Trends: Big fat weddings weigh down grooms in Middle east

Doha, Qatar – Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and other Gulf states are among the wealthiest countries in the world. But despite the affluence, increasingly extravagant weddings in parts of Middle east are making it difficult for men, who pay for the celebrations, to foot the bill.

Talking to a person belongs to Qatar, Jamal Qassim said he spent 450,000 Qatari riyals ($123,600) on his wedding. He worked and saved for nine years to pay for it. “I didn’t even travel once outside of Qatar. I was saving and saving. I didn’t buy myself a fancy car.” He said he now regrets paying that much. At the end of 2012, he was in the process of getting a divorce.

Marriage rates in UAE have declined markedly over the last three years, which the government statistics attribute to the high cost of marriage.

Figures also show Arab women are having their first child at a later age and having fewer children overall. Divorce rates have risen since 2001. These are worrying trends for a country where several states of Middle east are already heavily outnumbered by migrants.

Accordingly, a step has been taken to ensure “the continuity of cohesive families and large households”, which it sees as “crucial to the national vision”, according to National Development Strategy Report.

According to a survey conducted by the UAE Marriage Fund last year, there is evidence that the rising cost of living, coupled with premium dowries, is simply too much of a burden for those men just starting out in their careers.

The survey indicated that 87 per cent of respondents blamed high dowries for low marriage rates among Emirates.

Olivier Dolz, a wedding planner in the Emirates, said he spent a few million dirhams on a royal wedding in Abu Dhabi. The affair took three months of preparation, 72 hours on-site setting everything up and 150 to 200 people on the ground to pull it all off.

“The wedding is 600 [to] 4,000 people, then you have flowers, extravagance, you have singers.” For a wedding in Dubai, the budget for the entertainment alone was several million dirhams for six performers.