As brides and grooms gear up for their big fat Pakistani weddings this winter (and the tension in their houses soars to an all-time high with the bride throwing tantrums), we thought we’d ask some bahus and their mothers-in-law about the chemistry they shared when the bridal jora was being ordered.
Saas-bahu love affair
Asiaa Jabeen* and Falaknaz Ahmed*, young girls who have recently joined the newly wedded club, share some interesting stories about their experiences. Ahmed went to a couple of designers before deciding on SanaSafinaz for a valima outfit and a ready-made red Sabyasachi lehenga from The House of Ensemble for her shaadi. While Ahmed and her soon-to-be-husband’s family have known each other for decades, she felt some hesitance and awkwardness when she sat with her mother-in-law-to-be at the designers’ studio. Her mother-in-law clearly told her that, due to family traditions, Ahmed could not wear dark colours on her big day. “Humaray yahaan dark colours nahin pehnay jaatay,” she was told, despite having set her heart on a navy blue HSY bridal. While she succumbed to her mother-in-law’s wishes, Ahmed says she believes that at the end of the day, “The jora wasn’t half as important as the chemistry between the two of us — this is just the beginning of a relationship.” She also adds that her mother-in-law missed no opportunity to tell her how lucky she is for having the comfort of domestic help, as she herself didn’t have that luxury when she was newly married.
On the other hand, Jabeen says she had no such issues. “Both the main days’ outfits were done by my in-laws and my mother-in-law happily accommodated my demands.” She says her mother-in-law seemed easy-going and let her wear whatever she wanted.
In this scenario, the mother-in-law may seem like a dominating figure under whose gaze the young damsel is squirming, but all is not rosy on her end. Mrs Ehsaan* relates that her eldest son married his sweetheart, but the families did not know each other well at all. When she took her daughter-in-law to designer Bunto Kazmi for a bridal outfit, she was too embarrassed to reveal her budget to her young bahu-to-be, and preferred to share it with the designer instead. “Bunto was very cooperative and did everything to fit the exact budget I had in mind,” says Mrs Ehsaan. She realises now that things have changed from her shaadi ka time, and that tagging along with a daughter-in-law for bridal clothes is not a solution. “For my two younger sons, I won’t make the same mistake. Girls are more practical now, so I would rather give them the cash in their hands and let them decide what they want to do with it,” she says, adding that things other than the bridal outfit matter more and should be accounted for in times where wedding costs are so high.
At the studio
It’s not just the saas and bahu who are conscious of every innuendo at the time of the jora selection. Designers have their eyes and ears open too!
“I used to see submissive girls coming with their mothers-in-law and going along with their decisions,” says Shehla Chatoor. “If they did not like anything, they would tell their own mothers and try to have it changed. But the bride of today is different. She is bold and confident and tells her mother-in-law exactly what she wants. And if she doesn’t like something, she will make sure everyone knows it!”
Shehla also feels mothers-in-law have become wiser and understand that it is better to let the bahu decide what she wants in the spirit of keeping her happy and having a healthy relationship.
She explains that it is usually the girl’s in-laws that make an appointment before they bring the bride along and survey the designs and settle on a price. But while the girl is there, Shehla says there are awkward moments. “If the bride wants to wear a sleeveless outfit or a more revealing back, you can see the disapproval in the eyes of the mother-in-law.”
At the end, Shehla shares a most amusing snippet. She tells us that there is no saying who will end up placing the final order. “A bride could be accompanied by anyone from her mother-in-law and mother, to her sisters, sister-in-law, aunts and sometimes even the groom!”
*Names have been changed upon request
Correction: Sabyasachi had been misspelt in an earlier version of the article. The correction has been made.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2012.