I recently read an Accenture survey stating 'Indians are best in savings, most retirement ready', and that's true isn't it? We are taught right from the childhood to save. As a rule of thumb, almost everyone of us who has grown in this part of the world, is conservative when it comes to spending or rather splurging money on items of lesser significance. However, there is always an exception to every rule and this isn't any different. Our Indian society, irrespective of religion, region, caste, creed, language, socioeconomic status etc., has shown huge inclination towards being extravagant when it comes to planning wedding events. We are a nation where marriage isn't just another event. We are known for, and in fact are pretentiously proud of our big fat Indian weddings which span across weeks, where overindulgence into the spending on jewelry, gifts, food, and ostentatious display of each and everything in the fray right from the vehicle used to fetch the bride to the entrance gate of the marriage hall, take center-stage than the focus on the cultural or religious aspects of the traditional Indian wedding ceremonies, forget about the practicalities involved.
I am not a big fan of austerity especially when it comes to celebration and I would be the last person to advocate for the wedding money to be donated to charity. I do believe this is once in a lifetime occasion for most of us (!) which we deserve to celebrate as much as we can afford to, however, there are indeed certain things where a change is desired, especially with changing times. Fresh from the responsibilities of my beloved sister's wedding, as I reflect back on the half-a-month proceedings, here are few of the things that I believe should undergo change, in general, in our wedding events. These are not specific to any religion, region, or a specific set of population but generic, applicable to most if not all, of Indian wedding rituals and patterns.
Time-span and events: Most of our wedding events and rituals are spanned across more than a week's time frame. How impractical it is, these days where life has become super-fast, people have spread across the globe, although virtually closer but physically far apart, to be present for these events. Loads and loads of events all along these days squeeze the last drop of blood out of you for no reasons. You don't at all feel like you are actually doing a lot of productive work, or even a celebratory indulgence of some kind, and while I cannot comment on the religious rituals and customs for obvious reasons (this is not even the intention of my post for now), I do feel we can do away with a bulk of these and make the wedding lean and mean (no pun intended !).
Change- encourage registered marriage with a grand reception, just one for all (both the parties together), a matter of a couple of days logistically speaking.
Gifting: Any guesses what is the most precious thing that every newly married couple definitely needs? Photo frames, cutlery, wardrobe, clothing, electronic equipment, gadgetry, home appliances? No. If you ask 90 out of 100 about to be married couples on what would be their topmost need immediately after marriage, they would reply with 'liquid money' without batting an eyelid, and it is true isn't it? For most of us who belong to middle or upper middle class, liquid money is the topmost necessity for a newly married couple to establish a new household from the scratch. Instead that, today, they are likely to be left with all of the things mentioned above which aren't assets but ultimately liability. More than half of the things that are gifted, frankly speaking, the couple themselves wouldn't even have preferred to buy and even if the things are of their liking, the choices wouldn't just fall in place. There's an emotional attachment with the gifts as well which doesn't allow any of the stakeholder (bride or groom!) replace or exchange the gift for a better one! Try getting rid of that big showpiece which has just been a white elephant for you in your otherwise delicate showcase, which you have to clean every day to keep it shiny, especially if it has come from the spouse's side! Same is the case with home appliances, you have an affinity to a specific brand, you are stuck with the gifted one. You have a priority need of a washing machine, where you are gifted a dish-washer. What newly married couple enjoys more is shopping together for the house of their dreams. For that, they can be supported with liquid funds instead of such gifting practices. Let them choose what they want, how they want and when they want to buy.
Change- discourage all other forms of gifts and those who really want to gift something to the couple, a nicely designed envelope with the sum enclosed is the best way forward.
Cross-gifting and VIP treatment: In many weddings, bride and groom's sides have to cross-gift selected people from the other side as a gesture of respect. Imagine shopping stuff for a minimum of 30 folks about whom you have absolutely no idea at all, what they like to wear, what they don't, what's their lifestyle and surroundings, and again, their hierarchy in the family! pretty absurd. Imagine the kind of time one has to spend on these and the bottom-line is, you end up gifting someone something the person wouldn't even turn a second glance on. Sheer wastage of time and money. Okay here's another glitch. Wedding isn't just the union of two souls but the events associated with it are meant to bring two families together. What happens instead is, there will always be ego clashes, frictions, arguments over really small and trivial things. The mindset needs a change here. In almost all kinds of weddings, a certain hierarchy is observed, from both bride's and groom's sides. Many a times I wonder how do they really measure the closeness of the people with the bride and groom and treat them accordingly. This following of a certain undeclared hierarchy leads to the above mentioned things. People attending the events are treated differently and there will almost always be some set of folks who get offended in the process unnecessarily. Things leading to this mess can be as small as the color of the saree gifted to a certain lady being darker than the one gifted to her sibling, or the chair wasn't offered to someone whereas it was offered to someone else, or the door of the guests car wasn't opened by the host at one end, or the bouquet wasn't presented to a certain paternal relative of the bride, this and that, arghhhh.
Change- go to a shopping mall and get gift vouchers for elders, and apply the same fundamental of envelope with enclosed sum for younger ones. Within half n hour, the process will just be completed to the satisfaction of all. Additionally, no special treatment to any except bride's and groom's parents, if at all, they deserve it! Rest should be treated equally and with no specific privileges. It's all or none.
Wastage of resources: Looking at the sheer waste of food, accommodation and manpower resources in weddings, I have come to a conclusion that RSVP must be mandated from both sides in the invitation card without any botheration, and the recipients should also not be hesitant about declining in time if it is not possible for them to attend the event. Practical problem with arrangement of dinners, lunches, and accommodation is that in the absence of accurate number of people expected to attend, it is always going to be arranged optimistically, with sufficient buffer incorporated, to avoid fiasco in such large scale events. All this can be prevented to a large extent with RSVP followed diligently both by the invitee and the host.
Change- here only a change in the mindset would do !
Name change: Today's woman is a changed lot, independent, confident and truly self-sufficient in all aspects where her own name has become her identity, but still there are rituals in some weddings where her name is supposed to be changed and not only that, she is supposed to change her surname as well to reflect her new family name, and a lot of folks are still very orthodox about it. For some, it is just fine if for the sake of rituals, and most importantly, if the bride herself wants, to change her first name for the namesake, but yet there are many cribbers, especially the elderly lot (with all due respect) who insist a change in all the formal documents as well. I find it ridiculous, something which must be changed, definitely.
Change- nothing, just ask such demanding orthodox folks to get the bride's passport, aadhar, pan card, voter id card, ration card, bank account / accounts, driving license / licenses etc. changed and our supremely efficient bureaucracy will take care of driving this change. I bet if it doesn't shut such demands with immediate effect !
Not just these but there are lot many similar other things we can get rid of, when it comes to planning wedding events and the amount of resources saved can actually be effectively and more fruitfully used for the couple to be, as they move onto the new chapter in their lives.
What are some of those things that you would want to change in the big fat Indian weddings? !!