It is the season of weddings – the most illustrious of festivities. From grand fashion to food, a big fat desi wedding is a celebration of all things ostentatious.
As a society, we are obsessed with weddings: the bridal jora is the epitome of Pakistani fashion, event planners vie for the reception of the year and trousseau ‘packages’ are shamelessly promoted by even the most so-called liberal brands (thus encouraging dowry culture). Even dentists and fitness centres have started introducing bridal packages as a smart business opportunity. Apparently a bride has to focus on losing weight, setting up a beautiful home and perfecting her skin in the build up to the big day.
Local marketeers constantly boost the idea of a ‘dream wedding‘ that perpetuates traditional beauty and gender roles even in an age of double income homes. Photoshoots of top models in exorbitantly priced bridal lehngas and heavy makeup seem to have become synonymous with weddings. The non-stop message being drilled into women is that brides look, dress and act one way alone.
But is this just about advertising?
There are scores of rishta reject stories from women who have not been matched because they were declared too dark, too overweight or too *something* for a prospective groom. Editorial spreads fearuring gori blushing brides in the bloom of youth dressed in designer joras with tag lines like “happily ever after” implying that there is a co-relation between the perfect look and the perfect marriage. This is a myth that we have ben so heavily invested in that it feels like a foregone conclusion. I am looking forward to an ad campaign showing a cute chubby bride and a young groom.
Marriages are not made in a banquet hall.
Despite what the marketeers would like to sell us, no amount of money can buy a happy ending. Destination weddings, themed mayun parties, acrylic dance floors – all of these shenanigans last but a week. Then it is up to the couple to maintain a deep, lasting connection that survives against all odds. And that ‘perfect’ couple is evolving.
Just a few years ago when an elderly widow was proposed to by a colleague both her children and extended family freaked out. Even young women have no respite. When a young divorcee was remarrying after a gap of many years she was mocked by her own family for planning a wedding dress so she chose to keep everything as simple as possible. A friend who was divorced twice has finally found the love of her life but is not marrying him because she is afraid of social taboo. Anything against a wedding magazine is a big no in our heads.
Are things changing?
This is why campaigns like Generation’s ‘Shahnaz ki Shadi’ are so important – how refreshing it was to see a bride that did not look identical to every other dulhan. A bride who was old enough to achieve her dreams and then choose to share her accomplishments with someone as opposed to seeking joy in another. Another wedding that has broken the mold is model Saheefa Jabbar Khatak’s gorgeous but self deprecating wedding – though it was a designer affair the bride grinned through proceedings and distributed hoodies saying saying “we survived the log kya kahein ge phase“. Most recently Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli tied the knot in a lavish Tuscan wedding reception – making the decision to auction the pictures for charity.
Perhaps it is time marketing gurus find something else to sell besides ‘rukhsati‘ and ‘rishstas‘. If a marriage is meant to bring happiness, dare we believe that this is every individual’s right; to have it their way and at their time.