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Why I’m divesting from the big fat desi wedding

Now that it's my turn to get married, I realise I have important choices to make.

13 Aug

I’ve grown up always being told that a wedding was the most important day in a woman’s life, followed closely – if not preceded – by the importance of women being married ‘on time.’ In Pakistani culture, weddings have always been a big affair; days of singing and dancing leading up to the actual wedding ceremony, followed by an infinite number of celebratory dinners. Recently, however, the weddings seem to be getting bigger and bigger, at a pace I can’t keep up with. 

From crystal ceiling arrangements to floral centrepieces, a typical desi wedding event usually drips in grandeur. The stunning visuals are met by loud sounds of popular Indian and Pakistani music and often a dhol wala (drummer who accompanies the wedding procession). With guest lists ranging in the hundreds and even thousands, senses are stimulated, food is flowing and the bride is always the star of the night. 

Traditionally wearing red, brides stun in customised jewellery and dresses that are hand embroidered with gota work and kamdani in gold and silver. Recently though, it’s not only the bride who pulls out all the stops to dress up. There’s an expectation for guests to be adorned in trending designer clothes, or for their outfits to be pulled from boutiques as someone will always ask: ‘Who are you wearing?’

“The weddings seem to be getting bigger and bigger, at a pace I can’t keep up with”

Wedding festivities are made up of days, and even weeks, of late-night family gatherings. Each of these events revolves around the food, with there now being multiple dinners boasting different cuisines and caterers from live barbecues to steaks and pastas. Ceremonies and traditions – such as henna events, musical nights, and gifts for all the in-laws that usually include gold, jewellery and clothes – are carried out between the bride and groom’s family and lots of cheer. 

Discussions regarding weddings and marriage have made me feel distant growing up, as they often made the brides out to be such a passive part of the process. The idea that their only job was to sit there and look pretty for the guests and later for their husbands made my blood boil. Also, seeing how much weddings can be about impressing others on social media nowadays makes me uncomfortable. When it was my time to marry, I vowed to take control of my own wedding and not give into these expectations.

“It seems that since my engagement, I’ve been struggling to place myself in the important wedding conversations happening around me”

However, when I got engaged in April 2021 and we set a wedding date for January 2022, it became obvious that pushing back on the big fat desi was going to be harder than I originally thought. And it seems that since my engagement, I’ve been struggling to place myself in the important wedding conversations happening around me. Despite the fact that my parents have been very supportive of what I want, I still feel a pressure to go with what they want or compromise in certain places.

In the past two months of planning, I’ve had my decisions questioned by family members, been called selfish for not having multiple big events and been constantly asked whether my wedding will be segregated. Family involvement means that the guest list is still becoming larger than expected and my desire to keep it casual by not having a stage or formal set up at all, bar one event, is not sitting well with others. All of this has quickly made me realise that none of what I imagined for my wedding would be easy to achieve.

“If my values won’t influence my personal decisions on my wedding day, then I’m scared they never will”

I won’t be hosting a huge mehendi function with impeccably choreographed dance performances, sharing every second of my wedding on Instagram or having my photographer or other people in the wedding party post footage online. When it comes to clothes and jewellery, I’m also not a fan of excessive spending and I like limiting the material things in my life as much as possible. I want to have a wedding that doesn’t feel like a chore. Though I applaud those who want to have big weddings, purely because of the unbelievable amount of admin that goes into them, it’s never something I have imagined for myself.

If my values won’t influence my personal decisions on my wedding day, then I’m scared they never will. While I always wanted a low-key wedding, this pandemic has all the more reframed my relationship with myself and material things. My wedding is the start of my life with someone I love and I want to focus more on the longevity of my marriage than the short-lived ceremony itself. I want to make choices I can be proud of later and not come under the pressure of consumerist expectations like getting multiple outfits that I’ll rarely wear, because God forbid you repeat an outfit!