Interview with Helen Schrader, a civil celebrant in Dubai

Helen Schrader
Helen Schrader

Hi Helen, can you please briefly introduce yourself to our readers?

Moved from Sydney 8 years ago with my husband Paul to firstly live in Sharjah and now in Dubai (closely followed by our 2 daughters, one is still here and the other back in Sydney). Our family has an interior design and marketing company in the UAE. Prior to that I have nearly always had my own businesses in the food industry (gourmet food manufacturing, cafe and catering).

Can you tell us more about your wedding activity?

I often have couples contact me who wish to celebrate a significant anniversary. This can be particularly poignant when one of the partners has been living overseas for an extended period of time; or one has been ill. This can often involved their children too. It is a celebration of an enduring love. Name giving is popular for couples’ who wish a secular celebration of their baby’s birth. It is moving occasion to welcome to the world that precious child.


When and why did you start?

I became registered as an Australian Civil Marriage Celebrant in 2005 and can perform marriages in my home country. Here in the UAE I help couples create a ceremony that celebrates their union and confirms their marriage vows. In essence I am a people person and it is wonderful being part of such a happy time in people’s lives It is a profession I can conduct anywhere in Australian and in a non legal ceremony here in the UAE, also in other countries too.

Helen Schrader with couple

What is unique about your job? Being involved in such an important life affirming celebration of love is really special. It is a happy profession and I am always moved by how a great ceremony can transform the day.

Suzanne and Stuart - photography by Goldfish
Suzanne and Stuart – photography by Goldfish

How do you correspond with the future brides-to-be and grooms? Of course the best recommendation is word of mouth – I receive many referrals from happy couples which is very gratifying. I do find my website and Facebook page work well for me. When communicating with couples I email, skype, phone and of course most importantly, always meet both bride and groom.

Georgia and Saul
Georgia and Saul – Photography by Jacqui Nightscales

What nationalities are your clients usually? As we live in such a melting pot in the UAE, I have the pleasure meeting couples of many nationalities and faiths. I have conducted over 60 ceremonies in the last two years and enjoy incorporating cultural rituals into the ceremony which involves family and friends. It is wonderful to see families from diverse backgrounds connect at such a special occasion.

Asian couple with Helen Schrader

What are the specifics of the weddings you are involved in? I am not a wedding planner so only the ceremony but I can give advice on industry professionals that are reliable and locations to suit the occasion.

Indian couple getting Married
Photography by Rebecca Hobday

In your opinion, what are the best ingredients to organize a wonderful wedding? Planning is the key ingredient. I can only speak from the ceremony aspect – do not leave planning to the last minute allow plenty of time so together we can create a ceremony that is meaningful and reflects your personalities. Ask friends and family to be part of the ceremony. If children are involved expect the unexpected! If you have lots of guests arriving from overseas organize someone to collect them from the airport (or get a taxi) – otherwise you turn into a driver and tour guide. I have seen many a tired and frazzled groom at the ceremony practice. Don’t sweat the small stuff – enjoy this momentous occasion as it will pass in a flash!

Asian couple with Helen Schrader

What are the common mistakes to avoid? Music can be a disaster if left to the unprofessional – especially walking down the aisle music. Leaving ceremony content to the last minute – stressful for the couple and for me! Choose a professional photographer or videographer – make sure they will be unobtrusive and not block your guests view of the ceremony.

What is your favorite Wedding memory? A spontaneous mother-of-the groom and her sisters jumping up at the end of the ceremony and bursting into song. There were a number of Emirati guests and I think they were surprised and amused and probably have a vision of all Western style weddings being like this! This wedding was a celebration of cultures and faiths. The personal thrill of seeing guests engaged and moved by a fabulous ceremony; the couple’s connection when they say their vows to each other. The groom’s face when he sees his bride.

Jamie and Oriana
Jamie and Oriana – Photography by Dawn Appel (

What is your worst Wedding memory? Here are a few: a videographer randomly putting a ladder up in front of the guests – I had to stop the ceremony and ask him to move; music stopping while the bride is walking down the aisle; a bride refusing to say her vows during the ceremony.

What are the traditional wedding gifts? Dinner and cutlery sets, kitchenware

Ravissement Dinner set by Deshoulieres in Galeries Lafayette The Dubai Mall
Ravissement Dinner set by Deshoulieres in Galeries Lafayette The Dubai Mall

What is the most original wedding gift you have ever seen? A puppy (thankfully, happily received)

An unusual Wedding gift
An unusual Wedding gift

Would you recommend a gift registry to your clients? I have already recommended and used it myself for a friend’s wedding, they were living here but married in the UK. was perfect for their gifts as guests came from all around the world.

Qasr Al Sarab Ceremony in the UAE
Qasr Al Sarab Ceremony in the UAE

What is the one piece of advice that you would like to give to our readers that are getting married? Like most things in life the more you put into it the more you get out of it, all that organizing is worth it for a stress free day. Then remember to be in the moment – it is your day – embrace it.

Deborah and Jason
Deborah and Jason

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