Wow! Who doesn’t love a wedding? Little girls (including myself) were brought up on the notion of a romantically shiny big-scale production that gave us a promise of new life or a new start at something mysterious & wonderful- more wonderful than anything that came before. In fact, little girls were taught by osmosis- what they saw on TV, the mass media, the movies, what they read in the magazines, and what they heard older women droning on about – to expect something really wonderful & heavenly when they got married.
And the whole wedding industry in India and elsewhere is based on that grand fiction- that girls are just biding their time until they get married & have a wonderful life. Little do we know that the grand life starts & ends at the wedding. It’s like going to a party or a movie at the multiplex- you believe all the vapid escapism right up until you come home or walk out of the theatre, like the great party or the movie the fuzzy good feeling stays with you a little while longer than with a flop party or a film. With the passing of time, you remember the film or a get-together with fondness but the sharp excitement is gone. That’s the foundation of the Wedding Industry.
The Wedding Industry is older than the hills apparently. In India, marriage broking is the oldest profession- it’s a version of ‘the world’s oldest profession’. Remember the old days, when a venerable old man (at least older) would go around in a veshti with a bag of passport sized snaps, horoscopes and handwritten or typed bio-datas? Now it’s all been taken over by the matrimonial websites- infinitely riskier than some guy you can lynch if anything goes wrong.
Does it matter that Indian marriages are surrounded by tradition and Western marriages are rooted in capitalistic & commercially engendered desires that make brides, brides’ mothers, and their attendant satellites exclaim, “I have to have this” & “But this must be done! What will Everyone say!” In spite of the fact that we claim to be progressive human beings, our entire commerce revolves around Birth, death, marriage (and consequently divorce) – not necessarily in that order.
The American wedding industry claims it’s not seen a lag in growth due to the economic meltdown. In fact, many jewelers say their profits come in from the sales of diamond engagement rings. Though gemstone professionals claim that rubies, emeralds, sapphires and the like are gaining ground- it’s the same percentage of women who preferred gemstones above diamonds who are making these purchases- not new converts to the brilliance & beauty of gemstones.
Nope, the wedding industry is bright & burning – women want to get married to prove their worth. Whether their parents find a partner for them or they themselves snare one- seems like a woman needs a man to make her whole. You’d be surprised – Indians are dabbling in event planning – why? Because planning a wedding is akin to standing in front of an oncoming train- and having/wanting to do it. Our baggage of ‘tradition’ & culture is fodder for the event management sector, all we need is Reliance tying up with ‘The Knot’ (well-known wedding industry website), and India will enter the 21st century way of planning life on the Internet.
The West is a funny place- they make up the rules as they go along. Case in point is the establishment of the diamond engagement ring rule. According to the Internet (and we know everything on the Internet is true), De Beers was the reason diamonds became the precious stone of choice for a man to give his fiancée. Though with the discovery of diamond mines being discovered almost on a daily basis, due to advanced mining & recovery techniques- I’m tempted to ask: what is so special about a diamond? Diamonds have little or no resale value unless they weigh over a carat. Of course, we hear of diamonds selling for millions of dollars per carat – but the fact is that the diamond itself is HUGE. Not like the ones on most mass-manufactured diamond rings, which are less than a carat. Sometimes, they’re just 0.1 carat.
But who really cares about that? We all love buying into the perfect wedding and spend copious amounts of money on things we don’t really need in the belief that this will lead to a magically happy married life.
That’s leads me to another question why do Indian parents of daughters splurge on getting their girls married to strangers? Sure we all want to throw a great party & show off our wealth- but maybe we could contemplate not spending so grandiosely & give the precious daughter a gift she can count on – when she really needs it?