Fat Indian weddings are part and parcel of Indian culture and it is amazing to see the kind of money being spent on weddings, be it politicians, Bollywood stars, businessmen, or the common man. Indian weddings are popular for their grandeur, traditional ceremonial celebrations, as well as a lot of pomp and show! Celebrities like Katy Perry-Russell Brand or Elizabeth Hurley-Arun Nayar may have chosen India to get married owing to its strong wedding traditions and the availability of locations with hawelis and castles (like Rajasthan etc.) The grandeur appears like a fairytale wedding and the kinds the papparazi would like for their glamor news.
Indians have their own extravaganza to deal with when it comes to weddings. Indians accept this cultural fancy for weddings and most Indians (from rural and urban India) will spend much money, time and energy in planning and arranging sumptuous weddings. The amount of wood wastage that takes place in a typical Indian wedding is nothing less than a shock!
Having traditionally enjoyed special attention during weddings, Indian grooms enjoy a lot of pampering from the bride’s family and often get away with excuses like getting late on a wedding day. It is common to see the baraatis playing impromptu music on public roads while in a procession (baraat is a procession of the groom and his relatives who are on way to the bride’s home for the wedding ceremony), and playing loud fire-crackers and fireworks etc. without paying heed to the noise pollution they create or the inconvenience they cause to others on public roads.
In times that the wedding industry keeps expanding every year (at 25-30 %), and the trends in hiring marriage planners for arranging designer weddings is getting commonplace in metro cities of India, I find it interesting that a remote village in eastern U.P. (north of India) says no to all things that go ‘over-the-top’ in a wedding. It sticks to good old common-sense and discipline.
A small village called Taunkpuri Tanda in U.P. (India) decided to end this cultural hegemony. A groom who gets late for a village wedding is charged Rs.100 for every minute that his baarat gets late! Usually there is a fixed time (mahurat or auspicious timing) a baraat is expected to reach the bride’s home. It is not uncommon to find a baraat getting late by hours and the family of bride waiting to receive the groom. A baraat is usually a loud affair in India and involves dancing on public streets etc. . Sticking to good old civic sense and discipline, the villagers like to follow the pleasantries during a wedding without any extravaganzas like food wastage, unecessary expenditures and getting late.
On the other hand, an Indian wedding taking place in the U.S. also involves the groom’s entrance which is marked by an extravagant elephant or horse ride, and calls for special government permits to redirect traffic, costing upwards of U.S. $15,000 (the cost of a modest new car!) Furthermore, the lavishness of Indian weddings has merged with the West’s affluence, and Indian American wedding can cost around $250,000 (the cost of a modest home in many U.S. cities), generally paid for by the bride’s family. Such extravagance over a day-long affair?
In some cases, such extravagance is motivating the next generation of Indian Americans in holding smaller wedding events. Anil, a 30-year-old Indian American medical professional and his fiancé, Priya, an engineer, oppose such grand affairs and are opting for a small 10-person ceremony at a park when they get married later this Fall. For Anil, anyone (whether the bride’s family or his) spending $250,000 on a wedding would be wasteful. Sejal, a 40-year-old dentist, spent most of her 20’s and 30’s attending grand wedding parties all over the United States, England, Australia and India. To attend these occasions, she would spend thousands of dollars on gifts for the wedding party, cultural attire for herself and travel costs. She enjoyed the travel and socializing, she says But when it was her turn, she opted for a small ceremony in a mandir at Bangalore, India.
Back in India, the Indian wedding industry is at its peak and is estimated to be more than INR 100,000 crore while growing at 25 to 30 per cent annually (source: indianretailer.com). The estimated cost of a wedding in India with no expenses spared could be anywhere between Rs 5 lakh to Rs 5 crore. Indians need to learn from two case points: the Western influence on Indian weddings in America and the amount of money Indians need to shell out for permissions etc., and on the other hand, the villagers of Taunka Tanda who set an example of modesty in a remote village of the country.
Punctuality, respecting other citizens’ right to passage on a road and celebrating within reasonable limits, all of this coming from a small village in India is ‘great’ for setting an example. The village also encourages families to marry within their village to keep the village women safe from anti-social elements and to adhere to age-old moral values and traditions.
I see this as an apt social message coming from a village with a mere population of around 10,000 people. Time for city folks to take a cue?
What do you think? Should Indian citizens inform the local authorities for a wedding procession? Write to me.
Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.