Pakistani, South Asian, Tradition, Wedding

Gifting Traditions in Desi Wedding Culture

Hi Everyone!

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gifts and a large jahez to the groom’s family as an offering of thanks for taking the burden that is a daughter is so outdated, not to mention problematic!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!)

photo (3)photo

What do you guys think of all of the gift giving that happens in our culture? How did your families do it?

25 thoughts on “Gifting Traditions in Desi Wedding Culture”

  1. I so agree about giving gifts but not in the open. Its a huge trend giving gifts in pakistan at the barat on the stage infront of all the guests ..for my nikkah my parents had given everything to my inlaws a day before at the comfort of their own home. It seems more personal and nice. It was nice to read someone else had done the same thing 🙂

  2. I am getting engaged this saturday and my mom and I decided to only get the groom’s immediate family presents because otherwise it gets so expensive and I completely agree with you it is an outdated custom. The only gifts that should be given are to the bride and groom lol 😛

      1. i just got engaged on May 31st 2014 and we only did gifts for my fiancé’s immediate family as well 🙂 we used white boxes usually used at christmas time and tired red ribbons around them. 🙂

      1. Thank you! 😀 Yah I am soo soo excited to start planning the wedding now haha. your blog is such a huge help!

  3. Asalamoalikum,
    In my opinion the jahez is some essentials to start you of with,since u r not going to be running around shopping fr stuff,but ofcource our showy culture made it into all the negative things u talked about.

    1. W/a Fozia, thanks for your comment! I agree I think jahez was meant to be things to start you off with but our culture has turned it into a whole other thing with all of these expectations!

  4. I have to say that while I do disagree with the whole jahez concept in the traditional sense, the shopaholic in me loved spending money. The year leading up to my wedding, I bought all sorts of things because I was “adding to my jahez.” lol. I did use my own money though so I had a good time! I also loved dressing up after the wedding in all my new purchases.

    I hadn’t heard of people giving the presents in public until recently – sounds so odd and flaunty.

  5. Hey Safa! First of all, LOVE your blog. I couldn’t do without it, I’m going to Pakistan in a couple of days to shop for my wedding, and will be shopping in Lahore for the first time, so you’ll definitely get some comments/questions on your shopping blog entries 😀
    Very interesting topic though, I’m getting married in a year or so, and I’m also wondering how all this gifting goes down, because I know my mother is pretty old school and will probably want to gift my fiancé’s extended family members too, like khala, mamu etc.
    I’m wondering though what should be included in the gifts for his immediate family, clothes and acessories are a must for my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law, but now I wonder if they should also be gifted gold jewellery or is that overkill? In the end, I know you should give what you’re happy to give, but what is actually expected?
    What’s your opinion? 🙂

    1. Hi Faiza, Thank you!!! Ooo so exciting that you’re about to do the big wedding shopping trip, and congrats on your upcoming bfpw!!:) looking forward to your questions! K, re the gifting, I feel like this terrain is so difficult to navigate! I know personally my mom gave a gold kara to my saas, and small gold rings to my 2 sis in laws, and I think in terms of “traditional expectations” gifting gold to the inlaws has been a part of it, I know that she/we wanted to do that because yes, thats what we were happy to give, but also that it was only possible to because my mom had gold saved from her time to use for this purpose (if we had to actually buy it, it prob would have been a dif story!) We also didnt give tons and tons of clothes, I think a few saris each along with the gold piece, just really wanted quality over quantity. I think in the end it comes down to like you said giving what you’re happy to and doing it within your means. Hope this helps!

      1. What did you give your father-in-law and the boys in your fiance’s family? I am new to this shaadi stuff and really struggling with gifts to give the men. Would really appreciate any suggestions!

      2. Hey Abby! Ya men are hard! I think we gave a couple of nice shalwar kameez from Pakistan and nice cuff links. Good quality, but in our budget!

  6. Hi Safa! I’m soo glad I came across your post! First, congrats on your wedding.. you looked beautiful! Second, i’m getting ‘Haan-o-fied’ in a month and have no idea what we’re supposed to give to the groom and his immediate family. I’d really appreciate it if you can give some ideas. Thanks ❤

  7. Hi Safa! I’m soo glad I came across your post! First, congrats on your wedding.. you looked beautiful! Second, i’m getting ‘Haan-o-fied’ in a month and have no idea what we’re supposed to give to the groom and his immediate family. I’d really appreciate it if you can give some ideas. Thanks ❤

    1. Hey Sarah! Congrats!! For my baat pakki we gave SM a Movado watch (the classic all black face, the design was first released decades ago and is in the MOMA), and then we got a sari for my mother in law, a dior perfume set for my sis in law and an estee lauder makeup kit for my other sis in law, and for my husband’s father I think we got him a leather briefcase type bag , not sure now, guys are the hardest to get things for! I think my advice for all this stuff is just to give within your means, and think quality over quantity.

      1. Thank you so much for your reply! I’m so glad I was able to find your post…I was super stressed about this but now I have some great ideas! I completely agree with you about quality over quantity!

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