The theme is competition, conservatism, and networks

Social scientist Patricia Uberoi writes that in South Asia, weddings are “the most visible site of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous waste.”

However, my ongoing study on elites reveals they are much more than just conspicuous consumption or celebrations of friendships. They are an expression of strength, a glamorous traditional wedding, as well as an expression of social conservative values.

The beauty of traditional values

The most appealing aspect of an Indian wedding is the claim to have a global but Indian sense of style, which brings together two cultures – the “western” and the “Indian” wedding.

Therefore, the schedule of wedding celebrations includes traditional wedding ceremonies that are associated with particular wedding ceremonies for communities like the dholki, which is the conventional Punjabi ceremony that involves dancing and singing to the beat of drums ( dholak) along with Westernized events like bachelorette parties, cocktail receptions and grand receptions that feature cake layers.

This fusion of Indo-western cultures is best illustrated in the culinary choices that typically comprise Chinese, Lebanese, Italian, Japanese, North Indian and South Indian cuisines all reaching the small-scale palates of their guests.

Chefs working during the wedding to the son of an Imam in Delhi, India, with soldiers and 2000 guests in 2005. Jorge Royan, CC BY-ND

The most widely-used appropriation of modernity is hiring professionals to manage wedding planning. When it comes to Indian weddings, relatives like aunts, uncles, and cousins are usually responsible for organizing tasks, usually under the instructions by the priest of their family ( pandit for Hindus). But the elites have set the trend of acquiring wedding planners who have prominently replaced from the pandit and assumed the role of extended kin, who have no more to do other than look the best they can.

With this more professional method of wedding planning, elites are beginning to take on an era of celebrating the traditional rituals with a lot of glamour and glam and glamour, that otherwise would be celebrated in a strict manner, particularly in a middle-class setting. For instance, at the high-end weddings I attended and attended, there were small ceremony of Haldi (smearing the bride’s and groom’s bodies using turmeric) and the gharcholi (bathing wedding guests with holy waters). A group of singers was invited. Silver coins were presented to guests.

It is believed that the Haldi ceremony is a common sight throughout India and has evolved into an extravagant event. athreya_krishna, CC BY

The tradition of presenting the dowry can be altered. In one wedding that I observed the g,room received an Audemars Piguet watch that cost around 10000 dollars, and the groom was also given a BMW 7 series vehicle, and even a sum of money worth PS50,000. There is a constant demand, particularly by his father, who was the bride’s wedding, that this should not be considered as dowry but rather as a present since the bride is said to receive expensive jewelry and dresses from her in-laws.

Dowry, then, takes on an unassuming presence, encased in the lavish presentation of money and the generosity of giving gifts.

Although the elites indulge in modern lifestyles the, they’re often bound by a strict social conservatism, with a particular emphasis on marriage within caste as well as the class (endogamous unions). The majority of marriage brokers charge between PS1500 and PS10,000 for their services or through networks of families. Young elites get married to one who has a similar social as well as caste and financial standing, creating boundaries that are exclusionary of their respective communities.

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