As I hung up the call with my friend (Let’s call her Kiki), I recollected the bittersweet memories of my wedding. I say bittersweet because for a very long time, I have deliberately forced myself to not recall the anxiety-ridden days of my wedding and yet, I have found myself smiling alone like an imbecile, reminiscing the most eventful days of my life.
Weddings are different in every country and culture. In Bangladesh, weddings are kind of a big deal. So big, that it has a season of its own! Winter, that previously used to mean picnics, pithas and plush cardigans, has now become everything about holud rehearsals, Kachchi Biryani and dazzling lehengas. But hey, I ain’t complaining! Infact, I love weddings. I love dolling up and attending these events where the families put an astronomical amount of effort to make it a night to remember. I love everything about a wedding, unless it’s my own.
Allow me to take you back to how it all began. On a wintry morning of December 2017, I realised that my 25th birthday was approaching soon and I was about to hit a quarter of a century. I quickly decided that it was indeed an affair to celebrate hence, I asked Baba for a destination birthday. In simpler words, a vacation. To my expectation, he instantly agreed and immediately started making some calls. Excited, I went to Ammu to convey the great news to her to which she replied, “25 bochhor ey meye ra destination birthday korey nah, destination wedding korey”.
A week later, she came and informed me that 13 tickets to India have been booked and I should start packing. So on 21st January, 2018, some of my parents’ best friends (who are no less than family), my Fuppi and Fuppa (paternal aunt and uncle) along with my family embarked on a journey that was about to change my life. The itinerary included a three night stay at the beach city, Puri and a two night stay at Kolkata. In Puri, we were staying at a hotel that once used to be a Mahal (palace). The colossal rooms had high ceilings and were decorated with furniture from the 40s to retain its originality. The Mahal had an extensive flower garden in the front and as we entered the reception, there lied the most gigantic staircase I had ever seen in my life. In short, I felt like a princess.
At midnight on my birthday, all my aunties threw me a surprise on the rooftop restaurant with candles adorning a long table. At the end of the table, there was my birthday cake which I had no idea how they managed to score in Puri! I cut the cake and we all gathered around the table to enjoy the salty air and the soothing sound of waves crashing on the beach. Just when we started to enjoy the pleasant night, my aunties decided to transform it into a rather uncomfortable situation with the most frequently asked question to every Bengali 20-something year old girl, “Achha Zaara, 25 toh hoye geli. Ekhon bol, biye kobey korbi?”. There it was. The moment I was dreading the entire journey was right then and I let out a huge “Uffff please, maaf chai!”
It is important to let you know that I was dating my then-boyfriend and now-husband at that time. My boyfriend (we shall call him HI) and I have had the “It’s Complicated” tag for the longest time and after three years of inconsistent feelings that came and left like nobody’s business, we had just started dating properly and it had only been two months since we became serious about each other. That’s a story for another time, but what I am trying to imply is that marriage was something that was not on either of our to-do lists in the near future. So, I decided to hide the fact that I was seeing someone and told my aunties that unfortunately they would have to cancel their shopping plans for Kolkata since I was not ready to get married yet. Of course no one at the table bought what I had said. The interrogation went on for the next hour when suddenly Ammu chimed in, “Okay, what I feel is maybe she is seeing someone and it’s really recent so she doesn’t want to say anything without being sure”. I stared at her with my jaws dropped to the floor. “How on earth did you know that?!” I blurted out. A few gasps, ‘aha’s, and yelps later, I realised what a big fat airhead I was. That night was a concoction of various different feelings. Disbelief, excitement, nerve-racking and happy to name a few. And that is how my marriage with my soulmate was fixed. No plans, no lists and certainly no preparations.
It didn’t hit me that I was going to get married until we reached Kolkata. As soon as the plane taxied to a halt, Baba decided that we should hit all the jewellery showrooms to find the perfect ring for HI. One minute, we were deciding to skip shopping and be tourists in Kolkata for once and the next minute, it was time to buy wedding rings! It took us the entire day to buy his ring. While my sisters happily shopped for themselves, here I was, rejecting ring after ring because nothing seemed good enough to adorn HI’s ring finger for the rest of his life. And all he asked for was some Lays Magic Masala! Little did I know that this was going to be the rest of my year. In between choreographing my holud entrance and picking the flavour of my wedding cake, 2018 was a year in my life that flew away in a blink of an eye.
The wedding is a dream of every girl. One builds this dream, piece by piece, detail by detail as she grows up. So did I. Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of the most simple wedding filled with beautiful memories. Small, intimate and personal was everything I yearned for. My only priority in the entire occasion was that I wanted it to be an experience I could recall with happiness and joy instead of stress and panic. I WANTED everything to be simple, lowkey and modest. I am a very basic kind of a girl. I don’t know how to be ‘extra’ and I wanted everything at my wedding to reflect my personality and style. I wanted it because that is who I am and if anything, I felt like my wedding should represent me and not the society’s standards.I had to fight a great deal with my parents to keep things simple, to not do six events, to not go overboard with my clothes and jewellery, to not invite half the population of Dhaka, to not spend a fortune behind the decor. I wanted my family to cherish every moment of their first born stepping into the next phase of her life instead of having sleepless nights planning a grand gala and frantically running around catering to guests they would not meet again in the next decade.
Don’t get me wrong here. I love big fat Dhaka weddings with the most elaborate and glamorous decor and brides donning the ravishing Tarun Tahiliani lehengas. I absolutely admire the careful detail that is put together by the families of the brides and grooms and if one wishes to throw a bash of a lifetime because she has always dreamt of a Yash Raj wedding, be it so. Every bride has the right to plan her wedding the way she wants but when it comes to sticking to basics, will we embrace the idea with equal grace? How would the society perceive a wedding that does not succumb to its sky-rocketing bars? Is this all that Bangladeshi weddings are all about now? Are Bangladeshi weddings losing the core essence of the celebration and only contending to win the ‘Wedding of the winter’ title?
I was hell-bent to break this invisible set of standards set by an invisible set of Dhakaites. I was adamant on revolving the hows and whats of the most important celebration of my life around me and certainly not some nameless people’s expectations. And so I did. My Not-So-Big-Fat wedding was almost everything I wanted. It surely was nothing short of a battle to convince my family in every step of the way to ignore ‘manush ki bolbey’ and sometimes, I even had to surrender to their wishes. Nevertheless, I am content in my heart to plan and execute my wedding somewhat how I dreamt it to be.