The big, fat Pakistani wedding

Published March 16, 2014
According to Freiha Altaf, the hottest theme this shaadi season is Ram-Leela weddings! - Photo courtesy: Rukhsati
According to Freiha Altaf, the hottest theme this shaadi season is Ram-Leela weddings! - Photo courtesy: Rukhsati
May bride Juggan Kazim tied the knot with Feisal Naqvi in a dusty pink outfit by the House of Kamiar Rokni while guests from Lahore's celebrity brigade also dressed to impress.
May bride Juggan Kazim tied the knot with Feisal Naqvi in a dusty pink outfit by the House of Kamiar Rokni while guests from Lahore's celebrity brigade also dressed to impress.
On her big day, Teejays heiress Feeha Jamshed was a vision in an Umar Sayeed creation with a traditional chattapatti border on the lehnga.
On her big day, Teejays heiress Feeha Jamshed was a vision in an Umar Sayeed creation with a traditional chattapatti border on the lehnga.
Mehreen Syed married Ahmed Sheikh in a regal HSY bridal ensemble with matching jewellery.
Mehreen Syed married Ahmed Sheikh in a regal HSY bridal ensemble with matching jewellery.

On the 'big' (and first) day of a bride's life, she may choose to make do with the bare minimum or spare no expense to make her 'happily ever after' the most memorable and talked-about affair of the town! Odds are most of us will choose the latter over the former.

We are obsessed, inspired, enamored, enchanted, intoxicated, fixated, bewitched and all in all enthralled by the idea of marriage; or at least by the idea of having a wedding.

From the actual match-making process to the day itself, it is an event in a Pakistani’s life that seems to surpass the importance of birth, death and graduation … at least in terms of sheer hullabaloo and fuss.

A wedding in our culture is not a union of two people or even two families; it is a full-fledged circus. One that requires the precise juggling of family members, in order to keep everyone in the forefront, as though it was an affair put together for the sole purpose of showing how important they are in our lives. Then there is the tight rope walk across the arrangements, since it is no less than a four day exhibition of jewels and ‘jalwas’.

Nothing brings out the expert in us quite like the preparations of a budget family wedding. There is of course the essential ‘phuppo’ or ‘khala’ who is a consummate relationship expert, ready with advice for all your shaadi preparations and even life after marriage. They will drop nuggets of wisdom till you have firmly tied the nuptials. We all have a wedding planner in the family, a ‘chachajaan’ or ‘tayajaan’ who knows a cheap caterer to call for a budget wedding and where to buy the perfect roses that don’t burn a hole in the pocket.

A big fat family wedding also brings out the entertainers in any clan. The ones that take over your big day, so utterly and completely, that in actuality it ends up being their day in the spotlight with you as the scenic background. The dynamics of wedding planning have changed so rapidly over the last decade or so that the celebrations today, even in the highest echelons of society, are poles apart from what they used to be. The game changers have been people’s ability to spend, their obsession with perfection, the referencing of Indian cinema as well as the sudden appearance of the quintessential wedding planner.

Gone are the days when women of the house got together to gift wrap your trousseau amidst the beat of the dhol and the coquettish giggles of expectant future brides in the family. The head of the family is not stressed about the food running out or the flowers arriving late. All he needs to do these days is dig deep into his pocket and pay for a wedding planner to take charge.

If there is anything else that brings out our inner nuptial junkie it is the celebrity wedding. The media knows how insatiably curious we are as to the details of the ceremonies of a famous person. We not only want to know who is tying the knot with whom, we want to know who is attending, what is being worn and what the guests are going to stuff their faces with. The year 2013 seemed to be every A-listers’ choice for setting the date it seemed. Let’s take a trip down memory lane with the most talked about weddings of last year.

One was that of TV personality Juggan Kazim last May. Juggan began her new life with advocate Feisal Naqvi amidst much fanfare. People were left breathless by everything from her dusty pink jora to the beautiful fresh flower arrangements at the venue. She chose to wear a gorgeous traditionally worked yellow creation by Nomi Ansari on her Mehndi and adorned the lightly embellished farshi by the House of Kamiar Rokni at her wedding reception. For her Nikkah, she had decided on a deep red ensemble by Fahad Hussayn. This Anarkali-inspired kurta was worked on the shoulders and had Juggan wearing a dupatta trimmed with an exquisite bronze and red brocade panel. The guest list read like the cast and crew of a highly fashionable telly play. From designers to musicians, Lahore’s celebrity brigade was present and dressed to impress.

Feeha Jamshed, designer and heiress to the legacy of Teejays, decided to walk down the aisle last August. The bride and groom chose the colour cream for their outfits on the big day with Feeha wearing a most sumptuous design by the maestro Umar Sayeed. Every inch of her deep cream ensemble was worked in dull gold thread with hints of sea green and the lightest magenta around the edges. It was a pleasure to see the old tradition of chattapatti used in the border of Feeha’s lehnga. Anyone who is anyone in the fashion and entertainment industry attended, including Mahira Khan, Ayesha Omer, Sanam Saeed, Faiza Samee to name but a few. Mahira Khan also wore an Umar Sayeed, and looked divine in a combination of pink and green.

Another celebrity that was given away in style was fashion designer Misha Lahkani. She chose to design her own wedding lehnga and was looking a picture in cream and gold. Her jora was worked intricately in roses of the deepest red and emerald vines to which her jewels were an exact match. She chose to bring out the embroidery with her accessories and wore the back in fashion jhoomer with great aplomb.

In Lahore, supermodel Mehreen Syed celebrated her big day last year, marrying Ahmed Sheikh a prominent tycoon and son to fashion designer Nasreen Humayun. Her orange Mehndi outfit was a creation of the inimitable Bunto Kazmi. Both bride and groom looked surreal in white on their Nikkah and it was royalty all the way. Then, Mehreen was resplendent in a maroon HSY design with jewels to go with her regal jora, a multi-stringed necklace (sut-larra) reminding us of an era when style meant elegance and attitude.

Popular event manager Freiha Altaf is not only known for the corporate events she throws together, she is keenly sought after for designer weddings.

“Every family has a different budget which can range from someone willing to spend half a million to those that can go up to Rs10 million on getting the best from their planner,” said Freiha, about the kind of money that is spent on the nation’s favorite celebration.

“Usually there are week-long events per wedding which is why weddings are really tough to plan. People these days are asking for themed weddings mainly based on the latest hit Indian film. For instance, recently the hot theme was the Ram-Leela wedding. Another trend is destination weddings. This means people fly out to a specific destination to celebrate their special day. Dubai and Morocco are the recent hotspots,” she elaborated. She went on to add that the Dubai-based weddings usually have Indian film stars performing for the guests. The element of entertainment and that also of the most professional manner is the demand of today.

Umar Sayeed seems to have carved a niche all his own in the cut-throat world of fashion. He is best known for his bridal wear and for being his own man. In his own words: “I do not follow trends.”

When asked to predict what would be hot in the coming season, he brushes aside the notion that bridal couture has changed in any major way over the last 30 or so years.

“There have been slight variations in the ensembles worn by our brides but there really haven’t been any major changes. The perception of colours has changed in people, where they were once superstitiously against wearing black; they have now accepted it as a chic colour to be worn at weddings even by the bride,” Umar Sayeed explained. Other than trends, he informs us that the factors to consider before starting on the wedding wear are multi-layered these days. There is the time of the event to consider. “People are now arranging day weddings that start at noon and end by 6pm, generally when the weather is pleasant. Another important thing to consider is the destination these days.

“A wedding in Dubai will require an outfit that has western elements incorporated in it. Brides go for a white dress designed like a gown when their weddings take place outside Pakistan. Some of the favourite destinations today are Malaysia, Hawaii and Bangkok. Therefore the locale plays a pivotal role in how the dress will be styled. Elements of that particular culture will be infused in the design. Then the thing to consider is the jewellery or accessories that will be worn on the day,” he added.

Some say things have got out of hand when it comes to wedding spending. Yet there are those that argue that it is a day that comes but once in a person’s life and should be an occasion to splurge if you have the wealth. There’s hardly anyone who does not want to get pampered and powdered up for the one day when all eyes will be on them. We all get to be the leading ladies and gents on that day for the feature film of our respective lives and hence a little drama is to be expected. Even if having Bollywood wedding comes at a blockbuster price!

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