A Wedding in Dubai

Now that we are in full possession of our marriage certificate….hang on, I’ve made a mistake there.  My wife is in full possession of our marriage certificate, following the advice of my father that the woman should be its custodian as she is unlikely to ever want to deny the marriage took place, whereas the man….

So, now that my wife is in full possession of our marriage certificate, I think it’s now safe to comment on the process of getting married in the UAE.  As you can imagine it was not particularly easy, largely because the information on how to go about it is a bit sketchy and contradictory in places.  Having scoured a few websites and ringing the British consulate, I managed to get a rough idea of what to do.  And as there are probably quite a few Brits wishing to marry in Dubai in the future, I thought I’d describe how we went about it such that it may serve as a useful guide for other couples.  Bear in mind this only applies to a Protestant Brit marrying a Communist Russian, and I’ve heard Catholics have to go through a more complicated process.  Jews, of course, should by now have been put to the sword and have no business trying to get married in Dubai.

Firstly, being a backward Islamic state, there is no such thing as a civil marriage in Dubai: if you are not getting married in the eyes of God, you’re going to have to be content with just shacking up together (which is also illegal.  Neat, huh?).  They do however charitably allow Christian marriages, so – despite neither of us being believers in anything which could be described as an organised religion – we had to go down this route.  The British Embassy in Dubai does not conduct marriage ceremonies, although some embassies do (the Indian one, for example, presumably so that Hindus can get married). 

This being the case, you’ve got to get your arse down to The Holy Trinity Church in Dubai, located roughly near to Wafi City.  If you drive from the Canadian Hospital on the roundabout towards the Maktoum Bridge, it is the second exit on your right (if you go under the pedestrian bridge you’ve gone too far).  You need to attend a wedding interview in a special room, which is clearly marked, between 5:00pm and 7:00pm on a Friday.  You will find yourself sat with several couples consisting almost always of an older Western man and a much younger Chinese or Fillipino woman with little grasp of the English language.  You will be given an application form which includes a list of requirements which must be completed before a wedding date can be set.  You are also asked if either of your fathers is Muslim, and if this is the case the church is forbidden from marrying you.  Presumably you’d have to get an Islamic marriage, even if you were a Protestant Brit marrying a Russian Tatar.  However, they don’t actually carry out a check (beyond glancing at you to confirm you don’t look Muslim) so this barrier could easily be surmounted by the simple expedient of lying.  But in our case, this did not apply to us so onward we went.

The first thing you need to do is get proof from your embassies that you are free to marry.  This would send most British expats in Dubai fleeing in panic, leaving their bemused Chinese bride to contemplate her common-law future, but for people like me who are free to marry this involves getting a Certificate of No Impediment.  To do this, you need to go to the British Embassy and fill out three forms, one of which they will post on the wall of the embassy for a period of 21 clear days.  This will cost you 580 Dirhams, not the 290 Dhs which is indicated on the consulate’s website (you have to pay 290 Dhs for them to receive the notice of intent to marry, and a further 290 Dhs for them to issue the certificate).  If you go with only 290 Dhs, you are told to come back with more by some whining fat jobsworth who shrugs her shoulders when you tell her to get her fucking website to spell things out a bit more clearly.  You need to bring cash, and there is no ATM anywhere near the embassy.  Anyway, you fill out the forms, pay the cash, and wait 21 days to collect your Certificate of No Impediment.  Therefore, getting married in less than 3 weeks is impossible in Dubai.

If your bride is Russian, things are surprisingly a lot more simple.  She needs to take her internal Russian passport down to the Russian Consulate on Maktoum Road and see a guy sitting behind a little window.  She’ll need to pay some money into a bank located nearby and then return to the consulate with the receipt, but the next day she can go to the same place and collect a letter signed and stamped to the effect that according to Russian laws she can marry whomever she likes.

The next requirement is that at least one of you must have been baptised, and here we ran into a problem.  I have been baptised, but the vicar wanted proof in the form of a baptism certificate.  A brief phonecall to my father revealed that he had never seen one of these before, and he certainly didn’t have mine in his possession.  My wife, being born in the Union of Soviet Satanic Republics, had not been baptised either, at which point the vicar asking us about the situation threw his hands in the air and announced that “we have a problem”.  He advised me strongly to get in touch with the church of my baptism and try to get a copy of my baptism certificate.  I pointed out that I was Christened in a tiny church in rural Wales and getting in touch with them might be difficult, and we really don’t have much time as we’re leaving to Russia soon, and can we not just accept that I’m baptised, tick your little box, and move the fuck on with the wedding.  He didn’t agree. 

“Okay,” I said.  “Fuck it.  Yulia can just nip down the Orthodox Church one lunchtime and get baptised then.”

“Oh no!” he said. “That’s not the idea at all!  That would be all wrong!  You can’t just do that, it’s about faith!”

Later, my sister put it best: “Yes, indeed.  It’s about faith – not certificates!”

Anyway, the vicar dug out some huge book which contained the names, numbers, and email addresses of every vicar in the UK and after some huffing and puffing through umpteen Joneses, he came up with the name of the vicar of my old parish in Wales.  Failing this attempt, he said he would require me to undergo some kind of re-baptism as he believed there was some doubt about my current status as a Christian.  Now I’ve never heard of anyone being baptised twice in the same faith, so I can only assume he was cracking his own routine here.  He waffled on about the requirement for the certificate was to prevent dirty old men marrying pretty young foreign women for convenience only, then proceeded to bollock my wife for not being Christened in the Soviet Union.  The fact that to do so would have been a criminal offence seemed not to bother him, and I left the building reaffirming the reasons why I had deliberately avoided organised religion my entire adult life.  As things turned out, I managed to raise the vicar in Wales by email after he returned from holiday, and he very kindly faxed me an extract from the baptism register within a day.  I am very grateful for his help in this regard.

When I presented the vicar with proof of my baptism, he became very much more warm and friendly.  Then again, the change in attitude and  agreement to proceed with the wedding may also have been down to my production and his acceptance of the hefty fee he was charging for conducting the ceremony ($300).  Other requirements for the wedding are simple stuff like passport and visa copies, photographs, etc.  As far as I know, both parties must be resident in the UAE for the marriage to take place.  Once all your documentation is in place the vicar will set a wedding date, although in our case he agreed to set the date in advance of this as we didn’t have much time to play with.

One week before the wedding, you will go to see the vicar who will murmur a few prayers and say nothing about the forthcoming service except inform you, if one of you is Russian anyway, that he will play wailing Orthodox Russian music throughout the ceremony.  We resisted the temptation to ask for Pioneer marching songs instead. 

I guess it all depends on the individuals, but our wedding ceremony had no hymns or anything.  It was pretty short, about 20 minutes in total, and featured the vicar dicking around with the remote control whilst he tried to get the CD player in the corner to play the correct track (I guess it’s cheaper than hiring an organist).  Highlights of the service itself included a large ant crawling up my wife’s ankle, and the vicar’s Nokia going off in his pocket throughout the final blessing.  I guess it brings a new meaning to Connecting People.

Once the service was over, we each had to sign the marriage register along with two witnesses, who were in this case my father and Yulia’s mother.  Unfortunately, Yulia’s mum can’t write her name in the Latin alphabet and the vicar wouldn’t accept a Cyrillic entry, so Yulia had to write it for her on a slip of paper and let her copy it.  We left the building clutching two copies of our marriage certificate, which we were told by the vicar to lodge with the Dubai courts such that the marriage would be recognised in the UAE and UK.  At  least, that’s what he said, and advised we could face problems in the future if we didn’t take this step.  However, when I rang the British Embassy for advice they said the marriage was already recognised in the UK, and it didn’t need lodging in the courts.

Anyway, just to be safe, I rang up the courts and they said I needed to get it translated into Arabic by an offically approved translator before I brought it to them.  This I did, and brought my certificates and a translation to the Notary Public at the Dubai Courts beside the traffic department building next to the Mall of the Emirates.  The woman at the desk intially refused to process it, as she thought there was something wrong with the translation, and asked me to go back to get another one.  The translation offices were miles away, so I asked her why I actually needed to bother with this Dubai Court nonsense, and in fact sod it I don’t think I’ll bother I think I’ll just bugger off to Russia and never come back here.  To my amazement, she signed it off and went back to the more important task of texting someone on her mobile.  I took the documents to another desk where another lady slapped a large sticker on the back of each certificate, stamped them both, and handed me back one certificate, keeping the other. 

And that was that.  A right pain in the neck it was, but it’s done now and I am glad I don’t have to go through the equivalent process in Russia.


30 thoughts on “A Wedding in Dubai

  1. “I guess it brings a new meaning to Connecting People.”


    “the Indian one, for example, presumably so that Hindus can get married”

    All Indians arent Hindus

  2. You must really love her to go through all that shit. Reminds me of my wedding. I didn’t tell the family and got married by a Justice of the Peace. My whole family was up in arms. My mother gang pressed me into getting married in the Catholic church. What a fiasco. We’re up at the altar and the priest asks us if we went to confession. In front of the entire crowd he made us go to confession, in the little confessional. I felt like I was on trial, and this given the fact that Livia was by that time 6 months pregnant. Sometimes we just bite the bullet. Anyhow that was almost 40 years ago and we’re still married.

  3. Talk about stiff upper lip and “carrying on”!

    Good. Now imagine this whole process blown up to 10th power, and you’ll never want to get divorced.
    At least not in USofA.

  4. That’s one hell of a story for the grandchildren.

    I have a wonderful vision of a delightful little smurf asking, “What did he really say to the vicar, grandma?”

  5. All Indians arent Hindus

    Yeah, I know this. But a lot of Indians are Hindu, and most Indians in Dubai are either Catholic or Hindu. The former can get married in the church, so I assumed the embassy allows its Hindu citizens to get married without them having to fly home.

  6. This shit could happen only in here. I’m going through the same pain and there is no one who could provide the right information and attitudes of the govt ppl are really bad.
    Would be really helpful if I could get information on getting legal document(i.e. marraige certificate) from dubai govt recognising Hindu marriage for USA consulate.

  7. My son was married in the middle east, Bahrain, they gave us 4 days notice. In those 4 days everthing was arranged. Civil Cerermony, wedding breakfast at the Royal Meridian, even a wedding cake and party for 200 guests in the evening, on the beach at the Bahrain Yacht Club. Everyone was fantastic and could not have been more helpfull. Try that in the UK We had wonderful day
    We are Brits my wife and I have now returned to the UK my son and his family live in Dubai We are now organising our daughters wedding there is no need to ask where it is going to be

  8. Great Story. We are going to try to get married in the UAE this fall. Will it happen? I’ve got several months to try and make it work. 🙂

  9. Hello,

    We were also thinking about getting married in Dubai because at the moment we are having difficulties with getting the paperwork we need from FCO (we blame the political situation between the two countries). By the way, I’m Russian and my bf is English…

    I hope you don’t mind answering a few questions I got. First of all, did the documents you had to give to the church have to be translated, apostiled or notarised.

    And is that a problem that my bf is not babtised but I am? Did they only ask for your babtism certificate and CNI?

  10. What a fabulous story! I WAS considering getting married in Dubai, I think I’ll give it a miss now. Thanks for the advice and the giggle. Why is getting married abroad so bl**dy difficult?!? Good luck with married life anyway.

  11. Wow, like above, me and the other half WERE thinking of getting married in Dubai, but bloody hell, if that’s what you’ve got to go through………second thoughts is putting it mildly !

  12. I went through the same crazy process here in Dubai to get Married. It took us lots of nerves to get all this process done. My wife is Russian as well and I am french. We got the wedding approved and registered in France but we don’t know how to get it legalized in Russia, as they don’t accept church wedding!! if anyone can help?

  13. thank u! So much! How about if im marrying a person from guinea africa( by passeport ) he’s a converted Muslim and I’m Lebanese Christian orthodox. He’s originally Swiss !sounds very complicated… Btw I’m baptized .

  14. HI THERE,

  15. Salam
    I am a filipina lady and im loving a indian guy is it possible for us to get married in dubai even our both family are agains in our relationship what i will do.

  16. i am an arab muslim expat working in dubai and have resident visa,i love one russian woman and i want to marry,but her visa is expired.is it possible?

  17. I know what you mean, my fiance and i have been trying to get married since december, every time something new comes up, now we both have to go for some stupid medical in order to get maried, if anyone can help me it will be appreciated, i am a south african woman and he is a indian male, so i will really appreciate some help…I am helpless and spend allot of time crying…

  18. I was just browsing and found your story to be really interesting. I am sorry you had to go though all this.

    However, I must admit, that we hired a wedding planning company called Marriagement who actually did everything for us in Dubai including the church, reception and registration in court. Our certificates were handed back to us, stamped and all!

    The only time I went to the church was two days prior to the wedding when we had a meeting with the Rev there.

  19. Comment by Andrea March 23, 2008 @ 12:55 am
    Hi Andrea, How much did Marriagement charge to do everything for you. I am considering a Dubai wedding but after reading the comments Im having second thoughts…seems like a lot of hassle

  20. Hey my boyfriend is a south african working in dubai and im going there to visit him but we want to get married but without our familys knowing but i am only 18 and dont know what exactly is required for us to get married there… Can any1 please help!!

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  22. weirdly enough, I’m thinking of getting married in Dubai because it is actually easier than the process for me in Japan! aaarrgghh…. Been 6 months of paperwork flying across the world, only to be told it will take another 4 motnhs..and of course some more money.
    At least we are both Muslim. . . although I maybe need a certificate for that too.
    Good luck to you all….

  23. Hey,

    LOL, funny enough I am off to Dubai in 2 months time to marry my darling. Most of my family live there already. My problem is that I can’t find a place for the reception on-line that also gives me a price of some sort. Most of them are advertised but yet again, NO PRICES!
    Does anyone have a web site I can refer to?

  24. Hi there,
    I am like anyone here who had posted own comments is considering to get marry in Dubai, too.I’ve searched few websites regarding this matter and bamped into this article.I had such a lough reading this and at the same time I’ve realised how difficult it will be for us to wed there,cos I’m muslim(from one of those ex-Satanic Republics,LOL)dating a british catholic man .I guees we would probably go to UK and wed there instead,cos I don’t think we’d have enough strenthg to go through this.

  25. I have been looking for some straight forward info on getting married in Dubai and came across this.. absolutely hilarious as well as being very informative, Big thumbs up – now on to the baptisims… hmmmm

  26. Great story… just gone through the same but we went to Christ Church in Jebel Ali

    The experience was totally different to your, the church have been fantastic and so supportive (I am british and Guzzy Kazakh.. so similar)

    I ca 100% recommend Christ Church, Steve the REV (great sense of humour and I have to say, clearly a man of God too) and Lorraine in the office is a gem, nothing seems too much trouble or any questions too stupid to answer…

    between them they have made the process so far so much easier but of course there is no way around all the paper work… but they do also do all the leg work to register your marriage for you once completed… (for 550 dhr which is money well spent)

    our wedding is booked early february … FEEL FREE TO POP IN :O)

  27. I have a question considering the marriage between citizens of the UK ad Russia. In the British embassy they said, the marriage would be legal both here and in th UK. I was told in the Russian consulate in Dubai, that the marriage, which is registered here in the church, is not gonna be recognised back in Russia. So my question is: did anyone have to register the marriage in Russia, or everything was done in Dubai?
    thanks a lot!
    Marina and Craig

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