Where did that desi wedding magic go?

Published: November 28, 2011

I long for the traditional wedding where brides were shy and mehndis were a female only event. PHOTO: AFP

Pakistani weddings are high on my list of reasons I would like to move back to Pakistan. Unlike some of my other ex-pat friends who went to a wedding when they were four-years-old and don’t remember any of it, thanks to desi family traditions I have gone to a gazillion weddings and enjoyed them to my heart’s content.

From dance practices to assigning the least attractive jora (outfit) to the valima I love it all. Thinking back to a wedding I attended a couple weeks ago, however, I found myself yearning for the old-fashioned weddings with all the quaint traditions. And so, I compiled a list of things about modern Pakistani weddings that I find rather uninviting.


Men at the mehndi: The growing trend of the non-segregated mehndi has left me rather perturbed. Yes, I know we are modern and progressive and mixing of genders isn’t a big deal any more, but isn’t the mehndi supposed to be a women only event? Being open-minded doesn’t have to come at the cost of losing gender cliques. I wouldn’t invite any male friends to my bachelorette – why should I invite them to my mehndi?

English songs at a mehndi: This has to be my most irksome pet peeve ever. It’s a mehndi for crying out loud – it is meant to be a traditional Pakistani event. Why must we drag the West in to our most beautiful Pakistani tradition? I want to see cultural dances, bhangra and luddian and not your aerobic moves to rap tunes by Jay Z or Lil’ Wayne or songs about being intoxicated.

You still want to grove to this kind of music? Just go clubbing, and don’t bring the club to a mehndi.

What happened to the good old tappe? When I was a child, women of my mother’s age used to sit by the dholak and sing tappe. Only a few people would know all the songs by heart; the rest would serve as sahelian (friends), knowing the chorus and consulting paper photocopies after the first couplet.

Now, that generation has grown old and has handed the reins to my generation – the generation that can’t even handle the spoon let alone the dholak. We don’t know the songs at all, the paper copies passed down to us are useless because we can’t read Urdu; and having songs in Roman Urdu is futile since we don’t know the chorus either.

Here is a tip to fellow females – put the songs on your playlist a week in advance. You will make your mothers proud.


Where’s the stampede? Where is the zeal? Parents and siblings are the closest family members, but it’s a desi wedding. Your relatives also spent countless hours fine-tuning everything for your big day. Walk into the hall with your entire khandaan (family) and be proud of it. If you enter with two people from a chordarwaza (back-door) I refuse to turn my head to acknowledge your arrival.

Photo shoots: I love that dialogue from the movie 27 dresses – the best moment of the wedding is when the groom sees his bride. However, in desi weddings where the photo shoot precedes the wedding, the groom has already had a good look. I feel cheated knowing he has already seen his bride and this just dampens the magic.

Metrosexual men: If you have been to enough Pakistani weddings you will know why I giggle every time I see the groom. Enter the elegant groom in a sherwani with the perfectly shaped eye brows. Dude! You are supposed to be a hunk who will sweep his bride off to a life of eternal bliss. However, when I see the perfectly shaped eyebrows, manicured toenails, and the supple hands that speak of a recent massage, I feel like the all the bride and groom will be talking about is face whitening treatments.

The bold bride: I do understand that you are a career woman and probably helped your parents pay for part of the wedding. You know your groom well and are confident about your future. But a little shyness wouldn’t hurt you.

Must you smoke sheesha at the mehndi while your friends are dancing?

Must you hoot when your mother takes the stage?

Must you cuddle with your husband right there before even being rukhsati?  

Speaking of the rukhsati, how can a bride not cry at her at this heart-breaking moment?

Your make-up won’t run thanks to modern water-proof mascara; show a little gratitude to your parents and shed a few tears!


Amrita Yasin

Amrita has completed her bachelors in chemical engineering from University of Waterloo, Canada. She is taking some art courses for fun in Pakistan, and enjoying her time off before going back for graduate studies.

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