K and I went out of town for a wedding this past weekend. It had been a long time since I attended a traditional lavish desi wedding and it was fun to break out the makeup, the sari, the jewlery. This particular desi wedding lasted five days (seven if you include the bridal shower and dholki parties). Most desi weddings last at least three days. First the mehndi where the bride gets henna applied and there’s oodles of dancing and singing. The second day is normally the shaddi (wedding) and nikkah where the couple officially weds followed by a reception with cake and ring exchanges and speeches and dinner. Finally is the ruxati where the bride and groom are escorted by the guests to the limo and the bride hugs her parents and relatives and everyone gets very weepy (including me. I dont care if I dont even know you. A father tearing up and I am a big mushy mess of tears). The third day is the valima hosted by the groom’s family. Its basically dinner and a party. We desis love to party.
So I’m sitting at this wedding…looking at the lavishness… the henna decorated cake and the mango kulfi and I comment in awe at the fancy schmancy factor and I learn that the bride had $100,000 to play with. Now if you’ve got the means to spend it: lucky ducky! (which I’m sure this girl did so this post is NOT a knock on her) But there is a concept at least in desi culture to “one up” the next person. This is probably not as bad in the United States but in Pakistan its a real problem that grew so out of control that the government had to step in and ban dinners. The “one upping” got so bad in Pakistan/India that people were leaving daughters unmarried rather than pay for their wedding. This is one of the unfortunate cultural reasons the birth of a daughter is not treated with as much joy as the birth of a son. The wedding and the “jahaiz” (an abonimable cultural practice where the girl’s family offers up goods and money to the groom’s family upon the wedding) can financially cripple parents who have no choice but to play along with the cultural ways in order to secure their daughter’s place in society. Someone close to me once commented about an auntie I know with five little girls. Very casually she said “it wouldn’t be so bad if one or two of them just died…” upon seeing my horrified expression she tried to justify her remark “Can you imagine how much the weddings will cost? Just one or two! Not all of them ofcourse…” Such is the way we women bring each other down.
I’ve seen parents refinance and double mortgage homes. Max out all their credit cards. Dip into retirement plans. For a four hour event. And to put salt to wounds that these dollars leave the divorce rate among the desi community is sky rocketing so high that some folks I know have not yet paid off weddings before divorces are finalizing.
Its a mixed bag. My wedding was certainly not cheap but I love the memories despite K’s pointing out quite rightly how we could have spent the bling on a down payment or a nice snazzy BMW… What’s your take? If you’re married what kind of wedding did you have? Did you break the bank or stay in your means? Do you regret it or appreciate the way you did it? If you’re not married what’re your plans?