What to Expect at an Emirati Wedding

Been invited to an Emirati wedding? Such weddings are often very different to the weddings we know in the west. The people of the United Arab Emirates typically like to do things glamorously – as cities such as Dubai showcase, they love their extravagance. This glamour and extravagance is to be expected from their weddings, in which guests dress in gold jewellery and designer clothing. To give you a better idea of what to expect and how to prepare, here is a useful guide on Emirati weddings.

The nikkah

Before the celebrations take place, there is the Muslim marriage ceremony, which is known as the nikkah. This is where a religious figure marries the couple, usually held in a mosque. Compared to other wedding ceremonies of other cultures, this ceremony is often short and sweet. Men And women tend to be separated for the ceremony.

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The celebration

Whilst not all Emirati celebrations are opulent occasions, the majority are – it’s a chance for the bride and groom to impress their guests and let the world know that they are married. They are often hosted at the couple’s home or in a hotel. Everything from the décor to the food is extravagant. It is common for Emirati couples to pour huge amounts of savings into these occasions.

Often the reception is split into two separate parties – one for men and for women. These differ slightly.

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The Bride’s party

The Bride’s party is often very glitzy. You can expect bright lighting, music and lots of food. Everyone will be dressed very glamorous in gold jewellery and designer clothing. The Bride is of course the most glamorously dressed – often completely covered in jewels and gold. By separating genders, it allows women who may wear a hijab to dance and let loose without being seen by men who they may not know. The party often lasts long into the night.

The Groom’s party

The Groom’s party often isn’t as opulent in terms of gold and jewellery, but it is still a fun occasion with lots of music and food. There will usually be some traditional Emirati dancing in which the men form a line. This may be done whilst holding thin gold canes and sometimes rifles. This is a hypnotic performance that is worth watching.

What to wear

For women, this is a chance to truly dress up. You can expect to see Gucci handbags and Karl Lagerfeld dresses (you can buy them online from FarFetch at a discount). It’s also a chance to show off your most sparkly jewellery and wear strong perfumes. You don’t have to worry about upstaging the bride as this will almost certainly be impossible.

Men typically dress in suits. Some may wear a traditional kandoura (this is likely to be more common if you’re travelling to the UAE to a wedding).

The food

There’s no shortage of food at an Emirati wedding. Tables are often filled with food including savoury and sweet snacks. Emirati coffee will usually be served and there may be local dates and other sweet treats. You won’t go home with an empty stomach and it’s a good idea not to eat beforehand. 

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Alcohol is typically not served at Emirati weddings.

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