“Argh!!! It’s a right turn, clap and THEN a left spin not the other way round!”
“She is missing all the beats! What am I supposed to do? I don’t have any more dancers…”
“It’s MY wedding! Why are THEY choosing the colours for the dress!”
These are some of the typical exclamations you will hear a bride-to-be utter in the run up to her wedding. Even until the late 1980s, weddings were rather an innocent affair but with increasing commercialisation, weddings have become an entrepreneur’s dream and a bride’s nightmare. Gone are the days when the bride could just relish the benefits of the haldi and the ubtan while the family did all the preparation. If you are about to get married now, you’ll find that you’ll be orchestrating the entire event, from the caterer’s menu to the dress code for the mehndi.
With volatile city conditions possibly ruining your huge celebration of nearly 300 strangers to the soaring prices of the bridal dress you always dreamt of — planning a wedding can drive the best of us coo-coo crazy and can turn many a docile damsel into a bridezilla. Here are some of the biggest wedding planning stressors that a bride-to-be can face.
The holy wedding date
So there was this time when my neighbour’s son was getting married and out of nowhere, Karachi got a storm alert! The bride’s place was flooded, the wedding was called off at the last minute and the bride came to her new home after a modest nikah ceremony. Imagine the stress the woman must have gone through. While a storm alert for Karachi is an unusual event, remember that the slightest hint of a drizzle will bring this country to a grinding halt. Those with a bit of foresight avoid scheduling any outdoor event in the rainy season.
In a country as volatile as ours, political instability and rioting rather than nature’s whims have ruined many a wedding in the past. Sana, who got married on 27th December 2007, the day of Benazir’s assassination says, “I was stuck at the parlour for hours and took ages to get to the venue. More than half of our guests could not make it and all the food went to waste. My husband always jokes that there was basically no return on investment.”
Recurring riots and strike calls can also leave the wedding preparations incomplete. Tooba*, who is getting married in early April, says: “Unpredictable holidays give everyone — the tailor, the furniture wala — a reason to slack off. With the way things are going, I fear that I won’t even have a bed on my wedding night!”
Family politics play a major role in fixing the wedding date. It often takes more than five to six meetings before the two sides can agree on one: perhaps the chachi in the US can’t make it or there’s a clash with another family wedding. And then the hall managers will also give you a fright because your dream venue was also someone else’s dream and they were quicker to book the place.
Our Advice: As much as we wish we could give you an advice on how to escape a strike or stop it from taking place, we really can’t. Avoid dates that are politically significantly such as Benazir Bhutto’s death anniversary, 12th May in Karachi and the dates of prominent attacks such as the Lal Masjid one. Also, Friday is often the riskiest day so refrain from having the main event on a Friday if possible. Always plan ahead of time and do not leave stuff for the last minute. Give yourself at least six months before the wedding date. If the groom’s parents are in a hurry, try and explain to them the reasons why it is necessary to have time on your hand..
No matter what you do, you can’t avoid disagreements over the budget for the wedding. Usually it is the bride’s side which will be paying the bulk for the whole wedding fiesta and an extensive list of items that they will be gifting to their daughter out of apni khushi. On top of this, the groom’s side somehow never stops adding guests to the list because everyone is a qareebi rishtedaar. Then there is the budget for the food which is going to be the only highlight for your guests at the event: it has to be delicious, in large quantities and different from the items commonly served at wedding ceremonies to ensure that your guests are not bored. With the per head charge being no less than Rs 800 for any quality caterer, your family is bound to exceed that limit on the budget.
Another exasperating rasm is the groom’s salami: despite spending a huge amount on all the functions and the gifts, the bride’s parents gift a wad of cash to the groom at the time of the nikah. “If you are a middle-class family then a thousand rupees in salami is totally out of the question — it’s like committing a crime,” says Mahrukh.
Our Advice: The best way to bust stress is to put forward your concerns and financial limits at the outset. Be very clear as to how much you can or are willing to spend on the wedding. Take the groom into confidence and seek his support. Tooba, who was lucky to receive immense levels of support from her in-laws, suggests, “Wedding budgets usually act as triggers that spark a fight. It’s his responsibility to communicate your concerns to his family, and the two of you should be a team.” Prioritise your expenses and don’t hesitate to put forward the idea of having the mehndi as a collaborative event so that the finances are equally shared and neither of the families feels burdened.
The Wedding Gharara
The pressure to look one’s absolute best in a designer bridal gharara is insane. Comments such as “You have to look exquisite on the most special day of your life” and “All eyes are going to be on you” can easily trigger the bridal blues. The sky-rocketing prices of branded bridal outfits only makes the situation worse. Mahrukh*, who has six months to her wedding, still hasn’t found the bridal gharara which will not only satisfy her but also impress her audience. “Everyone starts asking which designer you will turn to? Then you’re on a budget that is probably never going to meet the designer’s cost, so you are left in a tight spot where you want something unbelievably gorgeous by a famous designer at a price you can afford.”
What makes all this worse is that you, the bride, may not even know who is going to incur the cost of the bridal dress at the beginning. Families tend to develop rifts and fights over who is going to be choosing the outfit and who will pay for it. The more sensible mothers-in-law will hand over the money they planned to spend on the gharara to the bride so she can choose her own outfit. But there may be times when you realise that the wedding dress her son’s bride will wear has been a lifelong dream of your mother-in-law’s … and that’s when the stress monsters start creeping in. You want to choose your own bridal dress but you also don’t want your mother-in-law get back at you later in life.
And of course you and your in laws must also get ready to shell out 25 grand for powder on your face. There is no dearth of make-up artists out there — and each one is more expensive than the other — but the question is, who can handle your skin tone the best? While some artists have a reputation for doing exquisite make-up on fair-complexioned brides they are not as skillful with dusky beauties. “Picking a salon for bridal make-up is a serious gamble. I am a month away from my big day and I still haven’t finalised it because I simply can’t figure out whose make-up will look best on my skin tone,” says Sidra.
Our Advice: First of all, save yourself the time and money you would waste at a designer’s studio. Make the extra effort and take that much-needed trip to the embroidery markets — you’ll be surprised by how much less the same bridal dress that you were drooling over costs you. However, if you are all about designer labels, research thoroughly and try out as many dresses as you can. As for tackling the pressure from the in-laws, be clear about what you expect from your bridal dress — after all it’s you who is going to be wearing it. Finally, the best way to avoid looking like a make-up disaster on your wedding day is to try out your favourites beforehand. Get a few trials by getting party make up done and then make your final selection.
Entertainment Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega…
Gone are the days when chachis and mamis would sit around in a circle and play antakshri while the girls did a freestyle dance on the dhol ki thaap. Now, the mehndi is not just an intimate night of fun with your close family but a stage show where entertainment should be at its best. Brides somehow expect their friends to be professional dancers and with the pressure of having the best dance routines compared to any other friend’s, dance practices begin over two months prior to the main event.
The perfection of every dance move, the coordination, props and an unusual bridal entrance can create a great deal of stress and anxiety and not being able to reach the level of perfection you envisaged can be upsetting. In putting up this impressive show, you are basically relying on others which means you will have to plan according to other people’s preferences. With conditions in some cities being extremely volatile and your friends working or going to college, it becomes difficult to gather them at one place at the same time. Sana, who got married last month, said, “It was torturous getting my friends to coordinate over dance practices let alone dance properly. I was running a fever on my mehndi and was literally in tears when the groom’s side performed better than mine.”
Our Advice: No matter how hard you try someone or other will miss a beat or a step and it will never be perfect. The fun is in realising that mistakes make it more hilarious and enjoyable so there is no point stressing about it. Instead of doing a medley of thirty songs over a period of two months, pick around fifteen and finish them off in a week and a half. Nobody needs to flaunt their professional dancing skills. Let your friends go a bit freestyle and goof up, it will only add a dash of humour and will make it memorable.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, April 14th, 2013.
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