The time has come for me to finish what I planned on starting.
Through this new series I hope to share with you my thoughts on the epic weddings that I attend, one failure at a time. But I also want to hear about experiences with epic weddings that turned out to be epic failures. I don’t want to this become a series where I just bash on people who spend a lot of money on weddings. I want there to be some good to come from this and come up with ways to advise the people on how to make their weddings more Islamically sound and socially acceptable.
So hold on to your ghararahs and shirwanis, because this is going to get interesting!
My first topic of choice is going to be targeting the program of an epic wedding, and what causes it to become an epic fail.
Weddings in the motherland don’t normally run into this problem. People back at home know what is important at a wedding–the marriage contract and dinner. The problem starts stateside, where desis are now trying to incorporate American cultural norms and traditions into our cultural norms and traditions to create some type of blockbuster summer wedding program extravanganza.
What do I mean? Well at a typical non-Muslim American wedding there is the actual wedding ceremony in a church followed by a reception. Usually at the reception there are some set parts of the evening: the bride and groom are received by guests as the new Mr and Mrs; the best man and the maid of honor each propose a toast; the cake is cut; there is the first dance; and last but not least, the bouquet is thrown into a crowd of the bride’s friends. Each of the moments is expected and takes very little time. There are only two speeches–which are toasts, and only take about a minute or two max. All of these practices, by the way, are appreciated by all the guests, because there are only about 100 of them there! Nothing takes up a lot of time because there is not a huge crowd to manage.
In our weddings, on the other hand, there are about 500 people, average. So if there is going to a be a program, it requires a lot of planning–planning on a conference-size level. Planning that requires all the guests have arrived (on time, not a chance), that they are seated (busy eating a samosa, sorry), that they’ll all show interest in what you have to say(not going to happen, because no one cares what your chacha has to say about you.)
Too Many Speeches
As it is, maybe if desis stuck to having the TWO toasts/speeches it’d be manageable. However, at some weddings I’ve seen a list of 17 names lined up to give a speech. And what is it? Usually someone’s nana is calling in via conference call to say salaam. Someone’s old mamu gets up to read a poem in a language half the crowd doesn’t understand. The father stands up to give a list of who came from where, and how much it was appreciated they could make it. The best friends come up to bash on their bride/groom friend. Siblings reveal embarrassing and horrible stories about living with you, playing it off as “loving advice” to your new spouse. A slide show plays featuring some of your ugliest pictures and some of your best… both types something you’d probably not want a crowd of hundreds to see. And so on, and so forth. It’s a night of “laughs and tears”…
Let’s be honest, no one besides your closest friends or family cares about the program. Therefore, if you wanted to say all your loving/embarrassing words to the bride or groom say it at home where people want to hear it. Don’t bother your guests with the longest program ever that is going to keep them from dinner. After a while it just feels like each person on the microphone is a hurdle between the guests and their dinner plate… guests shouldn’t be forced to feel this way!
The Walk In
Besides speeches, desis have also adopted some of the other traditions of an non-Muslim American wedding. For example the bride and groom are received by all the guests as a new Mr. and Mrs. Okay, that’s fine if all the guests are there on time. The couple just has to walk in. But as we all know, no one comes on time to a wedding, so the bride and groom are sometimes forced to wait for everyone to arrive to be received by the guests. This is rather ridiculous because they’re missing their own party! And what’s worse is, that 17-name speaker list I mentioned earlier isn’t going to start until the bride and groom are there to witness it all happening.
Okay, so what if everyone is there on time, and the bride and groom walk in together to be received by their guests… that’s all fine. But desis don’t usually know where to draw the line, so we have this new common trend of the entire immediate and sometimes extended family making a grand entrance. People, this party is not about you! Stop acting like you’re walking down a red carpet. Instead, take some attention away from yourself and be more hospitable to your guests.
These are the feelings of guests attending a completely mismanaged wedding. We are hungry, upset, unamused, and kind of annoyed that your program is taking up so much time. Guests come to weddings to socialize and give glad tidings to the new bride and groom. The longer your program is, the less time we have for what we came to do. Unfortunately a lot of guests stop cooperating with the hosts and talk through programs and speeches, which makes the whole thing slightly more ridiculous.
Please, if you aren’t married, or if it is too late for you and your siblings aren’t married yet, consider these thoughts when planning a wedding program. If you want to make an entrance at your wedding, I’ve found it helps to mark it on the invitation with a hard and fast time that you’re going to stick with. If you want someone to talk at your wedding, try limiting it to two people. Maybe a local imam and your father to welcome the guests. Other friends and family will continuously tell you how much they love you throughout the wedding weekend, so there is no need to have them come up to the microphone and tell everyone else… what’s a Hallmark greeting card for after all?