Weddings: Taking it to the next level

Published: July 2, 2010

Weddings these days have become more about putting-up a 'good show' for guests, rather than focusing on the comfort of the couple getting married.

There is something about the summer season in Karachi that makes me love it, despite all that heat and humidity. Not only is it the best time to go swimming and enjoy succulent mangoes, it is also somehow the best time to get married for many. Talking about the week-long festivities, dancing the nights away to Indian tunes is the typical culture of a wedding household. Gone are the days when cousins and friends used to get together to sing traditional Pakistani wedding songs. Now, the trend is to dance to catchy Indian beats. Where exactly is our sense of creativity and originality? Why do we always have to be so Bollywood-centric?

I recently attended a mehndi, where the bride made her grand entrance in a multicoloured lantern, while her sister danced endlessly to music from the latest chick-flicks from across the  border, and that too with a different costume for almost every other song. It came across as an IIFA Award’s night with gaudy outfits and fake smiles. Is this what our identity has been reduced to? Is that all we can do: ape our neighbours and do a hopelessly cheap copy of them?

Our society dictates norms. Social pressures and the idea of keeping up with the Joneses sometimes forces us to go overboard with wedding expenditure, and display an eye-glittering, often distasteful show of wealth. It’s a sad fact, but nonetheless true, that weddings these days have become more about putting-up a ‘good show’ for guests, rather than focusing on the comfort of the couple getting married. And all the guests do is to judge, and they do that rather incessantly.  From the bride’s clothes and food to the decor and hospitality of hosts, everything is judged – and scathingly.

Food for thought: In a country where most people are sweating away for a pittance and are drinking their tears instead of water, are such lavish lifestyles justified?

Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2010.


Sadia A Ahmed

The writer is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and SOAS University, currently working for the Editorial pages at The Express Tribune.

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

  • Munazza sami

    Nice articles.Really we people should think about it and we should also get rid of these stupids things as its all against our culture and Islam as well.Recommend

  • SadafFayyaz

    Nice post….We waste a lot of money on these things….just to show “oonchi naak” in people….I was the only one who created a trend of dancing on Pak songs…”mehndi, Haroon”,”tali the Thalle” and some other Pak pop hits….was considred a maniac in my family…I have seen some kids even copying exactly the Bollywood dance steps/// and parents are enjoying it….Why cant we dance on our own songs?Recommend

  • Taufiq

    Sadia, media is responsible for adoption of Indian culture if our media not promote Indian movies and songs so these stupids things reduce 50% and I hopefully that you will also take action against these practically.Recommend

  • S. Ali Raza

    We have started talking like them. Its trendy to say “Kiya kerr rhay ho” than to say “Kiya kerr rhay hain”Recommend

  • Danish

    fake people, fake emotions, fake laughters, false statements, showing off suits and jewelries, indian and other bullshit rituals, mums of boys watch girls and investigate about them, parents of girls tapping boys, wastage of food while having it with ferociousness… these are our wedding ceremoniesRecommend

  • Atif

    Ms. Sadia please do invite me to yours. I’d love to see if these are not just empty words :)Recommend

  • Murtaza Ali Jafri

    (Eventual Hypocritical) Whiner. Bet your half a dozen wedding functions will be exactly the same.Recommend

  • Schazad

    I do agree with the writer but we can’t stop people from enjoying their special occasions. If we are not going to spend money then how all these people associated with this industry will feed their families. Our thoughts are so anti business but we still care about people dying hungry and have no food. People in Pakistan want others stop spending money or only do charity or give it to them. Now I do support charity but come on, you have celebrate your life too thats why you work so hard to enjoy and help other people too.Recommend

  • SH

    This seems another one of those articles where we are incessantly told things ‘are just not the same anymore’.

    For one thing, weddings have always been showy, an excessive economic burden, and mainly about the guests instead of the bride or bridegroom.

    As for bollywood songs – traditions change. It’s not always a bad thing. Besides, damn, can you resist the beat?Recommend

  • Habib

    Speaking as a man evn thoug Islam allows us to get married 4 times lets face it with the advancement of society 1 wedding is the norm. S if someone wants to hve it in a lavish way and they are doing it on their own dime then I think that should be their look out. Instead of questioning why we spend so much on weddings we should really look into ourselves and question why we all try so hard to compete with eachother. I mean we are not all equal and come from different economic and social backgrounds. So why do we continue to put up this false pretence that we are all one and the same when clearly we are not.Recommend

  • Arsalaan Haleem

    Writing is one thing, actually following it up is another.Recommend

  • Adeel Ahmed

    @ Murtaza Ali Jafri… How do you know the author’s wedding functions will be the same… ?
    Why dont you wait a while and see it for yourself before you start name-calling?

    The problem is not whether someone should be “allowed” to spend as much as they want on lavish wedding ceremonies, but whether it is justified, Islamically and otherwise.

    We have all gone through the comparative photographs of our PM’s son’s wedding, and Iran Presidents son… and to be honest, I rather have a ceremony which resembles the latter. Simple, Sweet, and Private. Thats what Islam teaches us too. Some one made a comment above asking if we don’t spend lavishly, how will people associated with this industry feed their families. First of all, people of this industry, whether they be caterers, cooks, etc are quite wealthy, sometimes as wealthy as the people getting married, if not more. Secondly, the easier way to “feed people” is to allow your wealth to be used by charitable organisations like Sailani Welfare trust who feed people for free, mashAllah. What a ridiculous justification of the gross and sickening show off wealth… “… you have to celebrate your life too…”

    Our showing of wealth, the way we do on weddings, is a gross show off, and to be honest, hurtful for those who are less fortunate.
    Imagine being hungry for days, and standing outside a tent where biryani, karhai, etc are being cooked, in big “daigs” and you dont get a single bite. Wouldn’t you turn a rebel too?

    I agree with the writer 100%. Weddings should be small, sweet, simple and private, without any lavish show off, etc. I hope mine will be exactly the way I envisage it to be, a private affair and VERY Pakistan… yes I will only play “Main nain tumhari gagar say” and “Mehendi ki Raat aaayee” :)


  • Hamid Rayyen

    simply put, “kiya nachna wakaye itna zeruri hota hay?”

    Fine by me if it’s only a female gathering.

    But stooping this low in co-gatherings does not fit one’s morals very well, not mine at least.

    women might get fits reading this.
    as always feedback is always welcome.Recommend

  • Nabeel

    Hamid sahab, can you explain how is it immoral to dance? Why is the decision to sing and dance ‘stooping low’? Would you forbid your friends and family to do the same?

    And by the way, I personally do not like the trend of dancing at wedddings either. That doesn’t mean I condemn it as immoral, though. I think it’s a waste, but I also understand how people derive joy from it.

    And to all others who are playing God – please get over yourself. You are no one to decide what is or is not ‘justified Islamically’. Only Allah ta’ala can do that. Not you. So stop making those decisions. Live and let live.Recommend

  • Rabia Brown

    Great article, kudos to the writer…

    Having visited Pakistan (Karachi) myself, I definitely agree that most weddings are a waste of extravagant amounts of $$$. However, this is a part of the culture and unless people decide to wake up, see all the starving mouths around them and do something about it, such lifestyles -and such weddings- will always be justified.

    On a lighter note, I love Sadia’s point about how “all the guests do is to judge, and they do that rather incessantly.” Unfortunately so sad but so true…

    But I wouldn’t be so harsh about criticising the dancing to Bollywood songs bit… After all, Pakistan and India do share a common history (at least before 1947) and it’s only natural that people like the songs of the ‘other’ side… Yes, Pakistani art should be appreciated by Pakistani youth, no doubt about that. But I think it’s ok to dance to a little Bollywood at the shaadi if that’s what makes them happy..Recommend

  • Asif Ahmad

    It comes from the top. The social norms are influenced by the way of thinking and life style of the rulers/leaders. It is a free for all in Pakistan. ‘Eat cake if you don’t have bread’ advice our rulers/leaders. They eat the cake on our behalf too..
    Rat race for consumerism and exhibitionsm is deliberately being promoted to degrade the roots of our society.Recommend

  • Anoop

    I never knew Indian culture had so much influence in Pakistan! Bollywood is very attractive,isn’t it! Its unlike any other Film Industry. Its spicy,colourful and exciting and hopelessly romantic.

    But, Bollywood takes its cues from the Indian society and its culture;its modernity and vibrancy.

    I can see the dilemma here- If you accept and love the Indian culture you are negating the 2 nation theory upon which Pakistan was claimed; If you reject it you are rejecting fun and your fellow citizens who LOVE Indian music,its dance,its movies,etc.

    Also, this is the arrival of India- The Cultural Superpower. USA has been the dominant Cultural Superpower of our previous generation. Its softpower had/has spread all over the world. India is now the Cultural Superpower of South Asia and along with its rise it is on its way to become the next Softpower-superpower of the world.Recommend

  • Kanwalful

    I completely agree… I wrote a piece on weddings myself last winter.Recommend

  • Fahad Shamsi

    I agree with the author she raises a few very interesting points. But reality is that simplicity is just not in our culture anymore we have been always been in a rat race to compete with others so its safe to say the problem is just not limited to weddings its embedded in every single aspect of our lives.

    There was a time when people looked forward for the ” shaddi ka khana” now they look forward for the “shaadi ka meh-khana(The bar)”Recommend

  • Manahil

    I totally agree.Recommend

  • Bushra Mateen

    Saadia, very nice article and very true, but the reality of our culture is that ours is a show-off culture. Everything we do is to show off, where we live, how we live, where we send our kids to school and nowadays where the kids go to TUTION is all about showing off. I really dont have too much of a problem about the singing and dancing on the bollywood tunes, since no matter what generation you belong to we all grew up listening to those tunes. It is I guess the emulation of a foreign culture that is more bothersome and the unnecessary staging instead of the spontaneity of the dances and songs that we were used to in the good old days. And as far as justifying the incessant spending on these events, is there anything justifiable in the way the privilged few live in Pakistan. I dont think so.Recommend