When I decided to write this article, my peers wondered why I pitted two synonymous words against each other as a part of my title. As a child, I was taught that both “marriage” and “wedding” almost meant the same thing except for a technical distinction, but in a country like India, the gap is too wide and yet, often ignored. We have all seen that happening in some way or the other, considering the fact how important marriage has always been in our culture. A marriage is a happy union of two souls who are showered with the blessings of the elders and society whereas a wedding today in India is an ostentatious act which likes to be the star of the competitive “wedding market” and terms like blessings have a set monetary value.
The concept of marriage has always been one of the most fascinating things I have come across. When I was young, it was quite overwhelming to see how binding and powerful this ritual is. Two people and their families come together and it gives rise to so many different relations. It used to be my most favorite function which involved getting introduced to new people and re-uniting with old relatives and cousins, and expecting days filled with fun and laughter. In the olden days, when the concept of “Event Management” had not yet found its ground, weddings were mostly arranged and organized by family members. Hence we used to see the entire clan chipping in and running around, fulfilling their share of responsibilities. But as they say, the real world tends to dawn upon us when we remove the veil.
Our country continues to be an region of research for scholars abroad who are both intrigued and baffled with the prevailing concept of “dowry” in our society. This concept is not unheard of and we have had laws and movements come and go to do away with it. On the one hand, we see the groom’s family go back on the day of the wedding due to lack of fulfillment of demands by the bride’s family; and on the other hand we are witnessing an era of “implied dowry”. This is a situation where owing to the changing trends of the society with respect to marriage, both the bride and groom’s families themselves feel obligated to live up to the expectations of the society. The groom or his family may not have made any direct demand of things but at the same time they never fail to accept whatever the bride’s family has to offer. The groom who is ideally supposed to draw the line in these cases sheepishly accepts a gifted “household” from the bride’s family not realizing that he is shredding off his last shred of self-respect.
With economic prosperity erupting, upper middle class families use the occasion of “marriage” as an opportunity to become the “talk of the town” or “trendsetters”. Event managers and hotels have started having better days catering to the unbelievable demands turning “Indian Marriages” into what is now usually called the “BIG FAT INDIAN WEDDING”. The innocence and serenity of a true marriage gets overshadowed by the colorful and extravagant decorations and attires, lavish feasts consisting of not only Indian but Mexican, Italian and Chinese dishes, and a series of modern day fancy rituals never heard of before. The sets of clothes which are gifted on behalf of both the families is not considered a blessing unless it has a designer label and the venue of marriage is stripped of its dignity if it is anything less than a 5 star hotel or an exotic destination. Every marriage tries to be one step ahead of what has happened before, not because the families truly want it but because everybody likes to outdo the rest. It is indeed riveting to see a holy institution turning into a wholesome business.
While the affluent families don’t feel the need to keep a tab on their extravagant spending, it is the ordinary middle class which feels the real crunch. The level of income might differ by a great extent but the expectations of the society never falter. Their so called “honour” becomes more important than education or sustenance itself which compels them to spend the money that they don’t have. The fear of stigma of a “simple wedding” drives these people towards the loan sharks accompanied by high interest. People say that “gifting” is an act of moral sense devoid of any expectation of return but here the business has become a barter where the families not only cater to each other in KIND but also to the entire society in big amounts. The desperation has built up to such an extent that at times families giving the reception note down the amount of money received by each guest in the form of a gift. This is done in order to keep in mind the amount of money that they ought to spend on “gifts” in future for any similar functions of those guests.
No matter how much sweat, time and effort is exhausted over a wedding, there will be a considerable percentage of guests who will be least interested in attending the wedding but will nevertheless grace it with their presence so that they don’t miss out on the grandeur of it and shall make it a point to count the number of dishes served so that they can criticize it later. They will probably not have anything to do with the bride and groom but will always have a lot to say about the style of the wedding calling it either a show off or below their standards. These are the instances when a marriage transforms into the worst wedding nightmare ever. It is true that every rich man has the right to dream of a flamboyant wedding for his daughter, but this community of rich men have no right to taunt a middle class man’s efforts in pulling off his daughter’s wedding.
Marriage for me still holds a high regard but not the business which is made out of it.
Money and energy should be spent for all the right reasons, to make it a memorable day for the uniting families and not to win a rat race. In the end it is all about celebrating love, and that is done with laughter and happiness. The real significance of marriage will truly show when parents feel happy for the bright future of their children instead of having a crease on their foreheads worrying about the upcoming expenses in store.
About the Author
Shweta Rath is a student of Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She enjoys reading up on various important issues and is a keen learner who wants to work on enhancing her research skills. She is a big movie buff and loves interacting with new people.