A Little Too Much: On Extravagance in Kashmiri Weddings 

A still from designer Ali Xeeshan’s controversial Bridal couture campaign advertisement

WEDDINGS are once in a lifetime events. Things that don’t usually occur twice. As such, the couple and their families have a lot of “dreams” associated with it. From “Sarnie pritchav” (Invite one and all)  to designer dresses, people tend to feel that this is one time when all wishes and daydreams can be fulfilled without feeling guilty or without having to answer anybody. Add to this the fact that many of the brides earn themselves so they spend on the wedding themselves as well. Having their own earnings and savings gives them a different sort of freedom to choose what they want —the best.

This has created an industry out of this event. The Band Baja Barat of Kashmiri weddings is on an unmitigated and hysterical spree, where those who can, are adding anything and everything to put up a good show. From things that should be served to how the house should be decorated, to how many people would attend the functions, what would constitute the bride’s trousseau; everything has been changing. Everything is being done at a larger scale.

Many people justify this because they are affluent. They justify it by saying that one should spend as per their means and show their affluence as a form of gratitude to the Lord. Hence, this is not to be considered extravagance; this is merely spending as per means. This comes directly from the book of the Lord. “Let the rich man spend according to his means; and the man whose resources are restricted, let him spend according to what Allah has given him”(65:7 Quran)

However, for anyone who talks about religion and hence the permissibility of luxurious weddings, these ayahs should be enough for the Lord neither likes the miserly nor the spendthrift. This does not merely apply to money matters or weddings only. God likes those who do everything in moderation.

“And He it is who causes gardens to grow, [both] trellised and untrellised, and palm trees and crops of different [kinds of] food and olives and pomegranates, similar and dissimilar. Eat of [each of] its fruit when it yields and give its due [zakat] on the day of its harvest. And be not excessive. Indeed, He does not like those who commit excess.” (6:141)

“And render to the kindred their due rights, as (also) to those in want, and to the wayfarer: But squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift.” (17:26)

“And eat and drink, but waste not in extravagance. Certainly He (Allah) likes not those who waste in extravagance.” (7:31)

If we were to put religion aside though and talk merely about human desire and nature, we would abhor these ostentations all the same. When we go for a lavish wedding, parents of the ones yet to be married feel pressured to make similar or better arrangements because this is the new trend and this is how weddings are being conducted these days.

Weddings have always been a show. However, these days the worst that it brings reaches faster and is very difficult to avoid because of social media. The entire entourage from wedding photographers, designers, makeup artists and wedding planners now rely on the easy marketing that comes with the internet. However, with the real faces and real people featured on their business social media accounts; each wedding has become an advertisement. It is quite disappointing that people find it acceptable to have their private life being used as a means to market. Not only this, this cycle also makes every party invested completely insensitive towards the adverse implications of creating a standard of affluence and desirability in weddings. Is this what we stand for?

Collectively we compel a lot of people to spend more than necessary. Sometimes by doing these things ourselves and sometimes by asking people about it. As more and more people indulge in such lavishness, more people are compelled to follow even if they can barely afford it. We make sure everyone complies.

We should not merely have a huge wedding because it is allowed to spend money or absolutely tell no one because we shouldn’t. Both are extreme measures and should be avoided. Instead of merely taking up an ayah and using it to do what we want, we should also think about the impact it has on society, on other parents, on the people to be married. We are making these customs and taunting the ones who don’t oblige. And we — all of us, are responsible for all the evil that we see in our society.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

  • The author is a Srinagar-based columnist whose work on gender, health and society has appeared in many local publications

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