By virtue of being a South Asian and raised close to my culture, I've been exposed to a lot of weddings. And not just any weddings, but desi weddings which I would put into a category of their own. They are products of an exorbitant amount of labour and love, and are often such a grand spectacle that it's hard to imagine how they could have possibly been put together. Of course not every South Asian wedding is like this, but even if just a few live up to this standard that's still plenty for one lifetime.
So what sets them apart? Of course weddings are showcases of spectacle in many cultures around the world, and much of what them so impressive isn't inherent to a wedding. Any large concert or event would likely replicate most of the things I'm about to discuss. I think what makes our weddings so fabulous is two factors: firstly marriage is very significant in our culture so it makes sense for families to spend as much as possible to commemorate that. And secondly, south asians have mastered the art of hospitality and brought it to a new level. Many events have a reputation for being overblown, like a baby's first birthday that rents out a hall and invites 100 people. Weddings represent the pinnacle of what we are capable of.
I think the point that I'm trying to make can be succintly described by this tweet:
I love the idea that everything around us, absolutely everything, represents untold amounts of passion and love for it to even exist. Nowhere is that more evident than at one of these weddings. It's not uncommon for some of these to have 500 or more guests, and everything is meticulously planned and arranged to make the event suitably grand. The smallest details, from the colors of the napkins to the songs that play to the matching outfits are all planned in advance and designed to be just perfect. Of course attending on the day itself is quite a spectacle, but I think watching what goes on behind the scenes of each one of these really drives home how much skill it takes to create something like this.
The first thing to realize is that ultimately, all of it is a labour of love. Of course some parts like food and decor is often outsourced to vendors but that doesn't mean everybody else slacks off to do less work. No, lightening one part of the load just frees everybody up to soar to even greater heights. For a period of months, an entire extended family consisting of dozens of people are constantly at work, in addition to their jobs and studies and regular lives, to bring their wildest dreams into fruition.
There's also entire classes of creative skills that only come into play during wedding season. Because no expense is spared for entertainment and spectacle, anything people can imagine making will be made. I for one enjoy video editing and would love it if people spontaneously came to me with fun requests for short films but sadly that doesn't really happen. The only time people are sufficiently motivated to undertake such ambitious projects is during a wedding. Indeed, we all pulled together and worked nonstop to write, produce film, and edit a complex skit over the course of a week at one recent wedding. This goes for all sorts of unique creative endeavours like makeup, decor, calligraphy, art, graphic design. This pace is tiring but intoxicating, and I always welcome the creative challenge a wedding provides.
I wrote recently about competition, and how doing hard things with your friends is not only very rewarding but also forges unbreakable bonds. I think this is a wonderful demonstration of that. The dance team, for example, might spend every evening for the 2 months leading up to the event relentlessly practicing their routine until they've prepared a solid hour of material. That's 60 days hanging out with your friends, talking late into the night, going out for snacks and tons of free food, having a wonderful time. Oh, all that plus actually mastering an incredibly impressive dance routine and then performing it in front of hundreds of awed guests.
I think there's an essential component to this exercise that simply hanging out together for 60 nights in a row wouldn't get you. The challenge before you brings you all together into something greater than the sum of your parts. Examples like these are happening all over, with every team that's trying to organize something significant. The decor, the speeches, the logistics, the makeup, the food and housing. All of it brings the entire family closer, working together to do the impossible (or drives them irreparably apart, but we don't talk about that).
Watching it all come together from a distance is a wonderful opportunity, and some of the best memories from my childhood are from seeing the same cousins night after night for weeks in a row, playing with them every single day after school. We were too young to have a task assigned to us, but the sleepovers and movie nights that spontaenously occured from everyone's proximity were legendary. Again, while this could theoretically be replicated without a huge impending deadline bringing everyone together it's practically impossible to do so. It's the kind of environment only a chaotic wedding can provide.
The other extraordinary thing to realize is that while companies and organizations may be able to pull together events of this scale regularly, weddings are planned entirely with the help of volunteers, and without any formal hierarchy. The fact that there's no one definitively in charge leads to all sorts of chaos and drama, and the fact that these events end up being as succssful as they are is a testament to their work ethic and the effort they put in.
I guess weddings are really cool, but my point isn't really that I wish I was part of more weddings, or that there were more happening. I wish we found other reasons to band together to become our best, most productive selves for other reasons (although there are few motivators as effective as love). Really it's such a huge rush to create something like this, to work in a team of this size, to display the fruits of your labour in front of hundreds. Everybody should get a chance to try it.