Who wouldn’t love to have a lavish wedding with multiple day affairs in exotic locations with latest trend of decorations, food, jewellery, clothing, etc.; since we are grown up in such an environment where weddings mean to be that. But have anyone wondered how much a wedding cost to the parents? It’s not just the money, it’s much more. To say it metaphorically it costs on an average, 1 liver (25 lakhs), 3 cornea (3* 30 thousands) and 2 kidney (2 * 5 lakhs) transplants for an average middle class loan-addicted household.
Weddings are a huge industry in India, with an estimated 10 million taking place each year. The Indian wedding industry is reportedly worth Rs 1 lakh crore and growing at over 20% annually. Most Indians would ideally like to have a big, fat wedding, but not everyone can afford one. It’s not uncommon for Indian parents to start saving for their children’s weddings decades in advance for the ceremonies costing millions and sometimes crores. Parents have to, whether they like it or not, save up Rs 50 lakhs to Rs 60 lakhs per daughter for her wedding. Many middle-income families do not have a lot of money, but because of Indian society they feel the need to put on a display. The desire for one-upmanship only makes matters worse; your wedding has to be better, your menu should have more food, your location must be glitzier, your jewellery must be more expensive. It just goes on and on.
A wedding puts a lot of pressure on the middle class. You may have educated your daughter; she may be a very talented child, but there is no getting away from the fact that you will have to spend a certain amount of money on her wedding. Even parents want their girls to marry into a family that is financially better than their own and let her be happier, for which they are ready to spend extra penny. If someone is earning up to Rs 10,000 a month and has three daughters, how will he manage? Somehow, somewhere, there has to be a cap on this kind of expenditure. In a country where there are so many poor people who cannot afford two square meals a day, we are willing to spend Rs 20 lakhs to Rs 30 lakhs for the Guest list that runs into the hundreds and can even stretch into the thousands just on one meal. There are so many dishes served; can people eat so much? So much food is wasted at these functions. What if they save same amount for their daughters’ education, scenario will be completely different.
The Marriages (Compulsory Registration and Prevention of Wasteful Expenditure) Bill, 2016, seeking to put a limit on the number of guests one can invite and dishes that can be served in weddings may be bizarre and undemocratic. But it has a noble intention. Ranjeet Ranjan, the Congress MP from Supaul in Bihar, introduced a bill in Parliament aiming to curtail the lavishness of Indian weddings. The private member’s bill, which was submitted in Parliament last July, is once again the focus of attention because it was approved by President Pranab Mukherjee and now returns to Parliament for discussion.
Among other things, the bill aims to curtail wasteful expenditure by limiting expenses to Rs 5 lakhs each for the bride’s and groom’s families. It includes set up of a welfare fund to which families will have to contribute 10 per cent of the wedding expenses if it crosses the Rs 5 lakh limit. This fund will be used to facilitate the wedding of girls from poor families. It intends to make wastage of food at weddings a criminal offence and limit the number of invitees and the number of dishes served at a wedding. It will also ensure the compulsory registration of the wedding within 60 days of solemnization. The penalties may include imprisonment and fines. To the wonder is the fact that Pakistan is the only country in the world which banned lavish weddings. They can have four pakwan (dishes) and limited number of guests.
In India, people have the right to decide as to how they want to spend their money. Any cap on personal expenditure enforced by the government would be undemocratic. Not only this, if approved, this bill would slow down the entire wedding industry that provides employment to millions of individuals in the country. Will it withstand the test of democracy and allow the decline of the wedding industry in a job- starved economy? But at the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that show of wealth during big fat weddings is a social malaise. Not only the rich show off their wealth by spending crores during weddings, poor and middle-class families also squeeze whatever savings they have to fund the weddings of their daughters. Scores of families fail to arrange weddings of their daughters in want of money. While the rich can do whatever they want to with their money, it is the poor and middle-class families that end up spending their important money which can be used for other purposes such as education and health of their children. You must have seen many such cases in Punjab where the boys get married here and go abroad, where they get married again. The marriage here has not been registered, so the girl’s life is shattered. With India being a predominantly poor country, the Bill, if formed into a law, would help in changing the perceptions around marriage.
Unfortunately, these days a tendency of celebrating marriages with pomp and show and spending lavishly is growing in the country. These days, marriages are more about showing off your wealth and as a result, poor families are under tremendous social pressure to spend more. This is needed to be checked as it is not good for society at large. Let’s learn to pay great importance to the solemnisation of marriage between two individuals. Indians really need to start having simple weddings than a grand one. Stop trying to please society. Society isn’t going to help you to cope with financial shortage in your marriage later on. Be wise and prudent.