Multitude of National Day marriages now a 16-year-old tradition for Filipino community at Dubai Catholic church.
Filipino couples in mass National Day wedding
DUBAI // A mass wedding on National Day has been a tradition for the Filipino community of St Mary's Catholic Church in Dubai since 1994, and yesterday 40 couples made it the biggest celebration to date.
The couples, mostly Filipino, exchanged vows or had them blessed at the ceremony at St Mary's, which was awash with colour for the occasion.
Tomasito Veneracion, the parish priest, officiated along with four others: Antonio Yapchiangco, Varghese Seraphin, Frank Gomes and David Dominic.
"Isn't it a lovely day today? It's a good day to see all 40 of you. Just a word of precaution: make sure you have the right partner with you today," Father Veneracion said at the start of the wedding to laughter from the congregation.
He later said: "You're now part of St Mary's Church's history, being the biggest number of participants so far in a mass wedding. Probably next year, we'll have double this number.
"You're spending the rest of your life with the one you love. Forget about the civil wedding … you feel so in love and have found a new kind of zest, and hope that everything will be better from now on."
Ten of the couples were having their vows blessed in church following a civil marriage. Thirty-three couples were Filipinos, four couples were Indians, two were Filipina brides with Indian groomsmen, and one Filipina had a Pakistani groom.
"What makes this day so special, apart from being the UAE National Day, is we're sharing the same wedding anniversary with 39 other couples," said Rosie Villapando, 33, a cashier at a Dubai shopping mall, who yesterday wed Valerian D'Mello, 34, a restaurant manager who is originally from Karachi, Pakistan.
Both have been working in Dubai for less than two years and plan to stay in the Emirates for three more years.
The Filipino couple Francis Carlos Contreras, 32, and Myla Bautista Contreras, 30, were joined by their two children, Franco Miguel, age three, and Marla Faith, two months, as they walked down the aisle. They were wed in civil rites in 2007 after meeting in Dubai the previous year.
"I feel shy because I already have two kids," Mrs Contreras said before the wedding march. "But what's important is that our union will be blessed by the church."
Melroy D'Souza, 29, a logistics specialist, and Rowena Menezes, 27, an airline employee, both originally from Mumbai, said they had been married for a year.
"There's nothing better than today," said Ms Menezes, who chose to wear a bridal gown instead of the traditional sari worn by the other Indian brides yesterday. "I'm speechless."
The mass wedding is open to any nationality of the Catholic faith. The organisers provided the choir, church decorations, photographers, videographers, souvenirs and snacks.
On December 2 last year, 14 Filipino couples participated in the mass wedding ceremony, while 20 couples, including two from India, tied the knot the previous year.
The initiative is an attractive option for couples wanting a church blessing after a civil wedding and for those unable to meet the cost of marrying in a church.
Since its inception, more than 300 couples have been married in the mass wedding project, according to Rexy Marty, a member of the wedding committee who is in charge of documentation.