Wedding Invitation Etiquette

Some may say I have a tendency to exhibit what a generation who grew up on Friends have come to term as ‘Monikaisms.’ It’s ok; I’m self aware. I own my OCD tendencies!…One of which was revealed to my fiancé during the invitation ordering process. And oh, he found out, what a process it was!

Now wait! Before you think I’m some obsessive, stationary perfectionist let me say this: if ever I were to be an obsessive stationary perfectionist it would be with this! After all they are my wedding invitations!

And there are just sooo many things that I see on people’s wedding cards that make me cringe…it’s like everyone in the South Asian Community gets wedding invitation etiquette wrong! Don’t you know there are rules? And invitation etiquette rules are not meant to be broken! (Serious face!) Oh the hours I spent consulting Martha Stewart and Emily Post on this issue…and I know, I must confess, that I wouldn’t get an A from them on my wedding invitations. There are just some aspects I couldn’t perfect because of the type of wedding it is, and the times we’re living in…below you’ll find explanations of what I learned in this process and what I had to live with. (Sigh!)

1. Mr. and Mrs.
So, this is a point that took hours of googling. What is the proper way of writing Mr. and Mrs. if the parents are hosting the event? Is it “Mr. and Mrs. Ali and Alina Hussain request the”…? Or does that not look funny because Ali is next to Mrs? Maybe its “Mr. Ali Hussain and Mrs. Alina Hussain request the…” ? But doesn’t that look like the couple is divorced? What about “Mr. and Mrs. Ali Hussain request the…”? Ok….but where is the woman’s name in this, all she gets is a Mrs to represent her identity?! This was the dilemma I was dealing with and the answer that I got was not what I wanted. Apparently, according to proper invitation etiquette, the Martha Stewart and Emily Posts of the world, the correct way to write the invitation is by simply writing Mr. and Mrs. and then the husband’s name..any feminizing (aka bringing this into the 21st century) would fall outside the realm of proper etiquette. The husband’s name is seen to “shield” the wife’s name from public view and protect her under his identity…archaic yes. Which is why I couldn’t NOT write my amazing, entrepreneurial, matriarch of a mother-in-law’s name out on my card! (The way my mother’s name was written is a different story – see point 2). So, in this area we opted to screw etiquette and embrace equality.

2. Proper forms of address on invitations when a parent is deceased.
Because my dad, god bless him, is no longer with us, the way we had to write out his name on the card was tricky. Typically the Bride’s parents host the wedding (although that too is different as we have 3 different days in our celebrations!) as per the above “Mr. and Mrs. So and So request the honour of your presence….” However, if one parent is deceased, you can’t exactly have a dead person inviting you to a party 😦 Yet, it was still very important to me to have my dad’s name on the card. So instead I had to write “The honour of your presence is requested at the marriage ceremony of…” Then my name was underneath, and underneath that it said “daughter of Rizwana Zaki and the late Ghias Mahmud Zaki.” When someone is deceased you’re supposed to drop all titles, hence I didn’t write Mr and Mrs with their names.

3. Honour vs Pleasure.
I learned that “requests the honour of your presence” is only used when the ceremony is taking place in a place if worship, otherwise, it’s “requests the pleasure of your company” if the ceremony is anywhere else…but this is another area where I decided, despite the fact that its technically incorrect, to go against the etiquette. I just felt that honour of your presence sounded more formal, and hey, isn’t God in your heart so isn’t it always an honour? 🙂

4. The dates.
Date information may never be conveyed with actual numbers; it’s always to be written out in words. Your invitation should not look like an elementary school math test.

5. The address.
The address cannot go on one line! It’s the venue name, underneath that the street address (this can be conveyed in numbers) which is followed by the city and province. No postal code.

6. The RSVP info.
Oh this part took forever! Here’s why: typically, non-South Asians will politely enclose an addressed, pre-postaged RSVP card asking for the number of guests, and sometimes even dietary restrictions! Brown people don’t do that! Why? Because people in our culture typically never RSVP; they just show up, and that too with the number of people they desire :s And secondly, if we started mailing out pre-postaged RSVP cards to our 500+ guests, that would drive up costs like crazy.
That said, me being me, it bothered me that we weren’t following this etiquette. And so I googled and googled and what I found was news to my ears. I learned that traditionally there was no such thing as a separate pre-postaged RSVP card. That in fact, your guests would be insulted if you assumed they didn’t know how to properly acknowledge the receipt of your invitation – which would be with a hand written reply. Traditionally, the RSVP info (who to reply to and by when) would be written in very small font in the bottom left hand corner of the invitation. And this whole business of sending a separate RSVP card is what the tradition evolved into. Yay! Hence the bottom left corner is what we’re doing – clearly more cost effective too. We’re also including our wedding website info in that corner, because again, it’s 2013 and the Internet exists now.

7. No boxed gifts please.
Oh I know. Trust me I know. We might as well have written “no children, please”. (I wish). The etiquette goddesses would be appalled. It’s simply rude, seeing as it looks like you’re asking your guests for money. Well, the truth is, we don’t want the re-gifted crap that we know all of the aunties would throw our way. And so, we did it. We wrote it on our card. And hey, it’s not really saying we want money…it’s just saying we don’t want your re-gifted punch bowl. Right? 🙂

Liberty! (Clothing Edition).

What better time to pen a post than when one feels nostalgic about the subject?

And how I do! For Liberty, the main shopping bazaar in Gulberg, Lahore, the heart of the city’s commercial/shopping area.

Yes: shopping in Pakistan can be frustrating, things take time, shopkeepers don’t always keep their promises, it’s hot and tiring… but I loved it all the same! And I miss it!

Out of the 29 days I was in Lahore, I probably spent 20 of them roaming the markets of Liberty.

Liberty is made up of gold shop upon gold shop and rows of clothing boutiques and tailoring outfits (promising to make you the best copy “of HSY and Karma”!) all nestled closely together. Getting lost in the gullies of the vast market you’ll see rolls of fabric in every hue, shawls and scarves handcrafted within intricate designs, costume jewelery, laces and border appliques – Liberty has it all.

My sister, who lived in Pakistan for 10 years, showed me around  Liberty and pointed out key places so that I could orient myself after she left. Like, Subway. Smack dab in the middle of the market you’ll see a Subway, from which  you continue down the street to stores like Subhan’s (where I got an oufit from a picture copied….it turned out beautifully in the end, but only after 20 visits or so) Lal Chuneriya (where I got my Mehndi outfit made), M. Jamal (where I got my Mayoun outfit made) and Emaans (where I got a “Karma” sari copied!). (Note: I only got a total of 4 outfits made from Liberty, and I was so glad I limited it to that, Mehndi outfit aside, I had issues with each of the outfits I got made…e.g. Sari blouse too big, chooridar pants too small, etc.) If you’re going to get outfits made and copied you need the luxury of time! But anyway, if you continue towards the backside of Liberty you enter into a basement complex area and there you will see countless ‘karigaars’ (workers) who are sitting on the ground with low tables in front of them, either sewing by hand, or glueing on various beads and stones onto the fabrics that will then become beautiful, fancy outfits. It really is a site to see. When people talk about going to Pakistan and getting outfits “copied”, this is what they mean. People will take pictures of designer outifts and give them to these local workers who will then ‘copy’ their desings at a fraction of the cost. Now, there are definitely critics of this practice. The designers, themselves for one. Some of the ‘elite’ who look down on those who do this. But in my opinion, if you can’t afford to get a designer dress, and you really like their design, and you know that someone can do it at half the price, then why not. Of course, there are definite risks. The copy might not turn out exactly like the original, the quality of fabric may be compromised, the date that it’s promised to you will probably fluctuate, but still, it’s the only option for many.

There’s also all of the stores in Liberty itself, such as Libas E Khaas,Wedding Asia, Zardozi, Saleem Fabrics, that create their own bridal dresses. Here you go, sit down, and the store clerks show you all the different sample wedding dresses that they have designed, and you can pick out one you like, order it, and make alterations as you desire (changing colours around, cuts, etc.). That, however, can also be risky, because you do hear of stories where the store owners got all of the changes wrong and you end up with something you don’t like! When I visited these types of stores I sat down waiting to be impressed by the designs, but I never was. In fact, I thought to myself, “why was everyone telling me I would be spoiled for choice here?!” and that I would be so “overwhelmed with selection”?! I didn’t find that at all. I found that I didn’t like anything that Liberty had to offer in terms of clothing – everything, as I’ve said in past posts, had, in my opinion, gaudy stone work that had no timelessness or elegance to it.

My mehndi outfit, however, I saw on a mannequin and loved it immediately. I only changed around the colour combination, and I’m very satisfied with it. Oh, and the price was also right – we got it for 27000 RPS (about $270…this dress in Canada would be at least $1000). I had a similar experience with my mayoon outfit, it was a design of the store’s, I saw it, I liked it, and got it as is with the exception of changing the colour combination. The other two that I got made from Liberty I had designs copied, and gave them the pictures  to do it from.

I miss being there. I realize that my trip to Pakistan was just that, a trip, and real life there wouldn’t be the same. But I miss the warmth of Lahoris. I miss sitting down in shops and being offered tea and coke and chaat papri and samosas. I miss the banter and quarreling with the uncles in the shops who didn’t give me my clothes on time, lol. I miss their bemused reactions to my English accented Urdu-Punjabi. I miss hearing old Bollywood songs echoing throughout the streets of the bazaar, I miss the colorfulness of the shops, I miss ice cream from the streets! They say Lahore Lahore hai (Lahore is Lahore), and it’s so very true. 🙂

The Nikah (Wedding) Ceremony in Pakistani Weddings

OK. Here we go. The Nikah. The sacred marriage contract between a man and a woman which legitimizes living as husband and wife. The Nikah must be declared publicly, and hence we have the nikah, or wedding, ceremony.

Here’s where things get ugly.

I haven’t been to that many Pakistani Muslim weddings, but the one’s that I have been to, that I remember, I remember the Imam (Muslim priest) being terrible.

Here are a list of things that should not have any part of a wedding ceremony:

  • The words “obey” and “obedient.” In fact, the only place where these words can be used is when you’re talking about dogs.
  • Misogyny. Surprised that this followed the first point? :s The last person I want to be part of my special day is some misogynistic, backwards-thinking, mullah who thinks my beautifully decorated wedding is an appropriate venue to start lecturing my guests about “a woman’s place.” I would sooner kick him off my wedding stage but not before telling him that our Prophet, upon whom be peace, was employed by his first wife.
  • Rambling Imams. You are here to marry two individuals. Effectively, that doesn’t take that long. Go ask girl, girl says yes. Come back to boy, boy says yes. Marriage complete. Beyond what you’re therefore, don’t talk.
  • Imams cracking jokes. It’s one thing if they’re funny. But we all know they’re not. And their jokes have no place at my wedding.
  • Soliciting. Yes, I’ve seen this. Imams trying to sell their CDs. On someone’s wedding. 
  • Making the ceremony interactive. No, a wedding ceremony doesn’t warrant audience participation. Do not ask wedding guests to shout out answers to your idiotic questions. 
  • Lack of fluency in English. Yes, this is important. I want to be able to understand the individual who is effectively facilitating the most important decision of my life. Fluency in English, therefore, is not unreasonable.

I just don’t understand how the nikah, THE WEDDING CEREMONY, effectively the most important part of the day ends up being placed in the hands of men who do all of the aforementioned. If the imam who performed my ceremony did any of the above (god forbid) I would be absolutely livid.

I want my wedding ceremony to feel special. I want it to feel sacred. Because it is.

And I want it performed by someone who is a decent, respectful person who values women’s equality and is fluent in the English language.

And I don’t want it to last more than 7 minutes.

Weddings are happy occasions. And the nikah is a special and scared part of them. Let’s give them the respect that they deserve.

Top 3 Ready-to-wear Shops in Lahore

Most of the clothes I got for my “jahez” (bridal trousseau) were ready-to-wear. For me, this was the way to go because 1) what you see is what you get and 2) I was only in Pakistan for one month and for those of you who have shopped in Pakistan, when you order outfits, what you have in mind is not always what you get! I did not want to get into the buying fabric separately and describing designs to a darzi (tailor), so for me, ready made was the way to go. That said, not all ready to wear boutiques are made equal, and so below I’ve listed my top 3 recommendations of where to go in Lahore.

1. Mehdi. Mehdi has a ready-to-wear boutique on MM Alam, and when my sister and I found it, it felt like a breath of fresh air. That’s because right now what’s really “in” in Lahore are outfits with big stones that, to me, look really tacky. Mehdi’s ready-to-wear collection offers something different. It’s sophisticated and elegant with outfits ranging from formal lenghas to gown style dresses. The colours are rich jewel tones, and the kaam ranges from embroidery to dabka (which is not the norm these days in Lahore!) Salman, Mehdi’s nephew or cousin (cant remember which!) works at the store and is very helpful and friendly.

Mehdi’s stuff is not inexpensive, (I got a formal lengha for 44495 RPS, $460, as well as the attached suit for 27000 RPS, $280), but to me, it’s completely worth it when you find something you love, and it fits perfectly. If you are ordering outfits and getting designs copied half your time will be spent going back and forth to Liberty either because they forgot to write down your measurements, the suit doesn’t fit right the first time, they made it with fabric you didn’t ask for, they said it would be ready but it wasn’t, etc etc…..I’m able to describe this so well because out of the 4 outfits I did get made in Liberty, something or another came up with 3 of them! Time is money when you only have a month to shop for all of your wedding stuff and so for those ladies who go back home like did I would definitely recommend going ready made when you can for the jahez outfits!

2. Fashion Pakistan Louge. Also on MM Alam, FP Lounge is host to a number of designers (Hina Khan, Warda Saleem, Umar Sayed, etc) and there is a lot of selection. Out of all the multi-label designer outlets that I visited in Lahore (Tehzeeb, PDFC, Ensemble, Labels) FP Lounge, recommended to me by my cousin who is a designer herself (Safiya Ali Malik) was by far the best – both in price and quality. I think I ended up getting 5 outfits from the store, including casual in addition to formal. What I liked about FP lounge is that they had some really unique pieces, such as designs which mixed fabrics and prints and those outfits that I got were avg price 10000 RPS. The sales people were Really friendly and they sent me a text message on my “mobile” after I shopped their – always a nice touch 🙂

3. Bareeze (for  their label Chinyere). Chinyere is ready to wear label by Bareeze which offers a colorful collection – perfect for ‘dolkis’. I ended up getting two outfits from here (one orange and one mustard) and when I wore the mustard one to my own dolki (pictured in a previous post) two of my cousins there automatically said to me “this is from Chinyere, isn’t it?” When I asked how they knew, they told me that Chinyere was instantly recognizable because the quality of their kaam on their ready to wear clothes is very neat and fine (unlike alot of other places) and the designs are always tasteful. Chinyere is a must-visit in Lahore.