In my opinion, there is nothing like an inquisitive outside point of view to make you think about the things that you have grown up to understand as traditions. Throughout my wedding planning, that’s what I had in my boss, who was eagerly curious about each and every piece of my BFPW. And among our many wedding traditions, what stood out to her the most is our culture of gifting.
From the ‘jahez’ to the ‘wari’ to the ‘laina daina’ she was intrigued by it all, and as a result, made me also think about these traditions. For those in need of translation, a jahez is the trosseau of clothes, shoes, purses and jewelry that a bride’s family would give to her (with the intention that she would wear the new items in her marital home…new brides have to LOOK like new brides after all! lol), but also things like kitchenware, bedding, and even furniture and rugs that she would take with her to her husband’s home (which traditionally would be the home where he lived with his parents and siblings). A wari is the collection of clothing, jewelry, purses, and shoes that a groom’s family would give to their new daughter-in-law as wedding gifts (also with the intention that she wear these new items as a newlywed). And ‘laina daina’ is the term used to describe all of the gifts that a bride’s family would traditionally give to the groom’s family, for example, saris for the groom’s mother, sisters, mother’s sisters…it could go on and on.
Explaining all of the traditions to my boss made me think about how our generation needs to redefine our customs on our terms. For example, the custom of the ‘laina daina’ and a jahez full of everything under the sun dates back to a time where daughters were seen as a burden, and so the bride’s family would have to compensate by giving all of the member’s of the groom’s family gifts as well as sending their daughter to them with lots of new things for their house because their son would be supporting her and taking that burden away. Well as they say in urdu: zamana badalgya! Times have changed! Today, women and men both earn money. And sometimes women are even the ones supporting their husbands. Young couples live in the joint family system less and less (joint family = with husband’s family). And so giving gifts and a large jahez to the groom’s family as an offering of thanks for taking the burden that is a daughter is so outdated, not to mention problematic! Also, what’s worse, is that sometimes the families decide to show what they are giving at the actual wedding so that all the guests know exactly what the girl received in her wari, or what the groom’s side received from the bride’s family (cringe) I think that’s the absolute epitome of gratuitousness!
As a young desi bride-to-be, I think negotiating these types of (often patriarchal) cultural traditions are part and parcel of the wedding planning process. I tried to reinterpret them as much as I could so that we could keep what felt good about the tradition and do away with the rest. First of all I told both my mom and SM that I did not want any showy gift-giving at any of the events, and everyone agreed that they didn’t either. We did give SMs immediate family gifts (but just immediate!) and did so when it was just our family and his family, and SM’s family also gave my family gifts in the same way, which was really nice because it felt like a two-way appreciation as opposed to the traditional girl’s-side-giving- boy’s-side-lots-of-things-because-girls-are-seen-as-burdens. Also, SM and I live separately and so there was no jahez full of new furniture (lol, that’s a comical idea to me), but my brother, who happened to be redoing his house generously gave us his old dining table, couch, tv, tv stand, which we happily accepted! Also, I did get lots of new clothes and shoes and jewelry in my jahez and wari, and well, it’s pretty fun 🙂
OK, I think the rant part of my blog is over! I did want to share HOW we packaged the ‘laina daina’ gifts for my in-laws because, well, if you’ve ever read my blog you know that I’m completely detail oriented (a tad obssesive?) and like pretty thinigs 🙂 My sister had the idea to package everything in large thaals (round trays) and then cover it with clear wrap and tie it with ribbons and so my mom and I spent one afternoon on Gerrard Street searching for very large, colourful round basket type trays. We eventualy found them at a little Indian store for $25. We grabbed 3 large ones and 1 small one (1 large one for SM, 1 for his parent’s gifts, 1 for his sister and family’s gifts and 1 small one for his younger sister) and then my sis and I spent another weekend packaging them with the gifts and making them look pretty! This was the type of pre-wedding prep that actually took lots of time (especially if you’re anal like I am and bad at letting other people help lol!)
This is what they turned out like!: (Yes I may have chosen the swirl pattern on the clear wrap because it complimented the swirl pattern on my wedding Louboutins – – I warned you, obsessive!)