What is a “wedding” really supposed to be like?

S2E02–9 Days to #chhabhi

Chhavi Agrawal
5 min readSep 1, 2021

Hello beautiful people ☺

With 9 days left to #chhabhi, today I am going to share with you what “wedding” means to us; not commenting on “marriage" as an institution, as that is a different discourse altogether, but only focusing on the “wedding day" for now.

But first, what did society teach us about weddings?

There are primarily three sources from where we get to learn about “weddings” of our culture — content in movies/television/OTT, social media, and of course, the ones we attended for ourselves.

These are some themes that I found common across all these channels (feel free to add more in comments, if I missed out on any)

  • Though in today’s society everyone is equal but when it comes to weddings, “ladkewale" are more equal than “ladkiwale"
  • It’s okay for the middle-class parents to spend all their life-savings on the wedding-day, and if need be, take a loan too; after all, “saari zindagi kamaya hi isi din ke liye hai", and “samaaj me izzat ka sawaal hai"
  • Since, “the wedding day is the most important day in the life of a woman", she must don the priciest lehenga that she can afford, which she will, at best, wear only one more time in her life.
  • The bride (and the groom), must “look” their best on the D-Day. Hence, their beauty treatments must start weeks before the wedding, “treating” all their “blemishes". And, whatever they cannot treat, the “makeup artist" must cover-up, and whatever remains still, must be taken care of by the “photographer” (adding the priciest salon, makeup-artist & photographer within the already stretched budget)
  • All the reeti-riwaaz should happen in a picture perfect manner, and as per the photographer, irrespective of the relevance or meaning of those actions.
    So what if we have to hold those rings (or jai-maala)for extra 20 minutes in our hands, in different poses, long after the ceremony is over? So what if we have to do all the actions twice during the havan for them to capture the best shot?
  • “Oh we know that the 7 vows (saat vachan) are not relevant anymore, but bolne ke liye bol do beta, chahe andar se mat manna…"
  • It’s completely okay to block roads and obstruct traffic with a baraat procession, because after all “mere yaar ki shaadi hai"
  • Food — “Shaadi me guests khaane ke liye hi to aate hain" so they must be served 100 different options, even if 90% goes to the bin afterwards.
    And, “shaadi ka khaana hosts ko thik se kabhi naseeb nahi hota…dusron ki me hi kha lena”
  • Lastly, the most obnoxious one — ‘shaadi ke baad ladki parayi ho jati hai'

But wasn’t the essence of a wedding-day supposed to be the coming together of the family and friends, to bless the new couple?

Wasn’t the role of our community supposed to be to help each other during such events, rather than pressure each other into financial stress, in order to establish a superficial status?

Most importantly, shouldn’t the focus of the couple being married be more about understanding each other (and themselves), their expectations from this marriage, their values, belief systems, aspirations etc…instead of squandering all that valuable time in conforming with the toxic societal “beauty” standards? Isn’t it our responsibility, as a society, to make each other feel loved and included, the way we are?

What we both are trying to achieve for our wedding?

Honestly, we are so inextricably entangled in all this, at so many different levels, that it is nearly impossible to really go back to the first principles and understand what “wedding” actually means to us.

However, since we were somewhat clear on what it doesn’t mean to us, with certain trade-offs, and a lot of stressful negotiations with our parents (and relatives), I and Abhishek were able to plan this wedding in a different, more mindful (and controversial for some) manner which resonated with what we believe in and not with the assembly-line like proceedings that happen because they have to happen…

Here is a summary of some basic themes we managed to set for our upcoming wedding —

  • The marriage will be a simple legal formality (court marriage under the Special Marriage Act which doesn’t mandate any of the Hindu rituals to have been performed). We are not against “Hinduism", but don’t want to participate in rituals that we believe have lost their meanings, or are not relevant anymore …
  • There will be absolutely no difference between ladkiwaale and ladkewaale. Both the sides and their guests will be treated equally.
  • There will be no vidaai or kanyadaan. There will be no transfer of ownership of the girl from one family to another; only the union of two families, to form a bigger family (status of both the parents remaining equal). We will live together wherever we wish to. Simple.
  • Even after the wedding, there will be no preference order in any of our parents’ house. We both will spend equal amounts of time living together with each others’ parents.
  • There will be no elaborate lena-dena within extended generations, based on their relation. All guests will be treated equally (age being the only differentiating factor) and will be gifted uniformly, thus avoiding the stress of satisfying already inflated and insatiable egoes.
  • The hosts (we and our families) will avoid as much stress as possible during the preparation phase, so that we all can be mindfully present in every action or event related to the wedding.
  • We will shop responsibly, and only when necessary.
  • Instead of one big gathering where we hardly get to spend time with all those people who take so much effort in making it to the venue, we would host smaller multiple gatherings, spread across a few months (covid concerns too here), so that we can do justice to the time people would take out for us.
  • We will write our own vows and would conduct that ceremony in a conscious, and personalized manner (will talk more on this in a later post), so that we both can enter this new phase of our lives, with utmost self-awareness, and be invested in this sacred relationship with a commitment that is relevant to us.

I suppose that’s it for today; will delve deeper into some of these themes in the future posts and will share some anecdotes as well.

Till then, do let me know your thoughts, if you wish to…

(Again, the intention of this post is entirely to express what I feel and believe in; there is absolutely no intention to hurt anyone’s sentiments)