Smart weddings: From showy to intimate

Published: February 10, 2011

The personal touch is back in vogue.

Military top brass, bureaucrats, businessmen and the Pakistani elite have struck the path to throwing ‘Smart’ weddings for their offspring. They can afford the once trendy lavish dos, yet are opting for ‘Smart’ weddings – Stylishly short, Manageable, Authentic and Really Tasteful

Outcome: they save their own and the guests’ time by having fewer functions, they redirect resources to the happy couple to start their new lives together and infuse the entire wedding with an intimacy and genuineness.

Smart weddings are also managing to do what legislation (one-dish rule) or government/ NGO propaganda (Jahaiz aik lanat/trousseau is a curse) never could.

These events are making others question the standard wedding format.

Wedding planners ‘r’ us

The personal touch is back in vogue. Farah Irfan, wife of a pilot ordered the outfit for her daughter Meeha from Anarkali, Lahore, and their tailor stitched it. Meeha was decked in her grandmother’s jewellery on her big day. Her sister supervised the stage decoration. No event managers, just family.

Delicious home-cooked food was served at the small mayun function arranged at their residence for 40 guests. No caterers. She wore the same dress at her nikah and mayun, designed by her sister and friends. Meeha signed her Nikah papers under a bamboo gazebo made by her father.

When people want to celebrate family heirlooms and honour their family’s aesthetic sense, media messages cannot corner them into succumbing to the designer drama wedding.

Abdul Aziz, a businessman, and his wife Halima Aziz had an intimate baraat function at their residence for their daughter Sakina. Among other things the menu included some home-cooked food. They made wonderful memories through this cosy get-together.

Less is more

Alaina and her husband Shayan skipped the mehndi, had one reception co-hosted by both families and a family valima the next day. Meeha and Sakina too did not have mehndis. Many privileged folks have fewer functions, preferring convenience over the race to impress people by tiresome shows of wealth. In the process, these trend setters are making lives easier for themselves and for others.

Smart is not dull

These people aren’t compromising on enjoyment. At their reception Alaina and Shayan had song and dance, and everybody had fun. Meeha and Faran Mirza had a similar arrangement where the bride even danced at her own wedding. She said,

“I didn’t want to sit and stare at the wall at my own wedding!”

Purposeful smartness

People are thinking things through and deciding how to add meaning and beauty to weddings. Halima held her daughter Sakina’s nikah ceremony at Faisal Mosque.

“Basic decency is a beautiful thing,” said Halima, and that’s what Sakina’s wedding was all about.

Quratul Aen Tariq and husband Osman Munir, both children of army generals, had a joint wedding reception. Quratul Aen hosted a dars on how to live a happy marital life. She recommends that other people do the same instead of having song-and-dance events. She says that the money saved can be spent on education, or given to the needy.

Increasingly, families are redirecting wedding budgets to travel arrangements for the young couple, so they get a chance to build a strong bond before getting into the trenches of a more practical existence.

Myth:  buying happiness

Many believe that the bigger the trousseau is, the happier the bride will be. How many elaborate weddings leading to failed marriages do we need to convince us that securing a daughter’s (or a son’s) happiness is not about redundant trappings? As Meeha put it, “I am more interested in the marriage than the wedding.”

Parents of grooms are catching up with this idea too. Sakina’s mother-in-law insisted on a trousseau limited to essentials that the bride would need. For furniture and gadgets the mother-in-law declared she hardly had any space in her house!

Thus Sakina’s jahaiz included only things she needed, not things that parents were ‘supposed to give’ to their daughters. Meeha’s in-laws were perfectly fine with this.

Attaining smartness: the journey

The concept of Smart weddings is so convenient that people are wondering why they didn’t think of it before. Inspired by Meeha, her friend Ayisha Mir is all set for a simple wedding, with no mehndi. Sakina’s friends also want smart weddings like hers.

The five-day wedding is still around though. So far Smart weddings have been adopted by the trendsetters, the faint-hearted will follow the trend only after it settles in deeper. Until then, there will always be those who want Such Tedious, Unending, Pricey, Immature, Designer weddings: Oops, the acronym turns out to be Stupid weddings!


Ayesha Fazlur Rahman

An Islamabad based education consultant and Fulbright Fellow from Harvard University. Fazal contributes to the Islamabad pages of 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.

  • Ghausia

    A gazebo! I am so having that at my wedding!Recommend

  • Usama Zafar

    Im glad this trend is changing. We’ve finally come to realize that spending vast amounts of money on weddings is of no use!!Recommend

  • Ovais

    Excellent article…..I totally agree with the concept of Smart Weddings!!Recommend

  • SQ

    a much needed change in culture..!!Recommend

  • Habiba Younis

    quite a sane trend! n yes the ‘designer weddings’ look just so damn stupid; sort of gives a feeling that the family was literally dying for the day they could advertise their wealth.Recommend

  • Amer

    This is all happening with the well educated and perhaps with a very few number of people in the country. Most of the masses are still living in the “there is no tommorow” type of wedding world…Recommend

  • 1

    i think its stupid to comment on how much someone choses to spend on a wedding its their special day what they chose to do with it is their business to all those happy about this “change in trends” what is it that has made u happy ? the fact that now ur wedding too can be “trendy”? if u wanted to do ur wedding a certain way u should have had the guts to do it that way whether or no it was the “trend”. i dont understand people insist on making people feel bad about spending their money on something that’s important to them. yes its true that designers charge ridiculous amounts of money but i have never seen anyone walk down the red carpet at the oscars in a dress from kmart! i mean come on! Recommend

  • Tee

    Right on :DRecommend

  • Humanity

    The point is lost if it is done to set or follow a trend. Do it because it is the right thing to do.

    The 1 who insists on doing what s/he choses to do, should put a lid on the I to check its overflow. It is so not cool to subject friends and family to unending torture only for so 1‘s bash to be the talk of the town, till a bozo 2 comes along to out do bozo 1.

    It is your day, keep it to yourself and do it at the expense of your time, putting minimum demand on others time. Life is too short to keep the 1 and I of the world happy.Recommend

  • parvez

    Great article. This trend is obviously the exception and not the rule, as yet.
    I am a great believer in the saying ‘ Less is more ‘ and when done in style it is beyond more.Recommend

  • Selina Gilani – Relationship

    GREAT!! Weddings are supposed to be the fusion of two humans and we have turned it into fashion show.Recommend

  • Inseeay

    It is really sad that we always learn the hard way….even though we are fully aware that our wonderful religion had already provided us with “smart wedding” guidelines way back….

    But I am glad we are finally getting some semblance of sense. Good article!Recommend

  • Maddy

    This blog hit the spot. Every bit was nicely placed and the examples did make an impact to those who always think I rant a lot. I agree with humanity’s comment as it is the right thing to do. I’ve been privy to many weddings, mostly with displays of monetary blessings and a few with just single room limited gatherings. Since the danger lurks on my head now I am all nervous. Some people say that marriage is only biggest ceremony in one’s life, so it ought to be celebrated as lavishly as it could be. Another school of thought is, people will come on your wedding, eat, crib and forget all in a jiffy. No need of spending truck loads of money. So in my opinion its YOUR big day, do as you please as it is the starting of a new world order. Discuss with your partner and then make it large with family. Never ever ever think of others (those not in a close circle of family and friends) gibberish, as it won’t last long. Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh

    well said, though I support and encourage a socially responsible approach to weddings, and do not personally support wastage and extravagance, I would like to add though that people have a right to pick how their once in a life time big day would be like. The would be bride and the would be groom, can often have an image in their mind of what they want their dream wedding to be like. One’s wedding is something that in the case of most people is a once in a life time thing, so in all fairness,people have the right to call the shots, even if it is that high profile designer wedding with the wedding planner attached to it. On the other hand, if some one wants to follow a Smart wedding approach, or even a very simple one, with the simple nikkah and the simple joint reception/valima dinner they should have the full right to call the shots without feeling pressured by society all around. Recommend

  • http://deleted observer

    Just one point of order. What is the Hindu sacred thread doing on the wrist of a Pakistani groom in the photograph accompanying the article.

    Agree with the content and intent ,though.Recommend

  • http://India G. Din

    You noticed it, too!Recommend

  • Nabil

    @observer: because Hindus cannot be Pakistanis, right?
    regarding the article, I hope this trend becomes more widespread.Recommend

  • amna

    i really like this smart weeding .at least we realize it happiness is not concern with waste of vast amount of moneyRecommend

  • http://deleted observer


    @observer: because Hindus cannot be Pakistanis, right?

    My fault, thanks for correcting me, no offence meant.Recommend

  • ammara hikmat

    Inspired by Meeha, ammara also wanted a smart wedding but couldnt get ‘some’ people to agree, pity :/Recommend

  • Ali

    It’s really Nice that Trends are changing in Elite Class as middle class always try to copy them hope in this way the middle class would also realize
    Simple is better.

    but it’s still difficult to find a girl(family) who can understand it… and can neglect social pressuresRecommend

  • 1

    i’m sorry …. how would I be torturing anyone??? I married the love of my life in court !

    most of the people around me complain about how much people spend on weddings when (and i know because i attended theirs) they themselves have had HUGE weddings usually much bigger than the one’s they are complaining about ….

    my point was not that people SHOULD spend my only point was that its just wrong to assume like u said that “1” is trying to outdo anyone. They’re usually just doing what makes them happy. it is also wrong to assume that “2 outdoing 1” will have any impact watsoeever on 1. its just an immature approach a wedding is a personal thing a lot of people complained criticized and ridiculed the way i chose to marry and even who i chose to marry. and for a long time after we were married we had to hear about it . it was NOT nice . This debate is the same it takes away from people’s happiness.

    if you dont like wasting time dont go to weddings or dont stay that long its your choice
    if you dont like designers and hwo much they charge dont go to them
    if you dont want to spend on ur wedding dont
    (or if u want to get married in court cuz u dont blv in rasams do that by all means do that)

    a marriage is sacred especially when u love someone as much as i MA love my husband. u never forget how u got married u like to remember the day (or days since some people like celebrating for longer) there is nothing wrong with wanting to do it exactly how u dreamt about it and following what u believe .

    Ours has always been an intolerant and immature society which is why we insist on intruding into other people’s lives and commenting and criticizing how they live them. This is not just about wedding functions but other personal choices like when you want to have kids. and god forbid if you chose not to have kids

    and the most important point of all – i find it hard to digest how much time people invest in criticizing others.

    i did a lot of things in my life that were just not the norm and i paid a heavy price each time
    but even though i have a very staunch set of beliefs that go against all traditions in this society i did not leave this country because i didnt fit in i left it because it was intolerant. Recommend

  • Shahid

    Showing off, designer aka STUPID weddings and nuvo rich all go together! People will either come to their senses themselves or brought to their senses as we mature as a nation. Great article indeed. Bravo all you SMART people :).Recommend

  • Sahar Dar

    Very good thoughts and experiences compiled very nicely. I like when you pick up and quote the examples from the people around us. This makes it more practical and clicks one through easily.
    Loved the tag line ” the personal touch is back in vogue”
    Keep it up Ayesha!Recommend

  • Saima Shauket

    It is a good sign….more examples of smart marriages…I am a strong follower of this…my family is a good supporter. It really makes life easier.

    Nice topic selected dear

    Best wishes..Recommend

  • Tehmina

    This trend is not so new for many of us who have married in the West. We send out invites to our fam, friends, bzns colleagues, etc with a deep commitment to a no-frills Islamic/Pakistani affair of the heart and the soul. On our invitations which are sent via the internet, we have a ” click to donate” to important social causes in Pakistan, in lieu of gifts and money. We are blessed to have more than we need, most of us being well-educated progressive Professionals who don’t need the glitz and glam of an all decked out multitude of Shaadi events. We do have a Mehndi ceremony, yet small, simple and just as this article mentions- with more focus on the traditional and yes hulla-gulla, yet within limits.
    The main Shaadi reception is usually low-key, with emphasis upon using caterers and venue locations who have given back in some way to social causes in our Motherland, Pakistan. The same goes for the Valima venue and caterers.

    By incorporating a socially beneficial component to our celebrations, we feel many can be helped in such a way which honors our great faith. A life full of meaning and purpose by helping others less fortunate is worth more than all the gold and jewels in the world. Recommend

  • SSP

    i’m glad somebody wrote about this..lately i have been thinking about this i find it ridiculous, spending so much hard-earned money only for the purpose of mere show off. i agree with what the writer has to say. it is better to give money to the daughter/son for her/his security rather than spending on useless things. or if one doesn’t like money at all they can donate or maybe save it for themselves for rainy days! oh Allah, give us little common sense so we may at least come close to what You have told us to.Recommend

  • Zahra

    Great piece! I’ll circulate (:Recommend

  • Aisha Yunas

    Good Change in the trend. I am in for it.This platform has given me the chance to avail the opportunity to endorse that Our Prophet Muhammad (S) should be our role model and His life is the best example to follow this practice.Recommend

  • rukhsana

    I love it, please can someone pass this information to the Pakistanis living in America having STUPID weddings with dholkis that go on for weeks, hosted by family’s friends and costing up to 5 grand (yes that is $5,000).Recommend

  • Zeeshan Haq

    Author, you really touch heart by providing perfect example and approach to feel the essence of marriage.
    As in our hypocitic society it has become burden and chronic pain instead a relief and a scared obligtion which a mature man and women should oblighed with all of their heart and soul. Great stuff and really like your words.Recommend