“We Would Like the Pleasure of your Company...”
“...And don't forget we have another wedding to attend in Ireland,” I reminded my husband while he deftly entered the date into his cell phone. “Yes, Yes, I have that one down and the other ones you mentioned,” he replied. Unlike in Dhaka where weddings are in fact a large part of the social scene and going to a wedding is a regular occurrence, in the West it is an altogether different matter. Invitations to weddings are few and far between as over here people tend to invite only close family and friends. Therefore one needs to plan well in advance who they are inviting and guests have to plan which wedding they are attending and when, hence the business of putting all the relevant dates into our respective calendars. I am sure most of us believe that marriages and weddings should be a time to celebrate the joining of two people and it is a day which should be special and memorable for the two individuals in question. Instead what we observe is that weddings can turn out to be an event filled with tension, stress and occasionally even have elements of drama and melodrama thrown in.
I did not set about writing an article comparing and contrasting weddings in the Sub Continent and the West but more about my observations of weddings in general. However, it is interesting to see the differences between weddings at home and weddings over here. I think we look at our marriages as actually a coming together of two families whereas in the West it is more about the individuals concerned. There is no getting around the fact that many of our deshi weddings are large, elaborate affairs with the guest list reaching the hundreds if not thousands in some cases and no one ever responds to the r.s.v.p -- they either show up or not on that particular day. It does not matter whether you are from a village in a remote part of the country or the most influential person in the city, most people feel the need to pull out all the stops when preparing for the wedding of a son or daughter. Usually as the hosts of the wedding, you just have a ball park figure as to how many of the guests you have invited will actually show up on the day. It must be rather nerve-wracking when you are not really ever sure whether the quantity of the food you are providing will be adequate or plain wasteful. Timing is something else which bewilders me. Why is it that no one ever sticks to the time given on the wedding invitation? I sometimes wonder why we even bother to give a time! Everyone turns up late, the functions start late and end even later.
On the other hand, a typical wedding in the UK may have up to 150 people and anything above that would be considered a big wedding. One has to accept or decline an invitation well in advance as there is usually pre arranged seating and the caterers supply food for a given number of people. Not replying to a wedding invitation would be considered bad form and you definitely do not just show up on the day!
It is natural for people to want their weddings to be perfect and it is not just the couple but also the parents of the bride and bridegroom who want everything to be ideal but sometimes an occasion that is supposed to be a time for celebrating and rejoicing becomes a logistical nightmare and the financial burden can become overwhelming. Some people find that the cost of organising the wedding spirals out of control. The jewellery, the venue, the catering, the extra flowers, etc. can lead to a snowball effect where you feel like you are being buried under a pile of bills and obligations. Sometimes people in slightly lower income brackets find themselves having to spend their hard-earned money on things that are not necessarily essential and also beyond their means just to keep the bridegroom's family happy or what they themselves feel is acceptable to their social standing. To be honest, trying to keep up with the Jones is something that is prevalent in all sections of society. We seem to associate bigger with better especially where weddings are concerned and this is not always true. The true success of a wedding ceremony should really be seen in terms of how happy the bride and bride groom and their immediate family are at the end of the day. Not whether people feel the wedding was spectacular, unique or fabulous. It really should not be regarded as some kind of performance or show!
It is of course the prerogative of the family or individuals to decide how they want a wedding to be or how many people they want to invite, but it seems to me that it should be something they feel they want to do rather than what they feel people will expect them to do. For example, I know in our weddings we feel obliged to invite people who we hardly know because of some tenuous link somewhere and they too feel obliged to come. But on the flip side, many people get offended if they are not invited to certain weddings and the family extending the invitation feel snubbed if certain people do not show up. It is definitely a very hard balance to keep. As December is the most popular month for weddings in Dhaka, guests sometimes find themselves doing a bit of wedding hopping. They may have an invitation to more than one ceremony on the same evening and not wishing to upset anyone end up going to all of them albeit for a short stint in each place. Ultimately you then end up giving everyone a little of your time and attention and run the risk of not giving anyone the attention they deserve on a day as important as their wedding.
Another pet peeve that I have is the fact that people eat before the actual 'Rusmat' ceremony and leave! I thought the whole idea of going to a wedding is to be there for the ceremony but I may be wrong. The way that the evening is arranged focuses around the food and by the end of the evening it is only the immediate family who are left for the 'Rusmat'. One cannot really blame the guests for this either as we know our weddings go on for hours and it is not possible for everyone to stay till the very end. My heart also goes out for the poor brides who sit patiently in their heavy saris, jewellery and makeup for hours on end while everyone else eats. I have yet to see a bride who can eat heartily on her wedding day partly due to nerves but mainly because people would find it unbecoming. On the other hand we go out of our way to feed the bridegroom until he is on the verge of exploding. The 'notun jamai' finding it hard to say 'no' to his in-laws while they pile on the biriyani. What would be a practical solution would be to have a given time for the 'Rusmat' ceremony and then serve food afterwards. This would enable the bride and bridegroom to eat together after the ceremony instead of the bride ending up hungry and exhausted. There has been more than one instance where I have seen the bride almost pass out with sheer fatigue, not something one should have to endure on a day as important as this. It would also mean the guests who genuinely come to give their blessings to the couple can be part of the ceremony and the wedding does not have to go on till the wee hours of the morning! Then of course there is the minor detail about the photographer and video man who feel that it is their duty to stand directly in front of the bride and bridegroom and block the view for the rest of the people attending the function. It is probably worthwhile to pre assign a position for them to be able to take photographs and videos without obstructing the view.
Having said this I still enjoy our deshi weddings, chaos and all -- especially when I can see a smile on the faces of the bride and bridegroom at the end of it...
(R) thedailystar.net 2007