Wedding Extravagance: Much Ado About a Superficial “Do”

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

She is engaged and due to be married soon. She spends most of her waking hours daydreaming, perusing fashion magazines, shopping, or imagining what married life would be like. She finds herself ushered more often into the kitchen, and her parents treat her like a princess.

The primary thoughts occupying everyone’s minds revolve around the wedding events that will be held – from the clothes, to the jewelry, to the elaborate menu and exquisite fresh-flower arrangements. Excitement is in the air, and the bride-to-be is on cloud nine.

Her parents are jubilant because they finally hope to see their daughter happily married and well-settled in life; a worry that was beginning to gnaw away at their peace of mind. They are relieved, albeit with a tinge of worry about her future, but the relief – for now – outweighs their worries. Their relatives have to be informed about the imminent wedding; the relentless questions asked by everyone about their daughter’s would-be in-laws have to be answered, and – how can anyone forget – the events of the wedding have to be planned, down to the most intricate detail.

***

He just cannot wait until the months pass between now and his wedding. He is counting the days and getting restless. His parents are in a flurry over the preparation of the elaborate bari – the bridal clothes collection with matching accessories – that they have to display before their extended family before the wedding. The house is being renovated, and household discussion nowadays revolves mostly around which designer to get his sherwani made by, which wedding photographer to summon for the walima, and whether Espresso coffee or Kashmiri tea would be better liked by the guests as a post-dinner sweet beverage.

*Bubble Pop*

In this post, I want to to abolish some stereotypes and intentionally burst some bubbles about marriage; bubbles that are often purported by most to be the actual matters of significance in a marriage. At least, I would like the younger, still-single lot amongst us to know that some of the ‘myths’ they are led to believe about marriage are, completely and utterly, “fluff”.

First of all, whether you are Groom-to-be or Bride-to-be, please take in some hard-to-swallow facts from me, as someone with not just years of experience in her own marriage, but also one who has witnessed many close friends’ weddings and has counseled many of them about subsequent problems in their marriages.

I think it is better for you to know some things about marriage vs. weddings now, during this golden, fantastical phase of your engagement, which no one else will tell you. For some reason, during a wedding, society allows you to naively float in your dream-like delusion about marriage until the first reality-check pops your bubble and brings you crashing down to earth – into real life!

Marriage is not about clothes and jewelry – just the wedding is:

Think marriage in desi culture, and you immediately conjure up images of precious jewelry, ornate and exquisite clothes, and – for young men – a job and a car.

أَلْهَاكُمُ التَّكَاثُرُ

The mutual rivalry for piling up (worldly possessions) diverts you.” [Quran – 102:1]

Please don’t think that you are being given those expensive clothes and what not because you are special, or because suddenly everyone loves you more.

Rather – mark my words – what you receive in your marriage is mostly because of the elders in your extended family: their desires, their dreams about how they want to see you married, and their ethnicity-based customs and traditions.

So, if you receive that precious ancestral heirloom or priceless diamond necklace, it is not to solely make you happy, or to accentuate your appearance. Rather, it is primarily to continue a family tradition or for the sake of show to everyone else – your aunts, uncles and others who care to ask about what you were passed down from your elders (and believe me, your parents get asked a lot of questions during the marriage ceremony about who gave what, and how much).

The clothes, the gifts given to your in-laws, the exchange of elaborate banquets – they are not about you. Sure, they make you feel like the centre of attention and it really feels good to be showered with expensive gifts, but what I am saying is supposed to wake you up and not be deluded: it is more about tradition, custom and – sadly – one-up-manship, than about being courteous, or to express “love” for the other party.

Money talks – loudly:

Remember when you were a kid, and you got a new toy e.g. a new bicycle, which your friends at school or in your neighborhood didn’t have? What did you do?

Well, if I remember correctly, I almost always showed it off to my friends. It is human nature to “display” or flaunt your newest acquisition to others in your age group or social circle.

Age does not change intrinsic human nature. If a 5-year-old flaunts a new costume or toy to his or her peers, a 40-year-old will do the same with a new electronic gadget or a flashier car.

To give due credit, some humble people are still around who curb their base desires and do not succumb to this urge to flaunt; however, sadly, most give in to it.

Nothing brings out this human urge to flaunt in everyone involved, like a marriage in the family!

As for the one-up-manship, some elders in families feel that nothing raises their “honor” or “status” in society (i.e. among their corporate, familial, or business circle) more than oodles of money and cliched status symbols: material assets such as the size of the house, the number and brands of their cars, the price tag of the watch given as dulha ki salami, the value of the jewel given as moon dikhai, the brand name and number of crockery pieces in the dinner set of the jahaiz, and the number of meats at the wedding reception of their adult offspring – to just name a few.

They feel as if the flagrant display of wealth will make them ‘honorable’ among their contacts, and since marriage is an event that will bring together this entire circle of contacts in one place, at one time, they want to splurge on everything extravagant in order to get the “Wow!” and “Ooh! Excellent!” excalamations from attendees.

أَيَبْتَغُونَ عِندَهُمُ الْعِزَّةَ فَإِنَّ العِزَّةَ لِلّهِ جَمِيعًا

“…Is it honor they seek among them? Nay,- all honor is with Allah..” [Quran – 4:139]

I just cannot understand, though, why the elders in Pakistani families do not take a stand and refuse to waste wealth on weddings; why they cannot keep things simple; why do they have to bend over backwards to accommodate the demands or requests of every mumani and every chacha?

“What will Billo Baji say? Remember how she gave her daughter 200 tola’s of sona on her wedding? When she asks me, I will have to tell her that I am giving only 70 tola’s? Haye, what a baistee [humiliation] that will be for me!”

“Munnoo Bhai kept fried fish, prawn tempura, and whole lamb roast on his son’s walima. How can we serve just one biryani and one kabab dish, when we can afford fish and prawns too? What will they think? That we couldn’t loosen our purse strings even on our offspring’s wedding?”

“My daughter deserves to have all her armaan (wishes) fulfilled. We will do whatever she asks for….and besides, what will my husband’s colleagues’ wives say if I tell them that we got her wedding dress made from some average-joe kaam wala from a God-forsaken market in Orangi? We will have to make a designer dress, even if it is very simple.”

“I personally think that dholki’s are a waste, but all my cousins have already decided to convene them at my house during my wedding week. My parents have no choice in the matter.”

(Yeah, right).

“There is no way I am not hosting a banquet on my daughter’s rukhsati! I know that it is not part of the sunnah in Islam to feed dinner to guests at one’s daughter’s marriage, but I have hundreds of colleagues in my company who all invited me to their children’s weddings, and I attended those banquets. I have to return the favor. What will they think, that I couldn’t afford to host a dinner for 500 people at my daughter’s wedding?”

As I said, money talks in society…and it talks very loudly. If one can flaunt hundreds of thousands of rupees in a single banquet, it will help silence many a wagging tongue, and solicit many an exclamation of approval from those whom we seek to impress.

وَلاَ تُبَذِّرْ تَبْذِيرًا

And squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift.” [Quran – 17:26]

Consequently, in desi (IndoPak) weddings, no matter how much the bride and groom desire to follow the sunnah way of simplicity and ease, they sometimes find themselves in a dilemma due to the unrelenting attitude of some elders in their family, who refuse to relinquish their adherence to generations-old wedding traditions and lavish expenditure.

You don’t really know your fiance or your in-laws….yet

The engagement or betrothal phase is not the real thing. It is a time period in which both sides – the guy’s family and the girl’s family – are on their best behavior, meticulously observing the epitome of polite courtesy and akhlaaq in front of each other.

Wallahi, it is not the real thing.

You will get to know what your spouse and their family really are like once the wedding has taken place, and let me clarify that to mean: when the rukhsati has taken place viz. when the husband and wife are cohabiting.

Everyone shows their true colors from the morning after the rukhsati – even you! You will have your first all-out fight with your spouse probably within the first 2 weeks of marriage (I have given much leeway with this estimate; usually it happens much sooner). You will see, probably for the first time, the feathers of your mother- or father-in-law ruffled very obviously – whether you are the bride or the groom. You might see one of them scold your spouse, who might answer back in defense.

Welcome to real life!

You might also start to get irritated by a sister/cousin/aunt/uncle-in-law who always has an opinion about everything that you should be wearing, eating or doing, even though, for some reason, before the wedding his/her “concern” and “involvement” seemed very endearing, and never bothered you. Now, when he or she points out your every mistake or tells you what to do, you might gradually begin to dislike it. Weddings are (in)famous for testing the patience of most in extended families, because everyone in the clan is thrown together in close proximity, again and again, for several days!

All of this will start to happen within the first few days of the marriage, not to mention the fact that your parents might suddenly become critical of your spouse, discreetly pointing out their shortcomings to you:

“Why is she so reserved? Why isn’t she mingling with us freely? This is her home now.”

“He is earning a paltry salary on a contract job. He should apply in big companies, now that he has to support you.”

The question is: why? Why does everyone, including you, change all of a sudden once the wedding has taken place? Simple answer – again, one that has to do with intrinsic human nature: because everyone has finally got what they wanted.

The mutual goal of both families – getting their son/daughter married – has been achieved. So now they – and you – can finally heave a big sigh of relief, take off those gajra’s or waistcoats, give up the facade of “formality”, and be yourselves.

The typical scenario is that most girls’ families can’t wait for her to visit them alone leisurely, without her husband, after her wedding. That is because then they get the chance to pounce on her and target her with their nosy questions:

“What did they give you for your moon dikhai?”

“Is your husband a very stingy man?”

“Did it hurt?”

“Are you on birth control? Are you expecting yet? My Chachi got pregnant on her wedding night!”

“What is your mother-in-law like?”

Nope, dear reader, its not just the bride’s young, single, naive, and immature sisters/cousins/girlfriends who ask her these preposterous questions. Often, none other than the women in her family also barge into her private marital matters. And very few brides can take a stand of tight-lippedness against this barrage.

Once, a married friend of mine was telling this story to another friend in my presence, “When my brother married my cousin, my mother quickly called me towards herself the next morning at breakfast and whispered, “Go, go…..ask her what happened. Find out if they did it or not.” I went, and thankfully my bhabi decided to open up to me immediately,” she gushed amid giggles, as I looked on blankly, trying not to react.

This lady’s family, and especially her mother whom I just mentioned, is a very highly-educated, civil, established family. Her mother has been teaching in institutions abroad since many years.

It is shocking to know, but this happens in more families than you’d think!

Every marriage undergoes trials, which reveal everyone’s true colors, even yours

No matter how much we all would like our lives to resemble a peaceful ride on a smooth-sailing boat atop calm, serene waters, fact is: life is not a bed of roses. Storms come, winds lash your boat, the waves thrash it from all sides, and you cling on to it in desperation, wondering if it’ll pull through intact. With patience and faith in Allah, you more often than not, do.

When we marry someone, we should expect challenges and trials of our patience in the future, no matter how extensively we “investigated” our future spouse and in-laws before agreeing to the proposal. Bottom-line: expect some scary skeletons to come dangling out of their closets to temporarily horrify you out of your wits. Do not be so naive to think that you will not be tested!

However, if the person (your spouse) and the family into which you have married are basically good people at heart, who fear Allah and fulfill the obligations of Islam, rest assured that not only will your marriage work out well, but that it will become the source of immense serenity, joy and blessings, insha’Allah. However, the exponential benefits, such as financial stability, emotional understanding, mutual compatibility, and bonding with the extended family-in-law (not to mention, wonderful little children), will come only after you pull through by exercising patience during the formative, initial years of this bond.

For the bride, I would like to opine that if I had to choose one word to describe marriage for her, it would be: adjustment.

For the groom, that word would be: responsibility.

After the henna has faded away, the flowers in the bedroom have wilted and shed their petals, the beat of the Duff has died down, the aunts and cousins from abroad have boarded their flights back home, the expensive bridal couture, turban, and sherwani have been packed away into cupboards; the wedding night jitters have turned into frank and comforting companionship, and the last succulent balls of gulab jamuns and other mithai have been devoured…….know that your superficial, bling-infused wedding celebration is over, and your actual marriage has begun!

The fun just started, kiddo. 🙂

It is narrated that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:

The woman who brings the greatest blessing is the one whose wedding arrangements are the most moderate.”

[Narrated by Ahmad, 24595. Classed as sahih by Al-Hakim.]

***

For those who understand Urdu, please click here to watch a youtube video, in which Dr Israr Ahmed talks about wedding extravagance, and details the do’s and don’ts of an Islamic wedding ceremony with evidence from the sunnah.

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49 thoughts on “Wedding Extravagance: Much Ado About a Superficial “Do”

  1. I did a lot of nodding while reading this, especially about the excessive display of wealth and one-upmanship. I remember going to a wedding in Pakistan as a child and watching (confused) as the bride’s family arranged, ‘dressed up’ and video taped every last outfit, jewelry set, tea cup and item of electronics that they were presenting to the bride and groom. It had to be arranged like goods in a store window, it took hours, and it had to be video taped so that everyone would know. It seemed ridiculous even then, and it seems even more so now. And I was very excited when I was getting married as (Alhamdulillah!) low-key as it was, but whenever I see a new bride on stage I always feel a little sorry because all newlyweds have a bumpy road ahead of them, but too many of them don’t make it through as a couple so much as they do co-habitants in a tense relationship where the wife tries to stay out of the mother-in-law’s way and the husband just comes and goes like a hotel guest. It’s sad, but it happens ALOT. SubhanAllah.

    1. Jazakillahu khair for your input, Abez.
      Your description of the display of jahaiz and bari is very apt, and sadly, absolutely true. This exhibitionism of materials by both sides is quite disgusting.

      How you described the eventual nature of the marriage of a couple also hit home. I have some friends who are in such a marital relationship; may Allah ease their trial. Ameen.

      For the readers’ benefit, I would like to add here that these of my friends whom I just mentioned as having a “co-habitant” type of marriage with their indifferent husband now, at this point in their lives when they’re in their thirties with 2 or 3 kids, are those who had what is called a “love marriage”: an affair followed by a proposal and then a wedding. Go figure.

      May Allah guide us to have simple weddings that – even if they don’t always commence with “big bangs” – pave the way for bliss, mutual compassion and strong love between the bride and groom. Just like our Prophet’s [صلى الله عليه وسلم] marriages.

  2. Mashallah great article. So true about what you said, I know some of my extended family in Pakistan borrowed money from us in order to have the kind of wedding they could tell people about. While i could understand borrowing money for other reasons such as health or not having food to eat (which they never borrowed for) but to show off at the wedding was just beyond belief. When my family kept my wedding simple and separate we still got remarks such as “there was no tea served at the end” or “why didn’t we invite so and so to the wedding.” Ahh you can’t please people no matter what you do. I am so glad my wedding didn’t put a dent in my parent’s wallet =)
    Great article!

    1. People will never be pleased, Saba. You got that right. So we might as well just aim for the right thing – Allah’s pleasure – and leave worrying about what the world and its inhabitants will think.
      And this borrowing for wedding extravagance is a trend extremely rampant in Pakistan, especially in the middle, lower-middle and lower classes. It is considered for granted that anyone who has the dough in a clan will dish it out for any relatives wedding, especially the dinner hosted by the girl’s family on her “baraat“.
      The most blessed weddings/marriages are those in which the least money/wealth is wasted, which are convened with the most financial ease.

  3. Jazaakillah khayr Sadaf baji. I don’t have to tell you you’re an “expert” of sorts on this! And all this frank writing is exactly what people need. That includes, like you said, still-single people like me.

    The funny thing is, I do try and try to think very seriously about the *after* marriage time and not be led astray with false ideas but the way you put it, it’s actually beyond what I could imagine. But then, you speak from experience and I am still an observer.

    Another thing I liked is how confidently you’re backing simple weddings here. For some time now, seeing various weddings (including those held by people teaching at religious centers of learning), I’d just given up in the idea that a simple wedding is possible. Rather, I’ve resigned myself to expecting the whole extravagant package. It’s because there’s this idea amongst elders that if the groom’s family wants a simple, plus segregated wedding, that’s possible but if not, there’s no question about the bride’s family placing “demands” before them.

    1. The latter part of your comment is very unfortunately true, Ameera. I think in society, it is the groom’s family that should be more acquiescent towards the girl’s family – as they are asking for their daughter! What more could anyone give?

      But in our Hindu-influenced Pakistani culture, the guys’ families always go about with the upper hand, because they consider it an “ihsan” to be even considering a family’s daughter for their son. Sort of like, “Do as we say, or we’ll go for some other girl, as many girls are sitting around, waiting for proposals. We can get any one we want.” I personally refused the proposal of one such haughty family, after the guy’s mother became offensively critical of not just my hijab, but also of other things in our family. The only reason she had “picked” me for her son was because I had a Computer Science degree from FAST! Actually, they were very shocked when they realized that an unmarried girl had the courage to refuse their proposal.

      I think that if a girl’s family ever encounters an arrogant family with such an attitude, they should not hesitate to just flat out refuse them, because if the latter can haughtily dictate and demand their wishes before the wedding, imagine how they will treat the girl AFTER she is living in their home as a daughter-in-law!

      On the positive side, there still are, alhamdulillah, many humble guys’ families going around, who do not make any demands on the girl’s family and rather refuse to accept any jahaiz or dowry, and give the mahr to her in full as soon as she comes to live with them. That happened with me!

      Parents in this day and age should trust in Allah and rest assured that, if they keep their duty to Him by following the sunnah of His Messenger [صلى الله عليه وسلم] in marrying their children, Allah will bless the latter with matrimonial bliss.

      Instead, what most parents of girls (even religious ones) do, is look around at other “religious” families, and quote their example in order to still perform extravagant wedding customs, such as, “Look, so-and-so also hosted a big banquet at her daughter’s wedding, and she gives a dars at [religious organization]”, or, “So-and-so works at [religious organization] and she still gave her daughter a bedroom set and fridge”, or, “Fulaani covers her head but they still had no segregation at their son’s walima!”

      All of these statements represent a low self-confidence in following the sunnah, and an innate fear of people’s criticism and comments during and after the wedding.

      Few things please the inner human self more than being lavished praised (“wah wah“) by others about your son’s/daughter’s wedding function, their exquisite clothes, or the beautiful and impressive decor/arrangement. Few have the guts to give up hearing that praise and exclamations of people’s approval for the sake of Allah and His Messenger [صلى الله عليه وسلم].

      May Allah guide us all to do what pleases Him the most. Ameen.

      1. That answers my concerns perfectly, Jazaakillah. I see it’s all about trusting Allah(swt) and continuously making dua that He will make it all easy in that way. He can make the impossible, possible so why stop trying? I hope I remember that, Insha’Allah. Man is constantly in need of reminders!

  4. Sadaf baji – you spoke/wrote my heart out! Just WISH things like these would CHANGE people.

    Par then I think of all the Islam-based websites and magazines that are out there .. and then I think of the Qur’an that is also out there.. jab woh he log na parh sakay na samajh sakay na apna sakay… tou is sab ka kya faida? Does anyone change reading these things? I know my answer… changing hearts is upto Allah.. our duty is to tell alone. But still.. the heart doesn’t silence in peace with this.

    1. A person can only change when the heart changes by absorbing the Quran. Then one’s heart literally aches when one sees the sunnah being neglected. It then hurts more to disobey Allah, than to hear a few taunts of critics and antagonists.
      When the affluent class changes its trends, the illiterate masses follow suit. That is why the Prophets of Allah would convey the Divine message first always to the elite of society!

  5. Much of what you wrote hit home, sadaf! I got married when i was 19, and though i hardly spent any thought on my wedding preps, i was probably more naive about what awaited me, because for me it was out of the examination hall and into married life 🙂 And that’s when i realized there is so little books can teach you about life. Yes, education should be our highest priority, there is no substitute for it, but there should be training for real-life too.

    7 years down the line, i’ve finally got a grip and since most of my friends are tying the knot now, i make sure i get a one-on-one time with them and prepare them for the after-effect of the wedding: marriage .. 🙂 And if Allah wills, may we bring a change to the generation we produce and make them more aware about what life is all about. I hope we can break through the fairytale ideas that have been floated around for many generations especially through the happy endings in Indian movies which people take as bible for marriage. I hope our coming generation will turn to the Quran, not only to read or understand but to actually apply. If that happens, i think all our troubles, marital or otherwise, will be solved.

    1. Jazakillahu khair for your input, Ruhaifa! You are 100% right that education and books can mostly not teach us what real life always does.

      I hope our coming generation will turn to the Quran, not only to read or understand but to actually apply. If that happens, i think all our troubles, marital or otherwise, will be solved.

      I couldn’t agree more! That is what I plan to do as well, insha’Allah. Our children need to be raised with their feet on the ground – and there’s nothing like the Quran that can make them shirk fantastical, make-believe ideas for actual, practical solutions to very real, day-to-day problems.

  6. 🙂 Enjoyed reading, brought back the memories of the things that most bothered me during the pre-wedding days. dint like their choice of clothes so was dreading the valima dress, and imagine they had the audacity to send gold jewelery with a dress that required a silver colored one 😀 .

    Anyways most of the time its such that we give lectures to others while for ourselves v would never follow the same laws. At our nikkah khutba, it was mentioned that the rukhsati ceremony should not take place.. and i really thought it would hit home with the in laws but dint, not that they forced us (they probably wouldnt have minded or said no had v said it) but my parents never let the topic surface. not just this, also in the nikkah nama, the bride gets the authority to take a ‘khula’ or divorce if and when she wants but that was brushed off by my parents, i was so furious, my dad later said he had no idea i felt so strongly about it. anyways the other side wouldnt have agreed as my husband is adamand that this is a completely unIslamic point in the nikah document.

    Of course most of the things going on during that time are the dictates of the ‘larka wala s’ side. i ve seen friends who love mehndi crazily, not applying it on their wedding as the husbands dont like it. and my cousins who hated even the smell of it had to apply it as the husband wanted it. oh and the most important, getting the hair removed from the private parts, that too by waxing, thereby exposing the areas when ur not supposed to. i know girls who got fever from the scare of the pain that it would cause, but their mom s wouldnt have it any other way. god hate such dominating moms, rather wonder how girls tolerate them, no wonder they want the girls to marry young while they still have control over them. even the night wear is selected by them, :P.

    Anyways would be real nice if the weddings are simplified. had a friend who was still studying and so was the husband (i.e. not very well settled) but no matter how much convincing i tried on her, could not deter her from a designer dress and make up from Tariq ameen, who was charging extra as he was coming especially from lahore just for her. 2 points, first what lot could she have done with all that money , and second i some how dont understand how girls get their make up done from guys…. any was personal choices but her stance was that she had dreamed of these two things since she was very young.
    anyways may Allah give us the ‘aqal’ when its needed as we all get it afterwards anyways 🙂

    1. Wow, powerful comment… very interesting… and scary too! The hair-removal part is just wrong, very obviously. A woman’s satr before another woman is from the navel to the knees and I know most of us would be shy uncovering even the parts that aren’t technically part of satr (Alhumdulillah for modesty!). How, then, do people go and do the unthinkable and impermissible? Simple – lack of knowledge, following their own desires and, more importantly, no fear of Allah(swt).

    2. @Tabassum: your comment caused some laughs!
      But yeah, Ameen, may Allah give us all – young or old – the wisdom, aqal and taufeeq to stand up for, and be content with, what Islam ordains for every aspect of our lives.
      We only live once, and most of us get married just once, so let’s do it right the first (and probably the only) time!
      Thanks for your comment.

    3. I personally know a woman who had her ankle length,lustrous and thick hair chopped off just because her husband-to-be didn’t like it!!How can girls even agree to such people?

  7. Masha’Allah. Excellent blog post. I must say, I do agree with every single thing you’ve written in there. And very bluntly written too. Honestly speaking, I look back on my first few months of marriage, and I think that I prefer being two years in even though the newness of marriage has rubbed off a bit. I hated the initial tip-toeing, not knowing what the rules were with my in-laws and the new expectations from us both from our respective families. Things have calmed down a little now and we’ve both learnt what the ‘protocols’ are. Mind you, I won’t be subjecting my own children to such a long engagement or extravagant wedding, insha’Allah. I will do an ‘intimate’ wedding. Invite immediate family (which will be big by then, insha’Allah) and be done with it. And I will set the rules about asking personal questions – unacceptable and totally rude, if not haraam. Is it haraam? It must be.

    1. You know, Bushra, your comment got me thinking…
      So many non-Muslims have intimate weddings, even celebrities, and most of them have these weddings in their churches or other religious centers.
      Food for thought, eh?
      I also do not miss my newlywed stage at all! As you said, it was full of uncertainty and walking on eggshells for months, since one doesn’t know one’s husband and in-laws very well during that stage.
      Alhamdulillah, with the passage of time, a Muslim marriage gets better and better….like homemade achar (pickles), especially if it is kept “in the heat” for some time, the spouses become closer than ever. 😉

  8. Yaar ab to designer jewellry, designer clothes and wedding planner kay baghair shadi kesay ho? We (Pakistanis) are extremists aik taraf koi limit nahe paisa “phainknay” ki aur dosri side people don’t have food and shelter. I agree there are rich and poor in every country but we are a poor country, we should not forget that we are a muslims and should give proper zakat and help the needy. People have money to spend on parties and clothes etc but they look very empty handed when its about helping others. Not everyone is like that, but they are very few in numbers.

  9. I didn’t get the time to read the whole article but I read parts of it.I personally would be absolutely fine with having just 50 guests at my wedding but when it comes to the wedding dress and jewelery I will have a hard time compromising.I do dream of a Bunto Kazmi dress complete with the requisite polki jewelery even though it will probably cost me an arm and a leg.

    I thought I would never say this but I am quite thankful to Allah that He didn’t give me so much wealth to squander.If I was more well off I would never bat an eye but living a middle class existence teaches to frugality and Alhumdulilah prevents you from doing many wrongs!

    On another note from what I have heard from people girls aren’t sitting back and letting the boy’s side rule their wedding.Instead I have heard of a few who are demanding lak’s worth of Mehr.I know someone who’s wedding got called off because the guy’s side wasn’t giving as much jewelery as the girl’s side was giving to their daughter.

    1. Jazakillahu khair for your insights.

      I thought I would never say this but I am quite thankful to Allah that He didn’t give me so much wealth to squander.If I was more well off I would never bat an eye

      It takes courage to admit that. I think when things are a bit out of one’s reach, one tends to desire them more. The one with no transport would be overjoyed to have a small car; the one with a small car and no money to buy a bigger one will desire a BMW; and so on.
      Those speaking from experience know that once the wedding is over, the pricey embroidered clothes go into their boxes for good, especially lehnga’s and gharara’s, only to perhaps be worn at a subsequent sibling’s wedding. Then the nagging guilt eats away at you, when you think thoughts such as, “I could have used the same money for such-and-such expense..”

  10. Excellent article, Sadaf baji.
    I really, really hope to have a very simple wedding myself, Insha’Allah! I hope I’m able to take a stand if need be and find a guy who appreciates my desire to keep it simple, rather than consider it to be an unnecessary “petty” issue.

  11. Masha’Allah, this is a great article Sadaf.

    You know, I thought I was the only one who would severely offend my husband if I ever mentioned that the first week of my married life was the worst-ever and I still don’t believe that I got through it in one piece. Although I had had a simple wedding and valima, the superficial “do” came in the form of continuous dinners and lunches in the first week, completely disregarding the fact that both my husband and myself were exhausted to the bone and wanted some peace and quiet – and privacy. I believe it is not only the bride and the groom who are dazzled by the wedding and need a reality check. Both the families need to realise the issues at hand immediately after a wedding and prepare themselves accordingly.

    1. Yes, I agree that the post wedding dinners add a further toll on the already exhausted, in-need-of-a-breather couple.
      The endless swarm of well-wishing relatives constantly surrounding both bride and groom from morning till night severely disregard their personal privacy and add to the stress. Sadly, for some sisters, this routine never ends.
      I know a friend who told me that, from Day One of her marriage, she faced morning by stepping outside her bedroom into a household brimming with people (in-laws), visitors who would keep dropping in, and servants. She could not have a private word with her husband until they retired to bed at night. She went on like this for 6 years putting up a smiling face, until she couldn’t take it anymore. Only then did she start asking for separate accommodation (and by that time, she was about to have baby number 3!).
      I am glad you brought up this issue. 🙂

  12. salamu ‘alaikum,

    jazakillah khair. how would you advise if you (female) are living with your parent (father) with your husband and you are annoyed with the criticisms of your spouse by your father…the talking down, the over critical ness and the getting in the way and not giving space. though i am his daughter sometimes i don’t like to be around in the house unless he is busy…to avoid such annoying conversations. he naturally thinks it is his obligation to advice as the older experienced elder, but sometimes the wiser thing is just to be quiet and not say something/offer advice on every single matter.

    1. وعليكم السلام
      This is something that is common, especially in a marriage that is somewhat new.
      You have to first understand why your parent is doing that, in order for you to be able to find a solution to the problem. There could be a number of possible reasons:
      1. The parent wants to continue to feel needed by their offspring, even after the latter’s marriage.
      2. The parent has low confidence in their son- or daughter-in-law’s abilities to handle day-to-day issues.
      3. The parent has an innate resentment towards their son- or daughter-in-law for “taking away” their offspring from them. Consequently, he or she tries to criticize them in order to let it out.
      4. The parent doesn’t want their authority in the household to be undermined. They do not want to be ignored, left out or treated with less importance than before, something which naturally happens as a result of an adult offspring’s marriage.
      I think, by making the parent feel needed and important, one can reduce this criticism. Also, nothing like being politely honest and telling them, “I do not like it when you criticize my spouse. Please appreciate their good qualities instead.” Honesty works!
      You can mention any one of your husband’s positive qualities whenever your father criticizes him in your presence. Insha’Allah, that should work in the long run.
      Hope this helps. 🙂

  13. Assalamualaikum,

    MashaAllah! Sr. Sadaf, I always love reading your blog and loved reading the awesome advice in this post. It is very relevant for me because I’ll be getting married soon, inshaAllah.

    Ever since I became a little bit more practicing, I always had my heart set on a simple wedding. I know that what matters more is your marriage afterwards and not the day of the wedding. But sadly as many have mentioned before me, it’s not so easy. If the in laws (the guys side) are not willing to have a simple wedding then most likely you won’t be having one. That’s the sad truth. That’s not to say one should give up and totally succumb to the demands. One needs to have a lot of hikmah to maneuver the crazy roads leading up to the “big day” and definitely even more afterwards.

    Right now, I’m focusing on being hijabified and keeping my eyebrows intact to the best of my ability on the nikah/barat and walima days. It’s not only an outer struggle but an inner one as well because you see everyone else giving in and the constant barrage of people telling the bride to be to “let loose because your shadi only happens once”. Just like you mentioned before, it all boils down to our priorities. Do we value the love of Allah and following the sunnah more or do we value the love of people and doing things in order to please them and to avoid their criticisms? It sounds easier to do but is much more difficult in reality.

    The part about everyone showering the bride with expensive gifts and family heirlooms (stuff that you might probably use once and then stow away in your closet)…I never understood why they have to do that even when they know that the bride to be will probably never use it. I thought that it was their weird way of showing their love but what you said makes a lot of sense. It’s out of tradition that they do this and their need to show off.

    I feel like a lot of emphasis is placed upon the wedding and the beginning days of marriage. It’s like every desi girl was born to be married. It is looked upon as a destination and a goal when it should be understood as a journey and a means. So many high expectations are placed upon these days (“the best days of your life”) that one is bound to come crashing down.

    JazakiAllah khair for this awesome post. If you could write about some real advice for the newlywed bride and groom on how to best handle their beginning days which will lay the foundation of their marriage for years to come…kinda like a do and don’t list perhaps…I would be so grateful. 🙂

    1. وعليكم السلام

      Jazakillahu khair for your feedback and insights.

      If you could write about some real advice for the newlywed bride and groom on how to best handle their beginning days which will lay the foundation of their marriage for years to come…kinda like a do and don’t list perhaps…I would be so grateful.

      I wrote such a post, called Reality Bites About Married Life, a few years ago. Please read it; I think it will be of benefit to you, insha’Allah!

  14. Assalaamu alaykum

    Masha’Allah great article Sadaf. SubhanAllah coming from a psuedo-desi/ western upbringing, I can relate to what you wrote. I say psuedo desi because even though my ancestry is Indian heritage but being a 3rd generation S.African we don’t have all the cultural traditions that ‘authentic’ Indians have but still have some of what I call retarded traditions that evolved from it but what I want to touch on is the issue of the ‘after
    the wedding.SubhanAllah it’s so true that unfortunately many girls & even boys are groomed to learn the do’s & don’ts of the wedding but nobody pays attention to teaching them about to deal with the issues of early marriage & the speedbumps that arise. I have always told many sisters including my daughter that the first 5 yrs of marriage are the most difficult. I remember everyone telling me that the first 2 yrs are the honeymoon phase & then things get tough after.SubhanAllah so not true! Many sisters are surprised by this statement of mine & ask why.The reason being is that in my experience, it takes about 5 yrs for spouses to really learn about & figure each other out! besides learning about each other’s family & how to deal with each person’s personality & quirks.The toughest being the in-laws for most.Alhamdulilaah I have been blessed by Allah to have in-laws that never really meddled in my marriage & home affairs but while living with them, I too had to be very careful of everything I did especially coming from a home that was breaking up. As we all know that when you come from a family where the parents marriage is breaking/ dissolving the girls especially in desi culture have to work extra hard to prove they are NOT like their parents/ mother’s!
    It is very, no extremely important for girls to be informed not at the time of marriage but from the age of 16/17 as to the realities of married life & how to over come those speedbumps. You need tons of patience, holding of your tongue & most importantly knowing that the woman has to make the most sacrifice in this area compared to the man. It’s not an issue of fair or unfair it’s an issue of do you want to make it work & have a peaceful & blissful union or not? There is alot to be said on this subject, so I’ll stop here.

    1. وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته

      Jazakillahu khair for your input, Safiyyah. You forgot to mention something about yourself that I think I should, for the readers’ benefit: you are a mother of four, who has a married daughter and a six-month-old granddaughter, yet you are still not forty! 🙂 There, that should make people sit up and learn more from what you have to say about marriage. 😉

      I have always told many sisters including my daughter that the first 5 yrs of marriage are the most difficult.

      I completely agree! The first 5 years (and some wise women insist that this number could even go up to 10) are the most difficult. My own marriage is 6.5 years old, and I can testify to the fact that, alhamdulillah, at this stage my marriage is much, much better than how it was right at the start! I have heard that it gets even better as you go further along, and I hope and pray (for myself as well as for other women) that this turns out to be true.

  15. Very interesting post. There’s a lot that I agree and some that I disagree with – but the flashiness and showoffiness of some desi weddings cannot be understated, nor can the interference of family be underplayed. Both play their parts in ruining marriages!

  16. JAK, great article, very interesting
    however, coming from a very different family background, with my immediate family (grandparents/first cousins) here being none Muslims living 1000ish miles away and all my Muslim relatives being across the Atlantic. I don’t really have much experience in the Muslim wedding game, it can’t honestly be that bad? can it, or was it just the focus? I haven’t really had much experience, my only real in-depth experience was when my brother married a christian, they did the Nikah in our families living room and had a slightly larger family get together at her aunts house. We started at 9 am finished by 3 pm. From what I read, I wont be so lucky…

    1. I think the culture is the major influence on Muslim wedding celebrations. Perhaps in your case, depending on which culture your future wife’s family hails from, the wedding might be simpler than the ones we are used to here in Pakistan and India, where a multitude of lavish wedding functions have been the norm since decades.
      I admit that most weddings in the West are much simpler (and less taxing on the invitees as well), but the people used to a high-flying lifestyle overspend and splurge in the West too, I suppose.

  17. ooh marriage article 🙂 love those. had to read it lol.

    I think this whole extravagance/no hayah trend is simply obviously a pointer to the bigger disease in our hearts. With the rampant lack of knowledge, the super duper tightly knit culture we’ve got going on, add to that the joint family system that brings in the herd mentality, i don’t know if I can blame people for just ‘going with the flow’.

    I think most people are way too weak to stand up to the opposition that would come their way if they didn’t give in.

    I think if somehow we did away w/ the joint family system, you’d see alot of people having some space to do their own decision making in life. But the whole thrown together for years and years thing, i think wears them down. They are forced to think like a unit, like a society, to ALWAYS consider EVERYONE else’s feelings even if that means ignoring Islam. karna parta hai. whatever lol.

    Man when i went to pakistan, even though i was visiting family, but especially in karachi where like we couldnt go out every second of the day with three kids (and soemtimes not even walk down the lane to the beautiful park cuz of security issues), and we were cooped up, we started to get cranky with eachother.

    so i think while scores of ppl would probably love to do it the simple way, i think their society just doesn’t ‘allow’ them to do their thing.

    you gota have real guts to stand up and be different. Tooba for the strangers.

  18. was skimming some of the comments and i have to say i agree. ive been married 7 years and definitely the first 5 or so years are the most difficult. In those years, you might wonder, god i shoulda stayed single 🙂 After those years, u think I don’t know WHAT I’d do without this guy 🙂

  19. subhaanAllaah, i felt like the last paragraph was talking directly to me! (today it will be two months, inshaAllaah). alhamdulillaah, i feel so lucky that no skeletons have popped out of the closet as of yet, since i have known my in-laws since childhood, and they have seen me grow up.
    i really wanted my wedding to be simple, but as u said, it’s all about what the elders want. i insisted from the beginning that clothes and jewellery weren’t important, and that has been proven because i haven’t even worn half of them yet! tsk.
    and my wedding was “supposed” to be segregated, hence i dressed accordingly, and what a disappointment it was when all the male relatives came sauntering in, and there were cameras flashing everywhere!
    may Allaah forgive me and give hidaayah to us all. Aameen.

  20. masha’allah…this is the most perfect description of desi marriages i have ever read lol! Really describes a lot of my family members *sigh*. jzk for highlighting these important points about marriage, and thnku so much 4 that urdu lecture at the end-it’s the perfect way to get my family to understand!

  21. Your reflections are appreciated, though I feel as if this article, as well as others, are speaking to extremes. There are a lot of shades of gray, and presenting such a black-and-white scenario seems like more of a vent than practical, realistic advice. Your experiences and musings have a lot to offer, I just feel that they need to have a touch more pragmatism.

  22. Assalamualikum
    Jazakallah for the lovely post. Alhamdulillah it was an eye opener and much closer to reality when I looked around my surroundings and weddings in my families. I was reading about inviting tons of people to wedding, even at the time of our Prophet PBUH, we see in traditions that Nikah and wedding used to be so easy, people used to get married and then inform the Prophet, and at that time they used to love him more than any thing at that time. I dont know why have we made Nikah so difficult upon us. and best way to do it is to follow the way of the sunnah with minimum expense. People might say things at that time but they forget after one month, as a matter of fact they appreciate it. I remember when my sister got married my father did it very simple without any banquet even though he had a lot of pressure, but alhamdulillah other people have followed his lead.

    1. Wa alaikumus salam,
      Yes, its true that when one person takes a step, some people eventually start following their lead, even though at first one is afraid about what they’ll say. We need more such initiative-takers in our society to revive the sunnah of simple weddings comprising of just the nikah at the masjid and a walima.

  23. True story! I am not unaware of the post-wedding issues, but I’d rather be on cloud nine for these few days 😀 hehe! I’d prefer a simpler wedding myself but my in-laws won’t listen. Nor do my parents come to that. I’m very much afraid of the nosy preposterous questions…since I’m getting married in family and my sisters-in-law are my cousins too they’re going to be over-frank, to the point of invading into privacy. And I seriously have no idea how will I ‘take a stand of tight-lippedness against this barrage’ as you put it. Please give me some suggestions on that 😦

    1. May Allah bless your upcoming marriage, Zahra, and grant you happiness. Ameen.
      What other advice can I give you except that, when you are faced with nosy questions, just smile, shake your head and say, “I can’t talk about this/I can’t tell you that.”
      That’s it! 🙂

  24. Subhanallah I was one of those girls that had a pretty big wedding. It was not extravagant compared to other desi weddings that I’ve been to, but it was compared to what my parents could afford at that time. LOokong back though, I would’ve traded all of that, all the food, music, 300+ guests, hall, etc. just to be able to have my extended family be there. My entire extended family lives overseas, and while I did have the wedding of my dreams, I’d give it all away in a heartbeat if it meant that my aunts, uncles and cousins could’ve been there. I guess the lesson I learned is that its not the quantity or quality that counts when it comes to a wedding, but being surrounded by people who truly love you and are genuinely happy for you. Sigh.

    Also, I’ve noticed this designer dress trend and don’t really see what all the hype is about when it comes to designer clothing. I picked out my wedding dress fabric/ material from a wholesaler in India, and had it sewn by a regular tailor who my family recommended, and alhumdulillah it’s still the most beautiful dress I’ve seen. 🙂

  25. Asalam waliykum.

    While reading this, i could not help but smile and nod in agreement to all that you have said. I am not asian. I am arab and we also have a very similar process.
    Its so comforting to read this very honest article. Most lie tremendously about the realities of marriage. You have defiantly hit the nail on the head with all you have said.
    I wish i had been informed about this before my marriage. Although i did not expect marital bliss 24/7 i did wonder at times if what i was experiencing was normal or not. Alhamdulillah no i do. a few years late but better late then never i guess.

    I totally agree that once married the fake facade is removed. And we all see one another’s true agenda and true colour. And i could not agree more with the statement you made that for women its a HUGE adjustment and for the men its the responsibility. Which is ten fold for those who are responsible for siblings, mother, and grand parents as my husband is.

    Allah barek feek for your honest approach you surely will help many.

    .

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