South Asian, Tradition, Wedding

The Ugly Side of Desi Weddings

Pakistani weddings are great. This is fact. More than the couple, Pakistani weddings are about family, warmth, joy, and jovial celebrations. But there’s a truly ugly side to desi weddings that I think needs to be addressed. And that is: the inevitable comparisons that guests make about the events thrown by the girls side (shaadi) versus the events thrown by the guys side (valima), the moment the celebrations are over.

You know what I’m taking about: “oh you think the hall was nice on the shaadi? well the valima venue is even better” or “the food was just okay on the valima, but on the shaadi, it was out of this world.”

Most of the time, these comments are completely biased because it’s almost always the guests of the bride’s side asserting that the bride’s event/food/decor, indeed, everything, was better, and vice versa with the groom’s guests. Everytime I hear such statements made, I can’t help but think how silly they sound, especially when the guests are praising their own side! But more than that, I can’t help but think how ugly the whole dynamic is. The idea of marriage is supposed to be that two people and families come together, but mere moments after the celebrations end, the guests start critiquing which side threw a better party. And even more sad is that what it comes down to is the side that was deemed to have hosted a better event is usually the side that has more money to have spent on a more impressive venue, floral arrangements, number of dishes, variety of desserts, and on and on. It’s this type of crass competition that only perpetuates the stigma around marrying outside one’s social class – a continuous reality in desi culture – and goes against everything that marriage is supposed to symbolize.

I admit: during my wedding, I wanted three events because the traditions around each day having their own place appealed to me. But I do think it’s a great idea to cut the traditional three day wedding into two by: 1. Having a  joint mehndi (because really, everyone knows the mehndi is the best part!), Followed by 2. A nikah ceremony and  valima reception in one event. This eliminates the inevitable shaadi / walima comparisons, and sets up the main function so that it’s a unifying one. (And yes, I’m sure people will still find ways to criticize, but that’s human nature for you isn’t it.)

However brides and grooms decide to structure celebrations ultimately comes down to personal and family choices. But one thing that I’m consciously trying to do as a wedding guest is not participate in those ugly comparison conversations. At the end of the day, the bride and groom, and each of their families have done the best they can within their means, and so who are any of us to comment that one venue was nicer than the other, when we’re really supposed to be there to celebrate love?


9 thoughts on “The Ugly Side of Desi Weddings”

  1. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Guests need to realize that they are invited to take part in the couples happiness not to critique every aspect of the events. If it were up to me I’d invite a minimal number of people that I know are genuinely happy to be a part of my wedding and keep the riff raff out lol

      1. hehehehe… I’m totally agree with Maha. I’m convincing my dad to make it minimal for my wedding happening in couple month.. 🙂 lets see.

  2. it’s funny how even the young people do it. I was thinking of asking my dad to put money together with my husband to be and have a one grand ceremony instead of two. The idea was not taken well my anyone :S cuz everyone was like. ppl would think the guys side payed for everything. The funny thing is that it never occurred to me that this matters.

    1. Hi Saba, sigh, I feel like this is an all too commom concern. Our culture caring about what other people think…well we have such a long way to go. But I do feel like we are the new generation that can take the good traditions and do away with the stuff that’s not important/relevant, e.g. who pays for what, I think the power lies with us for the next generation!

  3. Hi Safa!

    I just discovered your blog and i’m in love. Your wedding was beautiful Mash’allah and you looked amazing. I just got engaged this past december and my fiancé and I would love to have a small wedding, but of course being pakistani having lots of family and family friends we will probably be having more people. We have been exploring the idea of having one joined mehndi and then a nikkah ceremony and valima on the same day. Do you have any suggestions as to how we could break up those two events on the same day, or how we should organize it. I would love to hear your opinion.

    Thanks! xx

    1. Hi Maryium! Thanks so much!!! And congratulations!!!! Hmmm that’s a good question… I think if I ended up doing one event you either do the ceremony in the early afternoon with the reception to follow in the evening (kind of like how white people do weddings!) Or just have one event and call it the joint shaadi and valima (aka split it)?

  4. It is a good idea, but having a Walima is a sunnah, and is (islamically) supposed to be done after the Rukhsati. Back in the days it wasnt a huge problem since the Nikah was very low key, and the Walima was the main event. But yea, people comparing the two events is annoying they should just enjoy it rather than pick out the flaws. Anyways I looovveee your blog, will definetely be referencing to it when I get married (still have a couple of years to go lol)

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