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402 couples will set wedding record

Al Ain ceremony though to be the largest ever, and the first organised for its staff.

AL AIN // On Sunday, 402 couples will be married before an audience that may reach 4,000, courtesy of Al Ain Municipality. The evening event, which will traditionally feature only the male half of each couple, is believed to be the country's largest mass wedding and the first to be organised by the municipality for its staff.

One half of each couple works for the local government. Most are employed by the municipality, the Army or Al Ain Police. Forty of those marrying have special needs. Eleven of the government employees are women, who will celebrate with the other brides at an event on a later date. On Sunday, each couple can invite 10 guests. "We are not just talking about 402 men and women celebrating their marriage, but 804 families celebrating together," said Mohammed al Hamadi of Tamouh Investments, one of the event's corporate sponsors.

"This will be the fourth mass wedding involving Al Ain Municipality, but the first specifically for government employees." As with many of the country's mass weddings, it had been organised to help employees avoid the increasingly steep cost of marrying in the UAE, said Mubarak al Khaili, the mass wedding's chairman of the board, and the operations manager for the municipality's downtown area. The couples' employers will continue to offer help after the wedding, providing them with marriage advice and counselling through workshops and seminars.

The newlyweds will also be given an undisclosed cash stipend, round-trip airfare to Jeddah and three nights accommodation so they can perform an Umrah, a minor pilgrimage to the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca. Those marrying must be Emirati and must earn no more than Dh16,000 (US$4,300) per month. The men must not have any other wives. The wedding and dinner will take place at Khabisi Hall, also known as the Al Ain Convention Centre.

The municipality began planning the wedding in February, said Noura al Suwaidi, the wedding's chief organiser. "The idea to hold a mass wedding for Al Ain government employees began as a simple dream but kept growing to the point that we now have hundreds taking part, making it the largest ever," Ms al Suwaidi said. "Although this is the first mass wedding of its kind in Al Ain, the main objective was not to be the first, but to be socially responsible, directly benefiting Emirati citizens for generations to come."

The event is being sponsored by Tamouh Investments, Al Khaleej Tents, Munafasa Landscaping, the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and the Abu Dhabi Marriage Fund. @Email:ealghalib@thenational.ae

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