The wedding is the first of the season to be organised by the Crown Prince Court
Emirati newly-weds dodge debt with group wedding in Abu Dhabi
With more than a dozen grooms and not a bride in sight, the winter wedding season kicked off on Wednesday in Al Bateen, Abu Dhabi.
The male wedding party, in the quiet neighbourhood, was the first hosted by the Crown Prince Court this season.
Another mass wedding will be held on Thursday at Al Manhal Majlis.
It is the sixth year that the Crown Prince Court has organised mass weddings in Emirati neighbourhoods to ease the financial pressure faced by young couples.
“Our weddings are expensive and a group wedding means there will be more guests,” said Mohammed Al Suwaidi, one of 13 grooms.
“Some of the other grooms are my cousins and others from my neighbourhood, so I feel very happy today.”
He and his wife were married in a religious ceremony a month ago. As is tradition, men and women celebrate weeks or months after the marriage contract is signed, at different venues on different nights.
Men are happy to celebrate together at group weddings, which draw crowds and are frequently visited by sheikhs, raising the prestige of the event.
But brides shun the spotlight and each will have her own wedding party on a separate night in the weeks ahead.
Mr Al Suwaidi saved time and money by joining the mass wedding. He estimates it took less than two hours to prepare for his nuptials.
Last week, he bought a new bisht cloak, kandura and sandals. Today, all he had to do was shave and don his new clothes.
Everything else, including catering, a traditional folk band and invitations, was organised by the Crown Prince Court.
Guests were plied with coffee and tea, and offered crepes drizzled in chocolate syrup and Emirati chebab pancakes with date syrup before the main meal was served at dusk.
A 2017 study by Zayed University found the average cost of an Emirati wedding, including male and female wedding parties, engagement party and dowries to be around Dh683,000. Most of this is covered by the groom’s family.
In the early 2000s the Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed, issued a maximum dowry limit of Dh50,000 for Emiratis. Dh20,000 of this is to be paid in advance when registering the marriage, and the Dh30,000 would be paid in case of divorce.
“It’s nice to be together, all of us, and see people you haven’t seen in a long time,” said Eissa Al Muhairi, a young guest in attendance.
He is not yet engaged, but Mr Al Muhairi has saved for his own wedding for years and is considering a group wedding when he ties the knot next year.
As the call to prayer began, families rushed to photograph themselves before the light disappeared.
One groom was already planning his next wedding to a second wife.
“In in a year or two, I’ll save up and do it again,” he said.