A British couple are embarking on a new life in the UAE as husband and wife after turning an eight-year engagement into marriage in a matter of minutes.
It was short but definitely sweet for Sarah Goodman and Craig Lindsey, both 39, who registered their union in one of Abu Dhabi’s firstcivil ceremonies at its Non-Muslim Family Court on Wednesday.
They had applied online, taking advantage of laws introduced in November allowing civil marriage in the capital for the first time.
The happy pair, from Essex, England, had only flown in from the UK the previous day to begin their big move to Dubai.
While many new residents have a lengthy to-do list when uprooting to the Emirates, it was ‘I do’ at the forefront of their minds.
“We decided to get married here because we want to have a civil marriage not a religious one,” said Mr Lindsey.
“We are moving to Dubai so decided it would be nice to have it in the UAE.”
Bride and groom were stylishly dressed for the occasion as they exchanged vows before an Emirati official and a translator at the civil court.
Both agreed to “love, care and respect” each other before being pronounced husband and wife.
A simple but graceful ceremony lasted about five minutes – but will forge lasting memories for the two new UAE residents.
The couple were immediately given a marriage certificate after their vows were signed and stamped.
Eighteen couples have already finalised civil marriages under Abu Dhabi’s new family law, which is open to both non-Muslim tourists and residents.
Before the law came into effect, only couples of the same faith could be wedded in Abu Dhabi.
They could get married at a place of worship and later would have it registered at court.
If they chose to get married at court, they would require a legal guardian and two witnesses. In both cases, it was considered a religious marriage and not a civil union.
Sharia continues to apply for UAE citizens and most Muslims.
“This court was designed for non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi who want to get married or divorced or register their wills. This is a law that is beneficial for all nationalities who want to come here,” said Joshua Bingham, legal consultant at Abu Dhabi Judicial Department.
“Previously most couples had to work through the Sharia system. This provides a much more familiar system that they are used to in their jurisdiction.”
In December, a Canadian couple broke ground by being the first to have a civil wedding in Abu Dhabi at the new court.
Youssef Al Abri, undersecretary of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, said the completion of the first civil marriage contract was an unprecedented step for the region.
The court is part of new legislation introduced last month to better support foreign residents of the emirate.
The new family law, issued by President Sheikh Khalifa, includes equal legal rights for men and women, joint custody and the expediting of divorce procedures.
“The establishment of the first specialised court for non-Muslim family matters is part of the continuous efforts being made to further develop the judicial system of the emirate of Abu Dhabi,” Mr Al Abri said.
“The personal status law for non-Muslims, which is applied by the court, is the first of its kind in the world to apply civil principles in the regulation of family matters, as it addresses the smallest details regarding non-Muslim family issues, and provides a modern judicial umbrella for foreigners to resolve disputes in a flexible manner in accordance with international best practices.”
Mr Al Abri said the department is acting on the directives of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Presidential Affairs and chairman of the department, to ensure the legal system keeps pace with global developments in line with its tolerant values.