Faija Tasfia & Shaugat Ashraf Khan
Weddings in our country are deeply rooted in our traditions and culture. Here the wedding does not only mean the union of two people, but it also includes the union of both the families and their extended relations of generations. Weddings are always beautiful. Two people starting their new chapter of life together in the presence of their friends and family laughing, singing, and dancing with loved ones.
But wedding planning in our country includes unnecessary dramas. The opinions of the extended family not even living in the country sometimes get more important than the opinion of the bride and groom. The wedding includes at least a weeklong function with unnecessary grandeur. The wedding now has become more of a show of one’s family status and money in front of the entire society.
To have an essence of the wedding scenario in Bangladesh and people’s attitude towards extravagant weddings, we conducted a survey titled “Extravagant Weddings: A symbol of status?”. We asked people about the size of their marriage ceremony, the extent of hardship they had to face in organizing the ceremony. Here are what our respondents claimed:
53% of the respondents believe that societal pressure affected the planning for their own weddings or their siblings’.
Planning a wedding and making it a successful show is quite a bit stressful. But most of the time the stress is indirectly induced by society. These unnecessary traditions and customs affect families silently. Weddings are supposed to be a joyous occasion. But the happiness gets buried under the societal and financial pressure for the sake of some superficial name and praise. Most of the married respondents added that they had at least three to four programs in their weddings which sometimes went up to five or more programs depending on the socio-economic status of the organizing family. There were 50 to 300 guests at just the pre-wedding programs like the engagement or ‘gaye holud’. The main wedding programs had guests up to 1000 or even more. A number of feasts, exchange of foods and gifts on various festivals, special days, and other unnecessary customs for the sake of the superficial name.
More than 38% of the wedding programs include some kind of involvement of event management companies and paid dancers or music performers.
In recent times, marriage festivities are tremendously influenced by foreign cultures. With that comes the high spending as we integrate various programs like a bridal shower, pre-wedding shoots, etc. from their culture with our existing programs. The dowry system has not gone away, rather it has become more of a gift procedure. Gifts after the wedding as furniture, clothes, foods, etc. are exchanged between the parties engaged in weddings. These gifts exchanges go on for at least a year. Parents often get swayed upon the opinions of relatives and society. They get way out of their hand in their children’s weddings, especially the daughters. Our survey revealed that 25% of the married respondents had to seek loans or any kind of financial assistance outside of the core family to cover the expenses. This tendency is more likely to be seen in brides’ families which sometimes include the selling of property.
We also asked the younger generation what they wanted for their wedding and their attitude towards extravagant weddings. We asked them if they wanted a simple intimate wedding, a big fat wedding, or somewhat in between. Most of them responded that they would like to have a simple intimate wedding or a balanced one.
About 77% of the respondents think that the extravaganza of Bangladeshi weddings is unnecessary and more than 81% of them think it as a burden for the families involved in organizing the ceremony.
The Covid-19 pandemic has induced people to go for simple weddings with close relatives. Planning a wedding has become less hassling for the families. It has given us a chance to revisit our own traditions and make the weddings look simpler. In a country where an enormous amount of people lives under the poverty line, the luxury of expensive weddings is unnecessary and unjust. Some families cannot afford to spend thousands of bucks on their sons or daughters’ weddings, but they have to just because of the fear of ‘manush ki bolbe!’ (What other people would say!). The above survey clearly depicts most wedding programs are influenced by people in the surrounding communities. Weddings should be a show of one’s love and emotions, not their status and wealth. It is still a long way before people in our country understand this. Until then, we can challenge this issue and make the change inside us so that the future generations will be free from these stereotypical weddings. Will they ever actually understand – remains a question.