This is prime wedding season for Indian-American couples. The calendar from Memorial Day to Labor Day is packed with extravagant weddings, not to mention those scheduled for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. As unlucky guests, we are asked to sacrifice three-day weekends to attend weddings of people we barely know, suffering through forgettable events we can barely tolerate.
Traditionally, Gujarati people in India had arranged marriages with people from neighboring villages and didn’t have to travel too far for weddings. Today, most Indian couples in America meet online or are introduced by friends/family. Through technology and increased air travel, geographic distance no longer limits a couple from having a courtship. In parallel with long-distance relationships, guests are asked to travel far distances to attend these weddings (Chicago, Los Angeles, Cancun, and South Africa). Yep, there go my life savings and all my reward miles!
Parents of the couple often invite hundreds of their friends and family to their children’s weddings. 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, great uncles, nieces, and more. The bride and groom (being gregarious, social butterflies of course) also invite a gaggle of friends. Everyone is pressured to attend the wedding, through an invisible yet powerful peer pressure system. It doesn’t matter if you use up all your vacation and sick days at work, the wedding of your 3rd cousin (once removed) is paramount.
Indian weddings don’t last hours, they last days. On average three days! Multiple events, such as the “welcome dinner”, mehndi/sangeet night, garba night, puja/vidhi ceremony, wedding ceremony, and reception, are what uninterested guests have the pleasure of looking forward to. Yes ladies, get ready to pack five different Indian outfits into your carry-on suitcase! From Google Earth, an Indian wedding looks like hundreds and hundreds of brown ants being weighed down by gaudy Indian outfits. Summer beach weddings are the worst. Why don’t you try being fried alive by the sun while wearing a blanket-like sari?
Tragically, Indian-Americans have come to see the wedding reception as a way to boast their status is society. The bride is covered with gold and diamonds; the decorations are elaborate; there is always a chocolate fountain. The latest trend in California is to hire belly dancers and acrobats to entertain guests at the reception. Along with the traditional elephant or horse at the wedding baraat, the entire wedding starts to resemble a circus show (sans the peanuts)!
Yes, the open bar and dancing are fun! But what else is? Guests don’t even get a chance to speak to the bride and groom (they are sitting on a plush sofa on a stage, for cryin’ out loud!) Most guests don’t understand the Sanskrit verses the pundit chants during the Hindu wedding ceremony. Heck, I can’t even understand the long, drawn-out speeches at the reception, which are in English!
Indian-American couples, it’s time for you to stop being selfish and make a drastic change. Indian weddings are overly expensive, waste precious resources, and put a financial burden on guests who aren’t millionaires. The average price of a large Indian wedding weekend is $90,000 to $100,000. Imagine what you can do with that money! You can build a school in India; you can buy a house; you can donate the money to support any cause in the world. Causes like vaccinations for children, basic education for young girls, mosquito nets for malaria-stricken areas, and financial assistance after devastating earthquakes. The list goes on and on.
Wake up and smell the air pollution. This world is not being improved by a wasteful wedding. In 10 years, the guests will never remember the exact flowers, food, fireworks, or party favors from your wedding. They will remember if you made a difference.
Be the change.