Two weddings and some debt


Ayesha Ijaz Khan July 31, 2010
Two weddings and some debt

By 1999, the year that I got married, a strict food ban on all wedding parties had been imposed by the Nawaz Sharif government. Creating more problems than it solved, the ban, like most, had an out for the super-rich. While serving food at hotels and wedding halls was prohibited, those fortunate enough to have homes with sprawling lawns could accommodate and feed their guests without running afoul of the law. For the VIPs moreover, including Mr Sharif himself, hosting a son’s valima at a grand hotel in Dubai and therefore bypassing the law altogether also remained a viable option.

But for all the rest, working with the law such that guests would not be offended remained a dilemma. The reaction of a secretary at the law firm where I worked summed it best when she said: “What is this? One gives a gift also but comes back unfed? Is it worth going to weddings anymore?” For my parents, the thought of not being able to feed an out-of-town barat from Peshawar was unthinkable and an affront to Lahori hospitality.

Later the ban was relaxed, or at least Pakistanis had invented ways to circumvent it, which tends to be somewhat of a national forte.  But in 1999, no liberties could be taken so we settled for a milkshake reception, borrowing my uncle’s sizeable lawn for the dinner later. Karachiites tend to think of themselves as practical, and one wedding around the same time as mine was rumoured to have opted for a drinks reception at a fancy hotel, with KFC dinner vouchers as give-aways for the hungry guests.

Suffice it to say that not only was expenditure not reduced as most hotels jacked up prices for milkshakes and soft drinks considerably while the hosts were left to make extraneous arrangements for food but the wedding process became extremely long and drawn out for all involved. In addition, the catering business suffered a blow. Undoubtedly, the ban aimed to reduce the financial burden on families trying to marry off children or siblings. Yet because it was ill-thought out, it did not produce the desired result. More importantly, it is perhaps not possible to put an end to social custom by legislating a ban.

An aunt who worked in the US as a doctor in the seventies once told me that in order to prevent their children from being materially spoiled, she and her doctor friends had made a pact: on every birthday, each child would get $10 from all the friends. Surely as doctors they could afford to give their friends’ children far more expensive gifts, but the idea was to promote value for money in children who could have easily been financially spoiled.

I was thus very impressed to learn from a guard working in Karachi of the pact his fellow-villagers had come to regarding weddings. A native of Peiro, 115 km from Gilgit, Niat Khan explained that the villagers had agreed that no gold would be given at any wedding. They had also decided that on the wedding day, the entire village would be fed lunch and dinner by the hosts, however, half the village would be fed by the groom’s side and the other half, by the bride’s side. In addition, for the upcoming wedding of his daughter, Niat Khan intends to take clothes for the boy’s family from Karachi as gifts. He expects his total expenditure to be Rs50,000 and thus manageable without taking excessive loans.

On the other hand, his fellow-worker in Karachi, a young man who earns almost the same amount, recently got married to his cousin in Dir. For him, the wedding has resulted in a debt in excess of Rs100,000. Apart from food and clothes for the bride, he has also had to give three tolas in gold, as per his village custom. Though it may be challenging for the state to legislate against dowries and jewellery, following the brilliant example of Niat Khan’s village may result in a more long-lasting transformation of custom and effectively reduce the burden of debt-ridden families.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2010.

COMMENTS (8)

Ilsa Razzak | 13 years ago | Reply Thank you for writing on an issue which has become really serious nowadays. This one provides advice and tips for those who want to host the wedding efficiently and satisfy the guests as well. People judge how 'good' and 'grand' the wedding was, by commenting upon the types and the number of dishes available for the guests. Many a times I have come across people who tend to judge how 'generous' the bride's parents were by counting the joras made for her. It's ridiculous and extremely exasperating for the parents to live upto expectations, otherwise, they'll be hearing snide remarks for a year after the wedding ends. Waiting to read more of your articles! This one provides advice and tips for those who want to host the wedding efficiently and satisfy the people as well.
SadafFayyaz | 13 years ago | Reply wedding dresses, parlour make up, video making, food ( Mom I want my walima ceremony in Serena, a friend said), I remember marriage of my cousin in 2001, where there wasnt any money to feed the whole family...My aunt just kept Mithai, and patties with tea as food....90 pc guests went back stating it "besti" that they did while not offering them Murgh, Roast, cold drinks, pulao , halwa poori, and sweet dishes....'we came hungry from there, what a pathetic marriage it was;;;;" kinda remarks we heard....so you can decide yourself.... gr8 post,,, would love to see some more blogs from you on this issue...
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