Indian Weddings on UAE Shores

20 Dec 2018 by Nisha Shroff

Recently, Atlantis The Palm, Dubai hosted an Indian destination wedding for a Punjabi and Marwari family. Quite a true blend of east meets west we say — The couple chose a ‘Made in India’ theme where the hotel organised traditional Indian arrival with ‘tikkas‘, special ‘mithais’ complemented by authentic Punjabi and Gujarati food. It was like an Indian carnival in Dubai, an emirate known as Billionaire’s Disneyland. The venues blended into the whole theme and swayed from lassi to chaas, tandoori chicken to dhoklas as guests swung from garba to bhangra.

Another property, Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah hosted the most-talked about Bollywood wedding of Antara Motiwala and Mohit Marwah, which attracted a lot of public attention and sent the social media into a tizzy. Not only were the snaps taken by the guests at the wedding lapped; but the stunning location also complemented them.

Why the UAE?

It is no surprise that the UAE is fast becoming an extremely popular choice for destination weddings, especially with the Asian markets like India. There is a variety of key factors motivating this; firstly, convenient accessibility from the Indian subcontinent, which is supported by international airport hubs and national carriers developing new routes year-on-year. Secondly, it boasts a fairly temperate climate for at least six months of the year (September to March) making it possible to host some beautiful outdoor celebrations during those months. Finally, it is the vibrancy and diversity in terms of venue, staff and cuisines that make it a big draw.

Going Beyond Dubai 

Speaking about Dubai, Marion Marxer, Director of Catering and Conference services, Fairmont The Palm, Dubai, (which is one of the luxury hotels of AccorHotels) says, “There is something for every couple in Dubai covering five-star luxury resorts, welcoming multicultural surroundings, with huge diversity in food to the cosmopolitan feel of the city, yet relaxed atmosphere of its beach resorts.”

While Dubai brings glamour and glitz to a wedding, Sona Shah, Director of Marketing, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi feels that couples choose Abu Dhabi because it strikes a fine balance between impressive grandeur and close intimacy.

Emirates like Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) and Ajman are not far behind in this race either.

Haitham Mattar, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, CEO, says, “RAK, which is known for its natural assets has currently seen the majority of wedding tourism in the emirate coming from India, as the UAE represents the second most popular country for destination weddings for Indians.” He adds, “We receive about 7-8 weddings in one season. We are a boutique destination, where our inventory base is fairly small. We will be adding more inventory by 2020-21 which will include five-star and luxury brands. We, definitely foresee more demand and growth in this segment 2020-21 onwards.”

Growing prospects

“The growth prospects are very promising in this segment,” says Bejan Dinshaw, Country Manager, Department of  Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi. “The future bookings seem promising with some of the iconic hotels confirming a few weddings in the early part of 2019.”

Experts say with destination weddings being the popular choice for many years now and constantly on the rise, there is a prospect for exponential growth in the UAE market. For instance, Tristan de La Porte du Theil, General Manager of DUKES Dubai – a member of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts, says, “For a long time now, destinations like Bali, Thailand and Malaysia have been popular for weddings. Recently the UAE, especially Dubai has grabbed much of the attention as a hot spot for destination weddings. We are especially seeing a hike in Indian weddings.”

The well-known Atlantis The Palm, Dubai has also seen a rise. Noreen Rocque, Director of Weddings, says, “We have seen a 10 per cent increase in wedding bookings year on year. The Indian market is an extremely important focus for us as it makes for 30 to 35 per cent of the wedding business.”

Another property, Fairmont The Palm, Dubai has noticed an increase in Indian weddings and events, approximately 25 per cent compared to last year.

Fairmont Ajman, one of the luxury hotels of AccorHotels, which offers around 2,000 sqm of indoor and outdoor space, has been hosting a wide range of wedding celebrations. Francis Desjardins, General Manager of the property says, “Since the hotel’s opening in 2015, we have organised 260 weddings, of which 15 were destination weddings. We have definitely witnessed an increase year-on-year. We are projecting a 15 per cent increase this year compared to 2017.”

Weddings at the opulent, Palazzo Versace Dubai hotel, a member of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts, have grown significantly and expects to double the number of Indian weddings in 2019.

Tatyana Khan, Marketing Manager of  JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai says, “We have seen an increase in the number by 50 per cent over the last year. It’s more of pre and post wedding functions which gets confirmed first.”


In terms of deciding whether you want an indoor or outdoor celebration, in a city like Dubai that is of course season dependent. Tasneem Alibhai, Founder of TA weddings & Special Occasions, Dubai recommends that during the cooler months, open lawns and private beaches at the city’s best hotels are a beautiful venue for a mehendi function or a day-time Anand Karaj (Sikh wedding ceremony).

Indoor venues are popular throughout the year and Dubai has no shortage of beautiful venues. She adds, “The one venue that is a favourite throughout the year is a boat. Boat parties are a speciality of Dubai, with views of the beautiful city as a backdrop as you’re gently sailing away while celebrating the moment always being a memorable experience.”

The UAE is witnessing a huge trend from Indians to host a ceremony on the helipad. Hotels such as Fairmont Ajman and Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah have received this outrageous demand from their Indian clients. Desjardins, says, “In addition to a memorable ceremony on the helipad, guests were treated to a carnival-themed beach party, a Moroccan-themed Mehendi, a Mughal mystique-themed Sangeet, and finally a winter-inspired ‘Frosted’ reception to commemorate their very first meeting which took place on Christmas Eve.”

Other outrageous demands from other properties include jet ski in the swimming pool, barat on the elephant, a concert set up at a pool area, a big variety of Indian food and more fusion live stations.

At Taj Dubai, an Indian couple requested for traditional Indian wedding ceremonies for Agni – (word meaning fire, and connotes the Vedic fire god of Hinduism). Ranjit Phillipose, Area Director – UAE & Africa and General Manager, Taj Dubai, says, “They want the Agni set-up to be done inside the hotel ballroom for three hours which is not allowed due to security purposes. While this is normal in India, it becomes a little difficult to do this in indoor venues in Dubai.”

Outdoor venues, like beach and golf course are in demand in Ras Al Khaimah whereas Abu Dhabi is a strong-hold of indoor and beach weddings.

Money Matters

The average cost depends on many factors such as season, availability and requirements of the guest. If Dubai is your preferred destination, Khan, says, “ On an average the minimum spend for an Indian wedding for 200 guests will be AED 1.5 million. This includes flights, hotel  stay for maximum of three nights, three wedding functions with food and beverages.”

In terms of per guest cost, Rocque, says, “The high-net-worth weddings would range from AED 400 to AED 700 per guesst and for the upper middle class it may range from AED 250 to AED 400.”

Properties like the Taj Dubai also offer wedding packages starting from AED 250 per person (minimum of 120 guests) which includes a menu tasting for up to two guests, welcome juice upon arrival, a dinner buffet with soft beverages, a bespoke three-tier wedding cake, one-night stay in a Junior Suite with in-room breakfast, among others.

If guests are looking to host a wedding in Ajman, Marxer says, “The approximate cost in this region would be AED 50,000-60,000.”

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