Wedding woes

She calls herself a 21st century girl, perhaps rightly. Having been given a good quality education, she has been able to bag a high paying job in a multinational company and attain financial independence. She considers her equal to men in all areas, be it at education or work. She wants her right to go out late at night and wear any cloths of her choosing. However, all this independence and equality goes right out of the window when it comes to the super-hyped mega event – the wedding. No, a big fat Indian wedding. She wants flashy dresses and heavy jewelry, a grand bash, even if it costs her parents a fortune. Many of the rituals/practices during and after the wedding are deeply patriarchal, yet this advocate of gender equality has no trouble embracing them. Yes, she is a 21st century girl, but far from an ideal one.

Pardon me if I came out a bit too harsh in the above paragraph, but this has exactly been observation so far (with few exceptions). Being a girl, I wrote this with a female focal point. But, that doesn’t at all mean that girls are not the only guilty party. Many girls don’t have the support of the would-be-husband, even if they want to keep things simple. I was shocked to find many of my male colleague openly sharing expectations of a hefty dowry plus a working wife! The blame, though, doesn’t fall on the bride and groom completely. The parental pressure too is immense. The parents, in turn, succumb to societal pressure. And come to think of it, who forms this society? You, me, our parents and people around us!

Ever since I gained this perspective, I had decided not to fall into this trap and was determined to a simple wedding for myself. Fortunately my soul-mate too had similar ideas and we clicked immediately. And today, after almost 5 years, I still think of it as one of the most significant decisions made by us. I thank a dear friend for coaxing me to write this post and capture how we got married.

Our initial plan was to have a registered marriage but later we agreed for a simple wedding in Arya Samaj Mandir in presence of immediate family members numbering around 30-35 and a small lunch in a nearby restaurant. We did not want any relatives to make their own assumptions for not inviting them to the wedding. Hence we came up with a concept of a ‘wedding intimation card‘ which explained in detail our reasons for the simple wedding. As for the parents, they took some time to make peace with our beliefs, but they did come around later.

I was recently asked if I have ever regretted this decision. Forget any regret; I am proud of it! I am proud that I was not a financial burden to my parents, that I broke many male chauvinistic stereotypes of conventional marriages. If I hadn’t done it, I would always have felt the guilt of not walking the talk of independence and equality.

Marriages should be thought of as a coming together of two souls. Today, we emphasize more on the coming together of caterers, bands/DJs, decorators, jewelers and dress designers. Is it the right way forward for the society?


Posted on July 21, 2012, in Bits of my life, Feminist? and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. A lovely thought there about how your marriage but pardon my ignorance why is a fat wedding unfeminine? I find is rather unconvincing thought that, marriage as a social ritual is male chauvinistic?, I think at points is insulting to man as well, for example none in my culture ask for dowry, your points relate to your personal conviction about not being burden to your parents how is is universal in appeal?

    Everyone in our family is happy and willing to be present for the wedding,barat,coctails, and other rituals, and see it as a larger stage for bonding and being together, remember so many of our relative including our working sisters long for that day, share a dream to be together how does that fit in your description or a big fat Indian marriage?

    Whats wrong with the economic side of it aren’t some in your family attached to any business one way of other?

    Its great that you got what you wanted, but for rest of us, Indian marriage is a bliss in disguise. Disguise because I know it will be absolutely hard work for me to marry my sister, but that process of how it will come to fruition is part of my legacy and I am willing to do it.

    • Thanks for the appreciation.

      Its true that many families, like yours, have become aware enough not to ask dowries. But they are very few in the minority. I have seen quite educated families and IIT graduate grooms asking for dowry. Marrying your sister may not be a hassle for you, if you are well placed with money. But think about those middle class families who sacrifice so many comforts just to save enough money for their daughter’s weddings. Think about those many girls who are denied right to see the light of this universe and are terminated before birth(read illegal female feotisides) because the couple thinks having a daughter is a financial burden for them. And if you sit back and think, why society thinks daughters are financial burdens? The primary reason is the cost of the marriage and dowry. Second is the patriarchal system, where in daughter leaves house after marriage, where as son stays and supports the family.

      Now, who makes these marriages sound like burden to the parents? The society. Correct you may be well placed enough to marry your daughter, but ultimately you are the one who’s shouldering the whole finance. Most times there’s no sharing from groom’s side. Now you are setting a status baseline in the society around you, and which everyone would want to follow. (I have seen people wanting to replicate certain things in their weddings having seen it at friend’s or family’s weddings). Hence, in case your uncle is not well-off financially, he will be under the pressure to at least provide what you did for her doughter’s weddings. Else why there’s so much resistance to simple marriages? Why would society not leave it to the bride, groom and the family to decide what they want? I myself have faced this resistance from the relatives.

      As for the economy, yes some people do get paid with the wedding business. But at what social cost? And aren’t those beneficiaries forced to spend as much in their daughter’s weddings too!

      Many rituals in the marriage are patriarchal. For eg. Kanya-dan! I am not a thing to give off in ‘dan’ ! The word itself means that bride’s relations to her family are now changed, where the groom enjoys all the family support. In some marriages there are even rituals where in father-in-law is supposed to touch groom’s feet!

    • Of course, everything is a personal choice after all. and traditions of any culture had started with a reason. But even when the original reason was no more applicable we still follow the herd and force tradition onto people. Is that a right thing to do in the name of culture?

      A friend of mine once said (in a different context though) that many a times group priorities should take precedence over individual choices. Like in case of ban on gender detection with sonogrphy. You or I may not have any bias and we might just want to know the gender of the child, but when we look at the context of society, not everything thinks like ours. Hence a ban had to be enforced. Same goes for dowry, which too had to be legally banned. Some may just want to give gifts to the bride. But in the long run today these gifts are enforced by groom’s side to the bride’s parents. Why? Because everyone was doing it, so it has become a part of so called tradition and culture. and hence bride’s parents have to suffer!

      Yes, simple marriages can’t be enforced but as a society things got to change, and they will change only if large number of people do it and set examples.

  2. I think you a mixing things up with choices and our say with them in the society, as argued by you we are part of it, so the idea of replicating standard is a choice that does not concerns. Its peoples concern, they are also part of society, as much it sounds good in theory, it always going to be a wishful thinking, we can control our rational thinking being more fortunate enough to make best use of our education. It cannot be transcended into culture by force or by a thought its going to be a process, if you can see everything in life moves towards good, as it is human nature to improve, our society have a long way to go but I am confident and believe in it.

    I think what you did accomplish in your life is a precedence and that should be emphasized not the shortcomings as they derive the focus out of the context.

    I am fortunate to belong to the culture (garhwal) where the notion of dowry does not exist in the same notion as you are conditioned to think. We have weddings in various forms, luxurious, normal well as sensible and we enjoy equally cause its the people not the costly drinks or food or lighting.

    What would you say to the condition that exists now a days people from brides do a long check up on groom even to the extent interviewing him on the place of his work, that is as much a part of new society we live in. So it goes both ways.

    I think keeping traditions is way of emphasizing part of culture we belonged not everything will be fine as everything goes out of context in such a long time, it shouldn’t take as a hit on our pride maybe?

  3. We agree on the main point but going two different directions, as the contents of our discussions enlarge and take over the blog itself, I see fit to end it here 😉

    Will keep a look out on a marriage like yours, I do have a story to share not quite the same as yours but I think I will jot it down in a blog, meanwhile wish me luck for my exams 😉

  4. Sutanuka Banerjee

    congratulations Sejal……proud of your decision…. you are absolutely right on every point

  5. Loved the concept and Idea!!

    Wish every family will accept such kinda norm so that we can bring the change soon!

  6. Still not approved my previous comment asking why you took the last name “Parikh” from your husband despite seeming so anti-patriarchical in this post?

    • @whats in a name :
      I hadn’t seen any comments from you. It’s a first one!
      Well, a good lesson for you, do not assume things before you know the facts 🙂

      My last name was ‘Parikh’ before marraige So I never changed it. Yes, both of us coincidentally had same surnames! Even in case they had been different, I wouldn’t have changed it. You wouldn’t believe I was pressured to change the middle name, but my middle name (father’s name) still stays the same. Although given a choice I would like to get rid of the middle name altogether, but its been there in god knows how many documents since my childhood that it seems nearly impossible to change now.

  7. Whats In A Name

    Thanks for the clarification. 🙂 Makes sense.

  8. very happy to read about ur thoughts. my husband dharav and i had similar feelings during our wedding in 2008. we were insistent on making it simple, fair n meaningful. we both wanted i to be a statement of our values. so we had no jewellery, no beauty parlours, no lavish trousseau…just plain and simple khadi. we both and all the baraatis wore cotton handlooms and khadi. there was no dowry and we both insisted that the wedding costs be kept low and be divided equally between the 2 families. the girl’s side would not have to pay a penny extra because they are’ the poor girl’s’ side. our parents were very unhappy, but later they too saw the merit of the decision.

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