Big Fat Indian Wedding
As I was doing some wedding research I came across this video about the Indian wedding industry which totally blew my mind. How is it possible that South Asians spend $65-125k on weddings (triple the average cost of the average American one)?! Just to put it in perspective, thats the downpayment for a house or, to use my friend Sarah's logic, enough money to buy a burrito every day for the next 35 years! That's a lot of burritos! Joking aside, to understand why these numbers are so high I had to take a deeper look and this is what I've found.
In my opinion, the cost is driven by 2 main factors: the # guests and # of events. The more people you invite, the more people you'll need to feed, and that is usually the most expensive cost. As for events, your typical American wedding has a ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception. The typical Indian wedding has pre-wedding ceremonies (vidhi, henna parties, garba, bharat, etc.) along with the wedding ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception. This means there will probably be multiple venues, multiple invitations/inserts to account for all the itineraries, more catered meals to serve, and decorations to cover each event. Exhausted yet? On top of all of that, most venues require you to use their caterer which means they have a pretty high fixed rate. To add an extra twist, sometimes a venue doesn't even have a caterer that provides Indian food, which sucks when you want to serve...Indian food.
At this point you're thinking...Badal, if the cost is stemming from the amount of people, then why not just invite less people?!? GREAT QUESTION.
Short answer: I've been going to weddings at least once, if not twice every summer ever since I can remember. So basically I have to invite everyone whose weddings I've been at to my wedding otherwise I'm the jerk who doesn't care about family and doesn't respect tradition.
Long answer: This tradition of inviting everyone you know and their mother seems crazy to us Americans but for Indians it's been the case for many generations in India. Not only would you Invite family and friends but you'd invite your entire community. Traditionally communities in India were (and still are) pretty closely knit, so its only natural to invite everyone. We place a lot of value on family, and the definition of who you consider family is very inclusive, which is actually a very beautiful thing. Now, that's not the problem when you have the money to afford a big fat Indian wedding. The problem is when Indians living all over the world feel this social pressure to keep up errr--- out do the Joneses. Even in India, families are going into a lifetime of debt just to pay for these extravagant weddings. If that's not a reason to change...I don't know what is.
When you have such large families it's not that easy to start cutting people off, especially people that you see at every other wedding you've been to. Doing that can cause grudges and rifts in the family, especially with older generations that have been through it and made their children go through it as well. Even when you set that negative aside and just start counting people you do want there, the numbers add up quick and the next thing you know, you're at 200 guests for just your side of the family.
Now my favorite part, style. This may ruffle some feathers, and I really don't intend on hurting anyone's feelings, but no one talks about it and it's about time someone does. Most Indian weddings are all the same. Extravagant, lavish, over the top, and expensive. To someone who hasn't been to one before, they are a spectacle, amazing and one of a kind, but to me they all blend together.
What I've realized is money can't buy taste. But what's one to do when Indian wedding decoration is completely dominated by people who might not have the same taste as you?! I guess I feel a little sad about the way the Indian wedding industry has paved it's way in America. We've replaced traditionally beautiful elements like block prints, pure silk, and marigolds, with much bling-ier aesthetics. Again, it's difficult to choose when there's not many options let alone GOOD options for South Asians living in the states. I created my Etsy shop, made by badal, to add a unique voice and style to the South Asian American community. Something I can't do on my own unfortunately is event design. SO if you're a vender, or know someone who is that wants to collaborate on revamping the South Asian wedding world, drop me a line!
It's hard being a first generation Indian that wants a simple but beautiful wedding and still has to meet expectations. I guess, being in the transitional generation means you gotta make some sacrifices or make some things happen. Sigh...my kids are gonna have it so easy...
Right now, I've been in the process of emailing venues left and right. Let's just say that the quotes I've been getting are far beyond what I thought they'd be. Jai and I are looking at about 350 people for our wedding. I know, 350 is a lot of people. 300 is family, 50 are just our friends! It's beginning to dawn on me that I'm going to have to broaden my wedding budget by a lot. And for me, someone who has been thrifty her whole life...that's not that easy to digest. The idea of spending that much money has made me so conflicted. Why even have a wedding at this point?!...but that's not what I nor my fiance, nor our parents want either. So, I'm on the hunt of finding a venue that's not a chain hotel. Maybe a warehouse, or an estate...heck I'd even do a garden. What do these things have in common? Light. I want lots of natural light. Something simple and understated and beautiful because of it.
Stay posted, I'll be writing a new blog post about venues for large weddings soon enough ;]