to 1,500 AED. Big wedding celebrations are a sign of wealth, good luck, and blessing, not just for Arabs, but also for Indian and Filipino couples. This is also why many hotels and venues offer wedding packages to accommodate these big events.

The financial pressure of an Emirati wedding, not to mention the large dowries, has discouraged many men from marrying Emirati women. In order to counteract this trend, the UAE government introduced a wedding fund to control spending on weddings in the UAE. The fund provides between 60,000 and 100,000 AED, depending on the groom’s income. Generally, older couples are giving priority when it comes to receiving support.


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