So as I mentioned 2 weeks ago we celebrated UAE National Day here in Dubai on the 2nd of December. One of the things they do here on National Day is hold a Mass Wedding at St Mary’s Catholic Church. I had no idea this went on to be honest, I know they do mass weddings in China and other places, but that is about my only knowledge of them. So I was pretty excited to attend one when I was invited by a Filipino lady I have met here in Dubai.
I arrived with a couple of minutes to spare at the church in Oud Metha. Having no experience of mass weddings or Catholic Churches I found an empty seat, and sat down, and was promptly asked to move by a rather embarrassed usher type person who told me that where I had sat was reserved for the main sponsors. Which I later learnt was the people who had made the weddings that were about to happen possible for the particular couple they were attached to. Anyway duly chastened I moved further back. In the front of the church were several rows of reserved pews decorated in white with candles at each end. In the middle of the church there was a great big archway made of flowers, next to which stood a shuffling, twitching, nervous looking line of grooms of various description. Turns out there were 38 couples waiting to be married that day. And they were eager and on time.
The proceedings began pretty much bang on time, and a procession of fancily dressed people proceeded to make their way down the main aisle. These were the said sponsors for each couple, who made their way to the front of the church and then found their places to the far left and right. Next came the brides – each more radiant than the next – decked out in all the wedding finery you could imagine – to meet her equally radiant (or nervous) groom just in front of the archway. Each couple had a chance to be photographed before making their way down the aisle one at a time, to take their allotted places on the white pews.
After what seemed like an eternity the final couple was in place and the service began. Now I haven’t been in a church for some time, and certainly never in the UAE, so I was mostly lost in the quasi-Catholic, semi-charasmatic rituals and hymms. But the Pastor was so funny and had everyone chuckling, after no time at all. After the intros and admonitions (which seem common to both weddings and churches) 5 priests trotted to the front, and like a production line, the groups of couples were blessed 5 at a time, to then retake their places on the white pews.
We then had the vows and exchanging of rings (rather discordantly I might add) followed by the giving of offerings to each couple, the lighting of the candles by the sponsors, and the pinning of a veil onto each pair by the secondary sponsor, to join them together symbolically forever.
The service was wrapped up with the receiving of the Eucharist – I couldn’t believe the whole thing took 2 hours. Pretty impressive I must say.
Later on that day I saw the car below all decked up in the UAE colours for National Day – glittery spray paint which looked pretty permanent to me! That is patriotism isn’t it?
What a fascinating day!