Wedding season is upon us and for anyone from the Indian subcontinent this means a full on bling and colour fest. Dazzling jewels and vibrant colours are the hallmark of most desi weddings (desi is a term which loosely refers to anyone/thing of South Asian origin). You will rarely find an understated desi wedding. It’s a full on assault of the senses and one to be marvelled at. However, there are also some more subtle issues that commonly arise.
Firstly nobody ever worries about upstaging the bride. Short of draping a dupatta over one’s head (which is the customary veil for Asian brides) pretty much anything goes by way of guest dress code. The bigger the hair, the more sparkle and the brighter the lipstick the better. The bride will always make a regal entrance and be inspected on her attire. Heaven forbid should she decide to go for a more “natural” look. That would, in general, be deemed a fail by beady eyed onlookers who expect glamour and a bit of razzle dazzle. Guests will often scrutinise the bride in every possible way. In fact at my own wedding, whilst I was sitting on the stage as a bride, I kid you not, I was asked by an inquisitive “aunty” how much my wedding jewellery cost. Admittedly, I was somewhat surprised by the timing of the query.
Secondly, it’s all about the food. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on decor and style, if the food isn’t up to scratch the wedding will be deemed a disappointment. That’s all people will remember about the big day. Indeed some people only attend weddings for the food (many a husband has been dragged out to a wedding by his wife, lured by the promise of a delicious biryani). The older generation are particularly opinionated about their culinary expectations. Should you decide to experiment with the food options be prepared for the backlash.
And then of course there is the highly contentious issue of the guest list. There used to be a time when a wedding guest could bring his/her entire extended family to a wedding but those days are well and truly gone. Desi weddings are big business now and with rocketing prices it’s all about the price per head. That means being more selective about the guest list which inevitably leads to more than a handful of people getting the hump. It’s a political minefield. And even if you do only offer a “Mr and Mrs” invitation, you will still somehow end up with dozens of kids running around the wedding hall screeching at critical parts of the ceremony. Some guests clearly don’t read the memo or choose to ignore it. But in all fairness, overexcited, hysterical kids are part of the fabric of desi weddings and I have yet to attend one without any kids whatsoever (despite the best efforts of some hosts to limit them).
Furthermore, we cannot overlook the fact that a desi wedding is considered a major community event, when people will savour the opportunity to catch up on local news and inspect any potential suitors for their various friends and family members. The gossip mill goes into full overdrive with news of who has fallen out with who, who is checking out who and what various scandals are unfolding in the local network. No desi wedding is complete without some big news story breaking either immediately before /during or after the event.
And finally, it is a rite of passage for every wedding guest, at some point in their wedding guest career, to have a video man creep up on them and start filming them, at close range, when they have a mouthful of kebab or chicken tikka. It happens to everyone. You will be caught off guard, mid bite, and no doubt footage of you scoffing will make the final edit. Allow it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Desi weddings tend to be big, bold and extravagant affairs, but it’s often what goes on behind the scenes that is most interesting of all. There is never a dull moment at a desi wedding…you can expect excitement, glamour and always a touch of drama.