By Indira Varma
Extravagant Indian weddings have rapidly become one of the main indicators of social status and wealth in the South Asian Subcontinent. With the rise of the middle class and the desire to spend money, weddings have become a billion -dollar industry and are one of the heavy weight contributors to the Indian economy. According to the Times of India, on average a person will spend one fifth of their total wealth on their wedding. The higher the budget, the higher the expectations and smack bang in the centre of these wedding, bearing the brunt of the pressure are the bride and her family. From the marriage rituals down to what nose ring she chose to wear, everyone’s attention is fixated on her and on the wedding her family created. Planning an Indian wedding is extremely fun but also extremely daunting. For one, the bride’s family must pay for everything and instead of having to organise a one-day function, a minimum of 5 functions, spread over multiple days must be planned. If there is no wedding planner, this can become an overwhelming task, with a lot of brides and members of their families opting not to work in order to plan the wedding.
There are two key components that must be observed while planning a wedding. The first once is patience, there are a lot of traditional aspects to an Indian wedding that must be considered, many of which directly conflict with the wishes of the bride. This foremost includes inviting people, whom she may not necessarily know, but must invite to appease her parents and social circle. Through this norm, brides often become the target of the dreaded ‘aunties.’ Begrudgingly invited to the wedding, aunties will spend most of their time nit-picking at everything they lay their eyes on. Comments range from food to assumptions made on her and her family based on the type of wedding she chose to have. Yet there is nothing much she or her family can do besides patiently grin and bear it.
This and other reasons are why the Indian bride must possess, the second and most important component: A strong network of family and friends whom she can turn to for guidance and support. Being the centre of attention, the bride will be subject to an unusually high amount of scrutiny. While most brides enjoy being the focal point of the wedding and embrace the challenge, some experience heavy amounts of stress relating to their wedding. There have been many cases of women suffering from numerous mental health problems as a direct result of being a bride. Ranging from eating disorders to depression, the Indian Journal of Psychiatry released a study in 2015 stating that brides who are subject to a large amount of stress relating to their wedding, face a higher risk of suffering from a mental health problem such as depression or more commonly, anxiety. Some extreme cases have even resulted in the wedding being called off entirely. Having the support of friends and family often relieves the bride of most of the stresses she may be having.
The questions to be asked in this discussion are these: Is it necessary to put one family under so much stress to plan a wedding? Why must they spend so much money to impress other people, most of whom they don’t even know that well? After all, the guests are not the ones getting married! While Indian weddings are beautiful and a lot of fun to attend, the setbacks of these weddings need to be addressed, but they so rarely are. Families are put under huge amount of strain to produce extravagant events, while often losing touch of the focus of these events in the process. A wedding does not need to be extravagant in order to be beautiful, isn’t less, more? By adding all the bells and whistles, weddings often lose their sentimental and emotional atmosphere and are transformed into a big production, that in reality, people have seen before.
So, in summary, often one of the most joyous occasions in a family, the Indian wedding is unlike any other wedding in the world. However, the necessity of extravagance and heavy expenses in determining the success of a wedding, need to be questioned. Weddings are not a parade of wealth, they are there to celebrate the union of two people and their families. In the future, the success of a wedding should be based on the happiness of the bride, the groom and their families and not on materialistic and shallow expectations of others.
What do you think? Should the culture around Indian weddings change or should we try our best to preserve these aspects of our culture, no matter how problematic they are?
Indira is a final year student of Hindi, South Asian History and Culture at SOAS, University of London