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Marriage and weddings in Dubai, UAE

Saturday 25 April 2015 (UAE)   
 
   
 

Getting married in the UAE

Expat as well as Emirati couples can and do get married in Dubai and the UAE. The rules and procedures vary depending on nationality and/or religion, and sometimes which emirate the marriage takes place. Generally, two people of the same religion can marry without difficulty. If the groom is Muslim then it should also be straightforward at the Dubai Courts or Abu Dhabi Judiciary, otherwise people of different religions might face some problems organising a wedding.

  • A common situation is when a Muslim man and Christian woman wish to get married. That's ok (cultural and/or family considerations notwithstanding) but a Christian man will have to convert to Islam before marrying a Muslim woman.
  • Emirati men sometimes marry non-emirati women but the reverse is rare (although not completely unknown).
  • The Dubai Courts oversee procedures and regulations pertaining to marriages in Dubai. Two residents can get married at the courts if the male is Muslim and both are resident in the UAE. It would be useful, or essential, if at least one person speaks Arabic. In other cases, it might or might not be possible (assume no unless you have clear information to indicate otherwise).
  • The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) oversees marriages in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, however residents in other emirates can get also get married there (at least that's according to information provided by them).
  • At least one partner needs to have a UAE residence visa, and possibly or probably both partners. If neither person has a residence visa then it's not possible to get married in the UAE as far as we know. Try Cyprus instead ...
  • Cyprus appears to have a relatively straightforward civil marriage procedure with minimum fuss and no residency requirements, which might be useful for those unmarried residents of the UAE finding themselves unexpectedly pregnant, or in trouble with the law for having sex outside marriage (if you still have your passport and can get yourselves to Cyprus before the court appearance - you might be lucky and get the case dismissed if you can produce a marriage certificate). Or even for those wanting a wedding celebration with less risk of getting sand in their champagne glasses. See the Union of Cyprus Municipalities website at www.ucm.org.cy for more information (link to Civil Marriages information at the bottom of the first page).

Getting married in Dubai

  • The Dubai Courts oversee procedures and regulations pertaining to marriages in Dubai. The marriage section tel is +971-4-3347777. Marriage licence or registration applications can be made online ... in theory.
  • The Dubai Courts website has information in Arabic and English but is difficult to navigate, and has some apparent inconsistencies. For example when applying online, the bride can be any religion, but the groom must be Muslim. Unless it reflects a Dubai Courts policy that only Muslim men, or only UAE National men, can apply to get married online.
  • The court will not perform a civil service for Christian weddings - you must go to a church or your embassy or both.
  • The court will notorize or certify a marriage document from another source so that the marriage is recognized by the UAE authorities. You might have to go through an attestation process, especially if you were married somewhere obscure such as Easter Island, or Winterfell.
  • Christian weddings can generally be performed at any Christian church in Dubai, irrespective of nationalities. If both parties are Christian there should be no problem. If only one party is Christian, check with the church.
Christian weddings in Dubai
  • Sub-denominations such as Anglican, Catholic, Protestant, etc check with the church concerned if one or both must be the same faith. Generally assume at least one party must be Catholic at a Catholic church, and the other Christian at least if not Catholic.
  • If one party is Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, then it is unlikely that you can get married at a Christian church. Then try either one of your embassies, Abu Dhabi Judiciary, Cyprus, or Las Vegas.
  • Churches in the UAE generally require a baptism certificate from at least one of the parties, and possibly a birth certificate.
  • They also need a divorce certificate from those who are divorced, and might not marry you if recently divorced (less than a year for example), or have divorced more than once.
  • If you are separated you are still legally married, and cannot marry again until divorced or your marriage is annulled.
Civil marriage by nationality - possible and/or simplest options

If it seems too complicated in Dubai, try the Abu Dhabi Judiciary Department (ADJD), who say that any two residents of the UAE can get married there (irrespective of religion or nationality). This is not confirmed though, conflicting information provided, some sources say one party must be Muslim despite what the ADJD say.

  • Arab Muslims can get married at the Dubai Courts and that is likely to be the simplest option (desire for ceremonies etc notwithstanding).
  • Arab Christians should check with either their embassy or consulate, or one of the Christian churches in Dubai. Although it appears that an Arab Muslim male marrying a Christian female (of any nationality) can go straight to the Dubai Courts or apply online.
  • British citizens cannot get married at their consulate or embassy. Apply to one of the churches in Dubai. If the groom is Muslim, can go direct to Dubai Courts.
  • Canada - Canadian embassy and consulate in the UAE do not perform marriage ceremonies.
  • Filipinos can get married at their consulate in Dubai (or embassy in Abu Dhabi). A ceremony is performed weekly (or near enough). Both parties must be from the Philippines. If one person is not, then you'll have to try somewhere else.
  • Indians can get married at their consulate in Dubai (or embassy in Abu Dhabi).
    • Only one partner must be an Indian citizen.
    • Only one party must have a UAE residence visa, but if only one party is an Indian citizen, he or she must be the UAE residence visa holder.
    • Bride and groom can be any religion. Although if bride is Muslim and groom is not, check with Dubai Courts if marriage will be recognized in the UAE.
    • Three witnesses are required, all must be resident in the UAE and two must be Indian citizens (or possibly all three if both bride and groom are Indian citizens).
    • Allow up to two months - a one month waiting period required after publication of "Notice of Intended Marriage".
    • See consulate (or embassy) for further details of documents and attestation required prior to marriage solemnization at the Indian mission.
    • News reports in 2008 said that the Indian consulate was requiring attested letters of consent from parents of the couple (or death certificate if mother or father dead). But consulate website information does not specify this requirement, and says parents are not notified (last checked Mar 2015).
  • Generally, European and western consulates (and embassies) do not perform wedding ceremonies or marry their citizens. They'll have to go to church instead in the case of Christians, or find another option if not. Some exceptions:
    • Belgium - civil marriages can be done at embassy or consulate in some cases (criteria not clear), at least one party must be Belgian.
    • Czech Republic - embassy or consulate can marry Czech citizens.
    • Greece - civil wedding might be possible at consulate or embassy, unclear information provided, check with Greek consulate or embassy.
    • France - civil wedding possible if both are French (or just one but other party is not a UAE national?) and at least one party is resident in the UAE.
    • Norway - embassy or consulate will marry Norwegians, including visitors (not clear if one party must be resident or both can be visitors, check with embassy or consulate).
    • Poland - civil marriages can be done if at least one party is Polish.
    • UK - embassy or consulate might be able to solemnize a wedding in some circumstances but don't count on it, it sounds like a difficult procedure.
  • USA - the American consulate and embassy do not perform marriage procedures.

Marriage in Abu Dhabi

The Abu Dhabi Judiciary Departmen (ADJD) overseas marriages in the emirate of Abu Dhabi (which includes the city of Al Ain).

  • [Check, inconsistent information given] However they say that any two residents of the UAE can get married at one of their offices, irrespective of nationality and religion. Presumably if two Jewish Israelis somehow ended up there, that statement might not apply, but since the document requirements include a UAE residence visa, that situation is not going to happen under normal circumstances. It would be advisable not to state "Atheist", "Agnostic", or "Jewish" as a religion (but again, if you already have a UAE residence visa, then you'll have figured that out by now). Two versions of ADJD statement seen but not found on ADJD website:
    1. [Source unknown, says under Sharia Law] Residents of the UAE, regardless of their religions, nationalities or backgrounds, may get married under Sharia Law at Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) ...
    2. [Source Abu Dhabi egovernment portal, Sharia Law omitted] Residents of the UAE, regardless of their religions, nationalities or backgrounds, may get married at Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) ...
  • Documents required include (allow several weeks at least - some embassies or consulates especially have long waiting periods before you can check in to get relevant documents attested):
    • Status certificate (marriage status certificate, no impediment certificate, or similar names) for each party stating if they are single, married (males can have up to 4 wives if they are Muslim), divorced, widowed. Must be certified and attested by embassy or consulate of applicant nationality, and UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Or if done outside the UAE, must be attested by relevant ministry for marriages (not church) in that country and then nearest UAE embassy or consulate.
    • Passport
    • UAE residence visa
    • Emirates ID
    • Medical fitness test for marriage
    • No Objection Certificate (NOC) from sponsor for females on servant visa (maids, nannies, etc). Not clear if same applies to males (gardeners, drivers, etc) - was not mentioned by ADJD.
  • Two witnesses are required. Assume witnesses must be Muslim if one of the parties is Muslim. For other religions check if witnesses must be Muslim (ADJD information given to us didn't say).
  • For the bride, permission from the father or closest male relative or guardian. In some cases the ADJD will provide that permissions, presumably when no male relative or guardian is available.
  • The bride must be older than 18 years, and the groom must not be more than twice the bride's age.

[Below sections check for updates]

Mandatory pre-marital medical tests (update 05 Jun 2012)

  • KT report quoted Dr Farida Al Hosani, manager of Communicable Disease at the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) as saying pre-marital medical screening and counselling is "mandatory for all residents and nationals planning to get married" (in the UAE, but it wasn't clear from the report if Dr Farida meant Abu Dhabi only, or all emirates in the UAE).
  • The medical test screens for common infectious diseases and genetic disorders, but a complete list was not supplied. Tests include obesity, diabetes, beta thalassemia carriers, sickle cell? The medical certificate is valid for 3 months and obtained at a government medical center in Abu Dhabi or other emirate.
  • The HAAD pre-marital screening program started in April 2011.

Pre-marriage certificates from government hospitals only (29 Dec 2007)

From 19 November 2005, anyone getting married in the UAE (expats and nationals) needed a medical fitness certificate to prove they were free of infectious diseases, which could be issued at private and government hospitals and medical clinics. From the end of January 2008, you'll have to do this test at Ministry of Health affiliated government hospitals and medical clinics (ref: Khaleej Times 29 Dec 2007.

Compulsory blood tests (25 Sep 2007)

Emirates Today newspaper reported that both Emiratis and expats must have a blood test before getting married in Dubai as of 09 September 2007. The Dubai Health Authority says screenings will be introduced in other emirates also. The blood test costs AED 260 for expats, nothing for UAE nationals with a health card. Results take a week and are apparently kept confidential and not included in the certificate issued by the Dubai Health Authority for use in court (where a marriage has to be registered). The blood test screens for Aids, sexually-transmitted diseases, and hereditary diseases such as thalassaemia and sickle cell anaemia (common genetic disorders in the UAE). Only an HIV-positive result can be used to stop a marriage, but health officials will outline the risks of the other conditions.

[Old, needs update] Documents required for getting married in the UAE

There might be some variation depending on emirate.

  • Pre-marital medical clearance certificate - see list of government medical centers in Dubai or medical centers in UAE (for other emirates).
  • Passport copies for both people
  • Emirates ID card
  • Resident visa for expariates (not clear if one or both partners need a residence visa, but as far as we know, at least one does)
  • Thiqa insurance card for UAE nationals
  • Passport photos
  • Various other documents depending on nationality - check with your embassy or consulate in the UAE.

Christian Weddings

Do something like this (it will vary depending on nationality).

  • Go to your embassy and find out what the procedure is. You'll need to bring passports and sign an affidavit to say you're not already married and there is no hindrance to getting married or something similar, you may need to bring witnesses. It may be possible to get married at your embassy, otherwise you'll have to go to a church.
  • If you're both of different nationalities, you'll need to contact both your respective embassies to find out what the best or correct procedure is.
  • UK citizens need to post wedding banns. This will cost several hundred dhs and you'll have to wait 3 weeks or so before you can collect the banns and go to a church to get married.
  • US citizens need to get married by a pastor (phone one of the churches to make this arrangement).
  • Indian citizens can apparently get married at their embassy in Abu Dhabi.
  • If you make a date with one of the Christian churches to get married, expect to pay fees of about 1000 dhs plus additional costs for flowers, photography, dress, suit, cake, air fares for friends and families, and all the usual accoutrements.
  • If you were married in an English speaking church, you will receive a marriage certificate in English. This needs to be translated into Arabic by a court approved translator for your marriage to be valid in the UAE. Fees should be less than 100 dhs.
  • You then need to submit both documents to the Notary Public Office at the Dubai Courts for certification (another 100 dhs fee). You may need to have UAE residence visas to be able to do this.
  • Then you need to go to the Ministry of Justice to get the certification authenticated.
  • Then you need to go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get the MoJ authentication authenticated.
  • Then you need to go back to your embassy to get the MoFA authentication authenticated so that your marriage certificate is authenticated for validity in your home country. If you are of different nationalities, you'll have to go to both your respective embassies.

St Mary's Church in Bur Dubai has priests available to talk to from 8am-12pm and 4-6pm every day except Fridays and Sundays about procedures. But phone to double check on holidays or during Lent.

Islamic Marriages

  • You both need valid UAE residence visas (if you're not UAE citizens).
  • Go to the Marriage Section of the Dubai Court with
    • The bride's father or guardian or his attorney.
    • Two male Muslim witnesses.
    • Passports and copies and identification papers for the guardian and witnesses.
    • Proof of divorce or death of husband for the bride if applicable.
    • If the bride is Muslim and her father is not, she needs a no objection letter from her embassy (or consulate) in Arabic (or translated into Arabic and attested by the Ministry of Justice) and attested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
    • 100 dhs for fees (take some more just in case).
  • You'll receive a UAE marriage license.
  • To authenticate it for validity in your home country, take it to the Ministry of Justice, then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, then your embassy (or consulate) for authentication at each stop. Bring a few hundred dhs for processing fees.

Mixed religion weddings

  • If the bridegroom is Muslim and bride is not, contact the Marriage Section of the Dubai court. You may be able to get married there. See the procedure for Islamic marriages above.
  • If the bride is Muslim and the bridegroom is not, you cannot get married in Dubai until the bridegroom becomes Muslim. Then see the above section about Islamic marriages.
  • For religions other than Islam or Christian, contact your respective embassies to find out what the best procedure is.
  • Christian churches will usually only marry a couple if both are Christian.

Contact details

  • Al-Diwan (Legal Translation Division), Office 209, Modern Pharmacy Building, Nassar Square, Al Maktoum Street, Deira. Tel +971-4-2232189.
  • Arabian Translation Center, PO Box 6549, Sharjah. Tel +971-6-5615552.
  • British Embassy, Dubai. Tel +971-4-3094444.
  • Christ Church (Anglican), Jebel Ali. Tel +971-4-8845436.
  • Consulate General of India, Dubai. Tel +971-4-3971222 or +971-4-3971333.
  • Dana Translation, PO Box 7992, Dubai. Tel +971-4-3935702.
  • Diamond Legal Translation, Office 07, Block C, Golden Fork Restaurant Building, Rigga Road, Dubai. Tel +971-4-2273133.
  • Dubai Courts Marriage Section. Tel +971-4-3347777.
  • Thanks for visiting Dubai. Tell your friends.
  • Eman Translation Services, Modern Pharmacy Building, Office 104, Nasser Square, Al Maktoum Street, Deira. Tel +971-4-2247066.
  • Embassy Of India, Abu Dhabi. Tel +971-2-4492700.
  • Emirates Baptist Church International (Southern Baptist). Tel +971-4-3491596.
  • Holy Trinity Church, Oud Metha Road, Dubai. Tel +971-4-3370247.
  • Ministry of Justice, near Garhood Bridge. Tel +971-4-2825999.
  • St Mary's Church (Catholic), Oud Metha Road, Dubai. Tel +971-4-3370087.
  • St Francis of Assisi Church (Catholic), Jebel Ali. Tel +971-4-8845251.
  • United Christian Church of Dubai (Interdenominational). Tel +971-4-8846623, email info@uccdubai.com, website www.uccdubai.com.
Last update Saturday 14-Mar-2015
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