x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Royal seal of approval boosts UAE mass weddings

More Emiratis are taking advantage of the Marriage Fund which gave out more than Dh57 million in the first half of the year.

ABU DHABI // Marriage grants of more than Dh57 million were given to more than 1,500 Emiratis in the first six months of this year, the Marriage Fund announced.

According to data from the fund, eight group marriages have occurred around the country – as many as there were in all of 2012.

Habiba Eissa Al Hosani, deputy general manager of the Marriage Fund, thanked Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, for leading by example this year when members of his family participated in a group marriage.

“Sheikh Mohammed has helped to encourage many to take part in these marriages,” she said. “They were not seen as shameful, but many were reluctant to join group marriages. After the group royal weddings of this year, many have accepted it.”

Salem bin Huwaidan, a member of the Federal National Council from Sharjah, said group marriages have since been accepted by tribal leaders.

In March, Sheikh Dhiyab bin Mohammed bin Zayed, married the daughter of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region.

The second royal wedding was between Sheikh Zayed bin Saeed bin Zayed and the daughter of Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, the National Security Adviser.

A source at the fund said the royal families paid for the weddings in full, adding that a group wedding would usually cost more than Dh150,000. One of most expensive weddings they have seen cost more than Dh800,000.

However, wedding costs are declining now, as participants are eliminating buffets, following the example of the royal weddings.

In 2012, 335 grooms wed at eight different group weddings. The mass ceremonies are only for men.

Last year, 1,893 Emirati men received more than Dh132m in grants. From January until June this year, 1,574 have received Dh57m.

“This year we have many more beneficiaries as the grant salary cap was lifted from Dh19,000 to Dh20,000,” Ms Al Hosani said.

“That means a lot more can apply to benefit from the fund.”

The money is paid out in two instalments of Dh70,000 total. The first, Dh40,000 is given after the Nikkah and the rest after the marriage is consummated.

The groom must be older than 21, and the bride older than 18 to be eligible.

“The Marriage Fund worked to reach its goals in the 20 years since it was formed, showing the importance of improving social attitude towards marriage and its problems and the importance of everyone working to reduce costs of marriage,” the fund said.

“The marriage fund aims to help Emiratis start a life away from debts and loans, and these weddings show the importance the leadership has placed on them.”

osalem@thenational.ae