by Sejal Sehmi
This article was originally published on Sejal Sehmi‘s blog and republished with permission.
BBC News recently reported a prediction by the charity Shelter that by 2020, first-time buyers in London will need an average salary of £106,000! But it’s not just property prices that are rapidly on the increase; last summer the average wedding cost in the UK was at least £30,000. And of course, South Asian weddings, known for their extravagance and multiple events with guests in the count of hundreds, are large contributors in this market.
Yes, wedding season is back on! And I certainly am not short of invitations, which have stretched out to most of the year. I’ll admit that whilst I do try to avoid the unexpected invitation from a relative who is a son/daughter of my mother’s third or fourth related cousin, whom she hasn’t seen in 30 years (yes this still happens in 2016!), I actually do enjoy a good old big fat Indian wedding. The opportunity to get dressed to the nines and indulge in the festivities accompanied by good food, music, and family and friends is enticing enough, isn’t it?
Well, if you’re a singleton like me, particularly in South Asian weddings, the high probability of being greeted by fellow guests with the infamous question, “When is it your turn?” is sometimes the crucial factor in changing the RSVP to not attending. Sound too drastic?
I’ve become accustomed to this pre-meditated script that HAS to be routinely narrated at weddings by relatives, friends, and even strangers claiming to know you when you were just a little girl. Common dialogues include, “Are you not looking? Why are you being fussy? Don’t you want children?” etc. etc. We’ve all heard it before and let’s face it until there’s a ring on the finger, there are no escaping these questions, especially not for me.
[Read Related: The Brown Girl’s Guide To The Mehndi Wedding Event]
Being a 37-year-old city worker, single and living alone is basically close to being 60 in the eyes of many Indian relatives and self-proclaimed family members. When asked, what I’m doing with my life, my failure to understand that this is the code for “when the hell are you getting married,” and NOT an actual interest in my own achievements, within seconds it’s enough to break the bubble of my happy world. Am I not accomplished until I am someone else’s wife?
With that in mind, I have a few simple rules that I attempt to adhere to in order to enjoy the celebration of two people’s new life journey.
Rule Number One
Never be the one that gets incredibly drunk at the wedding party, whilst sitting at the bar, whining to the barman about how you’re always the bridesmaid but never the bride. There is a time and place to moan about heartache and this isn’t one of them, especially if you’ve just knocked back another tequila shot and unable to walk straight without assistance. Not only is it self-centered, but also unattractive and a sure way of not catching the attention of the opposite sex in the way you hoped for! Get over it, love, you’re not Devdas!
Rule Number Two
When questioned by the aunty you’re supposedly related to but have never met before as to why your poor ring finger is still lonely, avoid sarcastic humour at all times. Whilst weddings are assumed to be the most appropriate place to ask inappropriate questions, trust me when I say that sarcasm is a tried and tested method, which will fail miserably. However tempting it is to answer a question on the status of your personal life to a stranger with “Fine thanks, how is your bedroom life?” just fight that urge. Not only is it the wrong audience, but also nine out of ten times, an ear bashing en route home from the parents is guaranteed.
Rule Number Three
People are on a need to know basis, i.e. your personal life doesn’t require validation from or justification to anyone. My choice to not disclose my private life beyond those close to me has certainly amplified the volume of questions and curiosity at weddings. But revealing the list of failed relationships or casual Tinder dates simply adds no value to an already uncomfortable conversation with unfamiliar faces. Contrary to belief, it’s NOT raining men!
On the flip side, if you are single and have kept a sneaky eye for any fellow singletons on the dancefloor, don’t knock back the prospect of matchmaking especially since weddings are the perfect “networking” venue. I always tell my non-Indian friends, that I’m amazed at how brazenly fellow Indians can approach each other at weddings to couple people together. Cilla Black’s spirit certainly lives on in desis.
Rule Number Four
Comparison is the thief of joy. Someone else’s wedding day should NEVER be used to benchmark where our own lives are, which has sadly become quite prevalent amongst a lot of single people I know. Where you may feel that someone’s wedding day is a reflection on how stagnant your own life is, a wedding is not the same as a marriage.
Helping my best friend prepare for her wedding recently, was the perfect opportunity to distract myself from my own personal circumstances, but was also the realization as to why we were both fortunate to be where we are now on our different paths. Our friendship has grown from strength to strength over the 18 years we have known each other, and I’ve witnessed her evolve into an incredibly strong woman who faced every hardship with dignity. Her wedding day was the celebration of her new journey, where she was willing to share the rest of her life with someone else.
At a time where I was consumed with self-pity, it was a reminder as to how much commitment, dedication and more importantly trust it takes for two people to decide to create a future together. With a sparkle in her eye as she was ready to walk down the aisle, she didn’t hesitate to remind me, “Sej, don’t underestimate your freedom.” And she’s absolutely right. Instead of woefully counting down how few of us single friends are unmarried, now’s the time to use these experiences to grow, transform, and blossom.
We all have a love-hate relationship with weddings and its attendees. Naturally it’s easy to get blinded by those whose intentions are in good faith and those that are simply intrusive. Complimentary as it is, that someone may consider you a “suitable” match for their son/nephew, rejection isn’t always accepted gracefully and I’ve often heard, “Beggars can’t be choosers, Sej!” Correction, I don’t beg! My parents have instilled enough morals in me to allow me to hold my head up high with self-respect. So, smile, look your best and shake your thang on the dance floor.
Sejal is a passionate Kathak dancer and traveller. She flew to India in 2012 with a fellow filmmaker friend, Shakir Kadri, to attempt to understand one of many South Asian stigmas, and became the subject of the documentary, “Desperately Seeking Husband,” that attempts to understand the importance of marriage today. Sejal is also the writer and director of “The Evolution of the British Indian Woman,” a mini-film series created in association with Global Arts Kingston, UK, that explored the essence of a British-Indian woman through the experiences of three branches of one family tree. Her experiences both in India and as a British-Indian woman encouraged her to create a platform for discussion and she has written articles for Asiana.TV, Asian Woman Magazine, Chak De India and has kept personal blogs. Sejal has been a guest speaker for the BBC Asian Network on several occasions discussing social issues impacting British-Indians today.
Follow Sejal on Twitter.