The winter months of December, January and February are known as the wedding season in Bangladesh. It is mid January now and I am still trying to de-tox from the experience. This season, some of my closest cousins got married. I have to say that while it was fun, it was also hectic and stressful when the person getting married is a close one. While I have never been to an American wedding but know enough to draw some comparisons (other than the obvious such as the clothing, the number of events and traditions involve din a Bangladehsi, Muslim wedding), there are several aspects of the wedding in Bangladesh that must be noted. Some observations:
1) The bride or groom does not have the otal control.
- In fact, it is the aunts, cousins, and siblings that basically take control of the situation. They decide on almost every aspect of the wedding, from what the cousins will wear, color coordinating everything, decorating the dalas (the baskets that deliver the other sides’ things as each side buys the wedding clothing and related items for the other), delivering gifts, coordinating the grand entrances, planning the entertainment, and basically making sure that everyone is having a good time at the events. Cousins and siblings are especially important as they symbolize the support of the bride or groom. They must work to impress and deliver. I was surprised at how little my various cousins (including a bride, a groom, and a bride to be for her engagement party) had to say when we were deciding on the colors and how to arrange flowers and everything. This is very different from the U.S. where the term “Bride-zilla” is used freely to discuss wedding planning.
2) The more colorful, sparkly, and gawdy, the better (while still trying to be fashionable and say that you want to be “classy” and “different”).
- The dala especially symbolizes this concept as they are decorated with shiny paper (you want to use them to line the base of the baskets because it reflects everything), the lace trimmings, gold glitter, plastic flowers and real flowers, and other appliqués. You must be a master with the glue gun and getting burned is part of the game (hence the tiny scar on my left hand). We have to make sure that everything is wrapped, spread, and cut carefully. And you literally buy everything for the other- my male cousin got underwear, socks, cologne, toothbrush, soap, shoes, etc along with the suit and formal wear. One of my female cousins for her engagement party received similar along with the sari which are always spread out and pinned in the basket.
3) You are supposed to compete with, and tease the other side.
- At the events, cousins stick together to attack and make fun of the other side. My sister and the sister of the groom and another cousin of mine arranged a song that made fun of the cousins from the bride’s side for example. Nothing like a dose of healthy competition among new families.
4) Nowadays, brides do not cry.
- As the number of “love marriages” increase and “arranged marriages” are no longer limiting, the new trend is getting to see the bride and groom actually enjoying themselves in the wedding. Increasingly, I love that they get involved in dancing at their holud, and smiling at the cameras. While tears are still part of the process, it has definitely decreased from even the previous generation.
5) Criticizing and getting angry and gossiping are all part of the wedding- one cannot escape it.
6) Smiling is an art form.
- The number of photos taken of a family member, especially cousins is almost as much as the bride nad groom themselves and thus smiling and posing is something you just have to master. I do not think that my jaws ever got so much exercise before.
- Your eyes have to get used to and bear the light of the cameras and videographers. It is the closest to feeling like a celebrity when there are dozens of photographers asking you to look at different directions and you are smiling and posing the entire time on the stage and off the stage.
7) Breaking your heel while trying to steal back your cousin’s show on the wedding reception day is acceptable. In battle, anything goes even if you have your hair done and are wearing a sari pinned with fifty safety pins, and are supposed to look graceful.