I attended a wedding this Sunday with my parents. The bride is my mum’s friend’s daughter. We’re not that close but hey it’s an excuse to dress up and stuff yourself silly. It was held at the Hilton in Paddington which I’ve genuinely never noticed before even though I often use the Paddington station entrance that is directly opposite it. I think I have buttons for eyes. If we adhered by ‘survival of the fittest’, I would be long gone. My lack of awareness is pretty concerning.
Inside, we were greeted by the sight of an awesome chocolate fountain. The kids had a field day. I don’t think they even had dinner.
I quickly realised that there was not enough space for all the guests. Now this isn’t because the hosts were being stingy. I’m sure they counted the invitations. They specified how many people could come from each family but being brown, most people ignore this and bring their entire family. Not unreasonable you say? It is when people are bringing 4 children each. Invite 2 families… that’s 12 people already. A lot of the teenage boys were standing for most of the night. It was a real issue.
Looking around the room, I also noticed how all the aunties were decked out in gold (my mother included). They’re wearing their gold malas (big necklaces), karas (big bangles), chooriya (bangles), rings and earrings. Some of them probably upstaged the bride. Why do we have this cultural obsession with gold? I mean I know why. It’s shiny. But seriously, are they not weighed down by all this metal?
I was one of the girls chosen to throw the customary rose petals and confetti on the barat (groom and his family) when they entered. I made it my personal mission to try and get confetti stuck in everyone’s hair (Aliya 1 Maturity 0), except the groom because that’s just lame (Aliya 1 Maturity 1). Then came my favourite part of the wedding… the groom walking in behind the roar of two dhols. They make an almighty amount of noise which automatically puts you in the mood to balle balle and CHAK DE PATTE ie. to bhangra.
Then came the Nikkah ceremony (signing the marriage contract). As per cultural traditions, there are no cute vows. Instead, there are two ‘witnesses’ who speak to the bride in private and make sure she agrees to the marriage and isn’t being coerced. She said yes. The groom breathed a sigh of relief. They also make sure that they agree on the Haq Mehr. This is wrongly translated to as a ‘dowry’ in English when in actual fact it’s more for the bride’s financial security. I’ve heard some brides grumpily complain that it’s like having a figure put on their worth. Also not true. The Haq Mehr is a gift from the groom to the bride hence it can’t be taken back. Some families like to make this a large sum of money to ensure that the guy is properly invested in the marriage. However nowadays, there’s less of an emphasis on it because in the event of a divorce, they’ll probably rinse each other in court. Sad but true.
During the wait for the signing, there was an Imam who recited verses from the Quran that are specifically related to marriage. He spoke (at length) about the importance of marriage in Islam, the benefits of it and what expectations a husband should have of is wife and similarly a wife of her husband. Now I have been to many weddings and heard many versions of this speech. A quote I hear often is ‘The Prophet (s.a.w) said: “A woman may be married for four reasons: for her property, her status, her beauty, and her religion”‘. Now please don’t start shouting at me for blaspheming but I find that quote a little depressing. A woman’s beauty is God-given and hence not really in her control. Her property and her status are usually linked to her wealth and I don’t think a wealthier woman makes for a better woman. Similarly her status and her religion are massively influenced by her family and well you can’t choose your family. So how many of these qualities does a woman actually have control over? What about a woman’s mind? According to that, no-one will have any reason to marry me.
They made a huge mistake in bringing in the starters while the Imam was talking. Bad, bad move. Food instantly distracts people, particularly the kids. The Imam wasn’t impressed. He probably wasn’t happy that they blasted the music after he finished speaking too. Whoops…
Moving swiftly on…when everything’s done and signed, the guests get a little box/bag of goodies usually filled with cashew nuts, almonds and somph (fennel seeds). People actually get quite competitive over these boxes in terms of design and detail. The one’s at this wedding were pretty cool.
Finally onto the food. It was a little disappointing, not in terms of the variety but taste-wise. They stuck to the standard Pakistani wedding food menu.
Starter: Fish, Chicken Tikka and Lamb Kebabs
Main: Biryani, Chicken curry, Lamb curry and Paneer for the vegetarians (who are very poorly catered for at Pakistani weddings)
Dessert: Gajar ka halwa (Carrot halwa- I can’t translate halwa) with ice-cream. Other variations include gulab jaman with ice cream, rasmalai or kheer!
I’m sure I haven’t even covered half the drama of a Pakistani wedding so this really is only an insight.
Over and Out!