DUBAI: Gone are the days when finding a suitable match for a boy or a girl in a family was left to the expertise of a grand aunt, a next-door neighbour, a community elder or family priest.
The birth of the nuclear family unit along with the pursuit of an expatriate lifestyle has pitched families, across cultures and nationalities, into a grey zone for some decades now where the old support systems are no longer as efficient or sometimes even operative.
In the UAE the pace of matrimonial online services has picked up greatly over the years.
Though there are no definitive numbers available on how many expatriate families use these services, there is enough evidence online to suggest that there is a good success rate being enjoyed by these websites.
Trust is on the decline
Wajahat Nazim Ahmad, who has been running www.dubaimarriagebureau.com for 10 years, has been able to facilitate the meeting of thousands of couples, he told Gulf News. Running a statistics centre in Pakistan, Wajahat Academy, Ahmad claims to seal over 30 proposals a month.
He is passionate about wanting to help singles find their life partner, he says.
My job is to be a facilitator. In the end, it is their own determination to find a life partner that decides the fate of the alliance.
“I have multinational, multicultural clients, people from different religions registered on my website. My job is to be a facilitator. In the end, it is their own determination to find a life partner that decides the fate of the alliance,” says Ahmad.
The success and popularity of matrimonial websites, he says, is due to the dwindling trust factor in today’s young adults seeking life partners.
“People tend to conceal facts about themselves even in cases where matches are recommended by close relatives. While women lie about their age and interests, men tend to gloss over their past experiences. My job is to screen candidates according to their likes and dislikes, family background and beliefs and suggest two or three matches per month. The candidates can look at these and decide to meet in their own time.”
Communication is key
Ahmad thinks the key to a successful alliance is the right kind of communication. “The success of my matchmaking skills depends a lot on the communication between the potential bride and groom and the involvement of their respective families. I tell my female clients that if a male is dithering over his decision after the first meeting and insists on meeting again, be wary of him.
“If by the second meeting, no female relative is involved in the process, then something is not right. Perhaps the candidate does not intend taking the relationship to the next level,” said Ahmad.
Ahmad says most of his clients choose the second option.
1. $100 (Dh367) fees for never married bride, 27 years or below, and never married groom 29 years or below and whose income is less than $1,000 or equivalent in local currency.
2. $300 (Dh1,100) fees for: a) Never married or divorced bride 28 years or above; b) Groom either never married or divorced earning above $1,500 or equivalent.
3. $1,000 (Dh3,670) fees for bride or groom belonging to the ‘ Elite’ class (which refers to the wealthy and the well-known in that particular community).
The Almirs, ex-Dubai expatraite now based in Belgium
“I was nearly 34 and had no success in looking for a life partner.”
Ayham and Bekhourian live in Belgium and after a brief courtship through a matrimonial website, met and married in 2006 and are parents of a son and a daughter. In 2005, Almir, a Syrian expatriate in Dubai, decided to look online for his bride.
Those were troubled times in Syria and his relocations, first to Saudi Arabia and then to the UAE, left little opportunity for Almir to find a life partner in his community. If things had been normal, he would have found a match through family referrals, he says.
“I was nearly 34 and had no success in looking for a life partner. Besides, my job as a software engineer kept me so busy, I had no time to socialise. So I decided to seek help through online matrimonial matchmaking services,” said AlmIr.
“There was this website call Ibn Al Halal. I met my wife Bekhourian on this site. She is 10 years younger and is a nurse in Belgium. She is from Morocco and had moved to Belgium with her family. After a couple of weeks of exchanging information, we realised we wanted to take this a step further,” said Almir, 44. Bekhourian flew down from Belgium, and once they met, they realised that they were meant for each other.
They got married in 2006.
If it were not for the online matrimonial services, they would have never met due to the sheer geographical distance that once separated them, said Almir.
Bharati and Rohit Ahuja, based in Dubai
“I did not want to give up on happiness and marriage”
Both were divorcees and both did not want to give up on finding love as a second chance.
Bharati, a marketing supervisor, told Gulf News: “Since my divorce in 2013, I did not want to give up on happiness and marriage. I was on the look-out for an understanding and compassionate life partner. I registered on many matrimonial websites. I was happy that I did not have to go through the awkwardness of meeting anyone until I actually saw the potential of compatibility in that person.”
She believes it’s better to be objective and trust a website to suggest credible potential matches, than depend on relatives who may have a hidden agenda and motive when suggesting a candidate.
She had already met four potential candidates when she came across Rohit’s profile on Shaadi.com.
“He had recently arrived in Dubai [in 2015], and after his divorce, had also registered with the same matrimonial sites,” said Bharati.
What Bharati liked about the matrimonial website was that it took the trouble to match the plus points of the candidates who were looking for similar traits in their partner.
“I could see that Rohit’s likes, dislikes, hobbies, his eating habits were similar to mine. We met in June 2016.”
And by December 2016, they decided to get married.
Malini Namboothiri (not her real name), Indian, Dubai-based mother of a 28-year-old son
“[My son] is 28 and it is time we found a good match for him.”
Two years ago, Malini Namboothiri, a long-time resident of Dubai, asked her son to find himself a life partner. “[But] he did not want a love marriage. He is 28 and it is time we found a good match for him,” she told Gulf News.
Word of mouth had not helped. So Namboothiri registered her son’s details on matrimonial websites and matrimonial social media groups.
Namboothiri is from Kerala, India, where tradition still dictates terms for choosing marriage alliances, and she said it has become difficult to get good proposals from educated girls in Kerala for grooms in Gulf countries.
The task of bride-hunting gets more challenging, as there are not many single girls of the right age in their community here, said Namboothiri.
“Back home, you get to attend weddings and other functions where you meet girls from various families. It makes it easier to find a suitable match,” she said. There is also the matter of a background check. It’s easier to enquire about [prospective grooms or brides] back home as most people know each other in the community, she said.
“The community here is comparatively smaller. It’s better if the services of a matrimonial firm do the background check for you,” she said.
There is also the issue of astrological compatibility, an important consideration for many Indian communities. Matrimonial sites, she said, offer the option of first matching the birth charts before proceeding with the match-making.
Namboothiri, who is in her 50s, believes that matrimonial services are useful for families who prefer seeking an allinace within their own community.
She finds WhatsApp and Facebook groups of her community more useful than matrimonial sites. “Social media groups target the niche groups in our community here, and that gives us more options to choose an alliance.”