A Different Kind of Wedding

When we first started to plan what our wedding might look like, we had a clear idea of mountains. I had been long time fan of The Hearnes and the elopements they captured. In fact, it’s safe to say that I had been gathering ideas for potential weddings for a long time and spent the beginning of our engagement figuring out what was right for us. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has pinned wedding related items long before contemplating a real wedding — it’s one of the best things about Pinterest. You just save something that catches your eye and later, when it might be relevant, you can review what still resonates with you.

With dreams of various mountainsides, we turned our attention to the practicalities of our guest list. This is where the complications began.

Our parents, extended family, and friends would all be looking for different elements when it came to celebrating our union. Friends are easy — they just want to drink and dance and enjoy your wedding. When it comes to family, it’s not as clear cut. There is a lot of navigating to do, to ensure everyone gets what they want.

And if we aimed to please everyone, we would be entering marriage in serious debt.

In some families culture is favoured more than religion, while in others, it’s the opposite. Lastly there are families where culture and religion are so entwined, it becomes nearly impossible to separate the two. Between our two families we had 3 separate cultures and religions (not including ourselves). Trying to give each parent what they wanted proved impossible and honestly really made us wish we eloped.

South Asian families tend to lean towards BIG weddings. We have extensive families and social circles and they all need to be invited, or else they feel slighted. Considering the great expense of large weddings, one might think all South Asians are millionaires — not the case at all!

Instead we crushed our parents’ dreams of a band baaja baraat affair. We continued to crush every single subsequent dream each parent held about their child’s wedding day. Roman is an only child, whereas I am the elder child, and only daughter. Many times I felt terrible, because I know parents have secret dreams and wishes for their child’s wedding. However, those feelings of guilt had to be pushed aside, because we could not make any allowances. We wouldn’t be able to accommodate all their wishes, and would end up being unfair. This way, they were all equally upset — and we continued toying with the idea of dropping everything and running away.

An image from the movie Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), depicting how many guests might attend a pre-ceremony event.

Planning a wedding is never easy — there’s all sorts of issues that arise. In my experience, however, navigating interracial, multi-religion weddings where the parents are first generation Canadians, can be extremely trying and tumultuous. Weddings are a way for families to gather, a way to celebrate the retention of a culture and/or religion despite living far from the motherland.

After denying our parents any of the customs or rites they wanted for our wedding, we decided we could not hold a destination wedding. Although destinations are often a way of cutting down on a guest list, it’s not a guarantee, and having a large guest list at a destination would be more expensive than at home.

Now we had to rethink our entire vision for our day. We still had plenty of time to do so, but it was an extremely frustrating process for me. If you know me, you know I like to have things planned out well in advance. To constantly have to go back and change adjust our plans was a personal nightmare. I’ll be writing a Wedding Dos & Don’ts post later this year, so you can read all about the mistakes I made. For now, we will just go on to the decision we settled upon.

We decided to have a multi-day wedding. Being South Asian, this was not a new concept. Traditional Bengali weddings last for 7-10 days straight. What was unusual in our case were the events and their respective guests.

We decided to hold a Mehendi Raat, where only the women from my family and close friends were present. This was held a few days before the legal ceremony. The legal ceremony was attended by our immediate family only. The ceremony was followed by an intimate dinner with our family. Later that night we went to a party with our friends. We ended the sequence of events with a lunch with our extended families the next day.

It’s extremely different from every single thing we had settled upon prior to our reality. You may be wondering where our mountains went — they are still in our future. COVID-19 through a wrench in our plans, but not forever.

I enjoyed our wedding events a lot, but if I had to do it over again, I would elope, no lie. I would come home and throw a party where we broke the news to our friends. This is partly due to the frustrations we felt in planning, but mostly because there’s an intimacy and joy in elopement that I don’t believe exists in big weddings. I know this is a divisive sentiment, and I have nothing against weddings big or small or non-existent. I just feel that society pushes for big weddings (for various reasons) and they are not always the right choice for each couple.

I didn’t go too in depth in this post about the actual events. I will be doing separate posts on each event, and I can’t wait to share the beautiful photos from our amazing photographer, Jennifer Cornwaithe!

In the meantime, you can read about our proposal story!

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