Choosing a wedding dress and picking a venue are important, but first you must start by fixing the paperwork that requires a slew of certificates and documents and attestation. The picture is used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: If you are planning on getting married in Dubai, be sure to firm up the paperwork first lest you end up running around in circles leaving you a bundle of nerves when the big day arrives.

Like every other formality, getting married in Dubai has its own set process. Depending on your nationality, citizenship and residency status, planning your dream wedding in Dubai could range from the straightforward and simple to time-consuming. In all cases, specific conditions must be followed, and documents must be attested and approved by several parties.

If you’re spending most of your time picking out the perfect wedding dress and worrying about the venue, it may be time to stop and first give a thought to the paperwork you need to complete to make your big day a reality.

Numbers provided by Dubai Statistics Centre (DSC) showed there has been an increase of 21.19 per cent in the overall number of people choosing to get married in Dubai over a period of three years.

A total of 14,077 marriage contracts were registered in Dubai between 2012-2014. This includes marriages between Emirati nationals, and between Emiratis and non-Emiratis, as well as marriages between expats.

For the people planning on getting married, it is vital you consider these points first. 

Wedding bliss vs. marriage paperwork

The government of Dubai has specified that marriage contracts between Muslims in Dubai should be registered in a Sharia court in the UAE to ensure the marriage meets legal requirements.

According to DSC, the number of marriage contracts registered in Dubai between Emiratis was 3,310 from 2012-2014.

For Emiratis, the process of getting married includes a few simple steps. Both the groom and the bride along with their legal guardians and two Muslim witnesses must be present to complete the marriage contract ceremony. An approved and certified pre-marriage medical certificate issued from a Dubai government hospital or government clinic to rule out diseases such as thalassaemia or HIV/AIDS, must be obtained by anyone who wishes to get married in the UAE.

Emiratis can also consider the UAE Marriage Fund for financial support and marriage counselling. They can also seek the marriage grant or register for a mass-wedding.

In the case of Emiratis marrying non-Emiratis in Dubai, the UAE law permits the marriage given that certain conditions are met.

“In many cases, the problem is getting the guardian (walli) who is usually the father to agree to the marriage of his Emirati daughter to a non-Emirati man,” said Diana Hamade, Lawyer and Legal Consultant with the International Advocate Legal Services (IALS).

In the case of an Emirati woman marring a non-Emirati man, the groom must be a Muslim, and should provide his legal documents. In this case, any children the couple may have will not receive the Emirati citizenship until they are 18 years of age, and meet the eligibility requirements. 

Expats in Dubai

With Dubai being home to over 200 nationalities, the number of marriages between expats is more than double than between Emirati couples. Over the same three-year period, there were 8,498 marriages registered at the Dubai Courts between non-Emirati couples.

For Muslim expats, several conditions must be met in order for them to get married at the Dubai Courts through an Sharia marriage.

The process starts by registering and submitting a form on the Dubai Court’s website, after which the couple is given a token number. According to the Government of Dubai website, at least one party to the marriage contract (husband, wife or wife’s guardian) should have employment or residence visa in Dubai. Both spouses should be present at the Dubai Court on the day, along with them their national ID, passports, and visa status for proof of their identity. A pre-marriage medical certificate is also required. Hamade pointed out that Muslim women cannot solely represent themselves at the Dubai Court when getting married. “Regardless of her age, a woman cannot get married without a guardian known as a ‘walli’.”

She explained that the bride’s guardian and two Muslim male witnesses should also be present. If the bride’s father has passed away, a relevant death certificate should be shown and the presence of the closest male guardian such as brother, uncle, cousin, is required. If the bride’s father is alive but unable to come in person, he can delegate a proxy guardian, who must be of the same religion as that of the bride’s father, to complete marriage procedures through an officially certified power of attorney, according to the Dubai Government website. 

Non-Islamic marriages

For non-Islamic marriages, the procedure and paperwork varies depending on each spouse’s nationality.

Hamade explained that non-Muslim couples are no longer allowed to get married at Dubai Court. A Muslim man however, can get married to a non-Muslim woman in Dubai Court, while a Muslim woman is prohibited from getting married to a non-Muslim in the UAE. In this case, the marriage is considered void.

Non-Muslim residents in the UAE can only get married through their embassies. “A lot of non-Muslim couples get married in the church in Dubai and what follows the church procedure is the attestation of documents of their respective embassies along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Justice,” said Hamade.

She explained that each embassy follows the laws and procedures applicable in their country, and the duration of paperwork differs accordingly.

While Dubai may be the perfect location for a destination wedding, couples who are not UAE residents cannot have an official registered court marriage in the UAE, said Hamade. However, many couples still choose Dubai as a top destination for their wedding celebrations.

Masha Cain, Wedding Planner at Fabulous Day Weddings and Events, pointed out that Dubai is one of the unique and luxury wedding destinations in the region, which attracts couples of diverse backgrounds from around the world. “Our destination couples come mainly from Russia, Europe, UK, Lebanon, and Iran.” Most couples work in neighbouring countries such as Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar, and choose to have their weddings in Dubai, she said.

So if your wedding date is coming up and you haven’t considered the paperwork, now is the time to do so.