Everything you need to know about weddings in other cultures
Whether you’re attending an Indian, British or Emirati wedding, we’ve got you covered.EDGAR staff May 12, 2015
While a wedding is the biggest day of the bride and groom's lives, it is essentially a very smart and well-prepared party for all the guests. Never call it this of course, especially to the bride. But in truth that's how every other person at a wedding sees it: as one great big party.
Which is why weddings in the GCC and the UAE in particular are so fantastic. Over 70 nationalities make up the population of the UAE, meaning that if you spread your friendship net wide enough, you could be invited to an Indian party...sorry, an Indian wedding one weekend, an Emirati wedding the next and a British one after that.
It's important therefore to know everything you can about weddings in different cultures other than your own. You might think of yourself as the stag do King, but if you don't want to be that guy wearing the wrong outfit, standing on the side when everyone else is dancing in choreograph, then you need to read the following.
Statistically speaking, the chances are that the next wedding you get invited to in the UAE will be an Indian wedding. The local Indian community is the largest group of any nationality in the country, accounting for 27 per cent of the UAE's population. Hindu weddings account for over 80 per cent of the 10 million weddings that take place in India each year, so the chances are if you're invited to an Indian wedding in the UAE, it's going to be of Hinduism tradition.
Hindu weddings - or to give it its official name Vivah Sanskar - are famous for being full of colour, music and dance. Precise details though of the ceremony and the rituals performed vary from region to region in India, so the exact format of an Indian wedding in the UAE will depend which areas of India the two marrying families descend from.
One thing is for sure though; Indian weddings are not short. The ceremony alone can take several hours while the celebrations and general wedding merriment can last anywhere from two to five days. Dress code is usually confirmed per event, but be sure to pack both your suit and Kurta Pyjamas - if you don't own a set of Kurta Pyjamas already, we recommend having some tailor made with a good quality material.
Make sure you don't leave your dancing feet at home either. There are usually dances from the groom's side and the bride's side by men and women, family and friends.
Emirati wedding If you're going to live in the UAE, then it makes sense to know a few things about an Emirati wedding, should you ever be invited to one. While there are certainly basics that all Emirati weddings follow, the specifics of each wedding vary depending on the families' traditions. Where exactly the wedding is in the UAE will also have an effect, with differences between an Abu Dhabi wedding and a Fujairah wedding, for instance.
First thing to know is that the men and the women attend separate weddings celebrations. That's not to say the two groups are segregated from one another, sometimes they might even be at the same location, but they are completely separate. The only exception here is a tradition that happens at the end of the wedding, when the groom and his male family, and the bride's male family, will enter the women's wedding.
As with most cultures, the women and the bride dress up in a big way, although you'll never see that as it's only once they're inside their venue that they will remove their abayas to showoff their expensive and colourful dresses. The men on the other hand stay pretty much as they are. If you're non-Muslim or non-Emirati, it's not expected of you to wear a khandora, and instead your smartest three-piece suit will go down well.
It's probably wise not to eat before the wedding, as traditionally there will be an abundance of food and juices on offer, and it's rude of you to turn those down. Expect quite a bit of noise with traditional live music.
British wedding While Jane Austen novels and TV shoes such as Downton Abbey remind us of the old gentry class of Great Britain, one of the only times tradition of that ilk is seen anymore is at British weddings. While it's entirely possible that a wedding you may go to of a British couple is a modern affair, there are traditional elements that are hard to shake off.
Traditionally taking place in a church, nowadays it's not uncommon for the wedding to take place in a town hall, hotel, or country estate. The official ceremony may be conducted separately at a registry office, meaning what you see is more for show than for anything proper.
While it's important you wear a stylish and smart suit, be careful not to outdo the groom. This is probably the smartest he is ever going to look in is life, so he won't thank you if you wear your loudest, most eye-catching threads. A simple grey or blue suit will suffice - waistcoat is optional.
Traditional wedding ceremonies last for around one or two hours, while the evening reception can go right through the night. Expect quite a few speeches (if you're making one yourself, here's some tips) drinks and dancing.
Filipino wedding With more than half a million Filipinos living in the UAE, you should do everything you can to get on the guest list of a Filipino wedding. Partly because it is likely to take place back in the Philippines, and who doesn't want to go there?
Filipino weddings are normally centred on traditions of strong symbolism, including family and friends, so expect many, many people to be involved. If you're fortunate and considered significant enough to the bride and groom, you may be called upon to be a principal or secondary sponsor, who are witnesses to attest the couple's readiness to marry.
You'll be fine wearing a smart suit but if you really want to impress and show your gratitude at being invited to a Filipino wedding, then don the traditional Barong Tagalog - a long embroidered shirt that is worn untucked over a shirt.
Don't be surprised if the bridge and groom release a pair of doves during the reception. It is traditional for a newly married couple to do so, to symbolise their harmony and peace.
Chinese wedding With 200,000 Chinese people living in the UAE, we recommend you make friends with at least one of them and secure a place at a Chinese wedding as they are not to be missed. While most ceremonies are simple and held at local city halls, the wedding reception is when most people will arrive and the party really gets going.
Make sure you arrive with cash in hand - it is traditional to contribute to the wedding by placing money into a red envelope which is handed over as you enter the reception. While there's no set amount given, be aware that how much you give is noted down by the bride and groom, and may play a part in how much they give you at your wedding!
The banquet can last for several hours with nine courses being the traditional number of servings. A master of ceremonies will conduct proceedings but don't expect to see too much of the bride and groom, as they'll be going through several costume changes in-between courses.