Flowers, ribbons and candles, these are just some of the things you expect to see at a wedding ceremony. But, lately, weddings also have a photo booth and a disk jockey, not to mention the grand giveaways, which sometimes include pieces of jewelry. So, are we slowly becoming obsessed with the ‘big fat wedding’?
Let’s start with the basics. Weddings can be quite expensive.
Munazza Ehtisham, a wedding planner based in Dubai, works with various clients, who have different demands. While the basic wedding decor, along with photography and videography, has an average cost of Dh10,000, adding the food and extravagant decoration pieces increases the cost up to Dh80,000.
Ehtisham said: “Some weddings cost millions of dirhams. It’s a big deal!”
However, most of her clients, who are from India and Pakistan, ask for the traditional setup. With usually three days of celebrations, the mehndi or henna, wedding day and reception, their main request is for flowers, a specific kind — marigold.
Ehtisham said: “The flower setup is usually the most expensive, even though they are sourced mostly from within the UAE.”
But, many clients also ask for destination weddings, so transporting flowers makes things more expensive. The costumes are decided based on the colours the bride wears and the groom’s side of the family demands a grand entrance, involving a ‘dhol’ (traditional drum) player.
Ehtisham said: “Another expensive item is the giveaways. We are usually asked to provide flower bangles, perfumes and sometimes even jewelry. In the last wedding we worked on, we were asked to design the wedding card in the shape of a passport.”
However, despite all the costs, people are still looking for bigger wedding celebrations. The US-based University of Virginia conducted research and the results showed that couples who had larger ceremonies “had higher-quality marriages”. On the other hand, research conducted by the US-based Emory University had a different result. It showed that couples who spent less on their weddings “tend to have longer-lasting marriages”.
While international studies are divided on the subject, so are our readers.
Anjum Ahmad, a Pakistani teacher based in Sharjah, got married in 2005 in what she refers to as “the fairytale wedding”. They had four events and a local fashion magazine covered their big day.
She said: “I wanted a big ceremony. I did all the arrangements myself. My wedding outfit was from Karachi, Pakistan and the reception outfit was from a store in the UK.”
For the wedding, which was hosted at a popular ballroom in Dubai, Ahmad was in contact with a wedding coordinator who helped her decide the decor and dinner menu. They had a “huge section” for just desserts and a disk jockey was arranged to entertain the guests.
Hiren Ashok Vasu, an Indian insurance supervisor based in Dubai, had the three-day wedding celebrations, too. Though the first two events were for close family members, the wedding reception was attended by more than 600 people.
He said: “It took us nine months to plan everything. The last few days before the wedding were chaos. Around then, my wife was stressed.”
His wife, Maitriee K. Bora, describes the event as a “surreal dream”, which she had since she was a little girl.
She said: “It was a theme wedding, just like I always wanted. We wanted to do something unique, but maintain our traditions at the same time. The reception had a floral theme incorporating concepts, which we researched for months.”
She stressed over every minute detail of the big day. But, in her opinion, once the events begin, there isn’t much you can do and have to “ride it like a wave”.
A lot of reality television focuses on big wedding celebrations. Such shows encourage a cultural fascination with weddings, as stated in a study published in the US-based journal, Psychology of Popular Media Culture. However, not every wedding is all about the expense and grand allure.
Omar Khammash, a Jordanian clinical manager based in Dubai, had a simple wedding ceremony, with close family members present. He, however, considers himself an “exception” as in his home country, weddings are a grand affair.
He said: “There are fireworks, loud music, live bands and sometimes people even fire guns in the air. I didn’t want any of that.”
His wife and he spent less than two months planning the wedding and it wasn’t a complicated process.
He said: “She had to pick the venue and manage the arrangements, but there weren’t many things to do.”
Samreen Khan, a Pakistani banker based in Sharjah, hopes to have a very simple wedding someday. She wants to get married in a mosque, followed by a meal for the underprivileged.
She said: “It is a Sunnah and I hope to follow it. It isn’t about the cost. Even if I had the money, I wouldn’t spend it on a lavish wedding. I would rather spend it on charity. Why feed people who will either be unhappy with the meal or are attending half-heartedly?”
Her parents have always been supportive of her choices, so in her opinion, they would be more than happy with this decision, too.
She said: “I know what every parent goes through, especially for a daughter’s wedding. We have the dowry system in our culture. I don’t want to put my family under burden. If you’re wealthy, give the money to your daughter instead.”
Iva Dostalova, a Czech national who is engaged to a Dubai resident, is another individual looking to have a simple wedding ceremony.
She said: “Just me, my man and closest family members. I don’t think it is necessary to spend a lot of money on a wedding. Usually the simplest weddings are most blessed.”
Sehrish Shahnawaz Kodare, an Indian finance executive based in Sharjah, just attented her brother’s wedding. He was as involved as the bride, if not more, to the extent where he was particular about the table decorations. But, when it is her turn, she hopes to have a low-key event.
She said: “I just want my dear ones who care about my well-being to be at my wedding. A traditional ceremony would be good.”
She states that she still has no plans for her wedding, but doesn’t imagine herself being a ‘bridezilla’. The only thing she would be worried about is how she looks. Everything else, she will let her family decide. “When I enter, people should look at me, not the table decor,” she added.