The word “Wedding” is synonymous with color, joy, togetherness and caring. It paints a picture so bright and cherry that you just can’t stop yourself from sighing and saying “Awwwww! That’s so beautiful”. Weddings are supposed to be joyous occasions where people sit together, enjoy the company of close friends and (over) eat lots of amazing food. Now try adding another word as a postfix to it – “Planning”; suddenly, all you can do is sit back on your recliner (because you are bound to faint), take a deep breath, let all the pretty thoughts flutter away like steam escaping a pressure cooker, and bring on the negativity, the anger, the frustration and the disappointment. Truth be told, everyone dreams of having a perfect wedding with the perfect dress, the perfect ring with sapphires and diamonds, the perfect cake and the perfect wedding reception. Sorry to burst your bubble but there is no such thing as a PERFECT wedding. There are an infinite number of things that can and do go wrong, and then some. Planning a wedding is no easy feat – if you have successfully pulled one off on your own or have had some help from outside, I salute you my friend. Having planned one, and that too my own, the only word that can truly describe the experience is “Chaos” – Pure, Unadulterated Chaos.
It all begins once you and your folks sit together with your in-laws to set a date for the wedding. Your parents want the wedding to be in November but they say June; you, being the groom, want it to happen as soon as possible. One says, “My extended family in America won’t be able to come since their children don’t get vacations in the middle of the school-year” while the other says, “The weather’s too hot in June so we’d be better off setting it in November”. As the arguments from both parties fly back and forth, all you can do is pretend to take an interest and fake a smile, all the while thinking, “It’s just a date, for crying out loud!!! Decide already!!!”. After a couple of (no wait – make that ‘four’) mind-numbing earth-shattering sessions that drain out all your positive energy, everyone finally seems to sink into a silent truce, with neither party being totally happy with the outcome.
When it comes to picking a suitable venue, the debate on “Indoor wedding v/s Outdoor wedding” kicks off. When both set of parents agree on Outdoor weddings, they start fighting over their choice of venue, all the while listing the pros and cons of each potential location. With soaring tempers and slightly elevated pitches, the two tag-teams try to wrestle out with their own choice as the victor. Once the decision is made and the venue management contacted, it turns out that the venue is already booked on the date you want it on – and there we go again! A gazillion meetings and an even higher number of phone-calls later, both parties amicably (albeit not civilly) decide on another venue and make sure that it is booked well in advance, before this options has to be ruled out too.
Food plays a vital role in all Pakistani weddings. If the food you serve is not good enough for the guests, you might as well go ahead and label your wedding as a ‘total fiasco’. You’ll be blacklisted from quite a few guest-lists, not to mention all the second-hand bad-mouthing and trash-talking that you’ll be hearing from your so-called well-wishers for a long time to come; they should cool down within a year or two, three at the most. You sit down yet again and start short-listing items for your menu. We Memons have particularly elaborate menus as we need to cater to everyone’s culinary needs – we have to have four essential protein elements i.e. beef, mutton, chicken and fish/seafood; any vegetarian option is struck-off without hesitation. Of all the debates mentioned earlier, this one’s the most fun, what with all the drooling and fantasizing while carefully selecting dishes for the courses; you could collect all the buzz of super-charged excitement in a canister and run an entire household’s electricity on it for a year. Once the hypothetical buffet is set, we all go out and meet potential caterers, the up-side being all the food-tastings you end up going to; my policy in life is never to say NO to free food, ergo, the obesity. Believe me when I say this, but crashing parties (officially, on the caterer’s special request) has never been more fun.
With all these key elements in place, you need to start tending to your personal needs – the dress, the cake, your room, your grooming, everything requires careful planning. After all, you are, or will be, the man of the evening. The thing that bothers me most is that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has their own opinion when it comes to you, even if you explicitly specify that you don’t need it. As a wise man once said, advise is free and people dispense of it as a benefactor dispenses money to his favorite charity – at least in the benefactor’s case, the other party gets some benefit out of the act, but for the groom (i.e. me), there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. It kind of makes you wonder how being in the limelight feels like and you can do nothing but take pity on public figures. In yours-truly’s case, the thing that I was most criticized about was was my weight. Over the past few years, I have been compared to the likes of the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Adnan Sami Khan (before he lost an insane amount of weight). As I had decided that I wanted to wear a Sherwani on the big day, everyone told me that I’d look ridiculous sporting one and that it would look good only on tall guys. Everyone wishes the groom to be tall, dark and handsome, but one of these three criteria is actually frowned upon in the Pakistani society – the darkness! Thankfully I have a very fair complexion and that’s probably the only thing going in my favor. Other than that, I am neither extremely handsome (although I do have a certain aura of cuteness around me and have been told the same by girls my age for as long as I can remember – a few even compared me to a teddy bear so I’m not complaining) nor tall. Unlike all the hunky models posing on Sherwani Billboards, I am very short (5 feet 4 inches) and am actually over-qualified to participate in the world heavy-weight championships; sumo wrestling’s fair game, but I’m too squeamish about showing a whole lot of flesh in public. I am generally good at taking criticism but the worst part was seeing the guys at the Sherwani shop exchanging surreptitious glances and crazy grins as I tried Sherwani after Sherwani. They think the fat people don’t notice such gestures? Well, they do!
You would assume that you will be able to take a sigh of relief a few days before the wedding, but you will be in for a big surprise. There are some unforeseen tasks that keep popping up; no matter how many to-do lists you maintain, you will not be able to check them all off. In my case, my apartment was being renovated and there were so many things that needed to be done that we forgot to check whether the newly installed electric wiring worked properly or not. One of my cousins came to visit the place and noticed that there were no towel hangars in the bathroom. These, and a multitude of other tasks were completed just a few hours before I was due at the venue.
Enough moaning and groaning already! After all is said and done, the wedding itself is a spectacle to behold. It is what everyone promises it to be, and more. You are The Man (and your wife’s The Woman – duh!!!) and all eyes follow you wherever you go. You walk into the venue with your wife in step and the months of hard work that you put into organizing the event pays off; the smile on your parent’s as well as the in-laws’ faces is precious enough. Seldom in your life will you feel so nervous and invincible, all at the same time. It is the most enchanting experience that will last for a lifetime. You can do nothing but smile sweetly once you realize that (a) you pulled it off, and (b) against all odds, rocked the Sherwani too.