The wedding conundrum: I spent more than you did!

Published: August 10, 2012

The Pakistani society has made a complete joke out of the institution of marriage by turning it into a rat race of wealth display. PHOTO: REUTERS

The political economy of marriage should, perhaps, be introduced as a whole new academic discipline since the one million ordeals surrounding weddings are utterly incomprehensible to an average person. Headache-inducing details involving guests, bookings, appointments, shopping — not to mention the overwhelming amounts of wealth which cushions these — probably necessitate specialised degrees in marriage planning.

The Pakistani society has made a complete joke out of the institution of marriage by turning it into a rat race of wealth display. What can be a simple celebration has been turned into a food and dance festival for the most distant and obscure relatives, most of whom you will probably never meet again. The shocker comes when you learn that parents, proper, ‘oh-so-liberal’ and educated parents, have been saving up for years only so they can feed free biryani to 1,500 people on a hotel’s pool side one night.

The gift economy seems to be in full swing as each family seems to be engaged in a sort of interstate arms race with each other, trying to undo the other’s upper hand by reciprocating with presents which are, at least, a notch above what they’ve received. This inane competition is oddly reminiscent of political realism. Who said the Balance of Power theory fails to explain the world?

The funniest side of the issue is that new excuses to throw money are constantly being sought. When viewed in light of soaring divorce rates in the country, this senseless squander makes as much sense as joota chupai does. Choreographed dances, professional photographers and exorbitant designer wear are now integral parts of a ‘decent’ wedding.

One completely fails to understand the idea of overpriced bridal wear when the entire toilette is supposed to be used for only one night, and then discarded without remorse as the alarming pace of changing trends deem it ‘out of fashion’.

What’s curious to note is that lavish wedding ceremonies are not at all met with scorn. Agreed, celebrations and rituals are the binding forces for people, in which family, friends and relatives reunite. However, moderation and frivolity in spending on such celebrations should also be borne in mind.

Read more by Faiza here. 

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://mezaajedeen.blogspot.com Tribune Reader

    Wishful thinking.Recommend

  • Komal

    First ET article that actually makes sense! Good one!Recommend

  • Parvez

    I do agree with you but a wedding is the time when sentiments triumph over common sense and its a material world after all. All is not lost because I know of a few simple weddings happening where both sides could well afford a mega splurge. Recommend

  • tubzkk

    I read the caption of the picture and it just fired my anger, dear Express Tribune, do u love to create negative image of Pakistan or to highlight the negative aspects only, i dont knw what is the purpose of writibg this blog, if u dont want to go for a expensive marriage make it simple, im sure the writer herself would wear the deaigner bridal dress, caption of the image is totally unbearable,we Pakistani society havent made the joke of the institition of marriage, have u seen other societies, where marriage are more lavish than ours, people do call the 1000 or more guests but its just theor way of celebration, if they have money they are spending, well there are such marriages also which are done on the economy scale, i think writer havent been to a simple and decent marriage ever which is why she is complaining, dear writer u belong to the soceity where money is spent like water, but i and my rest of the Pakistani society are average people we dont waste money, what so ever is the issue is, u cant say that the Pakistani soceity is making joke of the institution of the marriage,u are no one to jugde us on ur hypothesis, u should have researched before writing this blog, u are talking about the 10% of the population who are rich but the rest of us are average people,please do not judge us on ur imaginations and please remove the caption its very insulting for the entire nation,bcoz we are the society where marriages last for the entire life, please go and get a life Recommend

  • Adee

    I totally agree with you, i also have the same opinion.
    So much money is wasted in just one wedding, expensive food, dresses, jewellery and what not. Its very hard for the middle class and poor families to afford the weddings. Its the biggest headache in their lives. The money should instead be given to the new couple so that they can buy important things and have some money for future.
    Plus i really dont like the idea of dancing on bollywood tunes, a new relation is being started, it is started by dances, lavish food and dresses. We have made the marriage difficult these days. So different from what our religion taught us that marriage should be simple.Recommend

  • Pernia Khan

    This pomp n show of wealth in weddings leads to frustration among the people who cannot afford these royal weddings.The concept of Nikkah is totally lost n young girls n guys who cannot afford committ Zina. We should make Nikkah easy to avoid growing sins like Zina in this society.Recommend

  • salman

    Tell me about it:s I’m about to go broke on my own wedding and I didn’t even wanted a wedding circus to begin with…Recommend

  • http://Karachi Anwar

    Marriage is about pomp and show. Always has been, is happening and will continue in the future. Anyone who thinks he/she can change this is living in a fools paradise. The good side is with smaller family size, parents are not facing this problem frequently.Recommend

  • Phatty

    First of all, you definitely cannot generalize. You cannot say all is lost, when clearly it’s not. If there are people who want to just display their wealth on their offspring’s wedding day, or their own wedding day, then there are also those who want to keep it simple but special. And honestly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making your big day special. It’s not like you’re going to get this time back.

    Every day on facebook, I see dozens of pictures of so many Pakistani weddings taking place with huge amounts of detailing put in every part of the wedding, from the bride and groom to the photographers and the venue etc. And just because a wedding looks elegant, just because it looks decent, doesn’t mean it had a lot of money spent on it. And even if it did, why do you care? Wouldn’t you want your own wedding to be of that sort? If not lavishly spent on, you’d at least want to have a decent wedding. With things being kept in place, and looking pleasant, instead of a plain mess.

    I seriously don’t blame people for actually putting thought in their wedding now. If couples want to make their big day special, let them. They have their own budget to deal with. And you don’t really know how much budget they have; you don’t know what they go through to put their wedding together.

    So just stop generalizing. Not everyone plans weddings to display the amount of wealth they possess. Some people make sure that they only invite people who will genuinely be happy for them; some people make sure that every single detail is dealt with, so no extra expenses show up. More and more people have a more “careful” outlook on this whole thing. And just because you see the final result as amazingly attractive, doesn’t necessarily mean that billions have been spent on it. Recommend

  • AQ

    Our society is going viral with the “show off ” mentality. Whether it be showing off ones grades, or weath, everyone is out there to out do one another, because God forbid, that people would think they dont have that money tree growing in the back yard.

    The relationship which is marriage, should be sacred and should be defined by the values of the couple and their family.
    Nevertheless it is not wrong to have a decorated wedding, so long that it is reasonable and affordable. If you are going into debt to please far away relatives that you dont even like, then you should really consider where that money is being put.

    Also, there is soo much food wasted at weddings! Limited but reasonable food options should also be considered.

    **Remember, Less is More! Recommend

  • A.

    Last I checked divorce rate was 0.25 % how is that high?

    Also this blog is about the upper 5% of the country. Come to a middle class wedding some day.Recommend

  • Raw is War

    simple solution. Have less kids.Recommend

  • Hopeful

    @Faiza
    Thank you voicing our concern. Many in our generation do believe that competition and pomp and show isn’t worth it. It should be rationalized or more properly Islamised.

    @salman:
    I share your feelings. That’s why I have decided to marry only a person who is content with nikkah in masjid + waleema without any circus….Recommend

  • http://Karachi Anwar Hasan

    “All couples are royal couples on their wedding day” If you have few children marriage can be a costly affair. any where in the world. Some people even take out loans for wedding. But the happy memories lasts the family a lifetime.

    Problem arises when you have 10 children and you have to take care of 10 marriages in 15-20 years. The ‘memories-of-a-lifetime’ becomes a long ‘never-ending-nightmare’ which bankrupts you. Once our population becomes educated and have less children, this problem will improve. I do not see that happening in the next decade or two. Recommend

  • manish

    @Hopeful:

    Thank you voicing our concern. Many in our generation do believe that competition and pomp and show isn’t worth it. It should be rationalized or more properly Islamised.

    internet itself isn’t islamic. what is the trick you will use to islamise it. Recommend

  • Libra

    @manish:
    You are just a hate monger and sick mind. You do not have competency to talk about any subject.Recommend

  • Raza

    This felt rather like a hurried attempt to write something general about society in order to meet a deadline :). A bit of a let-down for those used to Faiza’s usual immaculate standards. Recommend

  • Pakistani

    I think we all have attended at least one wedding that had all the pomp and show going on. Myself being someone who ‘should’ get married in a year or two, just the thought of getting married freaks me out. We certainly are not following the simple and straightforward concept of an ‘Islamic Marriage’ put forth by our religion and the best part is that everyone KNOWS that!. Yet, enormous amounts of money is spent on the ceremony, even in middle-class family weddings. Now I might be able to afford all this, what about our fellow Muslims? This article certainly is a food for thought for many “keyboard artists” here. Recommend

  • Sane

    @Libra:

    @manish:
    You are just a hate monger and sick mind. You do not have competency to talk about any subject.

    I agree to your comment and shall add that not only him but most of Indian commentators are just hatemongers and incompetent to talk about any subject.Recommend

  • Sane

    @Pakistani:

    There is no terminology like Islamic Marriage exists. A marriage without extravagant expenses and with simplicity in all rituals including dinner menu offered and number of guests invited is as per teachings of Islam. Preferably marriage (Nikah) must be in Masjid to have blessings of ALLAH and all those who are present there. No mix gathering too.Recommend

  • Pakistani

    @Sane: Whatever you’re saying DOES come under a typical Islamic Marriage. Maybe the terminology is broad but ‘simplicity’ is the essence. Stop trolling.Recommend

  • Nobody

    To those bragging about how low the divorce rate is or claiming marriages in Pakistan are for life, are you kidding me? Just because marriages last “forever” or the divorce rate is low doesn’t in ANY way mean Pakistani marriages are made in heaven and all marriages are healthy. Read the news sometimes, some of the stories you hear will make you cringe. One of the many reasons divorce isn’t common is because divorce is a taboo in a conservative society like Pakistan’s (among other things). And no I’m not encouraging or promoting divorce, simply stating that it’s probably wise to hold off on bragging about low divorce rates in Pakistan. They’re not low because things are peachy and in so many of the cases I read about, divorce would be a better option as opposed to living with someone who makes you miserable and unhappy, or worse, someone who’s violent and abusive. Recommend

  • zehra

    i guess too generalised but it is not only the liberals or the elite that are spending so much even the lower classes are forced ot spend to meet dowery dmeands and other”social customs” my maid gets several months pay advance for her sons barat ( as she has to give gifts to all who come from punjab, house them for the wedding, pay for thier travel) in addition to the food and barat arrangemtne!! i asked her when you cant do that dont invite all or dnt take laon to buy gifts ,she said karna pata hai , biradari mei izzat ka sawal hai.
    so it is too gernalised of you to lable it only on the choreographed dances and lavish setups, those who can will do those who cant should have the sense to realsie and accept it anf do it within the limits. my sister got married we managed everything in moderation and it was all done tasetfully yet within our budget. we knew we wont be affording pc or marriot or a seven course meal and we ddnt od that, nor a wedding planner , we sat with the caterer did our own theme chose the deocr and wrapped it up in less than half of the budget that would have been if we opted for pc marriot or a wedding planner!!Recommend

  • Sane

    @Raw is War:

    Has commented: simple solution. Have less kids.

    You talk nonsense always. Seems do not have enough knowledge to discuss any subject.Recommend