A Big Fat Indian Wedding: Smile (just) For The Pictures!

Indian marriages are the business deals of the year. Each year thousands of Indians partake in some of the biggest business deals yet; their big fat Indian weddings.

When we hear of Indian weddings, we think of lots of food, dancing and free alcohol along with people dressed up in shiny traditional clothes standing in a queue waiting to be photographed with the bride and the groom. Over the years, traditional Indian weddings have remained more or less the same. Every wedding is planned over months with a huge budget that runs into several lakhs and sometimes even crores of Rupees. The budgets are decided with a prime objective of impressing all the relatives, guests and of course the groom and his family. Most Indian weddings, most of which are still arranged alliances, follow a very specific procedure.

It starts with the boy and his family coming to see the girl and her family. The boy’s family are fed and taken care of like a royalty. After all the necessary hospitality, the boy and the girl are left in a room – two complete strangers – and made to get to know each other and decide if they want to spend the rest of their lives together. A life-changing decision in a span of just one day seem strange, doesn’t it? However, things have improved in recent years. Earlier the girl was not even given a chance to meet her husband-to-be, until the day of the wedding. Once the wedding is finalized, the boy and the girl are engaged as soon as possible. Then starts the process of the boy and girl meeting each other periodically in the hope to try and get to know each other better, preferable before the wedding.

It is after all this, that the real “business deal” begins. The demands for dowry, elaborate decorations for the wedding, expensive venues and several different cuisines of food begin. All this is to be fulfilled and taken care of by the girl’s family. It is not surprising why people consider daughters as a financial burden.  In the months leading up to the wedding, invitations are sent out to every distant relative and even a friend’s friends are invited. Of course the invitation is not just a simple piece of printed matter but an elaborate affair – a box of made-to-order chocolates or dry fruits accompany the expensive invitation – which only has a limited objective of intimating the venue and date of the wedding to the guests. None of this can be decided without close consultation with the family pundit who ensures that all the starts are aligned on the day of the wedding.

Now the bargaining begins for the dowry. The cars, house, gold and diamond jewelry must be decided. The girl’s family must put everything that they have into this wedding to ensure that their daughter can have a happy, successful life. Sadly, over the years we have still not been able to get rid of the social evil of dowry from Indian marriages. A custom that started as a protective measure for women has now turned into something without which no one weds them. Families belonging to the less privileged sections of the society truly give up practically everything that they have for their daughters’ marriages. This practice that plagues our society is one of the main causes of female infanticide in our country.

No Indian wedding has just one ceremony, it includes a minimum of four events. It starts with the ritual of applying henna to the bride’s palms and feet. During this function, all the women out on their expensive clothes, sing songs and apply henna on their hands too. This event is followed by what is called the “sangeet” which involves a lot of food, alcohol and dancing. Everyone, with no specific dancing abilities, gets on the dance floor and break into a series of self-invented dance moves. Next day is the actual wedding ceremony which takes place either in the morning or at night depending on which part of India the families belong to. The bride is made to wear what is possibly the heaviest piece of clothing as she often requires a few people to assist her in walking. She is adorned with heavy jewellery. The bride and the groom are made to pose and look happy for hours despite the fact that might not actually be. For guests the line-up of good food, free flowing alcohol and dancing continues. After all the smiling, greeting and photograph sessions the wedding rituals are performed. At the end of the ceremony, the girl is handed over to her new family along with a car, a house and a bag full of jewellery as an assurance of her worth. The transaction is complete.

Despite the criticism and evils that surround Indian marriages we cannot deny that there is still a certain sanctity and beauty in witnessing a traditional Indian wedding. Unfortunately beneath all the fun lies the burden of getting a daughter married in the best possible manner in exchange for her happy and long married life.

We, as the youngsters of today, should stand up against these norms, and we should refuse to give and to reject dowry. We should encourage our families to equally shoulder the cost of wedding instead of leaving it all to be borne by the bride’s family. We must side above caste and faith divides and marry who we love and not who we are forced to. We must restore the sanctity of an Indian marriage

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