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Marriage in the guise of a wedding

Updated Jul 06, 2013 02:51pm


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It would be easier to eliminate racism or end poverty… than it would be to make girls stop wanting to be brides.

–Anne Kingston

-Photo courtesy Eefa Khalid
-Photo courtesy Eefa Khalid
In Urdu we have the same word for yesterday and tomorrow and though it might be a factor behind our laid back attitude towards time, we usually know which one we’re talking about. Similarly we have the same word for marriage and wedding. And we all know what we mean when say shaadi. We don’t mean the boring stuff like paying rent, school fees or household budgets. We never think of words like compromise, understanding, commitment. We don’t ever mention words like issues, incompatibility or, bite your tongue, divorce. For us the word shaadi means only the fun and the food; the glitz and the glamour; the beaming parents and most of all, the beautiful, radiant bride.

Dulhan. It may be the first word a girl in our culture learns to lisp. Her favourite doll is probably attired in wedding apparel and her favourite game is getting the doll married to any available gudda. His lineage doesn't matter, nor do his looks, he’s just a prop; the entire affair revolves around the doll bride and the chance to dress up for the attending visitors. Which is fine when you’re six years old.

Looking at some of the morning shows these days (don’t look too hard, they make you feel queasy for the rest of the day) you’d think we’re an entire nation of six-year-olds. Girls whose entire concept of marriage starts and ends with a wedding. A fantasy wedding fit for a princess with all the Bollywood trimmings.

On any given day (unless it’s the holy month when for some reason nuptials seem to be frowned upon) at least one morning show host will display a bride — or six. If one wedding per show is good for ratings let’s make it five. Some of these are mock weddings; some are ‘weddings’ of couples already married (wow — what a wonderful use of time and energy) and some are undertaken under the guise of charity. Destitute girls married off to some guy who obviously couldn't find a girl on his own. There’s music, there’s dance and to make everyone feel even better there’s an extra topping of sawab as well.

Of course, we’re not unique in our love for the big fat wedding. In her book, The Meaning of Wife, Anne Kingston explores how the multi-billion dollar wedding industry fuels the concept of the fairytale wedding where everything — from a classic diamond ring and a designer gown to hand embossed invitation cards and $25 cake knife — is marketed as being essential to make it the most wonderful day of a woman’s life.

Over here it’s a long line of functions — milad, dholki, mayun, rang, mehndi, another mehndi — that lead up to the big day, each with it’s own prerequisite outfit, menu and other trimmings. Then comes the big day and no expense is spared. Be it an outfit that costs about as much as a small car or a make-up package that could set her father back a month’s salary or more, nothing is too good for the bride; after all, her wedding is the most important day of her life.

Really? Wanting your wedding to be the happiest day of your life is basically expecting things to go downhill from then on — is that what every bride wants? Probably not, but her brain isn't functioning too well under the heavy dupatta. The spiel certainly works for everyone else though; from the owner of the shaadi hall to the caterers, the card printers, the event planners, and even the guests tucking into the prawn tempura (biryani and qorma are so last century, daahling). Shaadi literally means happiness for everyone.

But what of the woman waiting in the wings, ready to take over from the bride. What about the wife? Every girls been practising playing the dulhan all her life but that role lasts barely for a few hours. When it comes to playing the wife, there is no script. Not even a cheat sheet.

Maybe instead of bride dolls we could start promoting ‘wife’ dolls. Dolls that wake up six times a night to tend to a crying baby, send their husband off to work on time, cook up a three-course meal, keep the house sparkling clean, drive kids to school and smile with gritted teeth when their husband asks ‘so what do you do all day?’

That might make girls think more about the marriage and less about the wedding — but I doubt it.


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Shagufta Naaz is a Dawn staffer

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (63) Closed

AHA Jul 05, 2013 06:47pm

A great piece on a very important issue, which our culture takes for granted. I hope you will continue to write on this issue and MAKE us think.

Bilal Abbas Jul 05, 2013 06:49pm

Excellent piece! Couldn't agree more.

Shahbaz Jul 05, 2013 06:56pm


aaa Jul 05, 2013 07:09pm

This is surely the concept in many people's minds and used by manipulators. Seen this happen in more than one case. The original glitter is nowadays used to get a good girl and when the glitter is over you see what was deliberately hidden behind all this. So please be ware of people who are too glittery. They can show you branded diamonds and shower with never ending gifts only to find out that they are total frauds. In one case the the marriage was to get all the girl's family money by showing they were rich themselves and yes they were highly educated and at high post but their greed couldnt leave them. The list of such people is never endig. In this era of moderinism be very careful of cheaters.

Umair Jul 05, 2013 07:39pm

I am glad some one highlighted this issue. Exceptionally well written

Alizeh Jul 05, 2013 08:15pm

I agree with the writer to an extent. Yes, one needs to realise that the wedding is just a stepping stone to a new life, filled with new experiences and responsibility. One should never lose sight of that. However, without going overboard, one should still celebrate their wedding in whatever way they can, it's a time to be happy, it's not a sad occasion, I don't see anything wrong in becoming a dhulan or having a mehndi, there's nothing wrong in wanting to celebrate. And if people can afford to have 10 lavish functions then that's their choice and they clearly have the means to do so. Others will and should still celebrate, within their means. When I get married, I want to someday have happy, fun memories of my wedding day/days. I wouldn't want to look back and just reminisce about signing some papers in a court house. As longs as one remembers that the wedding is important but cannot even compare to the importance of the marriage, I don't think there should be any problem.

Khan Jul 05, 2013 08:31pm

Good one. Should be read by girls to be married soon. Perhaps, we should also include such trainings somehow in our education system to let younger generation understand what life is which might also help to reduce the current divorce rate in our society.

Miss Syed Jul 05, 2013 08:36pm

Spot on! I personally don't see the point in making wedding such a long and hectic thing with events like mehndi, mayun, dholkis, shadi, valima and now Chotiss as well. what's wrong with people? just have one day of marriage call it a SHALIMA and that's it! Actually, this madness begins with bride hunting itself.. aside from that, how many times do we go to a wedding and whisper a small genuine prayer for the couple to live a happy life? I have been guilty of that as well. we are all too much into how good the bride looks, whether the dulha is taller than the dulhan etc etc.. It's sad! what matters the most is the life after that BIG day and so long as that goes on smoothly and perfectly who cares about the bride's sharara that she probably never puts on again!!

Rana Jul 05, 2013 08:40pm


Nasim gill Jul 05, 2013 08:41pm

Great article and I advise all Pakistani women to reflect.

Umair Iqbal Jul 05, 2013 09:22pm

Beautiful article. I wish that everyone ponders on this important issue. Hats off to the writer for writing such a comprehensive yet brief article.

Gunjan Jul 05, 2013 10:22pm

Trenchant. But, isn't the view on marriage a little presumptuous too? Why does a marriage always have to be portrayed like a second citizenship for women in satirical context? If it's about scaring off women from wanting to get married, I guess it'd work. But, if it's about preparing them for life, they don't need "wife" dolls, they need "personalities". They need a mind of their own and that would eventually lead them to men who respect that mind. BTW, I have seen enough couples where men wake up at night to pacify the baby or feed kids something better than the dinner of "lauki" that mom served (case in point being my own dad). Don't scare little girls, make them stronger people. Views from someone who is very soon going to be wedded to someone who treats her as his equal!

sahe fatima Jul 05, 2013 10:22pm

Thumbs up! An excellent article.

Faryal Jul 05, 2013 11:24pm

I don't know why the writer feels the need to voice anti-marriage sentiments. Marriage is a part of life. Work, household chores and children are a blessing. At the end of a tiring day a married woman knows that she is loved and wanted. She is a part of something big. She is making her contribution towards society by raising her children, by looking after her husband. Single men and women are more prone to depression. Humans by nature are meant to be in pairs. That is best for them.

Riz Jul 05, 2013 11:39pm

Whilst the article is a good one for teens and twenties girls to read, just for the correction of records, Urdu does have separate words for Wedding and Marriage, 'Shaadi' and 'Nikah' or 'Aqad' respectively. I understand they wouldn't have taught this at the grammar school but a quick look at dictionary or google could have helped!

kammikameen Jul 06, 2013 12:01am

Finally an article that should have been written a long time ago.

Parvez Jul 06, 2013 12:14am

That was a brilliant piece of writing and so true as well but it does not have to turn out the way you described it after the shadi, a lot depends on how she manages her husband. In the end you did come down on the ' guy ' pretty hard ..........everybody knows men are prone to be stupid and the new bride should be informed well in time.

omarqadir Jul 06, 2013 12:54am

well done.

Ikram Jul 06, 2013 01:35am

Ms.Naaz Not sure what exactly you are trying to implying in your last two paragraphs. You can call my opinion old fashion but I still believe marriage is a sacred relationship and the success of it depend on both husband and wife. Like life all the good and rough is part of marriage and dealing with adroitly requires unsurmountable prudence, wisdom and patience. Life was never a bed of roses so is marriage, however it is still the best.

Sonal Jul 06, 2013 02:43am

So what's the point you're trying to make?

Khota Jul 06, 2013 04:25am

No script for the married life? Don't the kids watch their parents, uncles, aunties all of their life - the drama - the passion - the love -the affection....Did someone teach them how to speak, or they picked up the language just by observing, even the local dialects and accents. My mentor told me that the character is caught, rather than being taught.

Talha Vaqar Jul 06, 2013 05:04am

Sister, your article is like a breath of fresh air to the regular visitors of, like me. It is becoming a trend for half-cynical, half-witty writers to dominate the blogs for some reason. Your article carries the conventional wisdom that every human being whether muslim, non muslim, white or black can relate to.

Thank you for writing this. I forwarded it to all my family members, friends and some acquaintances.

Huneeya Jul 06, 2013 06:35am

I love your blogs. Such a refreshing read

Imran Jul 06, 2013 08:06am

Totally agreed with the author. The commercialization of the marriage has taken precedence over the human aspect of the newly weds life after the big day.

On the other hand, I don't think its only girls (wife) to be expected to learn household work. Boys (husbands) should be trained to be able to take care of children, other house work as well. This day and age both spouses have to work in and out of the house and must share all responsibilities.

M. Umar Jul 06, 2013 08:15am

Woww..thats was spot on girl..God bless you.

iqbal carrim Jul 06, 2013 09:36am

Incidentally those morning shows focus on the "Dulhans" and guests mostly in the age group of 20-40.The elderly,teenagers and children are largely excluded,unlike in " real" marriage functions,possibly because they are far less pretentious and glamorous.

Ibraheen Naeem Jul 06, 2013 10:20am

Excellent article. Touches on one of the biggest issues in our society. And sadly, it doesnt seem like things are going to change anytime soon. One thing Id like to add is that there is absolutely no concept in our society of getting to know the person u r abt to spend the rest of ur life with. I find this absolutely insane. We set up marriages to be disasters wen we dont focus on the compatibility of the couple and urging them to talk, get to know each other even for a short time.

muhammad iftikhar Jul 06, 2013 11:42am

Brilliant piece. You seem to be doing much better as cultural critique than NFP.

Jawad Mehmood Jul 06, 2013 12:54pm

Good article. But have read about prophet (PBUH) marriages? U r talking same thing mashAllah. Even u might not have any intention to refer to sunnat wedding ( as per prophet (PBUH) guidance) but there are quite similar. It is time to understand that wedding is not special but the life after wedding is. The more simple the marriage is , the better we can focus on the lifer afterwards. As prophet (Sws) used to refocus on the life hereafter and constantly remind his wives that whatever we all do should add up positives in the hereafter. This concern removed all concerns of the big day but unfortunately we have become short term oriented again and focus only on a single day. May Allah shows us the right path. Ameen.

Salah uddin Jul 06, 2013 05:03pm

Our lives are full of miseries, and wedding is one of the rarest moments in the life that we can enjoy (read for both sexes), and therefore, it makes perfect sense to think about it. And you think, madam, that the girls dont know about the post-wedding complications and hardships? They surely know about it - seeing their mothers, elder sisters and sisters-in-laws having faced such difficulties, but they still wish and long for becoming brides. This is very natural, which you try to prove wrong. And who would like to play with boring stuff like wife-dolls? Do boys like to play with broken or old toys (keeping in view the fact that branded new cars get old after a few years!)? Come on, stop misleading the girls of this nation.

Altaf Jul 06, 2013 05:26pm

I couldn't agree more with you, Ms. Shagufta. No wonder then why it's easy to find four brides these days and hard to find one 'wife'.

Mysitc Jul 06, 2013 06:51pm

Well written piece but in our society where girls are kept indoor as much as possible and are 'trained' under the wings of mothers, I don't think there is a need to put in 'more' effort for their training as a wife.

I believe the opposite. I believe girls in Pakistan need LESS training for their post-wedding life. They are so much 'trained' in the art of domestic politics that it is so easy for them to make an issue out of anything and everything. I believe they should be encouraged to go out, study and work in 'real life' environments so that they can appreciate things beyond family politics.

Gimme Love Jul 06, 2013 08:22pm

What a breeze in the stale write-ups of NFP and co. Thank you for this very well written piece.

sofia Jul 06, 2013 08:56pm

Miss shagufta, when u talked about the role and responsibilities of "wife dolls" , u didnt mention one role " a working wife". Who does have all the responsibilites of a wife and on top of that, she has to share the financial burden of the familiy too, becuase her husband's income is not enough to meet the ends of the family.

Note:This is the thrid time I am putting this comment in, please do publish it becuase its not offensive to anyone.

Beverly Jul 06, 2013 09:14pm

Very thoughtful. THANK YOU!! Ask most married women and they will tell you that they never thought of life after wedding day. LOL

Stressful part is, now the bridegroom not only has to embrace his own role as a Muslim husband but also to start the education process of his dulhan to transition to a Muslim wife.. something that her parents should have done. No fun for the man!!

Parents should teach their children the role of a Muslim husband and wife, and the rights & responsibilities of each. If you can't find good books, google this. some great resources are available there. Islam has provided the details. all we have to do is implement it in today's life.

rana1 Jul 06, 2013 09:46pm

@Salah uddin: seems you do not have a daughter

Curlies Jul 06, 2013 10:06pm

It is true that a girl does not perceive the actual of "shadi" unless she experiences it by herself. She has been watching mother, elder sisters and sisters in law but she thinks her luck and circumstances would be different and above all her "would be hubby" would not be like other typical men. It is good that every girl thinks of a "wedding" instead of "shadi" otherwise no one would want to get married ever. Marriage is certainly not a piece of cake but there is no hard and fast rule about it. Both boys and girls should learn to compromise and mothers should stop feeding boys that only girls / wives should be there to compromise and look after kids, husband and INLAWS....

Omer Khalid Khan Jul 07, 2013 02:28am

Well she has not been able to fully justify her view with enough logic's.

I would what she is trying to point-out is that there is no script. Script would only come with education. There would be no need of any script, when people are more educated.

Saud Jul 07, 2013 05:26am

Very real facts, a nice article relating to a very real life issue.

NEERAJ ANAND Jul 07, 2013 05:49am


Haroon Rooha Jul 07, 2013 05:50am

Nikah is not marriage and marriafe is not vivah. There are solid palpble socoal differences,Yet people these definitions interchangably.

NEERAJ ANAND Jul 07, 2013 05:51am

Well Said...This is so true of India as well

ahmed Jul 07, 2013 08:24am

@Salah uddin: You sound like a typical paindoo Pakistani babu.

Bluedecember Jul 07, 2013 10:23am

Another filler blog by dawn ... What a waste

Myra Jul 07, 2013 11:09am

soooo very true! nobody sits the girl (or boy for that matter) down to explain the challenges they may face in this new relation or how to show restrain, compromise, respect, sacrifice, commitment & love in its many other forms (not just the lovely dovey valentine type). The entire focus is on the "big day" - what about the YEARS ahead tho folks? any chance you have planned that out to a T as you're the wedding itself?

kazi ashraf Jul 07, 2013 12:57pm

What a brilliant article. The fabric of our society is being torn apart, as is evident with the sky rocketing divorce rate in the urban communities. The pressures of consumerism, "i want it and I want it now" mentality and the age old pressures of married life; are made worse by this concept of a princess wedding followed by a lack of attention to what comes next (for the rest of your life; hopefully).

punjabi Jul 07, 2013 01:54pm

wow something that is relevant and useful! really getting sick of NFP's rants about what pakistan was and what it has become and how sad that people have gotten more religious (or that's what he thinks)!

gopal Jul 07, 2013 02:44pm

@Miss Syed:

This is the effect of watching hindi serials.

ANM Jul 07, 2013 02:45pm

@Salah uddin: o dear. you ve just compared a wife to a broken car, that cant be good.

Saadia Qayyum Jul 07, 2013 03:42pm

Sure we know what hardships will be waiting for us after those few hours. There is no point in doing 5-7 functions but whats wrong in doing a sin free decent rasm e hena, barat and valima? Give a chance to brides and grooms to be happy, sure everybody loves getting attention. We all had our times, its now their time feel happy in their celebration and nobody is a kid these days even a 14 year old girl will be aware that she will be taken as rani and will be kept as naukrani!

Muneeb Jul 07, 2013 04:38pm

As a socity are we really producing wifes which will do all this?" wake up six times a night to tend to a crying baby, send their husband off to work on time, cook up a three-course meal, keep the house sparkling clean, drive kids to school and smile with gritted teeth when their husband asks

Trueeee Jul 07, 2013 04:45pm

Oops, i just remembered something......the marriage of a muslim is an islamic rituall....yea...

Oops, i just remembered something......the marriage of a Muslim is an Islamic ritual....yea...

So it has to be done islamically....means, the Nikah maybe in a marriage registration office or Masjid or the Registrar joining at one parties place followed by a SINGLE function called Valima.... by the BRIDE GROOM (Man) as per his load at all on the bride (Lady) and her family from milad to barat and even partly chipping in Valima and also the HM expense...

Anything else we should discuss

Khatri Jul 07, 2013 09:18pm

Gd one.. I totally agree with the writer. She has depicted a true picture of our society. Wife means to work and sacrifices of dreams.

Hafeez Ishak Jul 07, 2013 11:45pm

After reading your thoughts on the marriage, I felt that you have picked up a subject that has the dire need to be addressed. It is imperative that we provide academic and social education to our women. We need to provide them with the opportunities and resources to develop them mentally and intellectually. Which will enable them to reflect on, " What entails to be married." I have always been under the perception that the newspapers in Pakistan, especially Dawn will bring on board higher caliber writers. I believe you need to be presented with kudos for making an effort to address this issue, but at the same token I was disillusioned to see that you did not do enough justice to the write up by appealing to the mentally developed individuals and or folks that are in a position to make improvements to resolve this issue.

Imran Jul 08, 2013 12:43am

very well written!!

Imran Jul 08, 2013 12:44am

very well written!!

MOmer Jul 08, 2013 04:06am

Very well written! So very true...I wish and hope people can open their eyes to the reality.

Today, every husband is in pursuit of making his wife, the best wife in the world...and the wife is in pursuit of making her husband, the best and perfect husband...

Wouldn't it be much wiser...if husband would have made effort to make himself the best husband in the world..then the wife would have got the best husband longg ago!

Unless, husband and wife are not mindful of each other's rights and responsibilities as laid out by Allah (SWT) and shown to us by the Prophet Mohammad (SAW) ... a couple would always have discrepancies.

M. Omer

Ali Jul 08, 2013 08:49am

Very well written article. You are absolutely right, in Pakistan weddings are such a big affair that on one care what will happen to the couple afterwards as long as they had a memorable wedding. When I got married, I (and not my wife's family) bared the expenses for our wedding. I paid the Mehr on our wedding day and we only invite people that we actually knew. Instead of a big wedding, I saved money so that I can provide a better life for my new family. We had a simple wedding, people talked I'm sure, but I was able to buy a house, I was able to furnish it and Alhumdulillah my wife is happy. I feel our Pakistani society need to dig out of the paradigms of of status quo and need to adapt a more pragmetic approach toward life and family.

Syeda Jafri Jul 08, 2013 09:21am

Very true indeed. In our society, we hardly see marriages with a simple, pure start. All we see is a materialistic, sinful start to life that should start with they way Allah has guided us to. It has become too difficult to fight the entire cultural barrier to eliminate these useless rituals.

RPK Jul 08, 2013 09:48am

@Muneeb: I remember my father, working 16 hours a day, doing two jobs, and putting all his salary to my mothers hands, religiously for about 50 years!! Funniest part was, he has to "literally beg" my mother, if he has to buy another pack of Charminar, after he smoked his first pack. And mother refused 90% of times!! My mother brought up three children, one BSC B.Ed, one Engineer and one MBA. All well settled. Now, when I look back, I can understand, what are family values, what is marriage and what is commitment. Who sacrificed more, who sacrificed less, for me it is difficult to decide.

Wajeeh Jul 08, 2013 11:02am

You should write more on this topic especially on the absurd morning shows which are trying to bring in a culture of vanity and competition and promoting spending on undue heads and pushing those in a state of deprivation who can not afford that.

Jazi Jul 08, 2013 02:00pm

Unfortunately, no one in our society grooms their daughter for the role of wife. Here, daugheters are either overly pampered or snubbed. Mothers dont play their roles well in mitigating the small issues of their wives with susral after the marriage, rather negative roles are played which turns the lives of their daughters into hell. In any marriage dispute, wat is seen usually is that initially its the ego of wife and husband but afterwards it becomes the dispute of two families, the same families which were seen rejoicing the maariage few months back. It is very unfortunate that we feel extremly handicapped to fulfill this social contract with responsiblity and commitment. We need social grooming and awareness from our families and schools. Every on must play their roles in bringing the positive changes in our social interactions. Surely, the success will bring peace and tranquality in our lives which will steer us towards better professional goals.

Chowmein Jul 08, 2013 03:27pm

Really? In a society that rarely sees a woman as anything other than a wife, daughter and a mother you think that a girl needs more reminders that the purpose of her life is to send children to school, cook, clean and greet her husband with a smile on her face no matter how tired and exhausted she is after all day's labor?