Strings of yellow marigolds adorn the walls where the bride in glittering red patiently waits for the intricate henna designs on her hands to dry. Pungent smells of spicy curries linger in the air as a group of brightly-dressed men and women match steps to foot-tapping music. You know now that a desi wedding is in full swing. With a significant number of Indians and Pakistanis making UAE their second home a desi wedding on UAE soil is not a rarity anymore.

‘Many of us were born in the UAE, have studied here and started our careers here as well. Over the years we have built strong relationships and feel totally at home in the UAE. So, when it comes to marriage, a big event in our lives, it is but natural to choose to get married here,’ says Indian national Rana Sajnani, a longtime Dubai resident and event director at Rightstar Events who also organises weddings in the emirate. 

Along with planning the elaborate wedding trousseau and the long guest list, the bride and groom have to also ensure they follow all official procedures to tie the knot in the UAE. As wedding ceremonies conducted in Hindu temples are not legally recognised, the couple, like the 219 couples who got married at Dubai’s Indian consulate last year, need to complete the legal formalities in front of a Marriage Officer. 

‘First, the prospective bride and groom need to appear in person before the Marriage Officer in the Indian Consulate along with three witnesses who have UAE residence visas at the time of registration of intent to marry,’ states Lima Mathew, Vice Consul (Consular) at the Consulate General of India, Dubai. 

Be aware: ‘It is preferred that witnesses are Indian nationals in marriages involving Indian couples. However, in cases where either the bride or groom is of a different nationality, we do consider a witness from the nationality of the concerned bride/groom.’ 

The couple then has to submit the Notice of Intended Marriage form with a fee of Dh198. This form consists of the notice, the declaration of the witnesses and an affidavit regarding the couple’s current marital status (find it on the consulate’s website, cgidubai.org). The couple is also provided with a format for publication of their notice of intended marriage in a newspaper.

 ‘A date for solemnisation of the marriage is given 30 days after the publication of the notice, provided no objections are received from any quarters,’ says Lima, of the next step. A day prior to the date of marriage, the original passports of the couple and of the three witnesses need to be submitted to the Marriage Officer. On the day of the marriage, the couple go to the Consulate with the witnesses where they sign the required documents. 

‘Marriage laws are same for Indian residents of all [or no] religions, except if they follow Islam; then the marriage is not solemnised in the Consulate. It is done in accordance with local Sharia laws,’ adds Lima. The marriage is registered in a Sharia court.

For Pakistani nationals with UAE residence visas who intend to marry here, two important documents are required to be attested from their Consulate – a no objection certificate from their parents or guardian, and a certificate declaring their single status from their local mosque, temple or church in Pakistan, according to an official in the attestation department of the Consulate of Pakistan in Dubai. 

After the religious ceremony (if any), the marriage certificate needs to be certified and authenticated by the UAE Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Christian weddings can take place in a church. A church marriage is legal and you are given a marriage certificate.

All marriages should be followed by the authentication of the marriage certificate, translated into Arabic, by the UAE Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The couple also needs to certify the marriage certificate with their consulates in the UAE.

Also read: Top ways to avoid wedding-planning stress

The documents you’ll need to submit to the Indian Consulate prior to a wedding

1. Notice of intended marriage

2. Four recent passport-size photographs of the couple

3. Photocopy of each person’s passport and UAE residence visa

4. Photocopy of the passports of three witnesses with UAE residence visa

5. NOC (no objection certificate) from parents of both bride and groom

Marrying a foreign national?

1. The foreign bride or groom has to provide a certificate declaring their single status.

2. They also need an NOC from their consulate, attested by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

3. Parents’ consent attested from authorised authority in the concerned country.

For Muslims, here’s what’s needed to register in Sharia court

1. A premarital medical screening certificate

2. Attendance of the couple in Sharia court

3. Presence of the bride’s father or his proxy and two male Muslim witnesses

4. Passport and identification papers of father or guardian and witnesses

5. If the bride is Muslim and her father is not, she needs a no objection letter from her embassy or consulate.

All information correct at time of going to press. Check with your consulate before making plans, as requirements can change.