In Uttarakhand, people are choosing shorter wedding ceremonies to reduce the costs of marriage.
Indian weddings are traditionally a time for lavish celebrations, and things have only become more glamorous since this last decade’s consumerist boom. Tremendous quantities of food are served in a ceaseless flow to thousands of guests, many of them so distantly related that they are unknown to the bride as well as the groom. Add to that incredible sums of money blown on extravagant saris and eccentric quantities of gold jewelry. To be complete, the picture also includes the cost of exorbitant dowry. For many, if not all, Indian families, across social classes, marriage is the biggest lifetime expense. Miranda Kennedy, the author of “Sideways on a Scooter” notes: “Indians spend an average of $32,000 on a wedding, $7,000 more than the average American, even though Indians earn only 10% of the American capital income”. For the least wealthy ones, the insane amount spent in organizing the ceremony will take a lifetime repay.
If extravagant weddings are still happening in big numbers, in many locations, the economic logic of this kind of spending is beginning to be questioned. In the heartland of India, numerous are those unable to afford these types of ceremonies. Rather than going into debt, they have developed ingenious solution such as mass weddings (our Commmunity Correspondent Sunita on mass wedding), or have shortened the duration of the ceremony. Thus, in Uttarakhand, instead of the four- or five-day-long ceremonies that traditionally took place, people are now organizing one-day-long marriages. All required rituals are performed in a single day, considerably cutting the costs of the wedding. A bride explains, “Previously, wedding ceremonies lasted for around three days. But now they last only for a day. People shorten the duration of ceremonies to save money.” Money is still spent on jewelry, saris, and catering, but in much smaller, and more reasonable, quantities.
Naturally, in the face of change, many express their nostalgia for the old ways, and their fear of seeing their customs disappearing: “People are forgetting their customs and adapting to Western beliefs,” states a middle-aged woman. And indeed, part of the traditional wedding might be lost in the process, but culture is after all constantly morphing and being recreated. And the same woman who was deploring the loss of tradition adds “There is harmony and bonding among people. Women unite to sing, dance and perform rituals”, addressing the belief that ultimately, it is the occasion of human bonding and communities coming together that supersedes a show of wealth.
Luxmi is our Community Correspondent in Uttarakhand. She grew up in a protective family, but becoming a Community Correspondent has infused her with a new boldness, and strengthened her ties with her community. She now documents every aspect of the lives of people around her. In today’s video, she explores the changes that wedding ceremonies undergo in her region.
As is the case across India, in Luxmi’s village, marriages form a core part of the life of the community, and are long awaited as major occasions to celebrate. If wedding ceremonies have many similarities across the country, they are also highly specific, according to one’s caste, religion, community, and geographical location. Thus, Luxmi wishes to share her experience of marriages, as celebrated within her village through the IndiaUnheard project. Her video gives a unique insight into an Indian wedding, carefully following the bride at every step of her marriage.