Monday, 4 October 2010

Nothing Holy About Pompous Matrimony

It’s been one of them weekends that leave you gasping for air; filled with weddings and babies and farewell festivities. It’s like everyone and their grandma suddenly decided to get hitched, pop a baby or go for Hajj. So it’s no surprise that I feel like a bus ran over me 6 times on this blue Monday morning.

But if there’s one good thing that came out of this weekend, it’s that it cemented my decision not to have a big wedding. I think I’ve only ever attended 2 or 3 weddings in my lifetime where the families don’t want to kill each other over the most ridiculous things like seating and serviettes. And then there is that never-ending guest-list that knows no bounds because you can never invite one and leave out the other… because the “other” baby-sat you on one Saturday afternoon when you were like 2 years old or brought you home one day from school... and it doesn’t even matter that said “other” hasn’t been in your life for the past 20 years. 

It’s like the wedding party feel obliged to please EVERYONE. And the worst part is that most people incur horrendous debts to host these lavish ceremonies for a couple of hours and have to spend months or years paying them back. And the cherry on this cake of madness has to be all those parents who insist on grandiose ceremonial displays to try and convince the world that they're not worthless pieces of shit and are often left paying wedding debt long after the couple gets divorced.  

Well, I’m sorry. The only one I’m pleasing is myself and I’d rather jump up my own ass than sit there and smile at 800 people… 500 of whom I either won’t really know or like, people who just came for the food and to gossip and hand out their two cent commentaries, critiquing everything from the menu to the décor. I’d much rather take the money and feed starving children in Sudan.

So I announced my decision to Mother at one of these do’s while sipping on a glass of water, waiting for the first course to be served. I told her that when I get married, I’d prefer a small gathering, preferably immediate family only. One non-relative happened to be sitting at the table a couple of seats away from us, devoting a batty ear to everyone’s conversations while she gossiped away with her equally batty middle aged friend. She interrupted our conversation and told me what I’ve heard many times from various people. She said “that’s what you say, but you’ll see when the time comes, it’s not your wedding and you won’t have a say because it’s not in your hands, everyone takes over”.

I smiled inwardly, because this auntie clearly did not know who she was talking to. I looked at Mother who sat opposite me, and with my steely determined gaze told her, “You know me. If people want to interfere and tell me what I want, I will call the whole thing off, get on the first plane to Buenos Aires and not get married at all… or worse, I’d elope and have no one there”.

And I really would do that. I just won’t pitch and then everyone would have to eat and fuck off because unlike most people, when I say I don’t want a wedding, I mean I. DON’T. WANT. A. FUCKING. WEDDING! I don’t mean oh-please-go-ahead-and-make-this-all-about-you-and-your-need-to-please-the-masses-and-impress-the-Joneses. And I won’t give a fuck about how “disrespectful” it would be because if people cannot respect me and my wishes, there’s really no incentive for me to respect them and theirs.

No one knows me or what I’m capable of doing more than my Mother does, so she knows I mean every word.

If my future husband’s family wants to host the mother of all receptions... unrivaled festivities... the stuff that dreams are made of... and invite everyone from here to China, they can go ahead. If my sisters or cousins or friends want massive weddings, that’s their prerogative. I’d be happy and supportive on both counts. But personally, I just want a small intimate gathering on my part*, nothing more. I’d be more than happy to get married on a Thursday night in a simple ceremony and then have a braai for all and sundry on the weekend. Now that’s my idea of a perfect wedding.

*For those who don't know, it is customary amongst Muslims to have two receptions: one on the bride's side of the family, with a small party representing the groom's family & all of the brides family, extended family and friends in attendance; and vice versa.


  1. I'm glad you're so determined. We hear, over and over again from the ulama, how ridiculous it is to be spending so much time and money on making weddings lavish and this 'dream' occassion - when in fact it's not supposed to be so over the top. After all, as the hadith goes, (along the lines of): the nikah with the most blessing is the one that incurs the least expense.

    You can have things nice - you don't even need to have the 'least' expense - but don't make it an event to show off to the world. ANd don't make it something that's there to please everyone else - because chances are those who gossip will STILL have something negative to say.

    It's more important to do things properly - within Shariah guidelines - and please Allah, rather than please people. After all, it's like the biggest day of your life - so how can you make it something that's all about pleasing other people - sometimes to immense debt; when your Creator has already given you guidelines.

    If people took the time and money they spent on preparation (over the top preparation, that is) - and put that into going to marriage classes and taking the time to prepare for the actual MARRIAGE (rather than just a single wedding day) - then i think we'd have much fewer divorces and marital disasters.

    A word of caution, though: while you may be so determined that you're not going to let it happen to you - do keep in mind that you may have to compromise in *some* way when it actually happens. But i think you're wise enough (and stubborn enough) to set reasonable limits for such negotiations - so i wouldn't think you'd end up falling victim to the scenarios described in this post.

  2. dreamlife - I know someone who spent R900K on her daughter's wedding. Thats an entire house and a car for me. I think people have become accustomed to going to extremes and everyone wants to outdo the other. It's disturbing actually.

    I'm more inclined to want a "marriage" than a "wedding". Some people get so caught up in the hype that when it's all over they feel empty and lost. And thats partially why people are ever ready to get divorced. Everyone's too plugged into the "fairytale". Everyone's only in it for the good times and when they hit a rough patch, they look for an exit strategy. And all their delusions begin with the wedding because they *actually* believe that the bigger/ more ostentatious the ceremony, the happier they'll be.

    At the moment, I really don't want a wedding, but I have resigned myself to think about it closer to the time.