I got married on 22nd December 2008. Very recent! If you’ve seen my picture on the ‘about’ page, you might think that I’m Indian and you would be right. Why is this relevent? Well…If you know what typical ‘Indian’ weddings are like you’ll know there’ll be lots of people there.
Typically, there’s a registry marriage, a religious ceremony, a reception and possibly a party beforehand too. Of course, as we evolve (not sure if this is the right word) and grow richer we have more and more events e.g. Mehendhi (Henna) party, pizza party etc. etc. etc. These events can last a whole week and sometimes more!
Suraj and I had discussed what we would like a while back. We didn’t want any of the above. This was not because we feel that we are above it in any way. It is not because we lack tradition, culture, heritage or faith. It is not because we mock or disagree with all those who have and will marry in the way I have described above. It is mostly because of our increasing ability to reflect and think about things objectively. Mostly this has resulted in us striving towards minimising things, be they events, material items etc.Â This of course, played a huge part in the decision we made about our wedidng day.
Why have I written this post? Well, to name one of the many, I was talking to a father who is arranging his child’s wedding. This made me realise that the traumas that often go hand in hand when arranging a wedding, have changed. These now include debating what type of wedding we ‘should’ have. The considerations involved with big weddings and small weddings alike are not clearcut and this can make discussions emotional and difficult. Thus I thought this post might help those of you who are arranging a wedding now or thinking about what you might like in the future.
Suraj is a very ‘low key’ kinda guy. He doesn’t like the spot light or having huge events in his name. This has not affected him attending events by the way. 🙂
Me? Well…I was married before! Back then there were lots of things going on. My father had recently passed away, I had completed my PGCE at Uni, visited my family whom I blocked out when I was grieving and I had met someone very special. Mum had recently become a widow; there were lots of emotions flying around, fear, joy, worry and so on. Family members were helping us to plan what we needed to do, organise, buy etc. I was caught up in the ‘do’ mode and I also wanted to give mum what she desired.
Mum wanted to invite those who meant a lot to her. This meant family on her side and dad’s side, friends of mum, dad, either set of grandparents, siblings; people they knew through previous jobs and so on. The guest list was huge!
So I guess the point is, I would not mock/disagree with those who go for the big do because I had it myself. We held a Sanjee (party) before the wedding, and then we had the civil marriage, which was followed by the traditional wedding. The latter 2 could not be combined as the hall where the religious ceremony was taking place was not licensed to hold the registry wedding there. Thus there were 3 events.
Anyway I remember being shattered, not knowing who was there and who wasn’t. Not being able to see those of MY friends who were there. Not really seeing members of my family that were there either. It was a big blur which left a dent in mum’s purse. Was it worth it? In my mind, in hindsight….no.
So this time, I wanted a small wedding. I would have loved to have gone away and had just our immediate family there but this didn’t suit us when we thought it through. So we decided that we’d have a registry wedding and that would be it! We agreed on having 3 people on each side. I think this was because Suraj’s immediate family consists of his dad, brother and brother’s wife to be. I didn’t realise at the time, but this made it quite difficult for me. If I was to match his 3, who would I choose? My immediate family consists of me and mum. I have no brothers or sisters and my dad, like Suraj’s mum has passed away. Anyway we’ll get to that later.
So…we shared our thoughts and it didn’t really go down that well but we were strong and sure as opposed to stubborn and rigid. We got the support we needed and went ahead with our plan. This was right for us.
So why not go for the ‘usual’? These were our thoughts: –
- How big would it get? Who would we cut out and who would we include? Our families amount to 150 people. The family in this case was defined as our parents, brothers & sisters of both parents, their spouses and children plus grandparents. What about family beyond this? What about friends? We haven’t included them and it’s already quite big!
- We didn’t want to spend that much money on an event that’s gone in a flash when the same money could help us progress in other ways.
- Did we want to hold an event in which people wouldn’t really do quality mingling? It would be so nice to a hold an event where people can meet, talk, interact. Weddings don’t really allow for this nowadays or it isn’t managed prhaps becuase the event itself is quite long. Thus if we allowed for mingling it would be a longer lasting event and would probably cost more.
- Did we want a wedding in which lots of people would have to travel across the miles to attend? This could be through ‘desire’ or ‘obligation’
- Did we want a wedding that may impose a cost on the guests in terms of clothes, travel and the feeling of their need to give a gift? Do we then need to repay this in some way? I’m going to write another post about this.
- Was it good enough to go ahead with it because some members of family want a big wedding?
- Do we want people there who should be there by relationship but in reality, do little except cause trouble/harm to us or our loved ones? It is meant to be a happy occasion, not one that’s full of fear of these troublemakers, for example.
- Do we need this occasion to bring people together? In the past, there were less occasions throughout the year or even during ones lifetime. Thus people invited lots of people to their wedding. It was a way to meet up. Nowadays, we meet so often. Do we need it for this reason?
- Did we want people to ‘have’ to attend because they’re a cousin/aunt/uncle?
- Did we want a big wedding so that our status was well known i.e. that we were now married? Well, we have FaceBook, Twitter, Email, our on line family tree and so much more. Word soon got out so most people know.
- Did we want a ceremony where the guests do not respect the ceremony itself. Often I have attended a wedding and have not been able to hear anything as guests talk, move around, children are free and loud etc. I have been to others where there has been pindrop silence but this has been rare.
- Did we want to purchase lots of things that went with the various ceremonies? What do we do with it after? Will it amount to more things to keep at home? Will itb used again?
- Did we understand what the ceremonies were for?Do we feel we ‘need’ it to be/feel married?
- Did we actually need to get married at all? Why not just live together?
For all these reasons and probably more, we stuck to having a small wedding. We chose to marry, rather than, just live together because we felt that the latter would be too radical. Also I didn’t want my mum to have to listen to people judging us badly etc. I guess she may have to listen to comments about our small wedding anyway. However, I think that there are many people who ‘get it’ and support our decision. Thus I think she will get less criticism and more support or silence.
To read about how it worked out and what actually happened in the end, read the post titled ‘My wedding day. Did it all go to plan in the end?
M. Joshi · January 23, 2009 at 1:58 am
Although I’m single, I’ve been thinking about whether I would want a large wedding or not. I would much prefer a smaller event like Heena & Suraj had but, I think I’d probably be compelled to invite lots of people as this is what my parents would want/expect.
However, I feel the meaning/purpose of Wedding ceremonies has been somewhat diluted in this modern day. Traditionally, people were invited to bear witness to the holy ceremony of the two individuals & families uniting as one. It was also an event where the local community got together and re-established close bonds. Nowadays, people just chat while the ceremony is going on, come for the free food and music. It seems to be more about status and showing off!
Here are 10 downsides, I think, to having large weddings/engagements/sanjis etc. (Some of which are mentioned in Heena’s post):
1) Cost! – which could be put to better use
2) Conflict amongst family members – sometimes from opposite sides
3) Feels too commercialised and not sacred
4) Higher carbon footprint/not green
5) People feel obliged to give something usually in monetary form which then usually has to be reciprocated later on
6) Increased stress level on both sides of the family
7) Can be long and drawn out (Engagement, Sanji, Wedding ceremony etc.)
8) The expectation to behave/act in a certain way
9) The feeling that your status and that of your family’s is determined by the pomposity of your wedding and how many people are invited
10) All the razzmatazz is short lived.
I’d be interested to hear other views on this and whether or not I’m just sounding like an old traditionalist!
Heena Modi · January 23, 2009 at 8:04 pm
Wow! Thanks Mayank. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and asking for others to comment too. One of the reasons I wrote this post is because downsizing seems to be coming up more and more. As you have stated, it is often such a stressful time, this emphasis on going small seems to be making an already difficult task harder. I hope that this post will help people think things through and perhaps make the organising go more smoothly.
Sagar Shah · January 25, 2009 at 8:16 pm
Really great to read your post on this….
Though I havn’t been involved in the organisation of a wedding as yet, I can only imagine how stressful it must be…
I would find it pretty hard to justify spending thousands of pounds hosting parties, especially when the money could be spent on far more deserving causes…
However, the issue of social norms and reciprocity is one thing that I would find really difficult in the decision to have a smaller wedding (and think thats why most people who would probably want small weddings dont have them).
I generally do not host parties of my own, but attend parties and weddings hosted by my friends and family on a regular basis. If I have been invited to, say, a birthday party of someone who considers me to be a close friend, I would find it incredibly difficult not to invite them to an event that I organise that is special for me. In choosing to invite one individual, and not another, I would feel bad about valuing someones relationship over another…and thats something I would find really difficult to do.
I guess the same would apply for my parents and grandma (though I think my maternal grandma doesn’t believe in having big celebrations)…. so the decision to have a small wedding is something I would find incredibly difficult.
Well done for you guys to battle social norms and conventions and to have a small wedding!
For others facing similar battles, I’m sure the possibility of combinations such as a v. small wedding ceremony with a larger reception may be a possibility. But combining such a celebration with other values may also be really difficult…
there are lots of things, travel, carbon, waste produced as a result of the wedding…I personally would not want to celebrate (esp. having some religious ceremony) anything with the skins / carcasses of dead animals present…….but placing a restriction on what people can wear (especially when many people may not have non-leather shoes) may cause much more social problems.
Heena Modi · January 25, 2009 at 8:45 pm
You’ve made important comments and I guess it just shows that it’s not black and white. It’s not easy. It’s not clear and it’s not without consequence – positive and/or negative.
Imposing values is always a difficult thing. Yes, you’re right.
I guess, as Suraj’s dad was saying, we need to start somewhere and if we don’t start ‘protesting’ against the imposed norm now, what will happen to the generations of the future when they’re lumbered with all this ‘vehvaar’ keeping. All this keeping a tally of who came to which event so you know who to invite. Who gave what so you know what to give back. Who helped and how much so you know what to give back. I don’t know. It seems endless.
Anyway thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂
Meera · January 27, 2009 at 11:19 pm
Dear Heena – sadly i’ve not yet had the pleasure of meeting you but i know the two special brothers and am very happy that they have both found their special someone 🙂
and secondly…your wedding dress is truly precious…i am a simple person myself, but i believe that the simple things are usually the most natural and therefore..the most beautiful..
anyway, I like what you have written a lot. I think its a smart move to think for yourself rather than follow the crowd like sheep..if I ever find a man, i shall keep your viewpoints in mind….makes total sense to have only those that are dear to you on such a special day ! X
Heena Modi · January 28, 2009 at 6:01 pm
Bless you! Thanks Meera. Are you local? Then perhaps we’ll meet soon. : )
Thanks for your compliments about my dress. I chose it for that very reason. Simple but it blew my mind away.
You know even though it was minimal, everyone who was dear to me was not there. However, as you read in my post, we didn’t want to invite so many people and have a huge event. So sacrifices were made but we felt good about it, before, mostly during and after.
Anon · February 5, 2009 at 2:02 pm
I related to a lot of it this post!
1500 people at my wedding!!! Calling it a blur is an understatement!
Worse still, my parents are going through the same self inflicted stress again with my brother…
Anyway enough of the rambling!
Heena Modi · February 5, 2009 at 2:41 pm
Yes I’m with you
Unfortunately we are not alone. I know so many people who say the same.
Perhaps our ‘elder’s don’t see it that way. They are focussed on completing a task, ticking off ‘vehvaars’ in terms of inviting whoever invited them to their son/daughter’s wedding etc. I don’t know. Maybe it seems irrational for them to think this way.
I read a quote recently by Grant M. Bright – Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.
One day things will change. Who knows which way but I guess change is certain right?
Urvashi · February 11, 2009 at 10:22 pm
I loved the article on why you only had 15 people at your wedding and all the related articles to it
Some very true points in them
I had to fwd them to my mum in the hope that she’s start seeing wedding stuff in the same light as me!!
Manish Jain · August 18, 2010 at 6:24 pm
Thanks for choosing this path.
We have also decided similar kind of wedding for our children. Hopefully, they would get ready.
It does not make any sense to spend money without applying brain.
porkchop · June 7, 2011 at 12:16 am
My husband and I chose a super small wedding because of many reasons. We believe in the holiness of marriage, so we had our marriage in a Church with a few friends and relatives. The Church was small, which was nice. I did not like to be the center of attention (I am on the shy side), and he had very little family (he is an only child). We also chose to make it simple, as I do not believe in “excess” and did not want my Dad to pay for something that should be holy and wonderful, not showy and ostentatious. I wore a simple dress and he a suit (not tux), and my bridesmaid was my best friend, who I told “wear whatever you have in your closet”. It was a beautiful and simple ceremony, and the priest said that it was the most authentic and holiest wedding he has every performed. Another friend of mine took photos for us (I didn’t want anything formal), and everyone loved the fact there was no dancing, and just quiet music playing in the background…everyone could actually TALK to each other!! Needless to say, my father was very happy that the wedding cost was so low, my husband and I were so happy that there was no “drama”, and the rest of the wedding party was so happy it was simple, easy, and not complicated.
That started our easy and minimalist lifestyle. Four gorgeous children and 22 years later, we still live very simple life, not complicated with busyness and unreasonable expectations. We live drug-free, TV free, and my children know how to communicate, reason, think, reflect, and live a full and unhurried life, not rushing from one activity to another. All our peaceful and not materialistic. I am so happy we chose to start our married lives like that, and to pass on this gift to my children in this harried and crazy world. Even though we were young, my husband and I were both raised with consumeristic parents, and we KNEW we did not want that for our children. We embrace the quote from Fr. Dubay’s “Happy Are You Poor”…”One is ready for the kingdom when he is so intellectually and morally developed by a love for truth and goodness that when he hears the revealed word he can react positively to it. He is sensitive to its beauty, attractiveness, authenticity.” We feel that embracing this poverty/simplicity is so beautiful and freeing. It has helped us share with the needy. It has helped us to shun the superficiality and shallowness of material things.
Your blog is wonderful…keep it up!!
Heena Modi · June 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm
I’m lost for words!
I’m so glad you posted this comment & shared how you started in a minimal way and kept it going.
My hubby will enjoy reading this and I’m sure it will inspire us in the future as much, if not more, than it has wowed me now : )
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