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?