How Do Emirati’s Find A Spouse?
Updated on 01 August 2018

By: Salamah Ghudayer

(The Emirati Wedding Part 1)

Though arranged marriages are still widely popular in the Emirates, many future couples handle the information gathering on a prospective life partner themselves, while they share their days at work or university. Still if it is to be a success it will remain quite formal by international standards. Many speak of their current husband being the one unwilling to talk to them, but rather observed her character over time. Some say their wife snapped back at them at an invitation for coffee and they knew she was the one; had she said yes he would have kept looking for someone stronger in the gentle barriers that have come with us from the past. However culturally the comfort of an arranged marriage can lessen the fear of ‘will I ever find someone’ as the whole family and tribe are more than excited to assist! So if a man doesn’t have anyone in mind himself, there is the hareem - his family community of women to be his personal match making service.

His mum will have a few ladies in mind whom she has always imagined would be a great match for her son; daughters or sisters of family friends, extended family or neighbours are often the main source. She takes into consideration what he likes, as well as what he needs to balance his own personality. She will play the ultimate match maker, and who knows us best; our good and bad traits but our mum. She may not do this alone. Often aunts, sisters, and her friends will be thinking of possible partners for him. Then she will offer a few names with some of their qualities, and see which he responds to and selects one or if he needs a whole different list and clarifies his expectations.

Once a lady becomes the favourite choice, the groom-to-be’s mother and her ladies arrange a friendly visit. The hosts have an idea as to why a visit of so many ladies is occurring but the topic of marriage will not likely come up. It’s a preview. It is taking the lovely lady from beyond her reputation and getting to know her in person. If all feel comfortable, then the man’s mother will ask about the men of her family coming to visit the men of the lady’s family. That is when the actual proposal will be made.

The future groom, his father, brothers, uncles, grandfather, even possibly a supportive best friend will arrive another day to meet the men of the potential bride’s family. Usually the young man will not speak, but the father or grandfather will complement the girl’s family and offer their proposal and promise to look after the bride as well as her own family. Her father will either deny the proposal right away with some excuse that she is promised to someone else in case this young man or family is absolutely not to his liking. Usually, he will thank them for their time and promise a response in the near future. Then it is all up to the bride herself!

Muslim women are the only ones who can agree or disagree to their own marriage. It is such an important human right that she be in complete control of her own name, that the marriage is not considered legal without her freely given agreement in name. Therefore in UAE culture and in the religion of Islam the decision to accept or reject a proposal is hers. If she is quick to say yes, or no, often her Emirati father will let her think the answer through for a week or two to be sure it doesn’t change. Perhaps if the man would make a great husband, the father will lightly encourage her by dropping little hints. Across the Emirati community as a whole, the happiness of the young women is sought after by her parents and even the ruling Sheikhs are known to support her wishes or try and mediate if the father is rejecting someone she prefers. All seek a happy marriage rather than have negative issues to deal with in the future. So if her answer is no, it is a “no.” If her answer is yes…a huge flurry of excitement and planning begins for both families and often there is a small party called a khutuba for the bride and her friends.

Next Month Part 2: The Emirati Wedding Parties & Married Life!

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