As a girlfriend of mine began to elaborate on her wedding details and expenses, my eyes grew wider and wider while I tried to comprehend what I was hearing. All I could think of was, “is everyone involved with some side drug cartel business I don’t know about?” How are they spending all this money for a wedding?
Weddings are expensive. And I don’t mean the overpriced-fried-rice-at-Wondermama kind of expensive. It’s the type of expensive that gives people anxiety attacks. Although it’s true that not all of us splurge on that special day, but for most of the people I know, they really went to town. And even shockingly, some even spent more than their means to the point that they had to hold freestyle dance performances by Jalan Bukit Bintang to pay off the debts. Okay I’m not sure if that really happened, but it sure as heck is what it feels like.
It’s strange to think that a lot of money is being invested just for a few hours of your life that has minimal effect on how successful your relationship might be in the future. One day when I was on bridesmaid duty for the nth time watching a bride fit into her wedding dress that cost more than my monthly house mortgage, I started thinking about the pressures burdened by society on young couples to fulfill certain expectations in portraying standards for their big day.
I had been in conversations where it was clear that a friend was not keen on spending all his savings to pay for a fancy reception, but because of social criticism surrounding him at the time he was pressured to do it anyway. Suppose you can’t fork out 30k as part of the wedding gift? Then it must show your incompetency in taking care of someone else’s daughter. Suppose you don’t have a 7-tier wedding cake enough to feed kids in Syria? Then it must mean that it’s not a good enough party. Suppose you don’t have a dress exquisite enough that it makes you look like a walking chandelier from Mariah Carey’s living room? Then you’re not making the most out of your special day. Tying the knot becomes less about two people and more about trying to ‘fit in’ and creating a superior impression. Which, when you think about it, is an extension of a common unfortunate attitude of the society – always worrying too much about what other people might think of us.
From a different perspective, I suppose people’s money is their own. In other words, if someone has the resources and is keen to splurge, then it is their business what they do. This peeve is more focused on a situation when you’re being involuntarily wasteful in the spirit of fulfilling expectations. We all know someone who could no longer go for the trip of their dreams or own their own home, after paying so much for a large wedding where a third of the people don’t even know who the bride and groom are anyway. It is sad to think that once again, social obligation has done its destructive job in hindering us from being ourselves and doing what we want for our own internal happiness.
One day, I was in the car with my Dad and saw a door gift from a wedding rolling purposelessly on the car’s floor. We all know the Urban Dictionary definition of door gifts, folks; an object you receive at a wedding that will end up somewhere behind the couch 2 weeks later. I sighed. “Dad,” I said, “Someday when I get married can we have the smallest reception we could ever imagine and not waste on pointless things?” (I emphasised the word 'someday' loudly as to not shock my father with a heart attack. This is called managing expectations.)
“Sure,” my Dad said. Unfortunately, I was not convinced. Society’s stigma on what is ‘enough’ on a superficial, materialism level is a resilient epidemic, and I don’t think it’s going away too soon.